Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Educating our children in the School of One

I recently read about a pilot programme, for school children, currently underway in some New York Schools.

Time Magazine listed the programme as one of the best inventions of 2009

Arthur E Levin, of the Huffington Post writes that this programme "is a prototype for our nation's schools in the decades to come. It's a model much more powerful and potentially far-reaching than any other reform, including much-ballyhooed charter schools, to date"
It is called the 'School of One' programme, and it has the support of New York City's schools chancellor, Joel Klein.

Joel Rose, the founder of the School of One says that the intention is to “provide teachers with a powerful tool that enables them to meet the needs of each student and allows them more time to focus on the quality of instruction.”

The programme combines traditional teaching methods with cutting-edge technology and software. Virtual tutors, and other tools, are used to provide students with customised tuition that meets each student's individal needs and learning styles

It is a new approach, and it challenges the classical approach to classroom tuition, that has been in place for approximately 100 years.

The New York Times explains:

"Once the students arrive at school, they receive their individual playlists identifying the lessons they have to complete for the day, which could involve virtual tutoring online, computer worksheets or small-group lessons with a classroom teacher. Their schedules are also displayed on large television screens, akin to flight schedule displays in airports"

What I find fascinating, and exciting, about the School of One programme, is that each lesson is customised for each child. That means that each child's strengths, weaknesses and interests are accounted for.

The programme acknowledges that when it comes to schooling and education, each child is different

And that's a good thing


  1. ....which is precisely why sending your kids to a "one size fits all" jewish day school is such a shocking idea. But, unfortunately, we live in a society of lemmings and worst of all, people actually want to be lemmings. As Dawkins so eloquently put it "...But there is a more pernicious and pervasive influence, which is an active shutting down of the critical faculties. Religion teaches us to be satisfied with non-explanations, and this is viciously corrosive of science and of the life of the mind generally"

  2. Thank you for the comment

    Interestingly, the School for One programme is aimed at addressing each child's strengths, weaknesses, interests, background, circumstances etc. It assists the traditional schooling technique, and is works independently of religion or culture. It recognizes the uniqueness of the child

    What I find wonderful about culture-based schooling environments is that they recognize the background and from which children are coming from. They don't have a one-size-fits-all approach. On the contrary, culture-based schools recognize and acknowledge that children are different. So, if you are a Muslim, Eid ul-Fitr is a cultural celebration, at the end of Ramadan, where everyone joins in the celebration. If you are Hindu, Diwali is a time for all the kids to party and spread some light in the world. If you are Jewish, Purim is time for the children to dress up and proudly celebrate their heritage.

    Culture-based schools recognise our unique cultures, backgrounds and societies which we all need to cherish in ourselves, whether we are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish etc

    And that's a good thing for all our children

  3. I totally agree all children are individuals and for that matter treat them as such accordingly. Let them have freedom of expression.

  4. Uri, I agree that it is particularly important to nurture each child as an individual. From a South African perspective, in addition, I feel that it is vital for our children to be exposed to other children from different cultures, religions, races etc. This will hopefully teach them to respect other people and not to be afraid of mixing with different people from different backgrounds. I am always shocked by the bigotry, racism, elitism and narrow mindedness that I have encountered in kids who are the products of jewish day schools (across the spectrum of religiosity). I think we delude ourselves if we think that by sending our kids to "frum" schools, we can protect them from the challenges that will inevitably come their way. However, having said all of that, these things are not in our hands, and despite our best efforts, our kids may not turn out the way we intended them to, and you have to have a good measure of faith as a parent.

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  6. Shew, a blog post about an exciting new programme has opened up a whole new interesting debate:)

    This is not at all what the post was about. But hey, people read things the way they want to, and that's cool.

    Great comments people

    The home environment,and parental guidance, is crucial. And children must be raised to
    appreciate their own cultures, and respect others.

    The school is just one, important element of a child's socialisation. Unless your kid goes to Hitler Youth, Sandton, schools do not preach racism, or bigotry.

    There are good and bad kids from mixed and culture-based schools.

    Indeed, there are no guarantees in life. Oh well

    I know, unfortunately too well, people that went to mixed schools, and they are sickingly racist and bigoted. They hate, not only people that dont look like them but they hate their own culture and heritage too

    And I know many people, very well, that went to culture-based schools that are amazing humanitarians, and give back to society more than most can ever dream of, or imagine

    An example, at a particular Joburg, culture-based school, the school kids are taught, intensely, the usual SA school curriculum. This is to prepare them for a productive life, as contributing members of society, as doctors, business-people, lawyers etc. They are also taught about their own culture and heritage, to give them a sense of belonging to something so much bigger than simply money, and the pursuit of monetary fortunes (while those are important, they cannot be viewed as the the 'goal' for our children - only as a means). These kids visit sick and elderly people on a weekly basis, to cheer the sick and
    elderly up, and bring light to their lives. They also visit township schools and contribute to the upliftment of children and people in
    poor, township, communities. These kids grow up to be culturally proud members of a broader society. These kids are not only proud of their unique culture and heritage, but they are also aware that the world needs their contribution, as doctors, lawyers, business-people AND humanitarians.

    That kind of school environment is truly inspiring

    Do some kids come out warped? Absolutely. But that's a statistic, that is found at culture-based schools and mixed schools.

    I would rather support children, of ANY culture, learn and be proud of their culture and heritage AND contribute positively to the world around them. Wow - that gives children the best of both worlds. That is amazing

    Being proud of one's cultural heritage or value system must NEVER mean the negation of another culture or value system

    I am talking about pride in one's culture or value system, COUPLED with mutual respect. The two are NOT mutually exclusive

    Viewing them as mutually exlusive is what I call extremism.

    It is exactly the kind of thing that secular extremists do.

    As do religious extremists

    Extremists at either end of the spectrum are dangerous

    Negating your own, or other's cultures or value systems is downright extremist