A private school planning to open this fall is centered around three tenets: academic excellence, global engagement and ethical responsibility.
Stick to "academic excellence," the other two aren't your job and you'll have a difficult enough job keeping your eye on the academic excellence ball.
The nonprofit Pacific Ridge School for seventh-through 12th-graders expects to charge an annual tuition of $19,000 and feature class sizes of 15 students.
Zoinks. That's obscene. It doesn't take $19k to educate a middle school or high school kid.
“We want to give kids a thoughtful education. We want them focused on big ideas and why their education is important, and not just on their grades, the SAT and what college they're going to get into.”
I just love meaningless education blather. How about some specifics.
Plans call for students to learn around oval seminar tables with their teacher, instead of in rows of desks that face the front of the room. Mullady said this setup demands participation every day.
“Everyone has a front-row seat,” she said. “This is a model that's prevalent in boarding schools and in East Coast independent schools. It develops critical thinking. It develops sophisticated participation and discussion. In most high schools in America kids can go through four years without ever being called on to speak.”
That's the ticket. Oval seminar tables. Order up a few million for our schools and our education woes will be solved. There's not a whole lot of "sophisticated participation and discussion" going on in K-12; the kids don't have enough background or domain knowledge to offer much more than blank stares most of the time. They are, by definition, novices -- they don't know anything. They need to be taught. Having bullshit sessions around oval conference tables is not a good means to that end.
The lessons in each subject will be interwoven. For example, if students are studying the European Middle Ages in history, they are reading Chaucer's “Canterbury Tales” in English and studying why half of Europe was wiped out by the plague in science, Mullady said.
“And in Spanish class instead of talking about what to order in a cafe, which, let's face it, doesn't stick with anyone, you're learning the vocabulary and ideas of what you're studying in those other classes,” she said.
I'm all for interweaving English and history classes. Trouble starts when you start trying to interweave math and science into the tapestry. There's too much to algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, chemistry, biology, and physics to learn to be playing these games.
And, let me tell you, if you can't get "order[ing] in a cafe" to stick when teaching a foreign language, you're not going to get "the vocabulary" to stick either. They are two peas in the same pod.
For the high school years, school organizers hope to galvanize students to think globally. The educational program will involve a school trip to China during the freshman year, followed by a trip of each student's choice to another country before graduation.
So, "thinking globally" means lots of exotic field trips. Oh, brother. Why not just say, we're going to take a lot of fun (to teachers, boring to students) field trips. But, I suppose it's easier to justify the $19k in tuition if you sell it with lofty rhetoric.