CitizensInTheMaking


    OF NOTE: Beyond Fake News

    Teaching and Learning in a Post-Truth World by Renee Hobbs
    Educational Leadership, November 1, 2017

    In this short article for ASDC, Renee Hobbs, the director of the Media Education Lab at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island, offers some new strategic directions for teachers working with students on media literacy. Hobbs connects the difficulty – and importance – of developing media literacy skills to the rise of social media, the intensity of the current political moment, and broader shifts in the modern media landscape. Calling on teachers to move past an overly simplistic focus on “fake news,” Hobbs encourages teachers to use “a more precise set of definitions and concepts, including terms like propaganda, disinformation, clickbait, hoaxes and satire, pseudoscience, sponsored content, and partisanship” in order to help students better understand the complexities of the contemporary knowledge landscape. She then explores the new resonance of the concept of propaganda in the age of social media, drawing on research that shows that “most adults can’t accurately judge the truth or falsity of an online news story because they assume that content that aligns with their existing beliefs is automatically true,” as well as the emerging understanding of the roles of emotion, partisanship, and confirmation bias in our knowledge-building. Hobbs’s article is a must-read for teachers and administrators looking to update their approach to media literacy. 


    Submitted By Jonathan Gold, Moses Brown School, Providence, RI


    PreSchoolDiversity


    Books, Dolls, Art, Anti-Bias

    Anti-bias Lessons Help Preschoolers Appreciate Diversity by PBS Newhour
    November 7, 2017

    As educators we sometimes feel a sense of discomfort when conversing with young children about race and equity. This sense can come from a desire to protect children from the very feelings that these conversations can elicit. Silence, however, is a powerful message. As such, this PBS Newshour segment reminds us that we need to lean into these conversations by highlighting the importance of anti-bias work with our youngest students. Experts such as Louise Derman-Sparks speak about the harm of the theory of color-blindness in young children. Sparks states that young children are noticing the world around them and the differences that exist. The teachers and administrators interviewed believe that the preschool setting is a unique environment to talk about topics of race and other types of diversity because families are more physically present and family is often a curricular topic. Materials such as books, dolls, and art invite play and conversation. As one teacher puts it, “[The preschool setting is] a safe place.  People develop relationships. It’s the perfect place for honest conversation.” 


    Submitted By Jenel Giles, Bank Street School For Children, New York, NY


    WorkAndTheLonlinessEpidemic


    Rooting Out Weak Connections

    Work and the Loneliness Epidemic by Vivek H. Murthy
    Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2017

    In this Harvard Business Review cover story, Vivek Murthy, a former US Surgeon General, makes the case for loneliness as a public health epidemic on par with obesity and cigarette smoking. He describes loneliness as weak social connections and explores current statistics on loneliness (40% of adults report feeling isolated) as well as the causes of the apparent acceleration of this feeling (increased mobility and the rapidly changing way that we think about work and family). Murthy concludes by suggesting that businesses have both a social responsibility and an economic incentive to encourage more meaningful connections in the workplace. While not explicitly addressing the role of schools in fostering community, the article does provide educators an interesting perspective on why we may wish to equip our students with the social and emotional tools needed to form deeper connections with their peers and communities. Such programs have long been  “value added” components of an independent school education and this article, and the discussion it has sparked, provide a compelling argument for why learning such “soft skills” is important.


    Submitted By Christopher Lauricella, The Park School of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY


    PurposeOfEducation


    Portraits of Students, Here and Now

    The Purpose of Education--According to Students by Magdalena Slapik
    The Atlantic, October 1, 2017

    Although the conversation is framed around public schools, Magdalena Slapik’s project, “an oral history of the U.S. public education system as seen through students’ eyes,” has resonance and relevance for those of us in the independent sector. In this piece, The Atlantic offers glimpses of Slapik’s interviews with K-12 students across the country, asking them about the purposes of education and the roles of school and teachers in their lives. A photojournalist, Slapik creates a photo narrative in addition to an oral history, and her portraits of students celebrate their unique personalities and perspectives. The students articulate both timeless and timely expressions of education’s greater aims: “to broaden your mind,” “to become productive,” “to prepare for college,” “to make mistakes,” “to find passion.” Slapik investigates the age-old tensions between working to create “an educated citizenry” and serving as “pipelines into the workforce,” but the students with whom she speaks also locate us, profoundly, in the here and now as they consider identity, diversity, technology, and culture. Educators can read further and meet more of the students in Slapik’s project on hechingerreport.org, a resource offering perspective, inspiration, and important philosophical reminders about why we do the work we do.


    Submitted By Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA


    KidsWouldYouPleaseStartFighting


    Getting Hot Without Getting Mad

    Kids, Would You Please Start Fighting by Adam Grant
    The New York Times, November 4, 2017

    Adam Grant, the author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, advocates for adults to model and guide children in thoughtful, effective, and healthy disagreement. He fears that shielding a child’s exposure from or participation in argument will hinder his or her potential to be creative, get tough, and have empathy for those with a different perspective. Grant’s exemplars of historic partnerships in conflict are evidence for why children should learn the importance of knowing how “to get hot without getting mad.” Grant identifies certain guidelines that adults can implement when demonstrating productive disagreement, too. Although the article is aimed at parents, educators can follow Grant’s argument and foster teachable moments for students to observe and have meaningful arguments. Independent schools may have the flexibility to introduce productive disagreement in their curricular or co-curricular activities, whether it’s for a class, during an advisory, or as part of a club. If we can provide the right environment and structure for students to embrace debate, we will avoid its drama and unleash instead its positive effects on their development as imaginative, tenacious, and empathetic learners and collaborators.


    Submitted By Jeremy Brooks Sandler, M.A. Candidate, The Klingenstein Center, New York, NY


    CitizensInTheMaking


    All Schools Teach Citizenship and Character

    What Kind of Citizens Do We Need? by Joel Westheimer
    Educational Leadership, November 1, 2017

    Using his family’s history as a compelling opening, Joel Westheimer artfully shows why United States citizens care so much about what schools teach; namely, schools and curriculum act as a proxy for the society we hope to create. Westheimer describes how all schools teach citizenship and character education, even if not overtly, because all schools provide students with a daily view of power relationships and hierarchies, ways people are sorted and organized, the construction of rules and the consequences of violation, and the way adults interact and behave with each other. Although most citizens would agree that civics and character education are vital to the health of the country, what specifically does democracy demand our citizens be skilled at doing? Westheimer answers: they must be able to ask challenging questions and consider varied perspectives. He argues that schools can cultivate these skills by teaching students how to ask questions that challenge tradition and power; by exposing students to multiple perspectives of both historical and current events; and by using local context, including participation in community projects, to anchor instruction. This short article is an excellent reminder of why citizenship education always matters in a democracy and why its place is in our schools.


    Submitted By Danielle Passno, The Spence School, New York, NY


    SafeSpacesBraveSpaces


    Learning Spaces Unlimited

    Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces by John Palfrey
    MIT Pres, October 1, 2017

    Caroline Blackwell, vice president of equity and justice initiatives at NAIS, writes in the 2017-18 Trendbook that in the month following the 2016 election, there were 1094 bias-related incidents, 226 of which took place in K-12 schools. Just as there can be no doubt that what happens in society at large impacts what happens in schools, there can also be no doubt that what happens in schools today will impact society at-large in the future. Such is the central premise of Phillips Academy Head of School John Palfrey’s new book, Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces, in which he makes an informed argument in favor of balancing first amendment ideals with unfaltering support for inclusion. To aid in such important work, schools should distinguish between safe spaces, defined as places where students can speak freely within affinity groups or other support networks, and brave spaces, defined as “learning environments in which the primary purpose of the interaction is the search for truth, rather than support for a particular group of students, even insofar as some of the discussions will be uncomfortable for certain students.” In seven brief, compelling chapters, Palfrey makes quick work of the major tensions and trends affecting schools and society at large. He addresses flashpoints including trigger warnings, microaggressions, and guest speakers on campus while making a case for the coexistence, indeed the necessity, of both diversity and free expression in schools. 


    Submitted By Jessica Flaxman, Nashoba Brooks School, Concord, MA


    HelpingChildrenSucceed


    Belonging as Beginning

    Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough
    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 24, 2016

    In Helping Children Succeed, his sequel to How Children Succeed, Paul Tough asks: "What is it about growing up in poverty that leads to so many troubling outcomes?" Initially, Tough looks at how negative experiences created by "traditional" education and economic disadvantage damage students' ability to succeed. Tough spends the rest of the book using research to highlight the ways in which classroom environment acts as a key indicator of student success and teacher competency. After synthesizing mountains of relevant research on the benefits of non-cognitive ability for students, Tough distills what needs to happen in the classroom into two principles that lead to student success: belonging and work. Belonging, he believes, determines whether or not a student feels valued by the different constituencies in the school community; work involves a student's ability to meet and overcome academic challenges. Tough provides convincing arguments for schools to adapt "deeper learning" practices: inquiry-based instruction, project-based learning, and performance-based assessments. He also suggests that schools adapt pedagogy that encourages peer critique and the kind of revision opportunities that allow for creative solutions to problems. In the end, Tough's book is a sound description of how to apply current research to existing classroom practice, and it will be particularly relevant to teachers working with struggling students.


    Submitted By Michael Berglund, Holland Hall School, Tulsa, OK


    TheBestClassYouNeverTaught


    Webbing Your Way Forward

    The Best Class You Never Taught by Alexis Wiggins
    ASCD, January 1, 2017

    In her eminently practical book, The Best Class You Never Taught, Alexis Wiggins makes the case for, and then offers a pathway to, student-led seminar conversations, which she calls “Spider Web discussions.” A kind of Harkness 2.0, Wiggins’s methodology is compelling and easily implemented, and it is applicable across disciplines and grade levels. Teacher concerns about shy students or students who tend to dominate are addressed head on, as Wiggins also describes the challenges of beginning a practice that centers on Spider Web discussion, and her encouragement to stay the course and her commitment to truly allowing students to become “learning leaders” is persuasive and inspiring. She offers practical tips to ensure success and then outlines myriad benefits that inevitably arise from this approach, including: better assessment data, increased homework completion, greater student autonomy, and an ethical and safe classroom environment. This book is a handbook for any group of teachers eager to turn over the real work of discussion to students and to help to create a community of collaborative inquiry in their classrooms.


    Submitted By Stephanie Lipkowitz, Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM

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