Home > Uncategorized > David Brooks Discovers that Schools Need to Cultivate Loving Relationships Instead of High Test Scores!

David Brooks Discovers that Schools Need to Cultivate Loving Relationships Instead of High Test Scores!

June 14, 2016

David Brooks’ column today uses Paul Tough’s new book, “Helping Children Succeed” which, unlike his earlier work, “concludes that skills like resilience and self-control are not really skills the way reading is a skill, they are traits imparted by an environment.” This conclusion is akin to the conclusion Diane Ravitch came to after spending years supporting the “standards movement” that predated and set the platform for the NCLB and RTTT era. Tough’s earlier work was one of many that concluded that “grit” was needed to overcome the adverse effects of poverty and “grit” was something that schools could teach the same way they taught, say, algebra. More and more “grit” proponents like Tough have come to the conclusion that Brooks flags: “grit” is NOT a skill the way reading is a skill.

So what are we to do? Mr. Brooks proposes “better policy” might be the solution… but how that suggestion is offered is telling:

The most important educational environment is the one that surrounds a child in the first five years, when the emotional foundations are being engraved. The gap between rich and poor students opens up before age 5 and stays pretty constant through high school. Despite this, the U.S. ranks 31st out of 32 developed nations in the amount it spends on early childhood.

Better policy can help. Some of the best programs help parents do what they are already doing but more consistently — to have “serve and return” interactions with their kids; to practice distanced empathy — to hear their children when they are upset, and to guide them back toward calmness.

After giving an overview of research that supports the assertion that the first five years are crucial, Mr. Brooks concludes with this:

Many teachers sense that students are more emotionally vulnerable today. Social policy has to find a hundred ways to nurture loving relationships. Today we have to fortify the heart if we’re going to educate the mind.

This just in, Mr. Brooks: Good social policy requires two things that are sorely lacking: money and faith in “government schools”.

If we are 31st out of 32 countries in terms of investing in the amount we spend on early childhood education… “the most important educational environment“… we are getting what we pay for… and at this juncture those with money ARE paying for this while those without money are sitting at home with empty stomachs because our Congress is “making tough choices”… and this spending differential on early childhood education exacerbates the economic divide.

Oh, and those 30 countries ahead of us probably have not bought into the idea that “government is the problem” and, therefore, government spending on schooling is ipso facto “wasted”.

So Mr. Brooks’ call for “social policy” that has to “find a hundred ways to nurture loving relationships” rings hollow without the call for more GOVERNMENT funding for preschool… and I doubt that we’ll be reading about that in his columns any time soon. Instead we’ll read about some privatization scheme that will reward shareholders and serve a small but select group of children raised in poverty. That model, the “charter school” model, seems to be the one favored by conservative “thinkers” like Mr. Brooks.

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