A LEARNER'S BILL OF RIGHTS by John Harris Loflin
Do you believe children are born curious? If so, how can we maintain and sustain our natural curiously? Which schooling factors kill curiosity and which keep it going? Back in 1992, I researched the positive and negative factors influencing curiosity. A Learner's Bill of Rights resulted. A LBR empowers all students of any age to make sure they are treated as curious human beings (Homo curaos) who are innately motivated to learn.
Use the LBR when you're in class at IPS, IVY Tech, or the university.
A LEARNER'S BILL OF RIGHTS
I am a human being. I have an innate ability to learn. I was born full of wonder, curiosity, and motivated to learn. I view myself and I expect others to view me as capable of learning.
1. I have a right to a safe learning environment.
2. I have a right to accept myself as I am and to be accepted as I am.
3. I have a right to be respected and to define success in my own terms.
4. I have a right to learn at my own speed and in my own way.
5. I have a right to ask whatever questions I have, to say I don't understand, and I have a right not to understand.
6. I have a right to be different, to have my own culture, opinions, and values.
7. I have a right to think for myself, question authority and challenge facts.
8. I have a right to express my own views without ridicule.
9. I have a right to need extra help and to ask for it.
10. I have a right to be treated fairly and to understand the grading process.
11. I have a right to evaluate my teachers and how they teach.
12. I have a right not to base my self-worth solely on my academic performance.
13. I have a right to my own expectations and limitations, to change my mind, to give up, to succeed, to fail.
14. I have a right to make mistakes, to risk, guess, to have more than one way and one chance to show what I have learned.
15. I have a right to be a part of the decision making process that concerns my education, classroom, and school—with my involvement determined progressively by my age and grade.
Explanation of the above rights:
1. I have a right to a learning environment free from violence, drugs, and threats to my psychological and physical well-being.
2. I have a right to be who I am, to like myself, and determine my own identity. I have a right not to fulfill some predetermined image someone else may have of me. It is not the role of the school to go about changing someone's positive character, personality, or cultural identity.
3. I have a right to self-determination and to have my own standards to judge my efforts beyond the formal grading system. I have a right not to compare myself or be compared to others.
4. I want to be recognized as a unique individual. I may learn at a different pace and in a different way from others. I recognize that I may have the ability to excel in some areas and subjects and may have difficulty in others.
5. I realize that knowledge and understanding come from questions. I see that questions can be more important than answers. Questioning helps me transform the world into terms that I can understand. If I do not understand, I will be able to continue asking questions or accept that I do not have to have instant meaning. I can live with an extraordinary amount of uncertainty confusion, ignorance, and suspense. The statement, "I don't know," does not bother me. This does not mean that I want to look to the teacher for all the answers because I want them to encourage me to learn on my own.
6. As an individual I am aware and proud of my cultural heritage and its values. I have a right to be free from the pressure and requirement to conform.
7. I prefer to develop my own judgment. I want to be a critical thinker. My role as a student is not to be a robot, memorizing facts without understanding the source of the data, or just to pass tests. I see that facts may change, and I must be encouraged to make the distinction between fact and opinion. I distrust authorities who discourage others from thinking for themselves.
8. I have a right not to be made fun of, harassed or punished for my point of view.
9. I am not embarrassed or ashamed to need help and ask for it. In order to function at my potential, I may need help and it should be given freely.
10. All methods and standards for determining my grades must be made clear to me as well as the objectives of the class/course so that I may be freely responsible for my efforts. I expect all grades to be determined in a fair and unbiased fashion.
11. Who, but students, know how teachers really perform in the classroom? Who else, besides other teachers, could really help teachers do better? So that my teacher knows what is effective, thoughtful, relevant, and respectful student feedback is necessary.
12. I realize that grading does little to sustain a deeply felt desire and motivation for learning for the sake of learning. Grades are not my reason for learning. I also realize that grades are an important documentation of learning. Yet, at its best, grades are imprecise. Failing grades do not mean I am a failure or unintelligent.
13. I am not afraid of being wrong, giving up or failing. I see my limits and suffer no loss in seeing what I thought was the case is not.In other words, good learners change their minds. In fact, changing the nature of my mind is what I am interested in doing and in doing so, I am not afraid to succeed.
14. I have a right and an obligation to learn from my mistakes.I see my mistakes are eliminating possibilities and so I am getting closer to an answer or solution, not necessarily farther away. A mistake can be a friend and a helpful warning. I am not embarrassed or ashamed when I guess. I do not have to have an absolute, final, unchangeable answer to every problem.I realize that intelligence may be defined as not what you know or how much you know, but what you do when you don't know. I also appreciate that I sometimes need more than one chance or different ways to show that I have succeeded in learning.
15. Freedom and responsibility are two different sides of the same coin. I am accountable only to the extent that I am free to choose. As I grow and progress through school and life, more choice and thus responsibility is my inherent right. It is the duty of the education system to gradually prepare me for participation in a free and democratic society. Providing me with opportunities to share in decisions about my education, classroom, and school can do this.Visit www.vorcreatex.com for more info. "Like" the LBR page on Facebook. Let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org/. A Spanish version is available.
Carpe Diem-Meridian – Wetting Appetites for Service
By Kayla B. Mayhugh, Carpe Diem-Meridian sophomore
Being a Carpe Diem-Meridian student has renewed my passion for education. It has also instilled a passion for giving back through community service. Students in Action (SIA) is a public service program for schools founded by the Washington, D.C.-based Jefferson Awards. SIA has been at Carpe Diem-Meridian since day one, and it has evolved a great deal over the past few months. We recently won the Gold Medal in the Jefferson Award's regional competition, where we presented to a panel of judges about our public service projects. As the Gold medal winners, we receive $1500 and get to travel to the award ceremony in DC in June. This is a huge accomplishment for a first-year school! Our SIA sponsor, Alyssa Starinsky, is one of the most passionate people I've ever met. It's obvious to everyone who knows her that she truly wants to make the world a better place, and she thinks that children have the power to do it. When she says "we are the future," it stops being a cliché and becomes inspirational.
SIA has brought almost our entire student body together through various service projects, including a Thanksgiving dinner we hosted last November at the Julian Center, a shelter for victims of domestic abuse. A core group of our SIA members joined the Julian Center cooking staff to create a Thanksgiving meal for the mothers and children at the Center. We prepared turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, mixed vegetables, fruit salad, and apple crisp — all handmade! We also ran a game room for the children. For a few hours, their mothers spent some time enjoying a well-deserved rest. By preparing a meal for those less fortunate, we realized that not everyone has access to the luxuries that we do. Though we couldn't provide everything that a Thanksgiving has to offer, we gave deserving women and children a fun, family-style dinner that will hopefully stay in their minds as something more. To us, the meal was our first big project, and it only wet our appetites for more service opportunities.
Lil' Leaders is a leadership retreat that SIA is organizing and hosting for the children of the Julian Center. We believe that the children have great potential to be great leaders, and we want to give them the opportunity to hone their leadership skills while they're still young. Instilling these skills in children makes for better leaders as they blossom into adulthood. To make a lasting impact on these children, we're not going to preach to them about the importance of leadership and service; we're going to play games with them. Through these games, we're going to show the children, and our younger members, how to use their leadership and communication skills to the best of their ability. We're still in the early stages of planning, but we know that the retreat will teach us, as well as our young participants, a lot about the important of service. Our website, www.CDStudentsInAction.org, goes into greater detail about our projects and opportunities for the community to participate in our service events.
The Students in Action program is a life-changing opportunity that I didn't have at any of the other schools I've attended. Carpe Diem-Meridian has made me not only passionate about education, but also the power of service. Sophomore Amanda Wilcher has said "SIA has strengthened [her] networking, communication, and speaking skills" during her time at Carpe Diem. Many of our other members have called Students in Action "life-changing," and I can't help but agree.
Carpe Diem-Meridian has molded me into a better student while Students in Action has molded me into a better person. While each is fantastic in their own right, a combination of the two is priceless. With passionate teachers and caring students, any school has the potential to be a good one. Carpe Diem-Meridian has found the perfect balance of each and managed to make school an enjoyable, amazing experience - while some kids still dread going to other schools. An eighth-grader turned freshman, Sydney Pedigo, says that she'd never go back to a traditional school because of the "lack of opportunity." One of our seventh graders, AbobakrAbedelmalik, likes the "blended learning" aspect of Carpe Diem. When asked about Students in Action, he muses, "Students in Action has honed my communication skills, and taught me to collaborate." Many of our students have become passionate about schooling, and now seek to further their education. I know that, as a freshman, I had no idea what I was doing after high school. I honestly wasn't sure if I'd even do anything. Now, as a sophomore, I have a clear plan for my life, and I couldn't have done it without Carpe Diem.
About Carpe Diem Indiana
Carpe Diem Learning Schools are tuition-free public charter schools using a personalized blended-learning model to educate 6-12th grade students. To learn more about Carpe Diem-Meridian, located at 2240 North Meridian Street, prospective students and parents may schedule individual tours.Call 317-921-7497 or visit the website, www.carpediemmeridian.com.
Lord Acton said it best.
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely," he wrote.
Republicans in the Indiana General Assembly seem to see Acton's words not as a caution, but as an endorsement of their education plans.
A few days ago, the House Education Committee – on the strength of a party-line vote – approved measures that would strip Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz of much of her authority.
One would have taken away much of her authority to oversee Indiana's voucher program. House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and education committee chair Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, later dropped that bill for the time being. They said they'd talked with Ritz and she had reassured them that she would administer the voucher program fairly.
Behning said he had introduced the bill to send a message – presumably to Ritz. It was pretty simple: "Heel, girl." Apparently, it was received.
Another measure would require her to defer more to the state board of education and the Education Roundtable.
Yet another would do away with automatic dues collection for teachers' unions.
Not surprisingly, Democrats aren't thrilled.
"This is very political," Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, told The Indianapolis Star.
That's true enough, but saying something at the Indiana General Assembly is political is a bit like saying rain is wet – not exactly a penetrating observation.
More precisely, this is power politics at its most raw.
The three measures the education committee passed have little to do with enhancing the quality of the state's schools and a lot to do with quelling dissent. And the measure to prevent dues from being collected is about nothing more than busting unions.
When Lord Acton made his observation about power and corruption he was referring to the papacy's successful attempt to assert infallibility in the 19th century.
Indiana Republicans may not be saying flatly that they're infallible, but they're definitely signaling that they aren't to be questioned.
When Ritz won the superintendent's race last fall, she knocked off incumbent Republican Tony Bennett – the darling of conservatives and other education reformers who want to remodel the state's schools with market principles as the blueprint.
Republicans were enraged by Bennett's defeat.
They responded at first by arguing that Ritz's victory was the fault of their favorite punching bag, teachers' unions.
Besides being a tacit admission that the GOP hadn't done much to encourage teachers to vote for Republican candidates, that argument overlooked one key fact. There aren't nearly enough teachers in Indiana to sway a statewide election all by themselves, so a lot of parents had to have voted for Ritz, too.
Given that much of the moral authority for Republican support of, say, school vouchers comes from the fact that they say their measures empower parents, that argument put GOP lawmakers in an awkward position. Republicans found themselves contending that they were empowering parents by ignoring parents' votes.
So they moved to another argument.
Republicans said that because they won the governor's office and racked up supermajorities – quorum-proof majorities – in both the House and Senate, it meant that Hoosiers really supported their education agenda.
That argument is, uh, novel.
The superintendent's race was the only one in the state that focused exclusively on the state's education policies. In that race, Indiana voters expressed, at best, misgivings, doubts or questions about the GOP's education reform plans. At worst, the voters rejected those plans.
Every other race dealt to some degree with education policy, but also with a lot of other issues.
Yet Republicans contend that the one race that focused entirely on education isn't a valid indicator of the voters' views about education policy, but every other race somehow is.
Perhaps because they realized that this latest argument also was untenable, Republicans then decided to dispense with arguments altogether.
No, that's not exactly right.
They reduced their argument to its most basic level. What they're really saying is: "We've got the numbers to drive anything we want through the legislature and we control the governor's office, so we're going to do whatever we want, regardless of what the voters might think about it."
That's what the attempts to clip Ritz's wings and break the teachers unions are about.
Republicans don't want discussion, dissent or disagreement when it comes to education policy. They think they're invulnerable. And they're on the edge of saying they're infallible.
That Lord Acton was right on the mark more than 140 years ago.
And he still is on target today.
John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.