An Essay Critiquing the Roxbury, Massachusetts’ Orchard Gardens K-8 School
[By Charles H. Settles 3/06; revised 6/16/06]
B...
I
The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution….
To raise new questions, new possibilit...
imaginary or primary process imagery results in students withdrawing into more infantile
emotional-states.4
However, to at...
Gardens’ students. If these kids get a lousy education, America will be in trouble. But the
success of this identity-proje...
the Principal’s primary duty should be to create an educational milieu which would protect
students from these counterprod...
In counterpoint to her faculty, the Orchard Gardens’ Principal views professional
success in terms of a “taught” curriculu...
Second Grade
If enlightened teachers were to teach conceptually unified content which builds on
primary process thinking w...
Seventh Grade
Seventh grade should see kids take the group-solidarity values they established in first
grade into the real...
APPENDIX

An Explanation of How Socio-Cultural Identity could be Collectively Created
In his book, The Language Instinct, ...
I argue the students at Orchard Gardens have unique interpretations of their school,
and of the events and objects they ex...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Orchard gardens school critical essay

562 views

Published on

Abstract

I identify the central problem of the Orchard Gardens School as children attempting to collectively create a shared originary culture of learning, but having their attempts unintentionally sabotaged by aspects of their socio-school milieu. However, I argue that effective educating begins when a safe haven is created, continues when students are taught to create and use mind screens, and becomes enriched when students create their own learning projects through large music creating groups, science and mathematical applications, and generally through beginning to enter non discursive linguistic domains of drama, music, dance, and art.


Published in: Education
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
562
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
2
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Orchard gardens school critical essay

  1. 1. An Essay Critiquing the Roxbury, Massachusetts’ Orchard Gardens K-8 School [By Charles H. Settles 3/06; revised 6/16/06] By Settles, 255 Massachusetts Avenue, Apt. 808 Boston, MA 02115 csettles_1@verizon.net 617-267-3864 Abstract I identify the central problem of the Orchard Gardens School as children attempting to collectively create a shared originary culture of learning, but having their attempts unintentionally sabotaged by aspects of their socio-school milieu. However, I argue that effective educating begins when a safe haven is created, continues when students are taught to create and use mind screens, and becomes enriched when students create their own learning projects through large music creating groups, science and mathematical applications, and generally through beginning to enter non discursive linguistic domains of drama, music, dance, and art.
  2. 2. I The mere formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution…. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.1 Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Childhood is a time of great need. Therefore, the mission of the Orchard Gardens’ School should be to protect and nurture.2 Yet at this point in time (2/27/06), the Orchard Gardens School is under great pressure. This pressure comes from Leadership not aligning with School Aspirations. The Politicians say, “Improve those test scores.” So, a fearful, but dedicated Principal will heavy handedly pressure her Teachers to coercively mold vulnerable children to fit templates representing not open-ended models of possible futures, but dead ends driven by narrowly defined visions. We must understand that what unites a primarily American born monolingual Black, and a largely bilingual Hispanic student body is a persistent cognitive anxiety.3 This cognitive anxiety embeds an inhibiting effect of an idealized patriarchal family lineage. To alleviate their cognitive anxiety, Orchard Gardens’ Students replicate imaginatively the socio-cultural and class conditions surrounding their places of origin. But this originary ethos under construction powerfully competes with worlds their socio-school milieu provides. In conflict with a primarily female constructed learning environment, this replication incites in students the fears surrounding an imaginary re-enactment of primal struggling involving individual and group survival. The irruption into conscious memory of this fear driven 1 http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/X00001A96/ cf. http://www.boston.k12.ma.us/schools/schname.asp ; school picture taken from http://www.stullandlee.com/architecture/education/ogs.htm 3 A question for the reader is, “What social and cultural processes go into constituting a product called cognitive anxiety?” 2 2
  3. 3. imaginary or primary process imagery results in students withdrawing into more infantile emotional-states.4 However, to attend the needs of its students, the Orchard Gardens’ School is very rich in instructional materials and faculty. And it has a Principal who values the latest sciencebased teaching techniques. Yet classroom Teachers perceive their Principal’s standpoint as determined by masses of detail which don’t readily translate into viable instruction. In fact, many Teachers see their Principal’s effort as counterproductive. But, from the point of view of this essay, both Principal and Teachers, although dedicated, remain blind and deaf to the adaptive needs of their students. In this light, then, what form might a viable model for learning take for the Orchard Gardens’ children? Articulating a viable educational vision for Orchard Gardens would mean resolving some basic student boundary clarification issues. Students at this school are heavily burdened by legacies of poverty and hunger whose holds on them must be relaxed. More specifically, these children feel a heavy kinship responsibility to those left behind impoverished and hungry. Moreover, these children are confused about which aspects of their socio-cultural heritage will prove valuable for them in the future and which aspects must be relinquished if they are to have futures. All of these issues demand resolution if the Orchard Gardens’ students are to adapt successfully to American Society. So the Orchard Gardens’ School faculty and Principal must become sensitive to the adaptive needs of children whose basic senses of Self are distorted by socio-cultural contextual issues. Collectively creating viable socio-cultural identity is the main adaptive challenge for Orchard Gardens’ students.5 In fact, the richness of America’s not yet determined future depends on the viability of this collectively created socio-cultural identity of the Orchard 4 http://72.14.207.104/search?q=cache:NARTDLAw47gJ:www.psychedeliclibrary.org/mogar.htm+primary+process+imagery&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=124 “We find primary process thinking in conscious subjects either out of strength or out of weakness. In the former case, it is more likely to appear in a playful or esthetic frame of reference, accompanied by pleasant affect. If, on the other hand, primary thinking breaks through the usual defenses uninvited and unwanted, the subject may feel anxious or threatened and is likely to act defensively;” http://www.apsa.org/japa/524/BrakelP.1131-1161.pdf : A comprehensive study validating primary process thinking; http://www.kovcomp.co.uk/wordstat/RID.html :“The Regressive Imagery Dictionary (Martindale, 1975,1990) is a content analysis coding scheme designed to measure primordial vs. conceptual thinking.” 5 See entry 1 in appendix B for an explanation of how socio-cultural identity is collectively created: cf. http://www.unm.edu/~devalenz/handouts/sociocult.html --“A key feature of this emergent view of human development is that higher order functions develop out of social interaction;” and http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/methodology/socio.shtml --“One of the greatest importances of communication is when an idea has to be formulated and expressed, sharing the idea among essential partners who will test their assumptions,” and http://www.nald.ca/province/nb/tesl/guide3.htm 3
  4. 4. Gardens’ students. If these kids get a lousy education, America will be in trouble. But the success of this identity-project strongly depends on the Orchard Gardens’ Principal. She is charged with creating a school environment which promotes cultural criticism, and the identification and treatment of the effects of harmful culture borne cognitive structures.6 At Orchard Gardens, mental processes of an anomalous nature interfere with student learning. As I suggested above, these anomalous mental processes become activated by the culture shock of students encountering a female dominated learning domain. In response to this culture shock, students refocus their attention away from the adaptive requirements of face-to-face interaction with other members of their learning community, and towards Id dominated worlds of primary process thinking. Furthermore, overcoming the effects of this cultural shock by getting students to re-attend to the promises of their learning community is the raison d’etre for Orchard Gardens Teaching. By their choice of membership in the Orchard Gardens’ Learning Community, these students become the occasion for the playing out of a fundamental conflict between a Principal and her Teaching Faculty. A strongly detail-oriented Principal has a vision for a feedback corrected science-informed instruction, but her Teachers are confronted with student thinking that resists alignment both to their teaching, and to the categories of their Principal’s evaluative and instructional rubrics. Elsewhere, I touched upon the preferred school role for the Principal, and here I will outline the proper role for Teachers. First, I note these Teachers seem too self-absorbed since they self-confidently and strongly identify with their degrees and levels of professionalism; but these Teachers neglect becoming aware that their core function involves nurturance and protection, and this means loosening up with an understanding of the psychology of bicultural adaptation, and the role nonverbal and non discursive messages play in human communication.7,8 To re-state, belief-structures that interfere with participation in knowledge-based communities work against Orchard Gardens’ students forming a learning community. And 6 cf. http://www.lib.calpoly.edu/staff/fvuotto/bus_402/winkelman.html Cultural Shock and Adaptation By Michael Winkelman—“Resolution of cultural shock is best achieved by a proactive cognitive orientation.” See also, http://0-muse.jhu.edu.ilsprod.lib.neu.edu/journals/theory_into_practice/v042/42.4curran.pdf “Teachers need to be sensitive to the increased cognitive and affective demands when one operates in a second language and plan their classroom management accordingly.” 7 http://repositories.cdlib.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3021&context=postprints “Bicultural identity integration (BII): Components and psychosocial antecedents “ 8 cf. Katz, Susan A. & Judith A. Thomas. Teaching Creatively By Working The Word—Language, Music, And Movement. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1992. 4
  5. 5. the Principal’s primary duty should be to create an educational milieu which would protect students from these counterproductive belief-structures. To this end, the provision of A SAFE HAVEN for students IS STEP ONE if these children are to successfully encounter DESTINY. In a safe haven, the Orchard Gardens’ students would collectively contemplate the resources of their life-experiences. They could then transmute these experiences within effective instructional environments, and with the aid of understanding Teachers, helpful Scientists from Boston University’s new Bio-Lab, and Specialists in large-scale musical productions, and non discursive languages.9 In the end, these Orchard Gardens children would collectively pursue interests in artistically and mathematically exploring and scientifically researching the dimensions of the human brain/mind/consciousness. The Orchard Gardens’ students are children, but life subjects them to the promise of a harsh and unforgiving world. And whereas elsewhere in this report, I questioned the degree of sensitivity of Orchard Gardens’ Faculty and Principal towards students whose selfformational processes are distorted by embedded socio-cultural challenges, I also touched upon what must be done to help these children—viz., the Principal must promote policies that broaden the cultural and social foundations of her school’s instructional mission, and her Teachers must provide instruction the mastery of which should result in students creating cognitive screens10 as well as mastering content. In turn, these cognitive barriers should work to filter out or deny the attribution of reality to culture-based knowledge-structures that adversely influence the Teachers’ abilities to teach and the students’ abilities to learn. 9 cf. http://opiniononreligion.blogspot.com/2006/01/non-discursive-language.html “Non-discursive language comes in the form of images, music, and drama: forms that can convey feeling or experience in a complex, non-linear way;” http://www.bsu.edu/classes/bauer/hpmused/langer.html :“Discursive Forms and Presentational Forms;” http://www.aare.edu.au/02pap/wri02327.htm : “Multi-Modality in a New Key: The Significance of the Arts in Research and Education--Multi-modality and the use of non-verbal symbolic expression often is suppressed in institutionalised education, due to the social and cultural dominance of literal language and written modes of expression.” 10 “Cognitive screens” or “mind screens” are continuously re-visited in my analysis. First, they appear as the Principal “is charged with creating a school environment which promotes cultural criticism, and the identification and treatment of harmful culture borne cognitive structures.” Next, they appear as “The Principal’s primary duty is … to create an educational milieu which would protect students from … counterproductive belief-structures. So, fundamentally, “mind screens” function to protect children from or help them “overcome the effects of cultural shock." But, “cognitive screens” are products that must be constructed in students’ own streams of consciousness in response to the proper school environment as provided through the Principal, and Teachers whose teaching is informed by “an understanding of a psychology of bicultural adaptation, and the role nonverbal and non discursive messages play in human communication. The thing that students take from this I have designated as “mind screens” or “cognitive screens.” These are analogous to software that protects kids from the content of harmful web sites. 5
  6. 6. In counterpoint to her faculty, the Orchard Gardens’ Principal views professional success in terms of a “taught” curriculum. But neither this “taught” curriculum nor the legal curriculum has any bearing on effectively educating her students. As I have shown, an effective educating begins when a safe haven is created, continues when students are taught to create and use mind screens, and becomes enriched when students create their own learning projects through large music creating groups, science and mathematical applications, and generally through beginning to enter non discursive linguistic domains of drama, music, dance, and art. But a too heavily detailed “taught” curriculum pushed by the Principal reacts against the effects of the legal curriculum by subjugating expressive student behavior, especially that of boys. Further, this subjugation incites student outbursts because of unappealing instructional material that exceeds students’ frustration levels, and does not encourage their natural inclinations. Thus the only thing keeping Orchard Gardens’ students from performing at the highest levels is instruction not aligned with student educational needs. Incorporating forms of non discursive communication in instruction, and providing an educational environment that helps kids identify and neutralize the cognitively inhibiting effects of stereotypes is all these kids need. But what is so amazing is that so little is required to release such amazing levels of scientific and artistic creativity. II I will conclude my report with a detailed analysis of the Orchard Gardens School’s natural grade-sequence progression: Kindergarten Kindergarten is that wonderful time for meeting lots of other kids, but instead of a time for learning as a phenomenological elaboration of spontaneous play, kindergarten, here, is regimentation imposed for learning subject-matter—too much arithmetic, but too little natural world geometry, and too much “saying words, but too little talking with each other about what we read/learn.” First Grade First grade children collectively give birth to essential modes of relating, but have the educationally relevant group-based value-systems they endeavor to collectively create unintentionally sabotaged by teachers who de-value imaginary companionship, and its strong tie to the non discursive symbolism in drama, music, art, and dance. 6
  7. 7. Second Grade If enlightened teachers were to teach conceptually unified content which builds on primary process thinking while using resources which insulate students from the unintended side effects of cognitively inhibiting teacher-evoked stress patterns that are based on the inadequate recognition and understanding of culture-based modes of thought suppression, then second grade students would not suffer the huge amount of intellectual damage they currently experience; helpful here would be strong exposure to children’s literature, some in languages other than English, about all of the world’s people. Third Grade Absent their second grade damage, third graders would be ready for a realistic picture of the world and things they can do about it. For American born children of color, and other non mainstream children, this would mean an emphasis on current affairs, and “If I were type-stories;” for example, if I were President Bush/a CDC scientist studying bird flu, I would…; this would engender ability to understand the outer world, and a capability to aspire to greatness. Fourth Grade In the 4th grade, Orchard Gardens’ children encounter another big problem. Here students wrongly prepared in their earlier school years cry out for relevance, but get suspensions or detention instead; these students need aspects of a “peace curriculum,” organized group games that teach good sportsmanship, and a shifting from rational or discovery approaches to teaching science to experimental laboratory science, especially the life sciences. Fifth Grade Fifth grade has students who have almost totally identified with dysfunctional aspects of both their ethnic and street cultures because School never helped them create mind screens for protection; these students need exposure to stereotypical information-structures, and how one can protect oneself therefrom. Sixth Grade In the 6th grade, many angry students, especially boys, haven’t been taught to channel aggression in healthy ways; kids who were poised to be taught, for example, the value of drumming to band play, instead, learned the advantages of gang-membership to self-survival. 7
  8. 8. Seventh Grade Seventh grade should see kids take the group-solidarity values they established in first grade into the realms of community service, but with them they must also carry open perspectives derived from their third grade exposure to children’s literature and non discursive languages; otherwise they will have nothing to give. Eighth Grade And finally, I have arrived at the 8th grade after which Orchard Gardens’ Students graduate. A helpful rite of passage for 8th graders would be the writing of an exit essay. 8th graders need to affirm that they will eventually take responsibility for something or somebody. Failure to compose their exit essays whether from rejecting responsibility or having inadequate compositional skills means future lives of confinement—in an impoverished community, in alcoholism, in teen pregnancy, in self-abusive drug-behavior, or in jail. 8
  9. 9. APPENDIX An Explanation of How Socio-Cultural Identity could be Collectively Created In his book, The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker (HarperCollins, 1995, pp. 35-36)Pinker reviews the dynamics of new language coming into being. I argue an analogous process is at work among the students at the Orchard Gardens’ school in their attempts to collectively create viable socio-cultural identities: Until recently there were no sign languages at all in Nicaragua, because its deaf people remained isolated from one another. When the Sandinista government took over in 1979 and reformed the educational system, the first schools for the deaf were created. The schools focused on drilling the children in lip reading and speech, and as in every case where that is tried, the results were dismal. But it did not matter. On the playgrounds and school buses the children were inventing their own sign system, pooling the makeshift gestures that they used with their families at home. Before long the system congealed into what is now called the Lenguaje de Signos Nicaraguense (LSN). Today LSN is used, with varying degrees of fluency, by young deaf adults, aged seventeen to twenty-five, who developed it when they were ten or older. Basically, it is a pidgin. Everyone uses it differently, and the signers depend on suggestive, elaborate circumlocutions rather than on a consistent grammar. But children like Mayela, who joined the school around the age of four, when LSN was already around, and all the pupils younger than her, are quite different. [author’s italics]Their signing is more fluid and compact, and the gestures are more stylized and less like a pantomime. In fact, when their signing is examined close up, it is so different from LSN that it is referred to by a different name,Idioma de Signos Nicaraguense (ISN).... ISN appears to be a creole, created in one leap when the younger children were exposed to the pidgin signing of the older children.... ISN has spontaneously standardized itself; all the young children sign it in the same way. The children have introduced many grammatical devices that were absent in LSN, and hence they rely far less on circumlocutions. For example, an LSN (pidgin) signer might make the sign for "talk to" and then point from the position of the talker to the position of the hearer. But an ISN (creole) signer modifies the sign itself, sweeping it in one motion from a point representing the talker to a point representing the hearer. This is a common device in sign languages, formally identical to inflecting a verb for agreement in spoken languages. Thanks to such consistent grammar, ISN is very expressive. A child can watch a surrealistic cartoon and describe its plot to another child. The children use it in jokes, poems, narratives, and life histories, and it is coming to serve as the glue that holds the community together. A language has been born before our eyes. [author’s italics] 9
  10. 10. I argue the students at Orchard Gardens have unique interpretations of their school, and of the events and objects they experience there. Moreover, in a way analogous to how deaf children in Nicaragua created a brand new language, Idioma de Signos Nicaraguense, I postulate these various individual interpretations will become socially interactively merged into one mainstream, which Orchard Gardens Students will create and maintain as their chosen reality.11 This collective identity, I argue, will be born in the matrix of a non discursive language/symbolism, and it will predispose children to lives of hope or despair depending on the quality of the education they receive at the Orchard Gardens. After all, these students do behaviorally affirm "Language is the fundamental mode of operation of [their] ...being-in-the-world and the all-embracing form of the constitution of ... [their] world;"12 this "linguistic consciousness" is their new Identity. 11 cf. Sharron, Avery. "The Mainstream of Consciousness: William James' Concept of the Stream of Consciousness Sociologically Interpreted." A paper presented to the American Sociological Association (September, 1982) 12 Gadamer, Hans-George. Philosophical Hermeneutics. Translated and Edited by David L. Linge. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977 10

×