Preparing Kids for the World?

Schools across the country are banning the Silly Bandz bracelets.  The problem?  As one Houston teacher put it:  “They are a distraction, students are slapping them, trading, and checking out who has what on their arm instead of taking care of the business of school.”

It may well be the bracelets are distracting from school work in many places.  But the ban is also an ironic twist on the progressive Dewey-21st Century Skills education philosophy that is fashionable among educators.  According to Dewey, school should both reflect life and prepare the student for adult life:

From the standpoint of the child, the great waste in the school comes from his inability to utilize the experiences he gets outside the school in any complete and free way within the school itself; while on the other hand, he is unable to apply in daily life what he is learning in school. That is the isolation of the school–its isolation from life. When the child gets into the schoolroom he has to put out of his mind a large part of the ideas, interests and activities that predominate in his home and neighborhood. So the school being unable to utilize this everyday experience, sets painfully to work on another tack and by a variety of [artificial] means, to arouse in the child an interest in school studies …. [Thus there remains a] gap existing between the everyday experiences of the child and the isolated material supplied in such large measure in the school.

Collecting and trading desired items sounds just like the kind of thing Dewey would embrace.  Students would learn about commerce and the potentially mutual benefits of trade.  But schools not only refuse to take advantage of these opportunities to teach students useful lessons about the world, they insist on banning the items altogether.

Maybe schools are preparing students for the world as they wish it would be — with a lot of collaboration but little commercial trade — rather than the world as it is and almost certainly will continue to be.

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4 Responses to Preparing Kids for the World?

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Those bracelets are a perfect opportunity to play “The Free Market Trading Game,” a classroom exercise in which students are randomly assigned commodities (usually purchased at the dollar store) and asked to write down how much they like their items on a scale of 1 to 10. Then they’re allowed to trade commodities within a small group of students and asked to write down how much they like what they’ve got after trading; then they can trade with anyone in the class and they write down yet another score. The lesson is that trade benefits everyone.

  2. Nope. Take it outside commerce boy.

  3. Patrick says:

    When I taught high school history (ever so briefly for $9.75 an hour with a degree in History from Penn State, though no teacher certification) I created a game to teach my 9th grade students about trade (we were learning about the Phoenicians).

    Each student was given a card at random. The cards explained their profession and what good they produced or sold (and how much). The card also explained the items they had to acquire to satisfy their needs (win).

    The students struggled to trade since they could only barter (and often barter for goods they didn’t want to get goods they did).

    In Round 2, two students, selected at random from the group of students who failed to win Round 1, were given several “gold coins” and a new card (they were now Phoenician traders seeking to buy goods with their gold). Other student’s cards were randomized again so they could potentially get a new profession and new needs.

    I set no prices other than recommend that 1 gold would be the market value for one unit of grain. Students were free to set their own prices and trade.

    Surprisingly, I found that each student in each of my classes had – at some point during the game) – acquired or used a gold coin to complete a transactions. All students agreed that using coin money was easier and more efficient than bartering for their goods.

    Shortly after this I was made a full-time special education teacher because they finally found someone with a teaching certificate to teach the history class. Later, I learned he showed a video of medieval castles during the chapter on Renaissance art. Another state certified coworker in my History department was later convicted of child molestation.

  4. Greg Forster says:

    Wow, because everybody knows castles were built to serve as aesthetic artifacts and not for anything, you know, icky – like war and stuff.

    I know, I know . . . take it outside, war boy.

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