Wednesday, March 6, 2013

This guy oversees the lives of children?

I had an unfortunate run in yesterday with Ben Chavis who uninvited, plopped himself down to pick a fight during a private conversation I was having. I was speaking with the mother of a teen about to be interviewed about the decision taken by a growing number of teens to opt out of school so he could take control of their life and learning.  

At the time we were discussing with another woman the benefits of later starting age for school (like in Finland) verses Universal Pre-K or other options (such as funding home care for young children). However, regardless, I shared I believed every child should have access to educational models like Montessori and Reggio Emilia (which was the model this woman choose for her children). The woman (who I also didn’t know and who also joined the conversation uninvited) said if parents want that for their kids, they should figure out a way to afford it. Turns out this is the sentiment quite a few outspoken education activists have. I asked why all children should not be given opportunities even if they happened to be born to parents who were not able to provide such options.

Chavis jumped in and accused me of making excuses for everyone! I rebutted and said that was not the case. I explained that not all children have access to progressive school models like Reggio and Montessori which do not qualify for public funding. I thought they should. It wasn't about excuses, but rather providing opportunity.

When he heard that, he attacked my support of progressive education saying it was for communists.  I explained that Montessori and Reggio Emilia were progressive school models.  He said I was wrong. They were common sense models. Not progressive education. He said progressive education is communist education.

I suggested he go to the computer and check out progressive education on Wikipedia. He called me a moron for looking something up on Wikipedia. I explained that the accuracy rate of Wikipedia is comparable to that of the traditional encyclopedias which happen to be out of print today.

He called me a loud mouth who knows nothing and has accomplished nothing meaningful in my life. This attack thrown my way despite the fact that he had no idea who I was or what I had accomplished.

Is this how he bullies kids, parents, and teachers? Attacks and accusations without even knowing who he is talking to? Insistence about progressive education being communist education after he lauded progressive education models? Yikes.

He continued on a tirade loudly praising himself and boasting about all the colleges the students he works with attend. Then he turned around to the teen I was with and asked what college he was going to.  The teen responded saying he wasn’t quite sure if college would align with his plans for success. And, one-size-fits-all Ben, scoffed and walked into the studio to do his interview with John Stossel.  

I am interested to hear what he has to say on John Stossel’s special about the education blob tomorrow (Thursday) night at 9:00 p.m.


  1. There's a "Ben Chavis" entry in Wikipedia... Not in online Britannica (in an out of print edition, perhaps?). Does that make him right about Wikipedia?

    Rigidity and snap judgments is seldom the mark of open-minded solution finders. Doubt is THE best way to learn... but I'm not quite sure ;o).

    This type of encounter, it would seem, is unavoidable when one rattles the cage of status quo. Thanks for rattling that cage, Lisa, and keep on helping people think things through like you do!

  2. The MSM has already expropriated the term "reformer" and is now branding "progressive education" as communist... I hope John Stossel is going to ask you to comment on schooling...

  3. Thank you Lisa, for speaking for so many of us!

  4. I couldn't agree more. True Montessori education (not just Montessori-ish) is incredible and out of the price range of the vast majority of Americans. Standard preschools where I live are mostly church-run and tend to push academics too early, making little three-year-olds write with pencils, learn the alphabet, etc. A Montessori approach, teaching children "practical living," grace & courtesy, etc., would be 100% better for the students and more productive overall. But most families can't afford $10,000 a year (average cost of Montessori where I live) per child.

  5. Sadly, this is not uniquely deplorable behavior by a principal. Last year in the course of opting our then third-grader out of the state tests, our principal was very understanding and saw to it he was evaluated with a portfolio instead; but more than one friend of mine met with abusive behavior -- one in particular was accused by his child's principal of being a union stooge (I guess that's the same as being a Commie) and threatened with arrest for truancy if he kept his child home on test days. I think Bloomberg's people actively promote that genre of principal -- those who browbeat parents into towing the line and ridicule anyone who objects to the all-testing-all-the-time model of education as "making excuses." Well, as a parent with one child in a true progressive public school -- CPE1 in east Harlem -- and another being home-schooled, I would welcome a conversation any time with this guy about educational methods and values and how children and their parents should be treated! I'm delighted you got under his skin. He's probably not educable, but these people need to know they're not going to be in charge forever --

  6. The oldest play in the book...if you can't discourse logically and respectfully, resort to blanket (and ignorant) character assassination.

    Keep up the good fight, Lisa! You're spot on with calling it like it is.

  7. "Crazy Like a Fox" might be the scariest book on education. The demeaning way he speaks about children is beyond offensive.

  8. Hi Lisa,
    There are some very good public (and free) Montessori schools as well. In fact, the below article was on the front page of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch just a couple of weeks ago.
    Not only are suburban families moving into the city to because of City Garden Montessori's reputation, but the neighborhood itself is being revitalized because of the draw of the school.
    Thank you for spreading the word about Montessori, Reggio and other models of education that meet the wide array of children's developmental needs.

  9. Hi Lisa,

    I'm so sorry you had this experience. I think rigid thinking, in general, means that person has quit learning. The fact that he resorted to ad hominem attacks says to me that he isn't all that confident in his position and must bully others into agreeing with him. This is a sad, sad situation. His rants and tirade about communism makes me think he's a fearful thinker and fearful thinking doesn't help anyone learn. It becomes a dreaded lockstep in which there's a dictator at the helm.

    Keep pushing the status quo!



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