Coloring Outside The Lines

by Roger Schank Coloring Outside The Lines ISBN:0060930772 about Educating Kids

Expectation Failure is the catalyst for Learning... Schools were not offering children a wide enough range of experiences to compare and contrast so they could undergo Expectation Failure. If parents want to raise smarter kids, they have to... take charge of helping their kids become a true learner. This has nothing to do with teaching him specific subjects and everything to do with developing the traits (Virtue) characteristic of intelligent, productive, and successful people... Your (parent's) job is to do what the school won't do. Identifying your child's area of interest (Passion), providing her with experiences related to that interest, and having one-on-one dialogs with her about it are steps every parent can take. (Raising Kids)

If you have a reasonably bright child, then you can help him become smarter by developing 6 real-work abilities:

  • verbal proficiency: engage them in conversation as often as possible

  • Creativity: point out anomalies, encourage classification, etc.

  • analytical skill (sizing up situations and coming to logical conclusions): put him in complex situations and help him work his way out of them. (Adaptability)

  • gumption (stick-to-itiveness): 3 qualities: willingness to break rules (Subversive), single-mindedness, self-confidence... Kids who lack gumption are usually humiliated out of it: they're humiliated when they take a risk and fail. Encourage him to run for class office, send him to camp (that has lots of unprogrammed time), get him into sports... Gumption is nothing more than a dream pursued.

  • ambition: prompt them to set realistic, Meaningful (to them) goals

  • inquisitiveness: encouraging kids to explore their ideas - no matter how unusual or strange those ideas might seem... encourage your kids to ask questions, but don't answer them!

  • (other????)

What's important are skills and cases.

In planning activities:

  • don't force your child to do things she dislikes (just because "it's good for her")

  • do things with your child that you like, rather than faking enthusiasm

Smarter kids ultimately are Fo Cus-ed kids - after they try a lot of things, they start building their experiences in an area (or even a few areas) they're Passion-ate about... Schools are unlikely to identify that Talent... Even when a child's interest is academic, schools still have difficulty providing a child with experiences beyond a certain range. (This reminds me of John Taylor Gatto's independent projects.)... Tell your kids she has to earn 1 A per term, in the subject she really likes.

Finding the area in which children express original thoughts is significant... The epidemic of ADD diagnoses is indicative of the school's anti-original leanings. When children's egos get bound up in how well they're doing in school... they lose that spark of originality. It's important to talk to your children about school and grades so that this doesn't happen.

What can parents do to limit the negative impact of school?

  • protect your child against the damage does and intervene

  • reassure your child that it's ok if he doesn't excel in school

  • recognize that you and not the schools are in charge of her education

What subjects are worth teaching, vs not (Curriculum, Basic School Skills)

  • math: no, teach reasoning

  • literature: not the classics. Ideally, 14-year-olds should read books about other 14-year-old. Or books about adults who they imagine they might someday become or situations similar to those they might find themselves in. They should pick their own book to read... The assignment would be for each child to excite his classmates about his particular choice.

  • writing: almost always taught wrong, forces kids to follow pointlessly forced structure (ah, horrible memories of "the Subtopic Method"). I encouraged her to write the way she wanted to write, regardless of the grade she received... You might encourage them to write for the school newspaper or literary magazine (or a WebLog!).

  • history: it's about putting kids in situations where they have to reason out complex issues and solve problems faced by people throughout history. Roleplaying and gamelike situations would be a much better way to teach the subject.

  • foreign languages: should be through one-on-one dialogs among peers

  • science: science teachers rarely allow students to create their own hypothesis and try to prove it... What's relevant to most kids are 3 scientific subjects: nutrition, health, and reproduction.

  • schools are subject-focused, and if they want students to learn, they need to become action-focused.

At early ages:

  • set rules but be willing to negotiate the details

  • schedule time for them to be alone: doing nothing is OK, consuming entertainment is not

  • minimize TV... Help your children recognize that they're smart and special. TV preys on kids who feel uninteresting and average.

  • teach your kid to read before school: age 3 or 4 is no problem.

  • have time to be available a lot, so your kid has the reassurance and emotional safety net for his mistakes.

Sports are good:

  • opportunity for failure, esp unexpected failure

  • requirement to face up to mistakes, deal with Peer Pressure

  • pressure for "graceful failure"

  • encourage non-organized sports, pickup games

  • early on play physical games with them


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