conversational salon
From: Patty Guerrero (
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2013 18:00:15 -0700 (PDT)
HI,  Could read/discuss the following article for our open discussion on 
Tuesday, Oct. 29.    Comments may be worth reading, also.  

The book to read for the last Tuesday in November is "How I Could Help the 
World."  by Helen Keller.   Someone who comes to salon is able to 10 books for 
us if we want to buy from him.  Cost about $10.00



Begin forwarded message:

> From: Patty Guerrero <pattypax [at]>
> Date: October 27, 2013 7:41:16 PM CDT
> To: Patty Guerrero <pattypax [at]>
> Subject: Ted Kolderie
> Let's give adolescents a chance to grow up
> Article by: TED KOLDERIE Updated: October 12, 2013 - 4:30 PM
> Society has invented an in-between where little is truly expected of teens. 
> What if we turned them loose to achieve?
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> Michelle Kumata/Seattle Times/MCT
> Photo: Michelle Kumata, Seattle Times
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> Itâs hard to absorb a new idea. So it will take time for us all to see the 
> problem that âadolescenceâ has become.
> Iâd had no focus myself on the institution of adolescence â âthe artificial 
> extension of childhood past pubertyâ â until I heard Shelton White from 
> Harvard talk about it. Iâd been slow to see its implications. Some things, a 
> friend used to say, are âtoo obvious.â
> A century ago, in the interest of âchild welfare,â America created what 
> became this âseparate society for the young.â Today some, like Mark 
> Bauerlein, an Emory University English professor, think it has produced âThe 
> Dumbest Generationâ (as he titled his book in 2008): teenagers obsessed with 
> their digital devices, disinclined to read and almost unable to write.
> Robert Epstein, a Harvard-educated psychologist whose âTeen 2.0â lays out the 
> case against adolescence, does not disagree about the moronic behavior of 
> some teens.
> But he says adolescence âinfantilizesâ young people. Deny them serious 
> responsibilities, keep them out of real work, give them virtually no contact 
> with adults, tell them they have no function except to be schooled (and 
> marketed to): Why wouldnât they behave as they do?
> So, to the implications. Is this old reform now blocking the countryâs effort 
> to improve the skills and knowledge of its young people, and contributing to 
> the difficulty young people have getting started in life? Is it possible this 
> country could be getting enormously more than it is from its young people by 
> treating more of them more like adults?
> In the past, you were an adult at puberty. Up to 1905, about 40 percent of 
> American 16-year-olds were âat work,â about the same percentage that were in 
> school. Some of that work was exploitive and dangerous, in mines and 
> factories. Soon the pattern began to change, rapidly after 1930. Today about 
> 90 percent of 16-year-olds are in school. The world of work is closed until 
> young people get credentials.
> To absorb those millions of teenagers, America vastly expanded high school. 
> Yet high school today is a huge problem. As the years pass, studentsâ 
> engagement sags. Though not everyoneâs aptitudes are 
> verbal/conceptual/abstract, today only academic success is rewarded.
> Secondary vocational schools have been closed. Conventional education policy 
> is deeply vested in the notion that success comes from standards, not from 
> motivation. A popular notion now is to keep students in school even longer. 
> This year Minnesotaâs Legislature extended the legal leaving-age from 16 to 
> 17.
> In the 30 years Iâve been working in education policy, Iâve heard almost 
> nobody talk about either aptitudes or adolescence. Iâve decided thatâs 
> probably because the institution of school is so deeply complicit in that 
> âartificial extension of childhoodâ â in the insistence that education rather 
> than experience is now the way up.
> âOur high schools used to be filled with children,â Mary Lee Fitzgerald, a 
> former commissioner of education in New Jersey said in 1999. âToday theyâre 
> filled with people who are essentially adults â being treated still as 
> children.â
> Rising to the occasion
> It was not always like this. When challenged, young people have done 
> astonishingly âadultâ things.
> Paul Johnson, a British popular historian, wrote in âThe Birth of the Modernâ 
> about boys from terribly disadvantaged backgrounds and with almost no formal 
> education who went to work early and succeeded because they were able to rise 
> as fast as their abilities would take them.
> ââMichael Faraday, the scientist and inventor of the electric motor, âwas 
> born poor, the son of a Yorkshire blacksmith. He had no education other than 
> a few years at a school for the poor, but as a bookbinderâs apprentice he 
> read the works he bound ââ
> ââJonathan Otley, the geologist, âhad no education apart from village 
> schooling and set up as a basket-maker.â
> ââJames Nasmyth, the engineer, âstarted as an apprentice coach painter. His 
> son James, inventor of the steam hammer, made a brass cannon at the age of 
> nine.â
> ââHenry Maudslay, âperhaps the greatest of all the machine-tool inventors, 
> began work at 12 as a powder-monkey in a cartridge works.â
> ââMatthew Murray, âthe great engine designer, began as a kitchen boy and 
> butler. Richard Roberts, brilliant inventor of power looms, was a shoemakerâs 
> son, had virtually no education and began as a quarry laborer. John Kennedy, 
> the first great builder of iron ships, was another poor Scot who received no 
> schooling except in summer and started as a carpenterâs boy.â
> ââIn âLongitude,â Dava Sobel tells the story of John Harrison, who solved 
> âthe greatest scientific problem of his time,â enabling ships to know their 
> east/west location by inventing a clock that would carry the true time from 
> the home port to anywhere in the world. Harrison had no formal education and 
> no apprenticeship to any watchmaker.
> ââIn âThe Maritime History of Massachusettsâ Samuel Eliot Morison writes 
> about Mary Patten, wife of the captain of a clipper ship. âIn 1858 on a 
> voyage around Cape Horn, her husband fell ill. The first mate was in irons 
> for insubordination; the second mate was ignorant of navigation. Mrs. Patten 
> had made herself mistress of the art of navigation during a previous voyage. 
> She took command and for 52 days navigated the ship of 1800 tons, tending her 
> husband the while, and took both safely into San Francisco.â She was 19.
> ââNadia Popova died last July. She started flying at 15, and when the Germans 
> invaded Russia, she joined a squadron of young women who flew flimsy plywood 
> planes that bombed German encampments at night. She flew 852 missions; on one 
> night alone, 18.
> In his history of the Battle of Britain, Michael Korda writes that by late 
> summer 1940, more and more of those flying the British Spitfires and 
> Hurricanes were, in our terms, high school seniors.
> ââLaura Dekker was sailing single-handed in Holland at 6. At 13, she decided 
> to sail alone around the world. The authorities had a fit. But her parents 
> agreed. She set off at 14 in a 38-foot ketch, stopped along the way and 
> returned safely at 16.
> Today we see this kind of accomplishment mostly in fields adults canât master 
> or donât themselves want to enter: sports, entertainment, digital 
> electronics. (Google for âyouth accomplishmentâ and âstudent competitionsâ to 
> see for yourself.)
> People often think children we see âgoing fasterâ are âgifted.â Kim Gibbons, 
> the reading expert for the St. Croix River Education District, says people 
> sometimes comment about her âgiftedâ children. âTheyâre not gifted,â she 
> says. âThey just learned to read early.â
> The lockdown
> The advent of adolescence brought prohibitions. If youâre not an adult, you 
> canât do adult things: be employed full time, inherit property, vote, seek or 
> refuse medical treatment, sign contracts, file lawsuits, marry without 
> parental consent.
> In the 1960s, the restrictions tightened. With prosperity, the old ethic of 
> self-denial gave way to a spirit of self-fulfillment. A new youth culture 
> appeared â the music, the clothes, the drugs, the sex. Adults, disliking this 
> teenage behavior, tried to control it. That bred resentment, generating still 
> more restrictions. Curfews. Canât drive. Canât drink. âNo entry except with 
> adult.â Blocked access to the Internet. Criminalized sex under 18. No 
> cigarettes. Dress codes. âParental Consent Required.â And in school came 
> metal detectors, video surveillance, armed guards, no hoods and âNo 
> Cellphones!â One insurance company still campaigns to raise the driving age 
> to 18.
> This has made young people arguably the most discriminated-against class of 
> people in our society. And nobody sees it. Good folk who would die rather 
> than utter a racial or ethnic slur think nothing of referring to young adults 
> as âkids.â
> The alternative
> What if exceptional talents are still there in young people, suppressed by 
> the institution of adolescence? Weâd want to release that reservoir of 
> talent. How?
> Weâd begin by changing school to let young people advance as fast and as far 
> as their efforts and abilities will take them, in every field.
> In traditional school, students are sorted by age and âinstructedâ as a 
> group. Most students move a grade a year, however much (or little) theyâve 
> learned.
> If learning were personalized, those who needed more time would get more time 
> and would learn more. Those who could go faster would go faster and would 
> learn more. Thatâs competency-based progression. Seventh-graders play varsity 
> tennis if theyâre good enough. Why canât some seventh-graders be doing 
> âvarsity mathâ?
> Finland, much praised for its studentsâ success, ends compulsory education at 
> 16. Students move to âupper secondary,â almost half of these into vocational 
> school that leads on to postsecondary âpolytechnics.â
> Accelerating learning would have positive economics as well. Minnesota has 
> about 75,000 juniors and 75,000 seniors; it spends about $10,000 on each. 
> Multiply 10,000 by 150,000 and you get a rather large number. And thatâs per 
> year.
> Actually, Minnesota has been doing this, if only gradually. In 1985, a 
> âpostsecondary optionâ was Rep. Connie Leviâs condition for supporting Gov. 
> Rudy Perpichâs open enrollment. PSEO passed, letting juniors and seniors 
> enroll full time or part time in any Minnesota college or university. That in 
> turn has stimulated high schools to bring college into the schools.
> The examples are interesting.
> ââIn 2009, while finishing eighth grade (at 13), Caleb Kumar earned an 
> associate of arts degree from North Hennepin Community College. At 15, for 
> developing an algorithm to automate the diagnosis of bladder cancer, he 
> received a $25,000 scholarship from the Davidson Institute for Talent 
> Development.
> ââIn 1998, Rob and Ryan Weber, twins, got an AA degree from North Hennepin 
> through PSEO just before graduating from Osseo Senior High. Theyâd already 
> been starting computer software businesses. Today, NativeX â started in 2000 
> with older brotherAaron â has more than 160 employees and offices in Sartell, 
> Minn.,Minneapolis and San Francisco.
> To set youthful talent free, we would also enlarge the role of nonschool 
> learning organizations: the science museums and art galleries and 
> organizations like 4-H. Weâd open new opportunities for work, and would 
> credit and respect what young people learn from work. Firms hiring young 
> people value these skills.
> Young people can work outside school hours. Warren Buffett, whose 
> Berkshire-Hathaway now owns the Hill railroads once headquartered in St. 
> Paul, was keeping accounts for his first business at age 11. Elmer Andersen, 
> Minnesotaâs former governor, felt he succeeded partly because he got lots of 
> life experiences early.
> Finally, we could pick up Epsteinâs idea to make adultness competency-based 
> rather than age-based â letting young people âtest outâ of the restrictions 
> of adolescence. Heâs developed an assessment, given thousands of times, which 
> he says establishes that between 15 and 85, the probability of people 
> displaying adultness/maturity/responsibility is independent of age.
> Treating teens more like adults clearly is the kind of idea, or paradigm 
> change, that is not absorbed quickly. But it would be worth seeing how 
> teenagers respond: People often do live up to whatâs expected of them.
> Ted Kolderie works on public-service redesign, and on the redesign of K-12 
> education, with the Center for Policy Studies. He has been a reporter and 
> editorial writer with the Star Tribune, executive director of the Citizens 
> League and a senior fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the 
> University of Minnesota.
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