Monday, November 29, 2010

The Disadvantage of An Elite Education

I love the ideas that are shared in the Klingbrief -- a newsletter about education related materials and ideas that is sent once a month from the Klingenstein Center -- a branch of the Teacher's College of Columbia University that trains people to work as leaders of independent schools.  I especially appreciated that they -- members of an elite institution -- sent the link to this essay.  After watching The Social Network I definitely do not have Harvard aspirations for my daughters, but it is hard to know what to want for them... the chance for creativity, for connectedness, and for responsible civic participation seem like core values for me, and I hope they will become part of the college experience before too long.

Are We Doing What We Say We Do? : The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, by William Deresiewicz

Doing a double take at the title is just the beginning of asking yourself to think deeply and differently while reading this opinion piece by William Deresiewicz for The American Scholar, the magazine of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The author takes up an argument that looks at both advantages and disadvantages of schooling in an elite environment. And he should know... his own Ivy League education is one of the many warrants he carefully delineates in defense of his hypothesis: that an elite education limits, narrows, deceives, and misguides those who are inside the gates at exclusive institutions. Examined in light of its impact on society, economics, humanistic understanding, inclusion, and thinking, the place of privilege comes up short for Deresiewicz. The article compels us to take a look at the student who is packing in AP courses, filling a resume, and becoming "the kid whom everyone wants at their college but no one wants in their classroom." The author asks if we are helping students ask the big questions and reach beyond analytic thinking skills to work hard at what they believe in and to love learning in its broadest and most humane definition.

Elizabeth Morley, Institute of Child Study, Toronto, Canada
The American Scholar, Summer 2008

There's No Business Like Show Business

Jenaya and Donna were so great in Annie Get Your Gun and the show was so fun - - a toe-tapping old fashioned musical, but also a great reminder that women have been tough since time immemorial! There are 2 shows left -- buy your tickets here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Here We Come to The Garden Show


If the Garden Show spurred your environmental conscience, Kristine, from the Environmental Health Advocacy Center sent me this link to a wonderful blog post reminding us that parents are making consumer decisions everyday that prioritize environmental health.  The author argues that these parents can have great influence through their consumer decisions and political activism.
In the comments, Steve recommends adding a letter to the Million Letter March and 350.Org has launched a new project "350 Earth" to restimulate our joy, creativity and passion for the planet.

In Maine, many organizations are working to protect children and our plant from the most harmful chemicals -- perhaps they deserve our thanks and support this Holiday season.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

 The Women's Therapy Center is sponsoring the:


"We need your BIG IDEA in response to the following question:

What is one bold action that could make the world truly value
the diversity of women and girls’ bodies?"

I'd love to hear what our kids have as answers...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cultivating Gratitude in Teens

This is a sweet article by Christine Carter of the Greater Good Center on how to encourage gratitude in teens, at a time when being cynical, snarky and unappreciative of their families might be developmentally appropriate.  The comments are interesting too...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Webinar Opportunity - Packaging Girlhood

Sexualization and the Packaging of Girlhood
Friday, December 10th, 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm EST

Open your eyes to the media images and messages that surround you and you’ll find that there’s no avoiding the sexualization and objectification of girls and women.  Young women in submissive and suggestive positions sell clothing; pop stars marketed to youth perform with stripper poles; even cartoon characters adopt flirtatious poses and attire.

The 2007 APA Taskforce on the Sexualization of Girls documented how the relentless barrage of sexualized media messages compromises girls' healthy social, emotional, and physical development.  Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., a Taskforce member and co-author of Packaging Girlhood, will explore the images that overwhelm girls each day and expose the stereotypes and limited choices present.  She will share strategies for educators, counselors, and parents to help girls navigate and resist these powerful and omnipresent messages.

CEUs will be available.  To register, go to

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


James has this, and other, videos on the Friends Web Site -- under "Video Gallery"

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maine Enterprise School Blog

The name has changed a bit, from the Maine Farm School to the Maine Enterprise School, and they've formed a new partnership with LearningWorks... follow the interesting ideas and progress of this project at their blog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thank You for Crafting

Thank you to the incredible organizers of this years' Hat Sale!   The craft making today was so fun and there are going to be great gifts for sale -- (wish I had pictures).

Friends will have a table at the MECA Holiday Sale this year -- wahooo!!!  As well as the Saturday open fair at school, so mark your calendars, make dates with friends for First Friday food and shopping, and check out the wonderful creations offered by FSP kids, parents and friends.

And, anyone wanting a picture book to capture the feel of the Hat Sale, check out Shall I Knit You A Hat by Kate Klise

Kohn's Huffington Post Blog

If you're curious to learn more about Alfie Kohn's ideas, without reading an entire library, check out his most recent -- and provocative -- commentary on Huffington Post's blog

He contends, midway through an essay entitled "How to Sell Conservatism" :

I think it can be argued that the dominant problem with parenting isn't permissiveness; it's a fear of permissiveness that leads us to be excessively controlling.


I know that now that "helicopter parenting" has become such a denigrated label, I often feel self-conscious about my participation in my children's lives - but isn't a bit of self-consciousness the root of reflexivity?  Who's to say how much or how little permissiveness is best; and yet, we do need cultural standards since in the end the trends of parenting and education effect us all. Is it all relational -- that we need to find our own way within our families?  How much are we influenced by our own childhoods? By other parents? By "experts"?  How will we discern what we wish for for "norms" while also participating in the production and reproduction of parenting with intention and with the limits we naturally bring.

Kohn makes a compelling case that the discourse of overparenting, overindulgence, and out of control permissiveness provides a rhetorical  gateway to highly controlling educational institutions (AKA testing).  What are the words to describe parenting that clear and confident without being controlling or controlled; what is the word to describe the education FSP tries to provide, where each child is held as good-enough already and also capable of achieving some core competencies and more?  As much as I appreciate the critical essay, I'd love to hear more about what we might ask for from our public schools and how we all might become more involved in meaningful and possible educational reform that is loving and fair and equitable and doesn't completely stress out the adults involved. I'd love to better understand how to change the discourse, rather than individual behaviors.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quizlet for Spanish

The web site that Annie gave the 5th/6th is here

Multicultural Book Fair

A Multicultural Book Fair
For Families & Educators

Saturday, November 20th
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Ongoing
Breakwater School Gym
865 Brighton Ave., Portland
Free Admission
Purchases - Checks & Cash Only

BROWSE & SHOP CHILDREN’S BOOKS (K-12) depicting the cultures of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, as well as Asian American, African American, Native American, Latino American, Muslim American, and immigration books.

MEET AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR Charlotte Agell, the creator of the chapter book, The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister.

EAT yummy Chinese dumplings.

EDUCATORS & LIBRARIANS offered 10% off.

SALES BENEFIT the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine.

BOOKS HAND SELECTED by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City and provided by Borders.


Foursquare Tournament this Sunday

Sunday, November 14th, Breakwater School is hosting the Maine Youth Foursquare Tournament. Teams need to register in advance on the Breakwater website. The tournament is open to all players in grades 3 - 8. $10 registration fee includes a Jet Video ice cream and two Portland Pirates tickets. Wouldn't it be grand to have a Friends School team at the tournament?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Race to Nowhere?

The current debates about childhood and academic achievement often give me whiplash.  I believe that children should play, that we need a variety of experiences in our lives and that we should support a wide array of learning styles and gifts (multiple intelligences).  But, I also think it is pretty good to work hard at the hard math problem, to stick with a challenge, and feel some pride at the achievement of a job well done.  These are sensible values (I think) and not at odds with one another, except when all of it is expected at once or to be accomplished at a crazy pace. 

The film,  A Race to Nowhere, purports to document the effects of the stress kids feel at the heavy "achievement pressures" placed on them by schools and their families.

Merriconeag is hosting a screening on Dec 2nd (tickets $10.00) -- is anyone interested in going, or should we consider hosting our own post-holiday screening?

Friday, November 5, 2010

And yeah for innovative thinking

The 5/6 social studies curriculum is focusing on inventors and innovative thinkers.  Grace was pretty enthused about this web site, from the Smithsonian, that describes a lot of kitchen-science projects and potential inventions.  We're also looking forward to a family trip to the Boston Science Museum, particularly to learn about making roller coasters from k'nex  -- who thought up the idea of Roller Coasters anyway?  (and, in a political aside, this letter to the editor from Abigail Disney is provocative -- what is the role of public spending / the collective in supporting the innovative thinking of a few?)

Here's a list of web sites for kids from MIT - we haven't explored many of them.

Do you or your kids have any favorite web sites to explore inventors and innovative thinkers?

Bike Art and Puppet Theater - Yeah for First/Second Graders!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Soar Elinor!

Here is a wonderful new picture book, by Tami Lewis Brown celebrating Elinor Smith who, in 1927, became the youngest American pilot. Read the Washington Post review here.

Habitat for Humanity

Katie's and Nicole's classes are engaged in an amazing year-long service learning project with Greater Portland's chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Today, the kids were invited to visit the ReStore. Among other things, they worked to make "money boxes" that will be placed in each classroom as a donation spot for spare change -- please consider emptying your pockets now and again -- and I was grateful and impressed with the Americorps volunteer who held nails for the children to hammer.

We were then invited to help celebrate the completion of a house in Portland and to welcome the family living in it with gifts and cards made by children at LearningWorks.  FSP children learned a little bit about the family's story -- what stuck the most with Kate is that they had donated 1,000 hours of labor in their home country, never imagining they might be needing housing one day themselves, and when they moved to Portland they came to Habitat for Humanity to volunteer, not in search of a home for their own family -- and sang "This Little Light of Mine,"  almost as a blessing on the kitchen, or perhaps just an offering of openness. 

On our library list :

You and Me and Home Sweet Home by George Ella Lyon (author of the "Where I'm From poem I like so much) 

A Chair for My Mother - this is actually already a favorite, by Vera Williams 

A Castle on Viola Street by DyAnne DiSalvo

And, for grown-ups, this brand new book on the Wealth Gap, reviewed yesterday in the NYT

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November happenings

Nov 5th has some special First Friday events, including a Raising Readers party at the Children's Museum of Maine and, for adults, Portland Playback offers an opportunity to use improv to explore the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation, at the First Parish Church in Portland at 7:30 ($5-10 donation).  

November 13 - Circus INcognitus - a performance for children at South Portland High School, 1 or 3pm
(and don't forget craft making for FSP Hat Sale!)

November 20th -- Many Voices Booksale & Stacked and Packed, Art for Families @ the PMA

What else is on your November family calendar?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wild & Scenic Film Festival this Saturday

Friends of Casco Bay's Wild & Scenic Film Festival comes back for the third year this coming Saturday at USM's Abromson Center. Doors open at 4:00, films begin at 5:00. They've got a great line-up, so check it out. Tickets available at the door or online through Brown Paper Tickets (you can access them through the film festival link above).