I have a general rule about my public speaking. Don’t follow kids — and never follow a school board member who’s just read The World is Flat. After my experiences at the New York State School Board’s Association conference in NYC this week, I have a new one. Don’t follow The Fonz!
Henry Winkler (actor, director, producer, and author) was the opening keynote speaker for their conference, and it was an inspiring message for this audience — who seemed to be the most enthusiastically anti-NCLB group I’ve ever worked with.
Most of you know that Henry Winkler suffers from dyslexia, a learning disability that results from differences in how the brain processes written and/or verbal language. What’s especially insidious about this condition is that it manifests itself in people along the entire spectrum of intelligence, including highly gifted individuals. Yet, when a person has difficulty reading, regardless of other exceptional skills, they seem to be labeled, automatically, in traditional classrooms, as slow.
Winkler gave a passionate presentation about his experiences as a student who was not living up to his potentials, resulting in a childhood of feeling that you are doing something wrong. My own A.D.D. and difficulties in hearing made this an experience that I identify with. I suspect that many of us do.
NCLB has achieved much. There are certainly children who are learning to read and do math, who were being ignored before. But the real tragedy of the program is the narrowness of its focus, and the lack of vision when identifying skill and talent.
How many of our children are dropping out of high school because they feel unable.
How many of our children are being made to fell unworthy!
Oh yeah! Never follow a kindergarten teacher either…