Dwelling on and Dwelling in the Spirit of Play

by Matthew Koslowski on September 30, 2009
in Essays

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
– Aristotle

A few days ago, one of my friends set her Facebook status to, “But bear in mind that a person’s worth is measured by the worth of what he values.”

This simple act amused me. And moved me to think. I had had cause — not just cause but causes — to think about my values before she had put up that status. I realized that my life has been out of alignment. Specifically, I have not been giving enough attention to one trait I deeply value: playfulness.

Read more..

Children Left Behind: Statistics and Abstractions

by Matthew Koslowski on September 23, 2009
in Essays

In This Essay

No Child Left Behind and the Spirit of Democratic Education”, Why School? by Mike Rose
Monday Metaphor: Growth, Learning with Impact by John Spencer
“Why Our Standards-Based Grading Sucks”, Learning with Impact by John Spencer
“MCAS scores fall shy of target”, Boston Globe, by James Vaznis
“Charter schools see more attrition”, Boston Globe by James Vaznis
“The next chapter on education reform”, Boston Globe by Gov. Deval Patrick
“Critical thinking? You need knowledge”, Boston Globe by Diane Ravitch
“These test-score jitters are a sign of high standards”, Boston Globe

Ideals and Realities

I had some great conversations about education and public policy with a friend. She would take the pragmatic side of the argument while I would take the idealistic side. While I would speak of sweeping visions of what education should be, she would want specific plans on implementation.

Our arguments usually ended with me saying that so much depended on implementation, that what I thought could really have a great impact, and her saying that no implementation would be perfect and I needed to get my head out of the clouds.

Implementing High Stakes Testing

Last week saw the publication of the test scores for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS. Part of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, this standardized test fulfills the requirements of No Child Left Behind.

Read more..

Of Steppenwolves and Hedgehogs

by Matthew Koslowski on September 16, 2009
in Essays

One night in May while walking around the MFA, I was reunited with some old friends. Though the paintings and sculptures have settled here in Boston and need to be visited in person, I had pictures of many of them, just like having photographs of friends in an album.

A few weeks ago, I was again reunited with an old friend while pawing through boxes of books that I have not unpacked.

But this friend, this dear old friend who reached out to tell me my own story, who I called godfather, was always with me. With me when I moved to Ohio for college. With me when I fled Ohio for Chicago. And with me on my return to Massachusetts and Boston.

That this friend, Harry Haller, did not have pride of place, that he was packed away in a box embarrasses me not a little. He should have sat always at my right hand.

Read more..

On President Obama’s Address to Students

by Matthew Koslowski on September 9, 2009
in Essays

With all the controversy swirling around President Obama’s Address to Students, I was curious to see what he would say yesterday.

I wanted to form my own opinion of the address. I had avoided reading all of the advance press that I could. I knew there was talk of school boards voting to prevent its presentation in school; I knew conservative talking heads and shouting mouths had condemned the very idea without any advanced copy, had dismissed a political tradition; I knew there were parents who were thinking of keeping their children home as a boycott.

As much as I had anticipated the speech, I was disappointed by his speech. More than disappointed, in fact: the President’s speech made me angry.

Read more..

Are Students Sponges?

by Matthew Koslowski on September 2, 2009
in Anecdotes

When I told my co-worker, Bill, that I wanted to be a teacher, his memory of Mr. K– jumped to his mind. As I listened to him recall Mr. K–, I thought that I could be and hope to be Mr. K– for someone some day. I’ve at least got the right initial. I could see that this man had really moved him.

“I remember,” he said and his eyes lit up, “one history teacher that I had in high school, Mr. K–. He was like a father to me: I fixed him in my memory, the age he was when he was my teacher. I bawled when I learned that he died.”

What Bill said next stunned me.

“I’ll never forget what he said to us.” Bill paused and shook his head. He shifted in his seat and it I could see him calling up the way Mr. K– had carried himself. “Mr. K– looked at us and said, ‘You want to be sponges!’ he said, ‘You want to sit there, receive knowledge as if it were water, and wait for me to squeeze it out of you with some test! C’mon guys, you need to think for yourselves.’”

How relevant in our climate of high-stakes testing and teaching-to-the-test.