Hats to Colour, 1920

hats-1920-white-bowI like the picture above. I like the project.  But reading the article accompanying it is rather jaw-dropping.

An Easter Bonnet An Idea for Grade IV:

Frances Clausen (1920)

“IN looking over the many things appropriate to Easter, nothing is perhaps more suited to the feminine part of our community than the Easter bonnet and certainly will be hailed with delight by the average primary child. The hats may be drawn freehand or traced according to the ability of the class or the grade constructing them. They may be colored with crayon or paint, and here the teacher should limit the pupil to one or two colors and black, so as to correlate good ideas on dress as well as mere pleasure in making the toy. Never allow a child to color anything, and especially an article of clothing, unless the finished problem would be really wearable. For often the foreign element of our schools is allowed full sway in gorgeous reds and yellows, the teacher resignedly thinking that it is impossible to alter their ideas. No one has more beautiful schemes of coloring than the Italian, but they must be toned down to meet our American climate and ideas of correct dress.

Thus we skillfully conceal a lesson in our apparent pleasure.

The hat should be drawn on white drawing paper and outlined in black.

Use light gray construction paper for the base, which consists of two ovals or egg shapes, the wire support being slipped between them and both pasted together.

The wire is about eight inches long or five inches when finished.

Use thin hat wire. A spool of Dennison’s flower wire was used for the originals, which contains ten yards of light green wire sufficient for a room of forty-five pupils.

The hat in the illustration is colored a light tan with * garnet bow.

The hat with a quill should be colored black, with a black and blue ribbon and a blue quill.

The poke hat is yellow, with black velvet bow.

The hat with the plume is green, with dark blue plume and black ribbon trimming.”

What.  Ever.  Print the picture, use it as a basic template and colour and decorate the hats however you like. If you like the above suggestions, fine. If you prefer to base your colour and design schemes on Toulouse-Lautrec, do that.


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Struggle Sessions and SElf-Criticism

Male Students Told To Confess Their Sins At ‘Masculinity Confession Booth.’


“A struggle session (simplified Chinese: 批斗会; traditional Chinese: 批鬥會; pinyin: Pī Dòu Huì) was a form of public humiliation and torture used by the Communist Party of China in the Mao Zedong era, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, to shape public opinion and to humiliate, persecute, or execute political rivals and class enemies.[1]

In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit to various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until he or she confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused, but were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was famous enough.[1]

…Struggle sessions developed from similar ideas of criticism and self-criticism in the Soviet Union from the 1920s.

…Lately, the term “struggle session” has come to be applied to any scene where victims are publicly badgered to confess imaginary crimes under the pretext of self-criticism and rehabilitation



The New York Times published  an essay by George Yancy inviting whites to indulge in self criticism:  “to tarry, to linger, with the ways in which you perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which you are racist.”


Self Criticism, from Infogalactic:

Under some systems of communism, party members who had fallen out of favour with the nomenklatura were sometimes forced to undergo “self-criticism” sessions, producing either written or verbal statements detailing their ideological errors and affirming their renewed belief in the Party line. Self-criticism, however, did not guarantee political rehabilitation, and often offenders were still expelled from the Party, or in some cases even executed.

In the Soviet Union, “criticism and self-criticism” were known as kritika i samokritika (Russian: критика и самокритика).

In the People’s Republic of China, self-criticism—called ziwo pipan (自我批判) or jiǎntǎo (检讨)—is an important part of Maoist practice. Mandatory self-criticism as a part of political rehabilitation or prior to execution—common under Mao, ended by Deng Xiaoping, and partially revived by Xi Jinping—is known as a struggle session, in reference to class struggle.

Such sessions could be elaborate, public and frequent, and included denunciations.



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Narration Ideas for Older Students

These are just a couple of ideas, suggestions, brainstorming- they are not required, you don’t have to do it this way, and I am sure there are other approaches.  They are for students who have been narrating orally and understand it.


You might have a student write a list of the main points of a reading in bullet point form. I sometimes ask for the main point of each paragraph.

With two of my students, for one section of the book Invitation to the Classics, I gave them the following assignment along with an example to give them an idea of the sort of thing they might do:
As you read, write down a single sentence (in your own words) summarizing the main point of each paragraph-
For example, for page 13, I would have written:
1. Why we need to define the term ‘classic,’
2. People approach the classics in different ways, the authors as ‘custodians’ of our western heritage.
3. The title of the book reflects their goal of introducing others to these works.
4. The book is also a response to questions the authors receive about what books should be read.

What would you write?  – the point of adding here a short example of what I would have written is the same as when the parent takes a turn narrating for a beginning narrator.  This is a new step, and if you haven’t assigned this sort of writing before, it’s helpful to give the student an idea of what you mean.

For another book, you might have the student read for 15 or 20 minutes (or assign a set number of pages) and then ask the student to set a timer for five minutes and write down everything they can remember as fast as they can. At the end of the five minutes, they read it aloud to you. This way the legibility of the rapid writing is not an issue for you, and they can see areas they wish to change. Once there are a few of those narrations under their belts, then you might ask them to revise the narration the following day.

If they are reading a textbook such as a biology book, or any book that gives course objectives or vocabulary words at the beginning of the chapter you could ask them to make sure they include a few of those items in their written narration, if not in the first rough draft, in the later revisions.

This is the time you an begin to add typical essay type questions and compositions- compare two characters, how are they alike and different?

Tell me about the personality of one of the characters in the book, and include supporting information. If you say he is vain, tell me how you know that, what is there in the readings that told you he is vain?

Turn an event in the reading into a scene in a play.

Write about something from the reading as though you are a reporter reporting for a newspaper (or create a video project as a newscaster)

If you owned a mail order bookstore, how would you describe your literature book  in the catalog?

Look over the exam questions Miss Mason used for other ideas.


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The Public Education System is a Mess

Wherever the public school system has its successes, and there are many, after all, millions of kids and adults are in that system, it is in spite of the system, not because of it. It is because of good, hard working, innovative teachers bucking the system in small ways and large, humanizing it, using their brains. It’s because of smart, hard working kids and their parents. IT’s not because of the Institution itself.

Learning Myths You Probably Believe, says PBS. It’s a quiz. I missed one. I am a little disgruntled about that one because I did not like any of the multiple choice options they offered as possible answers. When the answers were revealed, there was some additional information that would have clarified their meaning and I would have chosen it. I have to admit, though, that I know a fellow Charlotte Mason educator who got all of them right, so it’s probably just me.

I like the quiz. I like the information they give. But then they get irritating and demonstrate why they don’t deserve public funding. Note how they switch in the second half from talking about how we really learn to criticizing parents and pushing the teachers’ union agenda- parents, butt out, you don’t know enough to question the experts, hahaha.  Notice the utterly unproven assumption there?  Did any public school teachers take this quiz? Do public school teachers do any better on this test?  I really doubt it.

In fact, the article itself contains information which makes it clear that it is among professional educators themselves that one of these myths is *not* widely known to be a myth- about the idea of learning styles (visual, auditory, yada yada):

Even the U.S. Department of Education sent out an email just this week encouraging teachers to “make [their] own call on how to utilize learning styles in the classroom.” One major recent review of research, among many others, stated that the authors “found virtually no evidence” for the idea.

Why is the Department of Education trying to get teachers to make their own call on this and admitting there is no evidence if teachers already are well informed about this?  How much do you care to bet that we can find some previous missives from the Department of Education promoting this pernicious, evidence free myth?Via ERIC (online library of education research and information, sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education):

And that’s just the first category of results. People got this notion of learning styles in the first place from educational ‘experts.’

I’m pretty sure these teachers do not know the above items are all myths.  There’s an awful lot, in fact, that they do not know:

New York education officials are poised to scrap a test designed to measure the reading and writing skills of people trying to become teachers, in part because an outsized percentage of black and Hispanic candidates were failing it.

There are so many things to criticize about this whole story.  It’s horrible.  It’s so bad I don’t even know here to begin, so let’s just pick anywhere.

For one thing, ONLY 64% of the white teachers were passing!  That’s outrageous.  If less than 100% of your teacher wannabes in ANY demographic can pass a literacy test, you need to rething both the test and the teachers.

The only reason to rethink the test is to make sure it is a reasonable test for literacy.  I mean, if it’s written by people who cannot pass it, ditch the test and find another one. But you do not ditch it because the wrong colour people cannot pass it- you examine the test itself.  If you’ve looked at the test and you’ve ascertained that it’s a test any basically literate American should be able to pass, then acknowledge that the people taking it have no business being paid by taxdollars to teach children anything.  Do something about the people being failed already by the system we have- give them remedial reading lessons, insist on them bringing their reading skills up to par (and that includes the 63 percenters, that ought to be a humiliating score).

There is a lot of criticism of the test itself and that’s fine.  For all I know it’s a howling exercise in the sort of stupidity we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in tests of this sort (remember the poet who couldn’t figure out the answer to test questions on her own poem?)  You still have the issue that minorities are scoring in the 40s while white are scoring in the mid sixties which is nothing for anybody to be proud of.

Those wanting to ditch the test say that anyway, it doesn’t really tell us anything about who will succeed in the classroom.  Look, teaching is a dirty, hard, thankless job and I don’t want it.  I really admire people who can do it well.  I don’t know anybody who can do it well who cannot also read.

And, um, from that NPR story: “More than 40 percent of respondents believed that teachers don’t need to know a subject area such as math or science, as long as they have good instructional skills. In fact, research shows that deep subject matter expertise is a key element in helping teachers excel.”

Reading is required for subject matter expertise.

Probably, all these poor would-be teachers (and I actually mean that with sincere sympathy, I am bitterly sorry for what has been done to them) were taught with these methods.  You really need to read it all.  In fact, bookmark it and go back and read it again and read the links as well.

My husband was given a classroom at school that already had a bulletin board completed and books on the shelves.  The bulletin board is a visual walk through of what to do when you do not understand a text.  He hates it.  He left it up because he’s busy with his kids, but he will be replacing it over the summer.  Meanwhile, that bulletin board looks like somebody read the above article as a ‘how to’ manual instead of a horrible warning of what not to do.

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Thoughtful Reads

Make It Your Own– a four part series, and this is the fourth.  So maybe it will be more than four parts.  I don’t know, but I love this and you should read it, too. They are short, you have time.  You’ll be glad you read them.

You hear this CM quote batted around a bit:

“I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. ”

Don’t miss the context.


The Play Deficit: Get those babies outside.  Go with them.  Leave your work, or what you think is your work, because this is the real thing.

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