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School Reform:
Frequently Asked Questions 1
   
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

Q.  Donít students need to learn the information provided in the required textbooks before undergoing an internship in their desired occupation?

A.  It depends on the student and the subject matter.  Textbooks are expensive, and often only about one third of the book is covered in a course.  Books are heavy to carry around.  In some instances it might be more efficient and cheaper to print out handouts.

   
Many people have trouble learning from
textbooks.  The sights and sounds approach would work better for them.

America has more people in prisons than any other nation in the world.  I have visited people in prisons and talked to them extensively.

Most prison inmates are mentally ill, have below-normal intelligence,   or come from poor backgrounds.  I found most of them quite likable. Our schools have failed them.  Almost all of them have trouble learning from textbooks.  There are educational systems within prisons, but they are as dysfunctional as the ones on the outside.  Most prisoners turn to crime because it seems to them that it is the best way to adapt to the system. 

First and foremost, prisoners lack mindfulness because it has never been properly addressed to them.  They usually lack a trade and the practical skills of going into business.  This population needs to be identified within the school system and provided with mindfulness, which includes character development, and the ability to make a living in the real world. 

Q.  Doesn't the school curriculum require a wide variety of subjects in order to broaden the studentís learning horizons?

A.  Today the school curriculum is set by the state.   Frequently there is a greater emphasis on analyzing the meaning of a poem, than on making a living.  The people making the decisions on school curricula have shown very poor judgment.  Given that, who should decide?  I feel strongly that it should be the student.  Will he make mistakes?  Yes, but he will learn from them.  Each person is unique and has an inner sense about what he needs to grow.  We need to nourish the students inner sense rather than suppress it.  That is essential to the student's developing mindfulness.

There is a big difference between today's concept of a "broad, liberal education," and mindfulness.   Many people graduate from college with this emphasis and when they face the world, feel totally lost.   Mindfulness and a way to interface with the world in order to make a good living are primary goals.

Q.  How will this networking system work in school and how will it
contribute to the traditional classroom? 

A.  It will be done over the internet.  It is extremely important to have a ceiling mounted projection video monitor that projects a ten foot wide image, along with a good stereo sound system.    A desk size monitor will not be adequate and the students will lose interest.  A ceiling-mounted video camera should be mounted to cover the classroom.
Current versions of windows have the features necessary to implement videoconferencing, and an IT specialist would set up the system and instruct the teacher in its use.  The other participating schools would have the same system, as would the outside professionals.  The system is quite easy to use, once the technical people set it up.  It is not expensive.

The program would be coordinated through a central web site, and the class would select by a vote from a large menu of topics.


Q.  What will happen to the traditional classroom style after this
teleconferencing and the student's freedom to choose his or her curriculum is added into the school system?

A.  That would be up to each individual class.  They would arrive at a group decision regarding the activities that they would be doing as a class, and the teacher would act as a moderator.
 
Q. Doesnít the current educational system currently try to assist students in finding their identity?  So how is this conforming the student? 

A.  High schools have counselors that assist students in choosing courses.  This is not helping the student to find his identity.  This is a major process that starts much earlier.  It begins by putting the student in charge of his life, and getting the state out of the picture.  Finding one's identity usually requires years of exploration, and is an evolutionary process.  It deserves an extremely high priority.

Q.  How can students obtain a state of ďmindfulnessĒ when they donít fully understand the real world yet?

A.  Mindfulness is a state of whole-brain integration.  It requires that the brain circuits be properly aligned by not interfering with development by abuse, control, and neglect.  It is not necessary to have a complete grasp of the real world in order to be mindful.
     

   
Q.  Donít the teachers incorporate a sense of control over the classroom in order to teach the child to learn discipline as well as the subject the teacher is trying to teach to the students?

A.  This presumes a teacher-centered system, where the teacher is the boss, and must control the class.   In this system, the teacher imposes discipline on the student.  When the teacher shifts her role from boss to manager, the students provide their own discipline, for the most part.  There is an excellent book on this subject:  The Quality School - Managing Students Without Coercion. Glasser, William, M.D. (1998)  In this approach, motivation is internal, from love, rather than external, out of fear. 
Q.  Donít the current school systems already have opportunities available to the students to learn beyond the school walls, such as field trips?

A.  Yes. But generally, field trips are very occasional, consisting of about 2% of the total time.  But they are very successful.  I can remember vividly every field trip that I ever took, as though they happened yesterday, even though they occurred forty years ago.  The experience was permanently embedded into long term memory.

Q.  What are some other examples of the lack in mindfulness?

A.  This is a very big subject.  When you are mindful, things that go on around you that were previously mysterious, make sense.  Let's take the subject of cruelty and a punitive attitude.  I believe that the life of Jesus exemplified mindfulness in the fullest extent possible.  He said: "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn your head and allow him to strike you on the left."   That was a radical statement in his day, and in our times also. 

Now you can listen to a hundred sermons and memorize a thousand Bible verses and it may still not make sense.  You can "explain it away." but then miss the point also.  But to a mindful person, it makes perfect sense.  You don't have to explain it, because the attitude is a natural consequence of being mindful.

Jesus had more influence on society than any other person in history, yet he was never punitive, and never controlling.  Do you want to be elected judge?  Say that you're really tough on crime.  We live in a very punitive culture.  There is a great deal of difference between punishment and the protection of society.

Q.  How are we able to change the teachers into having a sense of mindfulness and why will this change our current school system for the better?

A.  Mindfulness starts with an explanation like I am giving, but is developed through a living experience.   I envision weekend or weeklong retreats.  There should be the personal practice of meditation.  Mindfulness is contagious.  Teachers need to have access to mindful people, and get out of the over-busy rat race.  Mindful teachers will pass on this attribute to their students as a natural consequence.

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