Category Archives: WomenInSociety

2019 Medley #23

Let the Children Play,
Reading: Too much too soon,
The Common Good,
Is the Teacher Pay-gap Gender-related?
Vouchers hurt students in Ohio


FreshEd with Will Brehm: Let the Children Play (Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle)

Earlier this year I reviewed a book by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle titled Let the Children Play. On December 2, the authors were interviewed by Will Brehm on his excellent podcast, FreshEd.

The authors’ emphasis during their interview, and the emphasis in their book, is that play is much more important than most Americans realize, and most American children, especially children who live in poverty, don’t have enough time in their day to play. Some excerpts from the podcast…

DOYLE: Play is a fundamental engine of learning for children and if you don’t believe us, think of what the American Academy of Pediatrics said recently, “The lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing.”

SAHLBERG: Things have gotten worse in the lives of children in terms of their access and opportunities to play, and certainly in school.

DOYLE: In the case of New York City, the poorer the school, which means, you know, the more African American and largely Latinx the school is, the more the children are subject to a hideous practice called recess punishment, or recess detention, where recess is literally used as a carrot or an incentive, or behavior modification tool…kids being punished for late homework or…goofing around, and then they have their recess taken away…[but] the research says, the more you let children play, the better they do on standardized tests, and the better they behave in class.

A three-point plan for healthier kids: play, play and more play

On his blog, Salberg reiterated the importance of play.

Quite simply, smartphones and digital media have taken over the time that children used to have for reading and playing outdoors. And all of the benefits of that play time gained cumulatively over the years in a child’s life have been lost as a result.

Research has shown that these benefits include social, interpersonal and resilience skills, as well as creativity and problem-solving that are often mentioned by employers as the most wanted outcomes of school education…

…I suggest a three-point plan.

One, every school must have a minimum of one hour for free play time each day – separate from time to eat.

Two, at home, every child should have outdoor play time of at least one hour every day.

And three, at a policy level, government and education leaders need to ensure the curriculum is structured so there is enough time for free play during school days.


It’s Wrong to Force Four and Five Year Olds to Read! Focus on Speaking and Listening Instead!

Play is important, so what do we do here in the US? We’re so test-obsessed that we continue to teach in developmentally inappropriate ways. Nancy Bailey on reading too soon…

With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards, some adults have been led to believe that four- and five-year-old children should read by the end of kindergarten. Preschoolers are pushed to be ready for formal reading instruction by the time they enter kindergarten.

This is a dangerous idea rooted in corporate school reform. Children who struggle to read might inaccurately believe they have a problem, or reading could become a chore they hate.

Pushing children to focus on reading means they miss listening and speaking skills, precursors to reading. These skills are developed through play, which leads to interest in words and a reason to want to read.

Some children might learn to read in kindergarten, and others might show up to kindergarten already reading, but many children are not ready to read when they are four or five years old. And just because a child knows how to read in kindergarten, doesn’t mean they won’t have other difficulties with speech and listening.


Normally all the items I post on my blog Medleys are articles you can access on the internet. I have one, however, that I want to review and, unless you’re a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education, you won’t be able to read it. Still, it’s worth discussing.

[For those with access, the article below appeared in two consecutive issues of the Kappa Delta Pi Record…Vol 55, no. 3, and no. 4.]

We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about —

by David C Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University.

In 2009, David C. Berliner reported on out of school factors and achievement in K-12 education. The report, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, discussed seven out-of-school factors related to childhood poverty, which have an impact on student achievement. I refer to that report often in these pages…mostly because it’s generally ignored by policymakers.

Berliner’s report and other research have indicated that out of school factors have a stronger impact on student achievement than either curriculum or school personnel. In the current article, Berliner maintains that out-of-school factors are six times more powerful in determining school achievement than is the strongest in-school factor, personnel.

Essentially, Berliner is saying that we, as a society, need to accept the responsibility for all our children, not just the ones who are related to us. Time to lose the selfish “I, me, mine,” attitude and recognize that fully funded education and reduction of child poverty is necessary for the common good. Our nation benefits when everyone has what they need.

…Our nation has an almost mindless commitment to high-stakes testing, even when everyone in research knows that outside-of-school factors play six times more of a role in determining classroom and school test scores than do the personnel in our public schools. Nevertheless, if we want our public schools to be the best they can be and their test scores to be higher than they are, then we need to do something about making our states better places to live in, to work in, and in which to raise children. Each school district needs to look beyond its own district and worry about opportunities for all our children. The extra taxes needed to improve the education of youth, as I proposed here, are trivial against the benefits of a higher quality of life for us all.

…We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about housing patterns in America’s communities.

…about access to high-quality early childhood education.

…about our students’ summer school experiences.

…about absenteeism in our schools.

…about pay for qualified educational staff – teachers, bus drivers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, and so forth.


What if More Teachers were Male? The Misogynistic Roots of the War on Public Education.

I have long maintained that public school teachers, and by extension, public schools, are disrespected by state legislatures and the general public because teaching is still seen as “women’s work.” That’s why there’s a salary gap of nearly 20% for professionals who teach…similar to the pay gap for women who, in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Those same policymakers would never use the phrase “women’s work” nor would they admit that gender has anything to do with the lack of respect given to teachers and schools. There is, however, a suspiciously consistent relationship between the gender makeup of the profession, and the way the male-dominated society treats public schools.

Would teachers make more…would schools be better funded, if the profession was dominated by men?

If men made up the majority of the profession, would legislators still go out of their way to push teachers around? Of course, I have no way to prove this, but I’m guessing no. We love to think that America has come a long way towards living up to our creed of equality for all. We have mostly gotten it right on paper. But in reality, any minority group, including women (though they are a minority in status only), will tell you that we still fall woefully short in practice.

There is a good old boys network in the halls of our state legislature. I believe they feel empowered by their machismo to push more and more ridiculous hurdles in front of teachers because they view the teaching profession as soft and feminine–one might even use the word submissive (quite biblical of them, no?).


Ohio Expands Its Failed Voucher Program, and Most School Districts Will Lose Funding

What do you do when the research shows that a privatization program hurts children? If you’re an Ohio legislator, you expand the program.

…the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.


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Devalued and Disrespected


I went to the dentist this morning for my semiannual cleaning and check up. The dental hygienist cleaned my teeth and took x-rays. I reported to her that one of my teeth was giving me some trouble. It was extremely sensitive to both hot and cold.

The dentist, when he came in, was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth. He looked at the x-rays, but they were “inconclusive.” He tested it, but was unable to determine the cause of the sensitivity. So, unfortunately, I’ll have to wait to see what happens. Apparently there is nothing that can be done right now.

He also said that I had a tooth that needed to be repaired and that I would have to come back next week to have it fixed.

As I left the office it occurred to me that the reason I was willing to come back to have my tooth repaired, and the reason I was willing to wait and see what happened to my sensitive tooth, was that I trusted my dentist.


I know that my dentist has had the training needed to practice dentistry. On the wall in his office he has framed and hanging a bachelors degree from Purdue University and a degree in dentistry from the Indiana University School of Dentistry. I know those two universities well since I have attended both and earned a certification from the former, and two degrees from the latter. They are well established state-supported universities and I trust them to provide a good education to the professionals I seek for my own care.

Even though he was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth, I trusted his professional judgement.


When we’re sick we trust doctors to help us heal. When our cars break down, we trust mechanics to repair them. When our pipes break, we trust plumbers to fix them. We trust attorneys with our legal problems. We trust accountants to do our taxes. We trust architects and engineers to plan and build our homes and offices.

And we trust dentists with our teeth.

Specialized training and government licensing is necessary and appropriate in many professions. We have given our leaders the right to evaluate the preparation of our society’s professionals and then let us know, through licensing, that they have completed the training needed to do the job. Once that’s done, we trust them to do the job they are paid to do.


Most teachers are trained in University-level Schools of Education. I received my education training from the same two universities (albeit in different locations) as my dentist attended. My degree in education is from Indiana University and my certification in Reading Recovery is from Purdue University.

Why, then, is my profession not afforded the same respect and trust as others?

[Of course, individual teachers are valued and respected by individual students and parents, but as a whole, teachers in America’s public schools are not given the recognition they deserve. Policy makers rarely listen to teachers even when making educational decisions. Instead, policy makers listen to billionaires with no education experience.]

Here are two reasons (among many).


Reason 1: “Reformers” have perpetuated the myth that America’s public schools are failing

The general consensus promoted by the media, “reformers,” and politicians from both of the main political parties is that America’s public education system is failing.

This is demonstrably untrue.

What is true is that some schools struggle to help their students achieve. The main problem in the US is our high child poverty rate. Research is clear that poverty negatively affects student achievement. Stephen Krashen explains that our public schools are excellent [emphasis added],

In “Test scores may move, learning doesn’t” (July 12), Jo Craven McGinty says that there is “compelling evidence” that the US education system is inadequate, because American students “score below average in math and average in reading and science” when compared to other countries on international tests.

Not mentioned is the finding that when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world.

Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our high rate of child poverty: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%). In some big city public school districts, the poverty rate is over 80%.

Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these profoundly impact school performance.

The best instruction in the world cannot overcome the effects of poverty, and our high rate of child poverty brings down the average.

Politicians and policy makers are hesitant to promote this idea for several reasons. First, it’s unpleasant to admit that one’s policies have allowed the high rate of child poverty present in America. Second, some policy makers are convinced that schools can solve the problems of poverty. To do that, however, requires a much higher investment in our public schools than we, as a nation, seem willing to make.

In societies where education is more successful the child poverty rate is lower.


Reason 2: Teaching is still viewed as “Women’s Work” and still devalued and disrespected.

For the last hundred years public school teaching in the United States has been dominated by women. Even today, when fields traditionally dominated by men are open to women, more than 3/4 of all public school teachers in America are women. This is especially true in the primary grades where I suspect that the percentage of men teachers is even smaller.

In a field so dominated by women, it’s not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.


Until our leaders and policy makers accept responsibility for the level of child poverty in the United States our average national academic achievement will remain low. We continue to squander nearly 1/4 of our most important national resource. Until the devaluing and disrespecting of women ends, teaching will continue to be devalued and disrespected.


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