Thursday, August 28, 2008

What about childhood?

I have been perusing through Emile: Or on Education (1762) by Jean Jacques Rousseau, believed to be one of the first books to outline child-centered educations. He says:
We know nothing of childhood; and with our mistaken notions the further we advance the further we go astray. The wisest writers devote themselves to what a man ought to know, without asking what a child is capable of learning. They are always looking for the man in the child, without considering what he is before he becomes a man.
When we define education with a focus on outcomes, industry, and workforce, we forget about educating the whole child and rather than attempting to make children adults. What about entering into their world and learning with them?

I recently watched Autism: The Musical. Tricia Regan, founder of The Miracle Project, talked about the trouble she had "controlling" her (mostly non-verbal) son's behavior. She, with the influence of other artists, realized the power in trying to enter his world, rather than drawing him out of it. If he was jumping and screaming, why not do that with him? If he was running around the room, why not do that too?

I was also reminded of the power of the figurative voice. Tricia's son was non-verbal, often having outbursts of uncontrollable behavior. It was amazing to see when he was finally put in front of a speech machine and said something to the effect of: "Mom, I want to put you on the spot. I wish you would listen more."

It reminded me of this previous post on critical pedagogy and special needs populations. The "voice" is so important, but also must be broadly defined and cannot be limited by the ability to talk or write.

The Storytelling Project's Antiracism Curriculum

Discuss race and racism with your high school students through the arts with The Storytelling Project Curriculum. (It's free.) The Storytelling Project was developed at Barnard and in NYC schools and includes over 30 lessons appropriate for high school students that include arts-based storytelling activities to discuss racism. Students study various stories of racism from dominant ones to concealed ones to their own.