Scouting for a School Series (SSS): Choosing a School for the Wrong Reasons

When I look at the votes in our poll recently, I noticed that a lot of our readers are parents. Well, parents, this may be a difficult pill to swallow.. but a healthy pill, nonetheless. This may help you in choosing a school for your child or help you in the school where you are currently in.

Alfie Kohn, a speaker advocating progressive education, talks about non-progressive parents existing in progressive schools. I want to give this guy a standing ovation with this paragraph alone..

“The problem with almost any of these criteria for sending kids to a school is that you end up with parents who are impressed by the wrong things. I was in a classroom recently at a progressive school where, during a parents’ potluck breakfast, the Moms and Dads were glowing over the fact that their kids could spell “Australopithecus” or knew some obscure fact that the parents themselves didn’t know. “Isn’t that a wonderful education?” Of course, that’s not necessarily very impressive at all. But if we haven’t made a good match and helped to educate parents, as well as allowing them to educate us about what’s good for kids, you end up with parents who are worried about the very best features and who start to exert pressure, especially as the kids get older, for a more traditional kind of education because they didn’t come to the school for the right reasons in the first place.”

Parents, you may be asking what the right reasons are.. well, that’s what the blog is for.. to help you find out.. However, I do know this for sure. Don’t seek a progressive school having traditional expectations. It doesn’t add up.

My advise to school teachers and administrators is to prioritize your parent orientation. Encourage your parents to attend. In our school, we started to have intimate parent interviews prior to enrollment to ask the reason they chose the school and their expectations from it. It helps in preventing traditional expectations in the future. We learned this from experience 😉

3 thoughts on “Scouting for a School Series (SSS): Choosing a School for the Wrong Reasons

  1. I love Alfie Kohn 🙂

    He recently wrote about his “Listerine theory of education”, where he explains parents’ reasoning in accepting that if their education was bad enough then it should also be bad enough for their own children. He based this theory on the popular advertisement which conveyed a message that, “to sell this particular brand of mouthwash on the theory that if it tasted vile, it obviously worked well” (p.11). This emphasized that “anything appealing is likely to be ineffective” (p.11). Kohn contends that parents resort to accepting such situation as a fact of life even if it meant that their children were unhappy.


  2. Hail! Hail to Teacher Tina! You are absolutely right about people choosing a progressive school for the wrong reason. At my children’s school everyone is happy with the results in Prek through about 1st grade. Then the “worry” sets in: they aren’t reading yet; my so-and-so friend’s child reads Harry Potter!; my child doesn’t know his math facts yet. . . did you know that so and so school has an API score of 9 -what would our school have . . . and so on . . . People that we met who seemed to agree with us on parenting approaches or who claimed to value true learning -really had no clue what they actually valued. They left the school in 1st, 2nd, and a whole bunch of families with girls take off to an all- girl’s school in 4th grade to make sure they can get into it with less competition than it would have been in 7th. Our school does not screen our families’ “educational philosophy” very well -at least I feel it is not a priority. Unfortunately, we end up getting parents who start to bad mouth the school and its constructivist techniques, create divisions and unwarranted fear among the rest. I personally find it disappointing. It is a lack of understanding on how true learning takes place- and I mean brain-based education (which also takes alot of flax from non-educated folks). I rant and I apologize. But it is frustrating to be in a school where people who had wrong expectations (and who are vocal) start to exert pressure and push to move away from the mission of the school. That is why I do what I do. I just started trying to educate folks about how real learning (progressive ed/constructivism/brain-based ed) takes place via my articles. BTW I wish you all were in Los Angeles on April 15,2010. My DH and I have spearheaded for Alfie Kohn to come and visit. We were able to generate funds from local progressively-oriented schools and bring him out to the LA area. He will be talking to teachers and parents!! So, I hope I make a little difference. If you are interested in getting more info, let me know If any of you are in LA on Arpil 15th, let me know and I’ll help you get a ticket! I’m in charge of it 🙂

    1. Wow Grace! Your comment is an inspiration to us all! How I wish I’d have known of the LA conference earlier and I’ll take you up on that offer! I hope to coordinate further with you regarding this philosophy that we both believe in! Hail Hail to you too and happy easter!

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