Back to the same question

Caught another article in the New York Times (the online version, I'm not sure when it was in print) looking at the question of how to best place students. Integrate all the kids regardless of ability, or segregate the kids by academic niches?

You can read the article here.

I have grappled with this question for several years. Our district has a highly elite AI program starting in 2nd grade but otherwise very little segregation in K-4. For grades 2-4 AI students are segregated into a single classroom at Adamsville school. Fifth and sixth grade AI students attend insulated classes but within either Hillside or Eisenhower schools, depending on where they live.

Once children get into 5th and 6th grades there are various classes offered - children are put into either e, regular or remedial math classes - with the vast majority fitting in the regular bracket. The same holds true for language arts classes. Social studies, science, Spanish and other academic classes have only one level - save for the AI classes who have a contained classroom for these subjects as well but with the same curriculum.

Only about 2% of BRRSD students make the program, so it serves only a very small audience. I have blogged about the AI and e programs before on a number of occasions.

When I was in college I took two classes that looked at Plato's Republic. I remember one of the professors said "people who love the idea of Plato's Republic do so because they think they would be Philosopher-Kings". That's how I feel about the AI program. People who love it are also the same people who have children in it. People who aren't in it have various opinions. Mine include disappointment, apathy and envy. Why are the best teachers and best classrooms left for the Bridgewater's Philosopher-Kings? Maybe I should dust off Plato in my free time this summer! Where are those Gov 100 notes????

The NY Times article rang true in two main themes of this blog. I love and hate the idea of differentiation in classroom. How can one teacher differentiate a lesson to individual students' breadth of needs. It is tricky to do.

And is it the right thing? Parents of future Philosopher-Kings want segregation by ability. If you're kids are going to be Warriors, I am not sure that the segregated classroom is their best path to educational utopia.

Either way, without a solid education, kids won't be able to analyze Plato or any of the other classics once they get to college, where they certainly won't be surrounded by only like-minded Philosopher-King wannabes. I think, as I felt when I first read Plato, that mixed education, like mixed government is probably the best suitable answer. A mostly inclusive environment, with some segregation. Oh, wait, that's what we have and I'm not pleased. This type of question is what drew me to political philosophy in the first place - and Dr. M-H, my most challenging professor! (Rest in peace, Dr. M-H!)

Thank you NY Times for yet another article making me think about education. Where was this idea of comparing modern public education to the Republic when I needed to write papers in 1988?

Re-reading this blog today, I wonder if it makes any sense to anyone but me? Apologies if it is all Greek to you! :-)

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