Many of you have probably heard the term progressive education, but have you heard about “oppressive” education? I recently came across a tweet by Dr. Chris Emdin, Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, that stated: “Schools are teaching youth to be complicit with oppressive teaching and calling their silence a socioemotional skill.” Here it is in its full twitter glory.
When I saw this tweet, it reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a parent who wanted to discuss transferring their first grade child to Akiba. I asked why and the parent told me simply that at the school their child is at they were told that the goal is to teach their child how to sit behind a desk all day and “be a student.” This is the socioemotional skill of silence that I believe Dr. Emdin is referring to and the oppressive education that creates it.
At Akiba, as many of you know, our approach is an individualized one that promotes scholarship for the soul and mind through teaching children, not subjects. It is accomplished by a set of pedagogical tools and structures that allow for individualization, but it all starts with the mindset of our teachers and the culture we have created here. Our teachers walk into the classroom every day with a mentality that they are there to engage and support every individual child in their class. They want to unlock their student’s strengths, interests and ensure each child learns various sets of critical skills and knowledge sets in the best way each one can. Does it work? Visit us and I will show you, but what I can say is that our students are happy, enjoy learning and, while we do not teach to any one test, they outperform time and time again on them. It is simply good teaching and learning, and intentionally not “oppressive.”