Thinking about thinking 
Author Message
 Thinking about thinking

On expectations:  I see each child as different.  I have 5 children & 4
grandchildren.  Yes, I want "goodness" for all of them. The way I express
this is that I want each kid to "grow". Perhaps to grow 10% from where THEY
are each year, not from where I am.  Bob A mind once stretched, will never

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Thu, 18 Nov 2004 13:03:00 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

<http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0514/p13s01-lecl.html
eudora="autourl">http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0514/p13s01-lecl.html
Learning > In the Classroom: "Interview / Ron Ritchhart" from the May 14,
2002 edition Lessons in shaping 'intellectual' character  By Mary Kuhl |
Special to The Christian Science Monitor  You're in an art museum and see a
painting you wouldn't normally pay much attention to. But instead of
thinking, "I don't like it" and passing by, you pause and wonder: "What was
the artist trying to convey? How does it relate to other pieces in the
room? How does it make me feel?" You crouch down on the floor, walk around
to the side, tilt your head, and ponder how these different perspectives
have changed your answers.
 One of the best questions I ever heard was from George Miller (author of
the mental concept of 7 +/_ 2). He said that when we see behavior that
doesn't make sense to us, we should ask "What does it make sense of"?  Bob
"To create New Answers;  you must ask New Questions." - Bob Gorman
<http://www.kncell.org/  eudora="autourl">http://www.kncell.org
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Thu, 18 Nov 2004 13:02:02 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking


sitting at a computer programming the turtle would ever produce > such
poised, well spoken, able to think on their feet under pressure, > critical
thinkers as formal debate tournaments do.     Dale

To the contrary.  In the nature of things, debaters must be able to adopt
either side of a question and argue it, whether believing  that side has
"the right" or not.  Debate thus teaches hypocracy and skills in following
after falsehoods.  As another  correspondent remarked, from such training
we inherit politicians and lawyers.
 Being able to see a problem from many viewpoints, I consider an advantage
not a deficit.
Any programmer is required, to be successful, to be utterly logical,
analytical, and a slave to "truth"; software is remarkably free of
compromise, tolerance of superstition, or hypocracy.  If you were supposed
to say "rt 30" and you said "rt 31", it is going to come back to bite you
when your dodecagon doesn't close properly.
 There are some tasks here accuracy (which I don't equate with "truth") is
paramount. In 1963 I programmed the guidance equations for our moon shot.
If I was off by just 1 part in a million, our astronauts would have missed
the moon and died in deep space.
Logo programmers may or may not be successful at winning arguments on their
feet, but I'd suggest that they are much better equipped to deal with real
life, where both sides of an issue are typically _not_ of equal value, and
skills at analyzing where the right lies are  highly useful.
 Real life is complex. For 1000's of years, the truth was that the earth
was the center of the universe.  At the turn of the last  century the
patent office considered closing, because there were no new truths to be
discovered.  Bob  "To create New Answers;  you must ask New Questions." -
Bob Gorman <http://www.kncell.org/  eudora="autourl">http://www.kncell.org
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Thu, 18 Nov 2004 13:00:58 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

On page 224 of "Outsmarting IQ, The Emerging Science of Learnable
Quote:
Intelligence" David Perkins writes:  <snip> Learning the logic imbedded in

algebra or in Latin should, for example, yield improved scores in standard
IQ tests or better learning in other seemingly unrelated fields.
Similarly, learning to program computers in powerful languages such as
LISP(popular for AI research) or LOGO(designed by Seymour Papert of M.I.T.
and colleagues as an accessible computer language for children) should
improve students" reasoning and planning abilities.     However, the track
record of far transfer has not been good.  A variety of investigations,
initiated as far back as the turn of the century, has shown little far
transfer from the study of intellectually rigorous subject matters.  Early
in the twentieth century, E. L. Thorndike reported experiments, some on a
large scale, showing that training in such fields as Latin and mathematics
had no measurable influence on other  cognitive functions, helping to
dispel a then-prevalent believe in the training of a mind's faculties.
<snip>
 I have a different take on this backed up by some experience.  I
frequently encourage people to play games especially FreeCell to increase
their planning ahead skills. I have had some dramatic successes with
at-risk adolescents. One moved from failure to a "B". We almost had him
written up in the Wall Street Journal. The journalist, Kate Ackley, was
diverted to another project and the article was never published.  BUT and
it is a crucial BUT, I deliberatively foster the transference, and this
makes all the difference.  I do not simply say "Play more FreeCell", but I
sit down with the client, watch them play it and then comment on other
areas in their lives. I once watched a colleague, an LD teacher play
FreeCell for about 20 minutes, then suggested that her checkbook was
overdrawn. After the {*filter*} returned to her face, she asked how I knew. (It
was a combination of very poor planning skills + some magical thinking
patterns).   As I worked with her, it was NOT a matter of encouraging her
to play more (she had methodically played games 1 to 654) but of going thru
a game and specifically asking her over & over "What else in your life is
like this"? Then, and this is crucial, as her planning ahead skills
improved, I repeatedly asked her "Where else in your life can you apply
these new skills"?  I am currently doing some part-time job coaching for
Easter Seals. One client, who is having extreme difficulty folding sheets
in the laundry of a hotel, has several difficulties, one of which is
planning ahead. I will try FreeCell with her, and let you know how
effective it is. Other challenges relate to manual dexterity and verbal
confusions, but they do not apply here.  The key point I am trying to make
is that for transference to work, you must work it! Do not rely on osmosis.
Bob  Knowledge is NOT enough! Knowledge + Confidence enables Action. Vision
+ Action = Leadership! - Bob Gorman <" http://www.*-*-*.com/ ;
eudora="autourl"> http://www.*-*-*.com/
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Thu, 18 Nov 2004 12:56:48 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:
> >Debate thus teaches hypocrisy and skills in following after falsehoods.

I do not think this is true because the opposing side will soon show the
judge(if he has not already figured it out for himself) that the debater is
lying.   It is my observation that debates soon teach you that telling the
truth is a very good idea.  Even when you are debating with Brian Harvey who
does not believe there is a truth.   Except maybe when programming in Logo.

Quote:
> > As another correspondent remarked, from such training we inherit

politicians and lawyers.

Both of which this world would not be able to operate. If you are in trouble
you want a lawyer with very fine thinking, debating, knowledge_of_the_law
skills on your side and if you ever get elected to office you will be able
to do a lot of good. If you want to a lot of good.

I thought this article in today's Seattle Times was interesting.  Apparently
Buddhists monks enjoy sharpening their thinking skills by debating each
other and they have been doing so for a very long time.  Dale

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/home/
Sunday, June 02, 2002, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
Tibet: A journey of the spirit
By Steven Mark Seattle Times staff

If the altitude of the Himalayas isn't enough to take your breath away, the
beauty is. The thin, dry air, combined with an overpoweringly direct summer
sunlight produces clear, deep colors and high contrasts. This is
high-definition scenery: soaring, snow-capped mountains against deep-blue
sky.

Gathering himself like a baseball pitcher winding up, the crimson-robed monk
drew his hands back and yelled a question at another monk, punctuating his
point with a flesh-reddening clap of his palms.

Clap!

His rival shouted his responses.

Clap!

The debate was progressing in fine form, as dozens of young monks engaged in
heated exchanges over the day's Buddhist teachings. And the din rose above
the Sera monastery in Lhasa, Tibet's ancient capital city.

It was a far cry from the serene, contemplative image I had of Tibetan
Buddhism. Today's debate, as our guide, Dawa, explained, was merely a
practice for younger monks. To advance through the Tibetan Buddhist
hierarchy, monks have to win a formal debate in front of the entire class
with a panel of monks acting as jury. The clapping, in addition to being
tradition, ratchets up the pressure and adds some entertainment. It clearly
is not intended as polite applause.
<snip>
---

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Fri, 19 Nov 2004 13:02:43 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:
> Hyperprotectionism toward little kiddie egos counts as child
> abuse in my book.

I'm not sure what this has to do with it, but let me reiterate, there seem
to be some expectations that are ok and others that are toxic. I don't
believe we think enough about the difference between the two or the harm the
bad ones can do. Our rhetoric in education certainly does not discriminate,
and it seems to value more and ever higher expectations for purely
expectations' sake. They are so ingrained in our psyche we can scarcely
imagine teaching without them, or even just proposing they may not all be
such a good thing. I believe the emphasis on expectations has a large
cultural component. We grow up with them, we believe in them, we have them,
it's the normal way of doing things. But not all societies are so organized.
American Indian culture is one example where much more emphasis is placed on
acceptance and finding the value that is assumed to exist in others rather
than wanting to change people, or expecting them to learn and do what we
want.

When I look at schools and see so many huge problems like teachers, kids,
parents, administrators and government entities all battling each other,
{*filter*} and aggression, unacceptable dropout rates, and failure, one
group's expectations for another group always looms large. There has to be a
better way.

Tom

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Thu, 18 Nov 2004 13:45:11 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:

> one that's come up in my own parenting, I think
> it's okay for me to expect my kid not to use "fag"
> as a (nonspecific) insult,

That we show respect for other people and things is very important. When I
first read your remarks, Brian, I thought that I had similar expectations
with my own children (or tried to) and also now with my students. But the
more I think about it the fuzzier it gets, and now I'm not sure anymore. Let
me try to explain why.

Concerning this need-to-show-respect issue, I respond differently with
different people. My kids are grown now and I don't remember any time when
they ever got into name calling like you mention. We just didn't do it in
the house. With my students, it happens all the time. I believe they do it
without even thinking about it. They've probably been treated this way
themselves so they treat others the same way.

When the inevitable happens and I hear one person being disrespectful of
another I try to use it to teach a lesson about how my being critical of
another person says everything about me and almost nothing about the other
person. There was a time a couple weeks ago in my Scrabble (oops, call that
Spelling) class that we had a new guy playing for the first time. I put down
a word and took the place he was planning to use. Without even thinking he
said, "you're an ass." I said, "I beg your pardon." The other kids in the
class looked at me wondering what else I would do. For a week afterward I
referred to him as "that person who called me an ass," and he has never ever
even come close to slipping since then.

There are other {*filter*}s I work with, staff members, who can also be very
disrespectful with the names they call people and the language they use. I
tend to hold my tongue with these people, however. My students complain to
me about how awful it is to be called a maggot by their work forman, and I
must say I sympathize with them. Once again, I use these instances to teach
lessons about respect, how it is earned, what the person being critical of
us is actually saying about himself, and about how our being respectful
dictates that we must allow even the name callers to say what they want, but
that doesn't mean we have to listen to it.

So thinking about these experiences, do I have higher expectations for my
students than I do for my fellow staff members? One might look at my
responses to different people and argue yes, but I rather see it as a case
of not having any expectation at all. People will use the language they use;
they will be respectful or not. When they are disrespectful, they give me an
opportunity to teach a lesson, and in a perverse way, I depend on their
being the way they are.

There was once a student of mine who was extremely angry with his father
because he had this idea of what a good father should be. Unfortunately, his
father couldn't come close. He failed miserably in his son's eyes. It was
true, the father was pretty much a jerk, but the son just couldn't or
wouldn't accept his father for what he was and move on. "Why can't he be
this way?" or "Why wouldn't he do this?" were things the student asked over
and over, though he never found satisfactory answers.

To me an expectation like what a teacher would have for a student has some
of this quality to it. It's about wanting another person to get, be, or do
something I want. It contains a measure of not fully accepting another
person for who she or he is.  Rather, it involves a belief that we should
change or transform or give others something they don't have, but something
they should have. It also sets us up negative connotations when expectations
are not met. For example there is failure of the father in the eyes of my
student, or failure of students who do not meet "high expectations" of
teachers, or disappointment, anger, sadness or frustration for one who must
endure children or others who can't or won't meet one's expectations.

So I wonder if my response to disrespect among my students and fellow staff
is reflective of a set of expectations. It's true, I'd like it if everyone
were respectful of one another, but I know this won't happen all the time.
When it doesn't happen, it's actually an opportunity to teach a lesson. I am
not disappointed or angry when I hear name calling, though I must confess I
was taken aback by that Scrabble player. I wasn't *expecting* that! I'd
sooner say that I believe respect is something I need to talk about in
school, and I do when the opportunity presents itself. But do I *expect*
others to be respectful? I really don't think so. If I did, I would be
terribly disappointed and battling my students and many of my fellow
staffers all the time.

Brian, you raise several other noteworthy issues in your last post. I want
to think about them some more.

Tom

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Fri, 19 Nov 2004 12:58:32 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:

> People will use the language they use;
>they will be respectful or not. When they are disrespectful, they give me an
>opportunity to teach a lesson, and in a perverse way, I depend on their
>being the way they are.

When I first read this I thought you meant that nobody ever changes, that a
kid who's disrespectful today will always be.  On second reading I see that
you do think this is a teachable matter.  So you're not neutral about whether
the kid changes or not; if not an "expectation," you at least have a hope.
So maybe we're back to the idea that we mean slightly different things by the
word "expectation"?  Certainly it'd be terrible if I told my son (or let him
infer from my behavior) that my love is conditional on meeting this standard
that I have for him.

Also, it seems to me that in principle you could make this argument about
any behavior at all.  If someone steals, mugs, kills, etc., it'd be
disrespectful to expect him to stop doing those things.  Do you draw a line
anywhere between epithets and {*filter*}?  Or am I misrepresenting the
situation somehow?

P.S.  By the way, my expectation isn't even that Heath be respectful to
everyone all the time.  I don't expect him to refrain from calling someone
an {*filter*} or a jerk or an idiot.  I do expect him to understand that "fag"
is in the same category as "{*filter*}," a word that he already hates and would
never use as an epithet.  (He doesn't even like to see it used in non-epithet
contexts such as the previous sentence.)

P.P.S.  It'd be *nice* if he never felt the need to call someone a jerk
either.  But I think that'd be an unreasonable expectation of any {*filter*}ager,
let alone one like Heath who has lots of reasons to be angry at the world.



Mon, 22 Nov 2004 15:41:22 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking


I am still thinking about this experience.  I have not thought so hard
about any Logo program I have worked on.  But obviously some of you real
programmers do.  I wonder if more programming would make better debaters or
more debating would make better programers?

Difficult subjects for a Bear of Very Little Brain.

Dale

 Carpenters and Doctors carry a tool bag. Not just one universal toll, but
a variety of special purpose tools. We accept that it is difficult to saw
thru a 2x4 with a pliers, or to measure {*filter*} pressure with eye chart, so
why should we want one tool like Logo to solve all the problems of the
psyche?

Bob

"To create New Answers;  you must ask New Questions." - Bob
Gorman < http://www.*-*-*.com/ ;eudora="autourl"> http://www.*-*-*.com/
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Mon, 22 Nov 2004 20:26:31 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:
> When I first read this I thought you meant that nobody ever changes,
> that a kid who's disrespectful today will always be.

Oh, certainly people change. The change in one's thinking, acting, and
feeling is probably about the closest I can come to a definition of
learning. If I have to have an expectation, it would be that people will
learn, or grow, or change the way they think, or what have you.

Quote:
>if not an "expectation," you at least have a hope.

I wouldn't characterize it as hope. That a person will learn is about as
sure a thing as saying the sun will rise tomorrow. Let's call it unabiding
faith.

Where hope seems to enter (and interfere) is when I hope a person will learn
a certain thing, and then I take steps to try to insure she or he will learn
it.

Quote:
> So maybe we're back to the idea that we mean slightly different things
> by the word "expectation"?

Only slightly?

Quote:
>Certainly it'd be terrible if I told my son (or let him
> infer from my behavior) that my love is conditional
>on meeting this standard that I have for him.

I'm inclined to agree, but isn't this conditional love or approval the
effect of grades and standards and the value we place on success in school?
Aren't we saying to children that we will give them our approval IF they do
the work we ask of them and if they measure up to our expectations?

Quote:
>in principle you could make this argument about
> any behavior at all.  If someone steals, mugs, kills, etc., it'd be
> disrespectful to expect him to stop doing those things.  Do you
> draw a line anywhere between epithets and {*filter*}?  Or am I
> misrepresenting the situation somehow?

I guess I would draw a line at the point where another person is interfering
with my choices, or the choices of others. This is a big part of how I
believe we show respect -- by not interfering with another's choices. But
it's a two-way street. There is nothing that says I have to sit there and
just take it when someone disrespects me so much that they interfere with my
choices. The difficulty is in finding ways to work it out. What do you do?
It's a far from perfect situation. In the very worst cases, I suppose, we
have to act as a society and lock a person away. But I will tell you that
this approach breeds a lot of anger and contempt. Often it will make a
person worse than before. Fortunately in the course of being with others,
giving respect is the best way to get it. It is a powerful medicine that can
heal a world of hurts.

A.S. Neill, founder of the Summerhill School in the U.K. referred to having
to "cure" children of their prior harmful experiences with school, and he
did it by giving the child the ability to choose what she or he wanted to
do, even if it meant doing absolutely nothing, or worse. He did not
interfere with their choices. He gave them respect.

Tom

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Tue, 23 Nov 2004 20:32:03 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking

Quote:

>Where hope seems to enter (and interfere) is when I hope a person will learn
>a certain thing, and then I take steps to try to insure she or he will learn
>it.

In the example we're discussing, you said that if a kid says something
disrespectful you intervene by explaining how it's disrespectful.  You do
that because you decided (having earlier decided to ignore these things)
that it would be educational.  Is that interference?  You're not *really*
doing it because you feel hurt; you're taking that as an opportunity to teach.

Quote:
>>Certainly it'd be terrible if I told my son (or let him
>> infer from my behavior) that my love is conditional
>>on meeting this standard that I have for him.

>I'm inclined to agree, but isn't this conditional love or approval the
>effect of grades and standards and the value we place on success in school?
>Aren't we saying to children that we will give them our approval IF they do
>the work we ask of them and if they measure up to our expectations?

I'd thought it was an agreed-upon presupposition of this discussion that
Skool is a terrible place that ruins kids by making them jump through hoops.
We don't have to argue about grades; it's obvious to both of us that grades
are inherently harmful.  The question is, supposing we take trouble to
eliminate the grades and eliminate the jumping-through-hoops, do we still have
the job of LEADING, as {*filter*}s, or is our job simply to be passive facilitators
of whatever kids spontaneously do?  Can we encourage the healthy growth of
kids without coercion, including emotional coercion?

That was the point of my story about Steve's programming project.  I'm
claiming that, by eliminating grades and being generally relaxed and
accepting of what kids did, I'd created an environment in which I could let
Steve know that I thought he could do better than he'd done so far on his
project, without making him feel either threatened or inadequate.

Quote:
>I guess I would draw a line at the point where another person is interfering
>with my choices, or the choices of others. This is a big part of how I
>believe we show respect -- by not interfering with another's choices. But
>it's a two-way street. There is nothing that says I have to sit there and
>just take it when someone disrespects me so much that they interfere with my
>choices.

Once you allow "or the choices of others" you've opened Pandora's box.  You
can now pay attention to how the kids behave toward each other (and toward
third parties not immediately present).  So I get to explain why it's not
okay with me for people to call each other "fag" in my presence.

Quote:
>It's a far from perfect situation. In the very worst cases, I suppose, we
>have to act as a society and lock a person away. But I will tell you that
>this approach breeds a lot of anger and contempt. Often it will make a
>person worse than before.

And this is why {*filter*}s' expectations of kids can, maybe, help a kid make
good choices early on, while the stakes are lower, before we get to the point
of having to lock him up.

Quote:
> [...] Neill [...]

There were lots of rules at Summerhill, in two categories.  Safety rules (no
walking on the roof) were made by {*filter*}s and not negotiable.  Other rules were
made by the General Meeting ({*filter*}s and kids, one person one vote) and were
thereafter binding.  So there were plenty of expectations at Summerhill, even
in the sense of official written expectations.  As for academic expectations,
nobody could force you to go to class, but if you *did* go to class, the
expectation was that you were there to work; the teacher could kick you out
if you were rowdy or unserious.  In fact, since you didn't have to be there,
the teacher's authority within the class was all the stronger because its
legitimacy was based on the kids' choice to be there, rather than arbitrarily
based on the teacher's power.

I'm currently visiting with a family with four kids.  Last night Benjamin,
age 15, found a just-bought package of rolls of adding machine tape (yeah,
they still make those things), opened the package, took one of the rolls, and
started streaming it back and forth all across the living room.  The
interesting thing about this is that, while engaged in this activity, he
kept saying "my dad's going to kill me," and sure enough when dad got there,
he hit the roof.  What do we make of this incident?  First of all, what B. did
was objectively pretty harmless.  Even if he didn't manage to roll up the
roll again properly (and he did a pretty careful job), the cost of one roll
out of the dozen in the package is negligible.  Paul (the dad) would, I think,
happily have paid much more to take B. to an amu{*filter*}t park at which unspooling
adding machine tape was one of the organized activities.  And there's a
definite youthful joie-de-vivre in festooning the house with tape.  At the
same time, it was clear that part of the attraction of the activity for B.
was precisely that P. would be upset and angry.  Baiting one's father is a
pretty common {*filter*}age activity, but not a pretty one, even though we've all
read the books about why {*filter*}age rebellion is a necessary and developmentally
appropriate task.

I think it would be easy to say that what went wrong here is that P. had too
strict expectations for B. -- B. has to be a good boy all the time and never
have any messy fun.  But I think that's probably not a good explanation; if
P. lightened up his expectations, B. would just have to do something more
seriously harmful or dangerous in order to rebel.  If P. had no expectations
at all, I think it'd drive B. crazy!  Because, in parallel with the rebellion,
he's a good boy and *wants* to be taught how to behave in the world.

There's no question (imho) that even the lightest of expectations can be held
in a way that's harmful to kids.  But on the other hand, even the heaviest of
expectations can be presented in a way that respects the kid, hears the kid's
voice, leaves the kid feeling loved and secure, and therefore doesn't harm.
At least I think that's true.

I once visited one of those English "public" (i.e., private) schools at which
kids are officially beaten if they do something sufficiently out of line.
That practice seems horrible to me.  But despite it (I won't believe that
it's *because of* it!), the kids didn't act afraid or sullen or dull; they
were alive with curiosity, alive with self-confidence, and even often alive
with mischief.  They seemed happier than most of the American high school
kids I know!  It was a short visit; I didn't *really* get to know the kids,
and maybe I was just seeing their company behavior.  But these kids lived
with expectations out the wazoo, and survived.

It's not the kind of school I'd prefer to teach at.  I'd prefer Summerhill,
where the expectations are less intrusive, less heavy, more democratically
determined.  But "no expectations" doesn't seem to me to describe the
difference very well.



Tue, 23 Nov 2004 21:18:24 GMT  
 Thinking about thinking
Brian,

Quote:
>I think it would be easy to say that what went wrong here is that P. had
>too
>strict expectations for B. -- B. has to be a good boy all the time and
>never
>have any messy fun.  But I think that's probably not a good explanation;
>if
>P. lightened up his expectations, B. would just have to do something more
>seriously harmful or dangerous in order to rebel.  If P. had no
>expectations
>at all, I think it'd drive B. crazy!  Because, in parallel with the
>rebellion,
>he's a good boy and *wants* to be taught how to behave in the world.

I often think of this too in terms of raising the bar to naughtiness.
There is clearly a "rush" associated with limit testing and I'm concerned
that easy access to all sorts of "vice" today makes it harder for kids to
rebel harmlessly/safely. Sneaking a cigarette may have been replaced with
Ecstasy and the new "hip" {*filter*}.

I remember wanting a copy of Playboy as a {*filter*}. We discovered that a
store in the next town over would sell it to us. So, we would spend weeks
plotting our undercover bike ride out of town. Then we would circle the
store until we had the courage to go in. Then we had to summon the
strength to ask for and buy the magazine. By the time we actually got it,
we were out of adrenaline. I think this is quite similar to the tale of
the adding machine tape.

Quote:
>It's not the kind of school I'd prefer to teach at.  I'd prefer
>Summerhill,
>where the expectations are less intrusive, less heavy, more
>democratically
>determined.  But "no expectations" doesn't seem to me to describe the
>difference very well.

Even as a kid I had a sense that if you belong to a club, you should play
by its rules. I think that is a reasonable expectation for kids to learn
this. At the very least it's discourteous to expect others to conform to
you. That's why I belong to so few "clubs" today.

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Thu, 25 Nov 2004 21:18:45 GMT  
 
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