09/27/2010

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Should educators let boys be boys? As the father of three daughters, I sometimes forget how little boys play. My girls spend their free time acting out complex dramas, pretending to be strict teachers (with hearts of gold), exasperated mothers, cousins inheriting mansions from long-lost aunts, insolent children being sent to boarding school—their playtime has all of the dizzying social complexities of a 19th century Russian novel. Every once in a while, though, when exchanges between neighbor boys playing in their backyards drift in through the open windows of my home, my own youth comes rushing back to me. “Bang! You’re dead! I shot you.” “No, you didn’t. You missed me.” “Bang! Bang! Bang! Now I shot you.” “Nuh uh. You’re out of bullets.” Many educators are unnerved by this sort of play. They fear that boys who play cops and robbers when they’re young will grow up to be violent and aggressive, exhibiting anti-social, if not, criminal, behavior. To curtail boys’ more aggressive and violent play (read: to make them play more like girls), many schools have banished violent play from classrooms and playgrounds. Yet, as reported in a recent article in LiveScience.com, educators may need to learn to “work with, rather than against” boys’ aggressive tendencies. The article cites the work McREL Principal Researcher Elena Bodrova, whose research on early childhood education calls out the importance of dramatic play on children’s social and intellectual development. Through sophisticated forms of imaginative play (including games like cops and robbers), children learn to delay gratification (by remaining,...
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Can we predict the future of education? “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ~ Yogi Berra. Clearly, change is in the air these days in education, whether we’re Waiting for Superman, racing to the top, dotting our three i’s, or wondering how tea party politics may change the face of Washington. In light of all these changes and uncertainties, the question on many minds is likely, where is it all leading? The most truthful answer anyone can give to that question is this one: nobody knows for sure. It’s simply not possible to predict how all of these various trends will come together to shape a new future. That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t prepare ourselves for it. The trick is to consider multiple, alternative futures and begin to envision how we—or our districts, schools, or students—might flourish in each. In a new book from McREL to be released this month by Solution Tree Press, we analyze current and emerging trends in a wide array of areas, including politics, the economy, technology, and society. After analyzing these trends, we offer, not a prediction of the future, but four, very different scenarios for what the future may hold. The scenarios in the book, titled The Future of Schooling: Educating America in 2020, are designed to provoke readers to ponder many “what if,” questions, including: What if the current, multibillion-dollar federal investment in education succeeds in identifying and scaling up numerous innovations that transform schooling as we know it? What if, on the other hand,...

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