What happened to our kids in Palo Alto schools ? The spark seems gone. Schools & Kids, posted by Sad mother, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 9, 2007 at 1:31 pm
What is wrong with this town? It has no sense of humor and now demands that young kids behave a little adults, if not robots.
This is the impression that all the negative reactions to the story of the PALY senior prank gives me... There was a time when senior pranks were an accepted tradition (as long as no one was hurt). No longer here.
However, I think the change goes beyond this senior prank story, is much more pervasive, and rather sad for our children. And this is what really alarms me.
I have noticed changes in recent years in Palo Alto schools. My youngest child is 9 years younger than his oldest sibling. They all went through Palo Alto schools, the same schools. Here is an example of the changes I am talking about:
The other day, I visited my youngest child's elementary school for their reenactment of the Williamsburg Colonial days. I was struck by how earnest, unenthusiastic, almost fearful those kids were.
When I arrived, I walked up to various stations, and was greeted by statements that the kids were "not allowed to talk," that "it was not time yet," as they were taking sideways glances at their teachers and the nearby adult chaperones... This, even though those kids were just milling around, doing nothing else, just waiting for the green light to talk, while something else was going on far away, outside. Once they were allowed to talk, I heard bland, robotic, memorized explanations of their stations.
What a sad contrast with nine years ago !
When I got home afterwards, I pulled my photo album from 9 years ago and looked at my photos of the exact same event in my oldest child's fifth grade class back then. Same Palo Alto elementary school, same class, same theme, basically the same activities, and same set up. The photos reinforced my memories, although they were still vivid.
Nine years ago, I saw smiling kids who were enjoying the project. No prohibition to talk to visitors at certain times, no bland, robotic, memorized presentations. Kids at ease, who did know their topics quite well, enjoying what they were doing, and were enthusiastic to talk about them in an informal manner. People were having a good time all around while learning. A happy scene, as opposed to this year's stressed out, sad scene.
The spark is gone. At all levels. I am sad for our children.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 9, 2007 at 2:55 pm
I sympathise entirely and agree. I have had three children go through the program you describe and have the same feeling. I also see the same thing happen in our out of school activities.
Little League is suffering, particularly in the south, from smaller enrollments which is strange considering how the schools are growing.
Birthday parties, which used to be family style friendly activities (my eldest's favorite party was a teddy bear wedding back in 1st grade) have turned into huge organised affairs or else no one turns up.
School music concerts last too long and the emphasis is on quality production rather than everyone have fun.
School fund raising socials where the emphasis is on fund raising and outdoing the Jones' rather than fun.
Expensive outings to Great America, Santa Cruz Boardwalk and posh San Francisco destinations rather than affordable local haunts. Why can't secondary kids have a great party at the PA Junior Museum & Zoo as a means for celebrating the end of childhood!! Done well, this could be a great party.
Gone are the days when the kids actually learnt their stuff in the classroom from teachers, rather than piles of homework and staying ahead of the grade with expensive tutors and Score classes.
Childhood lasts for such a short time. My fear is it is getting shorter still.
Posted by Kirk, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 9, 2007 at 3:07 pm
The trend you are speaking of is real. It is caused by PC rules (and beliefs) and litigious concerns. For instance, if your child from nine years ago had mentioned the word "Indian" noone would have said a thing. Today your child would be castigated for using the term. BTW, the proper term is "indigenous peoples" or "aborignal peoples", not "native American" or "Indian".
The current situation with the prank at Paly is a reflection of the current tort system. Lawsuits can come from anywhere, thus education, like medicine, must become defensive. Senior pranks are no longer an acceptalbe thing.
Tort reform and elimination of PC concerns would open things up again, but don't hold your breath.
There is another issue that has not yet been discussed in depth: Some Paly seniors are at the age of majority. This means they are felt to be responsible enough to vote. It also means that they are considered legal adults. I have heard that the kid on the hot spot is already 18. If so, he must face the consequences. I perosnally think the age of majority should be 21 for females and 25 for males, but that is a different discussion.
Posted by NextGenerationParent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:46 am
Through this thread ( and many other threads ) there is a trend referring to the 'peer pressure'; 'Score parents'; 'Pushy parents'; 'Spoilt kids'. Aren't we, as parents, responsible for setting high standards for our own children?
For example, Parent "A" - graduated from college in the 70s; got a decent degree, went to work in some industry. Parent "A" realized that to make his/her mark in that industry, s/he had to put in an extra mile; work extra hard and learn to cope with the tough working world. Parent "A" decided that based on his/her experience, if their children had a little extra coaching in a particular field, it would make the child(rens) life a lot easier in the working world. So, Parent "A", wishing the best for his/her children sought means of providing that extra benefit to the child(ren).
Now the second generation parent - Parent "B" - armed with the extras went to work in the industry and faced different challenges, figured out that if his/her children had something extra (which the Parent "B" could afford) - it would be easier for his/her children.
This leads to the generation of Parent "C" ...
My point is - things change over time and we as parents, learn from our mistakes, figure out that the challenges of the work place, life in general would have been easier to take up - if "a certain training/coaching" had been made available when we were growing up - so, we decide, that if that particular thing can be made available to our children - then why not ? This results in all the extra activities /opportunities that our children avail ..
Why blame the "society" in general - the parents are the one who form the society ! Is it so wrong to wish the best for your own child(ren) and then make every effort within your means to make that opportunity available to your own children? Does this make our children "spoilt children" ?
Last month, on the Discovery channel they had a program about a farming family from rural China (in this program they covered quite a few countries, focusing on the rural communities). In the China program, they had a family, where the grandparents lived at home with the family, the mom managed the tiny farm with the grandparents while the Dad went to work in the city as a construction worker. The dad could return home to see the family just once or twice a year. The young girl - probably 7 or 8 yrs old, had to walk a few miles to the school. The mother was hell bent on sending the daughter to school, since she felt that the school education would give the daughter a chance to get out of the farming life. The mother spent money to buy her daughter a pair of shoes - this was something they could not afford, but the mother said that the shoes were vital for the daughter to make her walk easier to the school, so that she would not turn away from the school ... now, someone can say, the mother could not really afford the new pair of shoes, she bought it anyways - did she 'spoil' the child?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 9:07 am
Buying the shoes for the girl which was something the mother deemed necessary isn't the problem. It could even be that shoes were required at school. What would have been spoiling the child was buying her an ipod or cell phone to help pass the time on the journey.
Parents do make choices. My kids have mp3 players rather than ipods. They have their music. They will likely lose them. They will likely go out of fashion in a year or so and they will want whatever the fad is then. Do I spoil my children (these were birthday or Christmas gifts) because I give them not what they want but what I consider satisfactory?
My boys are not interested in clothes, in fact getting them to buy something new is very difficult. However, they are very fussy about what they wear. They refuse to wear shorts or pants that are not pull ups so I have to look hard for clothes that they will wear. Am I spoiling my kids by buying them what they want rather than something easily accessible?
My children are getting an education at school. I volunteer at schools, I am a member of the PTA, I sit on committees and I encourage and help them with homework. If they are doing badly at a certain subject, I may provide tutoring for a short time to get them over the hurdle. However, I am not pushing them to get further ahead in any subject because I do not want them bored in school (I have seen it as a result of summer school).
To me this is the mark of good parenting, not spoiling. My kids don't enjoy school, but then I don't necessarily believe school is for enjoyment. I do provide things for them outside school for them to enjoy. However, I do think that some of the pressures put on them in school are way over the top.
As an example, at a recent science fair, my child spent a great deal of time, struggling to type up their project and made a reasonable attempt at producing a project they felt proud of because it was all their own work. On taking it into school, they were dumbfounded because of all the professional style projects that their classmates had produced. Did the classmates really produce these? No, of course not. Did they actually understand the project or had they been given a script to memorise? Who knows? The point was that the family had produced a project to fill the "need" of having to do a project and do it to a standard way above the average lst (or 2nd or 3rd) grader's ability. When a keen child does the work themselves without help, they are then made to feel inadequate because they see their work as second rate. How does that make them feel? I know, next year they won't bother.
Posted by NextGenerationParent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 9:22 am
re: shoes - the mother bought these since she thought they were vital to her child's journey through the school. Probably more than half of the children in the daughter's class didn't even have a footwear (which is quite common in the rural areas). So, the other parents from the daughter's class could have quite easily said - the mother was spoiling the kid by buying her a pair of shoes.
My point was - what we do for our children is quite different from person to person, family to family. One family may consider iPods vital for some reason, while another family may be happy with mp3 players - while yet another family may consider portable music is absolutely not essential !
re: Science projects - we have faced the situation that you have mentioned. I could see that the professional volcano was definitely not done by the 2nd grader ! I told my child to take hints from the professional presentation and keep them in mind for the next year - there was a lot to learn from the seamless operation of the volcano :)
To us, the more important thing is - we go with what we feel is right for the family and now get swayed by what the other families are doing. When my kids come back with - so & so is taking such & such class, if it seems interesting, we do investigate the class and see if it would be beneficial for our children. Each child is different, each parent is different and each family is different.
By commenting "she is spoiling her children by buying them iPods or iPhone" - in front of our children - are we doing more harm to our children than good? The children are likely to pick on the fact that to have an iPhone means being a privileged kid
Posted by Carol, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 10:37 am
The science fair scenario is not very new.
My first child, now in college, had to make a mission model in 4th grade. At the time I was on almost bed rest with a difficult pregnancy. My daughter spent time and energy using cereal boxes and markers to do her model with a little help and support from me in my horizontal position. My husband was pretty stressed with working and helping the family function with my inabilities. I had never seen a mission let alone a model and we did our best. On back to school night I was shocked when I saw what had been produced by the rest of the class. Even I was embarrassed by her effort.
When my son reached 4th grade, I discovered you could buy kits at the model store (now gone). We bought our kit and started work on painting it in good time. Unfortunately, the week it was due coincided with his younger brother being in hospital with emergency appendicitis with me practically living at the hospital. Once again, he struggled on his own to assemble the thing and get it to school on time. Although we had had great plans of how to finish the project, none of these were able to be done and of course it once again looked pretty feeble compared to the others.
I don't think they do 4th grade model missions now, I am not sure of the official reason.
Posted by PAUSD Parent, a resident of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 10:50 am
Might I suggest reading Tom Friedman's "The World is Flat", and then try to project from there to what your kids will be facing in the future.
I know two Stanford Comp Sci PhD's who have told me that work at _their_ level has been outsourced to Russia and China.
Next: our kids are good kids, but there has been a lack of understanding by American parents that K-12 education in America is NOT keeping pace with other places.
We have excellent teaching and administrative staff, but they are handcuffed by massive amounts of paperwork and basically unfunded mandates like NCLB.
Many, many parents (certainly a significant minority) leave discipline and socialization basics to the schools. The result leaves many teachers with no choice but to enforce very strict disciplinary measures that are mostly based on positive reinforcement, and peer pressure-based techniques that keep the minority from disrupting classes. Teaching today is far more challenging because of the essential lack of basic discipline in the home of a siginificant _minority_ of households.
Schools are heavily politicized. Every little thing is brought to the BOE, a body that consists of well-meaning people who mostly have no real classroom or public school administrative experience. This leads to unnecessary classroom disruptions and inefficiencies - no matter how well-meaning the effort to please parents...teaching is made more difficult by our current system.
Posted by Sad mother, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 10:31 pm
In all honesty, I don't believe the parenting is that much different today from what it was 9 years ago, when my first child was in 5th grade in Palo Alto. I certainly have not changed my parenting methods, nor have my friends.
I am aware of the need to compete. I don't believe, however, that today's kids are learning more than their peers did nine years ago, except indeed for the rote memorizing of s-o-m-e facts. As a matter of fact, I am convinced that the kids who enjoyed their reenactment 9 years ago learned as much, if not more, than the kids this year who memorized their lines and delivered them blandly while looking so stressed.
Posted by Lisa, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 11, 2007 at 11:14 pm
My son's junior high school science fair project was very clear that he developed, designed and executed it, compared to the professional science projects created by parents or commissioned. When the time came for the students to answer questions and make presentations regarding their project, the differences became crystal clear and the teacher's grading reflected heavily upon the students' understanding and enthusiasm for their project.
Needless to say, my son scored the highest and learned a mighty lesson. The love of learning can not be bought nor commissioned, nor cultivated by parents who do all the work for their children and thus disenfranchise them.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 12, 2007 at 9:42 am
"Many, many parents (certainly a significant minority) leave discipline and socialization basics to the schools."
Yeah, sure, it's the parents' fault. Nothing to do with poor classroom management, indifferent teaching, lack of teacher preparation.
Sorry, teachers need to step up to the plate and manage their classrooms, extract acceptable behavior, and socialize kids to a classroom environment. If the classroom is a zoo, it's the teacher's fault.
Posted by vkr15, a resident of another community, on Jun 12, 2007 at 9:46 pm
I am from India and it is fascinating to read the comments here. I visit this page occasionally because my son lives in Palo Alto. And I've visited him in Palo Alto a few years back.
IMHO, its all about competitiveness,peer pressure, and very often, exaggerated parental expectations from their kids. I guess I can do no better than refer to the US representative at the Davos conference last year wherein he referred that when he was a child his parents would tell him to finish his meal because he didn't realize that many children in China and India had to go hungry because of the poverty levels there. Not that poverty levels are any less now, though the numbers have gone down significantly. Now he advises his own kids to make sure they know their maths and sciences well as somebody in China and India is just waiting to take his job here in the US.
But all this at what cost? The innocence of childhood lasts for a very short while. Parents and teachers need to understand that--rather than overburden and over discipline them wouldn't it be more fruitful to let them blossom in the natural way--so that their true potential can be realized. I can do no better than echo the words of an Indian poet who says -- take away my riches, take away my fame, Yes take away my youth if you must but for all this give me back the innocence of my childhood--give me back my paper boats and scruffy dolls.
Posted by Mayfield Child, a resident of the Green Acres neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2007 at 5:48 pm
How many of you reading this have visited our local missions??? They are still there, and full of history.....San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, San Juan Batista, Monterey, Carmel..........All within a days short driving distance.......(p) Check out the missions history on line first and take your children for a "mini vacation day" and enjoy learning together.....Living history can be very enjoyable.....and sure to be remembered!!!
Posted by Sad Mother, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 13, 2007 at 11:25 pm
I agree with both of you, above.
What a wise statement by this poet. Furthermore, if we loose jobs to outsourcing overseas, it seems to me it is not because of the poor quality of education here, but rather because of the lower costs of operating overseas activities in places such as India and China.
I can proudly state that I have taken my children to all the missions you mention in your post, and more. And I could not agree with you more. Living history is wonderful and probably teaches more than books when it is available.
Posted by anonymous parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2007 at 9:08 am
Re: school projects in general - I recall seeing one or two teachers require virtually all of the work to be done in school and I assume this is to make sure the child does the work! Over the top "professional" children's projects, whether for Science, Language Arts, History are just ridiculous. But they sure do exist around here. How about a kid at Jordan a few years back who had access to fancy science lab equipment that obviously came out of Stanford? Students were told to make use of objects/materials readily available - maybe like clay, marbles, foam pieces - most of us don't have access to fancy scientific lab items.
One of our kids did the mission project in another city where we used to live - they did it as a group project in the classroom, ending up with about 7 different missions. This system went pretty well. I think it was very reasonable. I think groups divided up the work, some kids prefer to design, some prefer to build, etc., and different families provided parts of the supplies.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2007 at 11:50 am
I've known kids in the district for more than 20 years and I think there has been a change in about the last six or seven. I think the town as a whole became a more competitive environment when it became the center of the dot-com boom and suddenly you couldn't just sort of get along here--you had to do well, really, really well to afford a pretty tiny house. (I just had friends move because they couldn't find a place to rent under $2100.)
At the same time, the admissions process at the top colleges has gotten insanely competitive. I've known kids with above 4.0s, perfect SATs and external stuff not get into the colleges of their choice.
At the same time, the testing has become a huge issue for teachers and administrators.
The end result is a ton of anxisty for everyone and this attitude trickles down to the kids. School isn't about fun, it's about having to exceed expectations. You get 11-year-olds worrying that they won't get into college. You get perfectly bright kids thinking they can't cope.
And listen to a lot of you--China and India are taking over. Certainly they're doing better, but do you really think the U.S. is going to up and disappear? Was it the end of Europe when the U.S. became the number one economy? Oh, and what happened to Japan at the USSR who were the big bad ogres when I was young?
It's all about fear and we're handing this fear down to our children instead of letting them have childhoods and letting them actually have the time to develop their own interests and passions.
And, face it, the big problem with the US educational system isn't in places like Palo Alto, it's with those huge swathes of schools with poor kids who can barely read, let alone understand math and science well enough to compete in the global economy.
As for outsourcing of high-level jobs--that will ebb the more successful those third-world economies become. It's all about cheap labor.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2007 at 12:33 pm
As usual, there is a lot of wisdom in what you state. I know that our kids find it hard to survive here, so much so that I have heard of families leaving PA to move elsewhere so that their "average" kids here become outstanding in their districts and have better chances to get into good colleges.
On the other side, I noticed that Richmond is struggling to get 75% of their seniors to pass the exit exam, partly because of English skills, but also in math.
We have high standards here because we want high standards and we expect high standards.
If a child takes time to breathe, they get left behind. This attitude must change and we must at least give our kids a chance
to enjoy their summer without the constant "you must" (unless of course it is you must tidy up your room!!).
Posted by Aaron, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jun 14, 2007 at 3:45 pm
I think you are missing something.
I was raised in very poor circumstances. My older sister decided that the party life was the way to go. She is now poor, and whining every minute of her life. I decided to get the hell out of the trailor camp, and I studied hard. I am now pretty well off, financially. I studied hard in math and phsyics, using pass-down textbooks from a rich HS district to the South of us. I carried a part-time/full time job all the way through high school and college. I am not trying to brag on myself. I felt desperation, and my parents did cause an ounce of it. My point is that there are MANY kids in China and India and other places that are as desperate as I was. I ended up in the work world with many suboordinates that could not understand why they were reporting to me. Many of them are now whining their way through life. Many Palo Alto kids will end up whining about their circumstances later in life, because they will be reporting to Chinese and Indian kids like me (an Oakie).
Palo Alto is a dream. It is NOT difficult to get by here as a student. It is easy. A simple work ethic goes very far here.
OP, you seem, to me, to be overly protective of your kids. That is your choice. But please do not make lame excuses and unrealistic projections about the future. Your kids will, very likely, report to those who are now studying math and physics, in NON-cooperative educational environments. To put it more bluntly, your Ohlone kids will be reporting to the current Hoover kids. There is hope, though: The MI kids ar Ohlone might be able to turn around the Ohlone kids, and make them think that serious individual effort matters, in a competitive world.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 9:41 am
Aaron said "There is hope, though: The MI kids at Ohlone might be able to turn around the Ohlone kids, and make them think that serious individual effort matters, in a competitive world."
And so it begins, as predicted, like clockwork: Thank goodness the MI programs is coming in to Ohlone to finally straighten those loafers out -right? Now its a missionary cause no less.
I hope Susan Charles is listening - in case she had any question about what she signed Ohlone up for. Susan Charles calculated that it was safer for her to agree to host the MI program willingly, so she could control it. She has most certainly miscalcuted the arrogance and the smug stubborn single minded charge of the MI proponents. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Let there be no more doubt - The battle stations are officially being manned now for the battle over Ohlone Way. It ought to be very amusing to watch.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 12:38 pm
I don't think Charles is naive in the general way, but the nature of the Ohlone program means she's been spared certain types of extreme Palo Alto parenting.
Overprotective? No, something very different. I think it's extremely important that kids learn that it's okay to try and fail and then try again. With the huge amounts of anxiety around here that becomes a hard lesson to teach.
So you think Palo Alto is a dream? Well, it ought to be, but for the kids it's not. Kids in highly competitive schools have anxiety and depression rates equal to kids living in inner cities. And that's because of the fear and anxiety we're passing down to those kids.
I know some pretty high-up educators around here and they complain about the competitiveness--because it's *counterproductive* competitiveness. You get kids who are so pushed and anxious in high school that they're burnt out when they hit college.
Maybe you don't remember, but 20 years ago--suicide was not a burning issue at the big colleges. It is now. And you look at those stories and it's the same thing over and over and over--ace students in high school who aren't excelling at college. Sorry, I'd rather have kids who can survive being academic mediocrities. Or even succeed as drop-outs--hi Bill, hi Steve.
At the same time, the other downside of the hypercompetitiveness in a few privileged districts and disasters like Richmond create another problem. Privileged kids are so prepped that poor kids have even less of a chance of getting a shot at a top school than they did. It becomes harder to tell apart the hot-house kid who's going to fall apart without a support system from the kid who's got the passion to do it on his own.
Fact is, the U.S. has never had a great primary and secondary school system, though it was better when it was more universally supported. It has had a couple of things going for it--it's been available and kids get more than one chance.
Okay, India and China. Both countries still have huge numbers of poor, uneducated people. Educational opportunities are limited to relatively small elites. China is currently in a demographic sweet spot--it won't be when our kids are grown. Both countries have huge populations--frankly, they're not going to be hiring us and our kids because they won't need to if they keep their act together.
Or let me put it this way, Aaron your story isn't that uncommon here. It would be unheard of in either China or India. And it happened, in part, because you weren't scared to try--failure was kind of irrelevant because from the sounds of it, you thought it couldn't get worse. And I doubt you would have killed yourself if you didn't get into Harvard--do some Googling on suicides in Asia for comparison--S. Korea averages something like 150 suicides every spring by kids who didn't do well enough to get into University of Seoul.
One last note--teamwork is the name of the game at Ohlone. It's also the name of the game at any Silicon Valley corporation. Why wouldn't you want kids to know how to work cooperatively? Seriously? At the same time, you seem to misunderstand how the school operates. Children work at their own pace. It's a good environment for very bright kids because they're not being held back and doing inappropriate busywork.
Hmmm, so Hoover v. Ohlone? Hmmm, wonder what the PAUSD teachers think--oh, Ohlone's their top choice. Do any of them have kids at Hoover? Oh, there's that Hoover teacher with a kid at--Ohlone . . .
By the way, I think Direct Instruction does have a place--I think it's a good method in underpriveleged areas where the kids don't get educational support at home and really do need drilling in the basics. But it's too hierarchical and passive to encourage flexibility and innovation. I also don't think it does much for internal motivation.
In other words, some kids in the district get homework from their second day of school. Other kids don't get homework, but get so caught up in the exhileration of learning that they recreate their schoolwork at home and actually spend more time doing "schoolwork" than the kids doing assigned work while begging to go outside.
Which child is learning more? Which child is developing the better attitude about learning (and working)? Which child is being taught to follow instructions? Which child is learning to innovate?
I really believe that different educational approaches work with different children. Hoover would have bored me silly--but I was reading my first adult books when I was seven. But I also know kids who could use a formal learning environment. Sort of the same way, some people flourish in the military.
I also know all too many people who excelled at school, attended top colleges and grad schools and then couldn't figure out how to adapt to the real world, where simply working hard and being "smart" may or may not be rewarded.
I can't predict the future--neither can you--but I figure it doesn't hurt if my offspring know how to work independently and find reward in the work itself. The external-validation stuff easily becomes a total trap.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 1:56 pm
I wonder what Susan Charles' reaction would have been if someone would have told her she needed to take 40 kids next year, of families who do NOT support the Ohlone Way concept, and ~convert~ them to the Ohlone Way. (ignoring MI for a second, just regular PAUSD enrollment)
I presume she would have said - absolutely not. Because she basically says an adamant NO WAY with her practice of weeding out applicatants based on essay responses from parents who are not demonstrating the right recognition of Ohlone Way attitude.
Does she even realize that she's agreed to start up the MI program with a big group of parent who don't even buy in to the Ohlone Way? Who litterally think its a crock? So what does she think will come of that? What (and who) will give? I think we already know who WONT compromise.
Is she bracing for the storm, or does she have her head in the sand?
Posted by Aaron, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 2:04 pm
"I can't predict the future--neither can you--but I figure it doesn't hurt if my offspring know how to work independently and find reward in the work itself."
I AM predicting the future: Your kids will NOT have independent work environments. They will report to the current academic soldiers that you seem to disdain. The U.S. is now in the post-WWII victory era. We now have to actually COMPETE! No joke! I think you are living in a dream.
From Bill Gates:
" Two steps are critical. First, we must demand strong schools so that young Americans enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in the knowledge economy. We must also make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to work for U.S. companies."
Gates is open to various educational models to make it happen, but he covers his bets by demanding that we leave the door open to the intellectual gold mine from China and India (yes, of course, their elite!). Why is the U.S. not producing these engineers? Actually it is, but they are disproportionately Indians and Chinese - and many of them will head back to their home countries in order to get rich and dominate the economy of the future. Have you ever looked at the winners of regional/national science fairs? It is a real force, and I respect it.
I see no reason why Palo Alto kids are not taught the truth about their future. In general, they will live lives that are far below their unrealistic dreams (fed to them by their naive parents). They will not live in Palo Alto, unless they are trust fund babies. If they end up working in Palo Alto, they will commute here from the Central Valley or Salinas Valley. Their hard-core bosses will not be interested in their sob stories. The only cooperative design in the workplace will be how well one fits into the mold. True industrial design and problem solving will be done by the elites, along with a few lone wolves from the outside.
BTW, who says that direct instruction is like a boot camp? Top students are often allowed to study at an advanced level, semi-independently.
I agree with you about rolling with the punches (failures). It happens, but how fast does one get off the canvas, and with what real damage?
OP, let me use a baseball analogy: Many parents support their kids in youth ball, secretly dreaming about their future ML stars, but there come a point when true talent separates from the rest of the pack. As long as parents tell their kids the truth, I have no problem with it. You seem to be telling your kids that they have every opportunity to make it in the Bigs. I think that is a lie.
Using suicide issues as a cover is pathetic. Just tell your kids the truth, then let them decide, and love them no matter what. That's what I did with my two kids. They have acepted their place in the U.S. economy, one on the road to wealth, and one a path to Greenfield. I love 'em to death, and they made their own choices. I have also informed them that there will be no estate left to them - it will all go to a charitable cause. They are now free to lead their own lives. I just don't want to hear any whining!
Posted by ISO facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 2:24 pm
What blows me away is that these numbers aren't hidden in any way. This report was part of the board packet at the January 30 meeting. Correction: it wasn't part of the AAAG report. Rather, the survey was conducted by PACE and addressed to the school board members in a letter dated 11/10/06. See page 57 Web Link.
I started my informal research after it was too late. But I'm just Joe Citizen. Isn't it the Board's OBLIGATION to know these things? Isn't it Susan Charles' obligation to know? Either they're not doing their jobs very thoroughly and were unaware of the facts, or they're hoping no one brings up the numbers, or they don't think it matters.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 3:07 pm
You mean Bill Gates, the college drop-out? (Okay, there's another big CEO who claims Gates was kicked out for plagiarism, but those guys are pretty competitive.)
But let's look at what Gates wants. Oh, yes, cheap labor. Import engineers who work for less, or outsource. It's less a question of relative talent than basic economics, the bigger the labor pool, the cheaper the hire. Not that Microsoft has ever really been known for out-of-the-boxness.
And those regional science fairs, won by kids with Asian and Indian last names. Most of them are Americans. They may not look like you, but most of them are born here. So, how well has that equated, by the way, with their becoming innovators as adults? I honestly don't know. Do you?
Never said Hoover was like boot camp. I said it suits some kids and not others. Direct Instruction's what it is. And just a few are allowed study at advanced level? EVERY child at Ohlone is supposed to study at her or his level. But you seem to buy into the notion that a nonrigid environment is weak educationally. I think project-based learning does take strong teaching skills, which has limited it. DI is much easier to import in that sense.
As for the BIG leagues? It's not even an issue--there's a serious luck factor involved, combined with ability and a certain canniness. Oh, and desire. You have to want to do it and have the nerve to do it. However, running a business of their own? Or working independently? Sure. My father did it. I do it. So do a lot of my friends. You do know that there are jobs outside the tech sector? There's more than one way not to be a cog in the machine, though not everyone's up to working independently.
But even for those who want a steady paycheck, I think it's less about one skill than the ability to learn skills.
Which doesn't mean that I don't think we need to do a much better job of educating *all* children, but the working world, in my experience, is not the black-and-white situation that you seem to think it is. Your absolute "Truth" is not my "truth". It doesn't jibe with my experience or knowledge.
My point about suicide is very real--the hot-house flower approach to education is one that's counterproductive longterm. I don't think it let's people expand to their fullest potential because they become afraid and often depressed. It sounds like you didn't go to school with a bunch of Asian kids. I did. Yes, as a group, they did well in school. But this notion that they're all brilliant students is a fallacy that's particularly hard on the kids themselves. Decades later, none of the ones I knew is a particular success, though I think they're mostly okay. Some of the ones I've met as adults are not and, geez, the anger toward their parents is not a pretty sight.
As for real estate, the trend I've seen is that those "naive" parents seem to sell their kids their houses at a discounted rate or move out of town when the kids are gone and buy a bigger place someplace else.
The people I've known who are the most successful care about what they do--a lot. They put in the extra time and energy, even when the rewards aren't immediate, because they care about what they do. And I make educational choices based on what I think will and encourage self-motivation and teach good work habits--i.e. homework happens when you don't finish something at school. The child learns to choose the work strategy that works for him or her.
Posted by Sad Mom, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 8:51 pm
I respect your point of view, but I am not sure you have your facts right.
It is a well known fact that success in the corporate world is not tied with what college you graduated from. As a matter of fact, fewer than half of Fortune 500 companies are led by CEOs who graduated from the top (I don't recall how many) universities.
It is erroneous to think that having fun learning is the antithesis to being able to work hard. You can both have fun and work hard. As a matter of fact, my oldest child who had fun learning in grade school 9 years ago, went on to Paly and on to AP calculus classes, as well as other AP classes in science and other fields...
I think it is terribly bad and UNNECESSARY to have 5th graders already stressed out little robots who hate school.
Posted by Happy Parent, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:10 pm
Dear Sad Parent,
I believe that I was at that same re-enactment you were and had a completely opposite experience. I asked questions of the students who had obviously worked very hard to create and memorize their lines for a presentation for which we parents would be very proud. I was impressed by the information they delivered from the point of view of their characters. I know how hard my child prepared for this activity and learning experience. She was serious because she felt that it was important to her, her castmates, her teachers and her parents.
These posting have prompted me to ask her how she felt about the re-enactment and she said that it was challenging, that she had been looking forward to it since kindergarten, that she was nervous, but that she counts it among her top memories of elementary school.
I happened to then be at the graduation (promotion) ceremony this week and heard the speeches made by those same students (or robots as you call them). You would rethink your claim that the spark is gone if you had just listened. There also happened to be a slide show after the graduation ceremony. In the slide show there were a great number of pictures of children smiling in their colonial costumes, not to mention other times throughout the year.
Interesting how our experiences could be so different.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2007 at 11:40 pm
So many different interesting discussions in this thread.
Aaron, not sure where you apocolyptic vision comes from. Hard working immigrants have been coming in, taking "market share" of school and job opportunities, and assimilating into the melting pot for many generations. It will happen again this generation, too. It doesn't spell disaster for the incumbents - some will be at "the top," others will float to other spots in the pyramid, rising and falling.
Frankly, I'm not sure how much difference, beyond the basics, elementary ed matters - like Aaron, it seems, I went to decidely crappy elementary schools (not to mention a high-school not nearly as rich with resources and smart kids as Palo Alto's) and I turned out fine in academia and life - I even get to live in Palo Alto instead of Salinas!
On the other hand, I think the same logic applies to Ohlone - I doubt really that Ohlone kids perform especially better (or worse) in academia or life than any others. (BTW, OP, IMHO that PA teachers prefer Ohlone for their kids probably says more about the kind of people who go into teaching that the long-term merit of the program.)
I have to ask - all this attention to relatively minor elementary ed programs and issues - is this really what moves the needle in Palo Alto education? Interesting that we never see big threads on what makes a great MIDDLE SCHOOL (universally acknowledged as the most challenging grades, where many kids find or lose their path) or how we can improve our high school programs (aside from that somewhat funny recurring idea of letting the kids sleep later). I would love to see serious attention paid there - does anyone agree?
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2007 at 2:26 am
Good to see you on the boards.
My grade school also left something to be desired. However, I think things are a bit different today in that in California there's such a big gap between the good districts and the bad ones. A friend of mine whose kid's in a mediocre district discovered a bit late that her kid who she was told was doing fine was one to two years behind in math and reading when compared to the kids she met in private schools and districts like PAUSD.
I think any of the PAUSD schools can give a kid the education he or she needs to progress. As I've said elsewhere, part of the draw of Ohlone to me is that the philosophy acts as sort of a counterbalance to what seems to me a somewhat dysfunctional anxiety that I've seen in the district in many ways. Aaron's attitude is not unique. Obviously, it's not an attitude I share and by being at Ohlone, I don't have to worry about the Aarons of the district pushing their philosophy of education at my kid's school. And he doesn't have to worry about mine.
I'd say most kids here will do well in most of the schools. There are some though who are particularly suited for certain sorts of education--I experienced project-based learning at the college level and for me it was night and day. I really hadn't liked school because I was so out of sync with the pace at which we learned. For other students it wasn't such a big deal and for some the independence required was highly stressful.
Yes, choosing Ohlone may say something about who enters the teaching profession, but I think if the school were chaotic or weak in academics, those same teachers wouldn't put their kids there. I think they'd know and care if their kids weren't keeping up with other students in the district.
Regarding MS and HS--no firsthand experience here. I get the feeling we just kind of hope our kids survive middle school without getting too dinged up.
Posted by Parent, a member of the JLS Middle School community, on Jun 16, 2007 at 9:17 am
Well, to get to Middle School, I would like to hear others' views on the 6th grade wheel.
My own feeling is that it is a waste of time. Yes, the students enjoy the drama, the art, the cooking (I am not sure about the boys and sewing), but the other subjects seem to be too short and too shallow. I think the industrial tech, with the race at the end, is very hit and miss and very dependent on the weather for that last exciting race! The computers may be good for some, but it can be very late in the year for some who may need it the most. The latin, or intro to language seems irrelevant.
Rather than a wheel of intense subjects, I think a different approach where say industrial tech and computers were taught once or twice a week throughout the year and the fun classes (drama, art, home ec, were taught as a once or twice a week wheel that lasted longer than the six weeks.
The wheel is supposed to be an intro to electives, but when they have to decide on electives before they finish the wheel (with only a 20 min. visit to see the ones they haven't done) it is very hard for them to realistically decide what they want to do as a 7th grade elective.
We constantly hear that there isn't enough time to teach various things and the time spent on wheel could easily be used much better to give the 6th graders something that actually teaches them something useful rather than the filler that is presently offered.
Posted by tired of bickering, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2007 at 11:38 am
The time spent on wheel/elective classes could not be spent on academic classes unless you renegotiate the contract with the secondary teachers - they are required to teach a certain amount of time - the electives are in addition to that. We have more periods in our middle school than many others (7 vs 6)
Electives are not fillers. There are many kids who are not academic superstars who feel successful in school because they are good at art, drama, sewing, etc. Especially in middle school, keeping the kids motivated and feeling good about going to school is a huge thing!
Posted by Sad mother, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2007 at 5:02 pm
Dear Happy Parent,
The difference between you and me is that you don't seem to have experienced the school, including the Colonial project,with other children a number of years ago, as I did.
As I stated in my posts, they worked on the same project, but it was like day and night. Some years ago, the students also learned a tremendous amount and worked hard, but they were happy, it was informal, no one was tense nor not allowed to talk to a visitor until a certain time. I can guarantee you that the difference was striking this year. Yes, this year the delivery of the presentations was very robotic, unlike 9 years ago, and the children seemed very stressed. Is this appropriate in 5th grade ? You may think so, but I don't.
Funny that you recognized the school in my description though, since all schools do this kind of project. My description must have been rather accurate then.
As to the speeches at promotion, who are you to imply that I did not listen ? How snotty to make such a statement. Unfortunately, it does fit with the holier-than-though attitude of many parents at the school, however. Yes, the speeches were cute, but most of them were pretty much generic statements on how great the school is. Did you expect anything else under such circumstances, especially when the speeches were prepared in class under the teachers' supervision ? I did not.
I am glad you think your child was happy at that school. In my opinion, most of the kids there could have been much happier, while learning just as much.
Posted by Happy, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2007 at 8:25 pm
Dear Sad mother,
You are from Midtown. With some deductive reasoning (based on the date of the first posting) I took a wild guess to which school you were referring. As I stated before, my experience was completely different from your own.
Re. Promotion: My child prepared her speech from home. In fact, she wrote her speech a few weeks before the promotion by her own volition as she knew it was quickly arriving. She was inspired by something that she was doing at the time and felt that she had something to say.
I am actually sorry to hear about your experiences (not holier-than-though--although in this type of forum I realize how this could be construed). I have to be honest and say that I truly was a bit affronted when you suggested that all children had the same experiences as your own. It felt sneaky to be mentioning it in a forum where it was bound to be recognized. But now I see that wasn't your meaning, I hope.
My wish is that your child finds it a bit more to your family's liking in middle school. My guess is that until standardized tests mean nothing, new expecations on our children to grow up stop (not just from schools, but from media as well), we are going to find a level of seriousness in the younger years that wasn't present a generation ago (or even a few years ago as you stated). That stress seems to be all around us.
Good luck and enjoy your summer with your children,
Posted by Student, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2007 at 1:20 pm
Regarding 6th grade wheel, I thought it was actually very helpful in sixth grade. It gives kids a chance to get to know the teacher as well as the subject, and therefore to really envision what it would be like to sign up for one of those classes as an elective. Furthermore, it's fun - and lots of Palo Alto kids will feel bound to "useful" electives for the rest of their school years (once I was doing music and a foreign language, I didn't have room for anything else in my schedule), and I also don't think it's bad to have some light and different classes during that horrible (for me at least) transition year to middle school. And I can still say the Pledge of Allegiance in Latin. Heh.
Posted by Also Happy, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2007 at 6:34 pm
I too am completely confused by "Sad Parent"'s opinion of the colonial reenactment staged by the children. My husband and I had relocated to this area, so we had no expectations about what was entailed with this project. During the weeks that followed up to the presentation, our son was coming home daily, informing us of the progress being made. We have never seen him so excited about something related to school. When we actually saw the reenactment, we were stunned. The sets, the speeches, the music...everything was just fantastic. We certainly didn't witness any "robotic" mannerisms. To be sure, speeches did have to be memorized, but, come on, these are fifth graders. What did you expect? Trained, professional actors?!
Ultimately, we left the school feeling impressed by teachers who could have boringly had our son read the text and then given a test over this information (Similar to our old school district's mantra!). Instead, we witnessed our son and his classmates present a knowledgable and entertaining program that gave them a chance to relive a slice of time that occurred long ago. How can you complain about that? We LOVED it!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2007 at 7:39 am
I can appreciate what you are saying, and even the tone of what you say. I understand how you ripped your nails off climbing over the wall of poverty and poor education, and how you saw your sister choose to stay behind. To you, the antithesis of how you did it spells defeat and poverty.
Not singing the same song as yours, but I grew up all over the place, landing in whatever school was close. I went to work in Burger King when I was 16...and realized I was going to have to work with bozos like my "boss" for the rest of my life if I didn't go to college. THAT was my motivation!
Didn't even think about which Ivy league school to go to, that was impossible, so I went to the state college that gave me the most money, and worked my way through. Loved it, lit my fire, and was proud to be the first in my family on either side to complete college, but even happier to have learned I could do anything I set my mind to.
What I see lacking is a little of what you see..a sense of internal motivation being the drive to colleges, a sense of the character that can build through working your way up. I see more motivation related to "status", which concerns me. I would like to see more drive related to desire to learn and improve oneself.
I also see parents and students whining when the kids reach Senior level and realize that the kids with the most university options are the kids who not only had fun, but worked harder and ended up in the "top" tracks at High School. What you are saying is very true...hard work at elementary school sets the stage for high school and then college.
But, I think you miss the point some when you think that the only way to "work hard" is direct instruction. I think we throw out the baby with the bath water far too often in California. The argument of which is better, DI or Team approach is silly. We need both ways in order to become fully functional adults.
No amount of team work will get all that anatomy memorized to become a surgeon, and no amount of DI is going to get that surgeon to learn how to become an effective member of the health care team and patient provider.
The extremes of the 2 scenarios start in elementary school.
In elementary school, if the kids don't flat out memorize their math facts and practice accurate speed in using them, they are dooming themselves to the "lower tracks" of math. That makes it that much harder for them to realize their potential, in this day and age, if they are cut out for medicine, science or engineering. It makes that door much harder to open. That simple.
But, at the same time, kids who do nothing but memorize and spit back don't learn how to trust their own thinking and become the idea makers, the creators, the inventors of the future. If they don't learn how to be social team workers in elementary school, they end up on the fringes in high school and colleges...and have a very difficult time catching on to the whole "team" work needed in businesses.
There is a reason the US, with its abysmal math/science scores in some sectors of our society, is still one the highest Nobel prize winners, compared to China, with its incredible math scores at a young age. I will look for the link to that if you want. Educators in China are trying to integrate some of that "magic" ingredient we have in the US for their kids. ( A different thread).
I hope we can quit this ridiculous black and white arguing which only hurts our kids' long term education, smacks of superiority and put-downs, and learn to integrate the whole of an education into each child to the best of their abilities. Every parent should help their kid learn to enjoy learning AND help their kid understand that some learning simply has to happen the "memorization" way in order to use it in the fun way once it is memorized.
Posted by Aaron, a resident of the Palo Alto Hills neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2007 at 1:23 pm
I thought I was done on this thread, but you took the time to give a reasoned response, and I respect that, so I would offer the following:
Direct Instruction (DI) simply means that the teacher teaches (usually, but not always, up in front of the class), and expects the kids to learn what he/she teaches. However, it goes beyond that, too. If a teacher recognizes a kid that "gets it" quickly then the teacher will assign harder subject matter and even independent learning. DI usually allows kids their own private space in class - it is called a desk. It is up to the individual to demonstrate his/her own merit. If, by the orders of some vengeful god, I was forced to participate in "team learning" with the likes of my sister, I probably would have given up. I learned all I needed to know about that type of personality from her (along with my two older brothers). Why should I be dragged down by the lampreys of this world?
I feel that I have always gotten along well with my peers and friends, even though I expect mutual respect. If they mistake kindness for weakness, they end up being the losers. When I worked in the corporate environment, I received "manager of the year" awards more than once. I was a good listener. I was also a fair and demanding boss (the two go hand-in-hand). I told everyone who reported to me: "You do your job, and we will be fine with each other, but if you don't, I will fire you". Some of them looked shocked when I said this, but most of them realized that the paycheck is not a right - it has to be earned. I understood special circumstances, and took them into account, on a case-by-case basis.
Let me say something about corporate teams. First, they are a good thing, since complex corporate issues need to be dealt with. Second, I am not against them. Third, they are way overrated as a paradigm of corporate success. By this I mean, simply, that the essential ideas that drive an enterprise forward are INDIVIDUAL ideas. These ideas come from the lone wolves that want (and demand) to be rewarded for what they INDIVIDUALLY contributed. They want nothing to do with a team that creates a camel, when it should have been a horse - even if the team felt good about itself in doing so.
The Nobel prize winners are almost always lone wolves, although they may also have good managerial skills.
In my view, the problem with the current educational paradigm is that no child should be left behind. Translation: No child should get ahead. Team teaching drags down the "get ahead" kid in order to pull up the "left behind" kid. That approach is a real loser. We, as a society, should be celebrating our lone wolves - we will be much more successful, if we do.
Im would add one more thing, in response to what someone else said on this tread. Learning can, and should, be rewarding, even exhilarating. Most lone wolves would tell you that it is. At least this one.
Please note the emphasis on "scripted". One of the reasons it's an effective method is that the teacher has pretty narrow parameters. You don't need highly skilled teachers to use this method. And I think it's a definite plus in underprivileged environments where the parents have not taught their kids *how* to learn.
Again, you don't seem to understand Ohlone's methods. Yes, they work in teams on various projects. However, reading, writing and math involve a lot of individual work. It's actual the focus on the indivual student more than the team work (though it's a nice bonus--it makes for much better social interactions on campus) that I like about Ohlone. A K/1 class at Ohlone will have kids just learning the alphabet and kids reading at third-grade level--and it's a productive environment for all of them.
Speaking of Nobel Prize winners, the brighter the child, the more off-beat his or her learning strategies are going to be--not the least being that kids need hugely different amounts of repetition (i.e. drilling). The brightest are kind of made to learn. I think for them, you don't want a situation that holds them back--I've seen some kids make huge, rapid jumps. It's not simply a question of their working harder than other kids--I've seen read differences in the ability to analyze and process information. Ideally, you want the teaching method most in sync with a child's learning style. Because no matter what happens later, that child needs how to learn by his or herself. I really think different kids have different optimum learning environments. What suits my kid (and me) may not work well for you and yours. But don't assume it's an open-and-shut case.
Or to get back to drilling, when you hear your kindegartener spend 45 minutes in bed doing sums in his head, you don't worry too much about drill sheets. (Though Ohlone does have them.)