Town Square

Post a New Topic

A challenge to Gunn

Original post made by val blanchette, Greenmeadow, on Jun 8, 2009

A challenge to Gunn

So we have done it again

Here we are in this beautiful part of the world

We have beautiful children

And it takes a village to raise a child

Where was the village?

The high school years when the child becomes an adult

Four short years

Their bodies change
Their minds grow
They blossom – if we give them time and space

Hormones surge through their bodies
Emotions gather strength
They hardly know themselves at times
These are the vulnerable years
So what do we do?

We offer a great education at Gunn – on our terms

We have some great teachers who try to engage the minds and tend the blossoming

Four years for children to discover their passion in this life and feel their way onto the great stage

And what do we do?

We overlay this precious time with a competitive horse race - get the best grades – get into the best college – follow the herd - lead the herd – DO NOT FAIL

So, young person, your circadian rhythms change – and you need more sleep after midnight – you are not at your best in the early morning - so who cares - get out of bed – get into class – perform, perform, perform

So start school at 10 am

Look at the college world – PSAT GPA SAT - the alphabet that will determine your future – work for it, work for it, work for it –
Pressure, pressure, pressure

And some of them say “I can’t take this any more”

Others take it and succeed – but at what price?

We buy into the whole system – we push our beloved children through the sausage machine

And yet another ends up under a train



So I challenge you Gunn

Change to a system of pass/fail - no more grades

(But the children won’t work – they won’t feel the whip on their back – they will become lazy)

They will work in order to learn what they are interested in – they will find their passion – they will flourish

Throw out the set curriculum

Let the children, as they become adults, choose what they want to study – offer a great smorgasbord of teachers and subjects - and if some subjects/teachers have no followers – get rid of them

Look at the pressure cooker system that destroys our children – look it straight in the eye and say NO MORE

What do you mean destroys our children – look at the beautiful young adults graduating and tell me we have destroyed them?

No, thank God, we have not destroyed them all – most of them are tougher than we think – they survive what we do to them - and we do a lot of great things - BUT we could do so much more – and if we took on this challenge we would see our children blossom as never before

Change the focus

Focus on our children as they become adults
Focus on their needs – what they need to blossom
Focus on offering education and enlightenment that delights these precious pupils
Focus on supporting them through the tough times - easing the pressures – holding still while they gather steam for the next spurt

Teach them cooperation instead of competition
Teach them compassion not judgment
Teach them the great joy of learning

Teach them the importance of now
Look at now
Stop looking at the future and letting some distant and unknown entity evaluate our beloved children


So what about Harvard and Stanford and UC and ,,,,and…and…

They will be begging for the sort of young adults we will send into the world -

We have a choir - Look at and listen to that choir - get the CD if you have not heard them – get it anyway and listen again –

Look what our children can accomplish – without grades - without points for the sausage makers -

Do you get it?

Val Blanchette
Mother and grandmother of Gunn students

Comments (3)

Like this comment
Posted by Gunn Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 8, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Excuse me, but I think you forgot to include a challenge to the PARENTS of the students.

Like this comment
Posted by also concerned
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 8, 2009 at 11:43 pm

also concerned is a registered user.

Posted by another parent, a member of the Gunn High School community, 0 minutes ago


You make some good points -- especially about that "they will be begging for the sort of adult we send out into the world." but i dont think this has anything to do with Gunn High School, per se. The school only teaches and follows the curriculum set up by the school board, which is made up of community members. We have lived in 4 different communities across the nation over the years, kids have gone to both private and public schools, and I have YET to meet a more dedicated, committed and overall exemplary group of teachers and administrators. and most imortantly, my kids would concure!

Perhaps these recent, horrible tragedies will open up a true dialoge about education at Gunn and how it can evolve to meet the needs of our changing world.Imagine being a graduate of college, trying to get a job now. As the world becomes increasingly global, natural competition will emerge from more places -- and opportunities will arise where there never were before. The education of our children needs to evolve to meet the needs of today's society and of tommorrow's reality.

I'd love to hear what the Gunn teachers think of this --- pass/fail, out of the box instruction and classes. I imagine they'd embrace this idea. lets unleash both the kids AND the teachers, get the PARENTS on board. open it up to as many interested students and teachers there are. Bet the numbers would be much higher then any predictions. You could start this as an optional track. Maintaining the high level of advanced instruction Gunn is well known for but teaching it in a more engaging, creative and collaborative way. A few very progressive schools in SF are structured this way. The kids get an end of year GPA report, bc colleges still require GPA, but are not told the specifics of what earned them which marks, they are only told pass/fail. They do not get any letter grades until Senior year. The list of college acceptances is impressive in its depth, breadth and quality -- rivals - and surpasses- ANY on the peninsula.(including PAUSD).

Whatever the outcome, opening up the conversation is key - as is doing more then just talking will be also.

Thanks --perhaps if we ALL try to smile more, give the benefit of the doubt more freely, truly treat our neighbors as we would like to be treated ourselves....imagine giving our kids such a wonderful place to be.

keep at it Val, good luck to all of us and prayers to the families of Sonya and JP.

Like this comment
Posted by mother of tuu
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 9, 2009 at 4:30 pm

mother of tuu is a registered user.

We have such a program for middle school students. It's called Connections and is at JLS (but open to all Palo Alto students). I sincerely hope the program continues to thrive now, after the death of Stephen Carothers who was a founding teacher. My son had an excellent middle school experience due to the Connections program.

It would be fabulous to have this type of project-oriented program for high school students!

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


To post your comment, please login or register at the top of the page. This topic is only for those who have signed up to participate by providing their email address and establishing a screen name.

Truckee cafe to expand to Menlo Park
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 3,285 views

Attraction to a Person Outside Your Relationship
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 974 views

One more year
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 908 views


Registration now open

Sign up for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here