Assessing the Value of Standardized Testing (William Jeynes)

Season #1 Episode #9

In this episode we speak with Dr. William Jeynes, Professor of Education at California State University, Long Beach about standardized testing in America.  How did testing and our industrial model come about, and is it right for young children?

Professor Jeynes is most interested in how research can be applied to public policy, especially quantitative and qualitative research on bridging the achievement gap, parental involvement, religious commitment, historical trends, school choice, family structure, religious schools, discrimination, bullying, reading instruction, and public policy.  

Dr. Jeynes is a well-known public speaker having spoken in 49 US states in the country and in every inhabited continent, including Peking University, Moscow State University, and has been a consultant for both the U.S. & South Korean governments.

He has published over 100 academic articles, 14 books, and written for both the G.W. Bush and Obama administrations.  Two books to check out are: Eliminating the Achievement Gap and Parental Involvement and Academic Success

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Dr. William Jeynes: We really need to take a look at standardized testing and the influence that it’s having on children. I mean, is it even good for a kindergartner to take a standardized test? What are we even measuring? I mean, are we measuring truly a child’s achievement? Or in fact, are we measuring a child’s ability to sit still?

John Pottenger: Welcome to the Path to Learning podcast where three ordinary guys explore the world of education,

Jay: what’s working, what’s broken,

Scott: and what we can do to best advocate for children.

John: I’m John Pottenger.

Scott: I’m Scott Bultman.

Jay: And I’m Jay Irwin and you’re listening to Path to Learning.

John: Well, this is a fun treat that we get to explore this interview. We actually did this. Gosh, how many years ago? Was it like three or four years ago?

Scott: No, this was one of the very first that we did. We interviewed Bill back in 2015. He was traveling around the country, as he normally does, speaking about education and just happened to be in Chicago. I believe he made a detour to Grand Rapids to the Match Frame offices and really glad that he was able to do that. Dr. Jeynes is a professor of education at Cal State Long Beach. He was first in his class at Harvard, also studied at the University of Chicago, written quite a few articles, probably 14 or more books, really knows the history … but is more interested in the social aspects of what’s going on right now. One of the books in particular was about school choice. So he’s really right there on the cutting edge of the hot button issues that are kind of driving education. So we were very fortunate that he could sit down with us and talk.

Jay: Yeah, he really knows his stuff. He’s been working with the White House, two different administrations consults for the president of South Korea, and I think he was also the very first person who ever sang on our podcast. Besides, besides us, maybe.

John: I remember that.

Scott: You know, speaking of South Korea, that is one of the reasons why Bill is up to speed on Froebel presence. So it was great that he and I were really we’d both kind of experienced the same thing in South Korea. Well, should we?in particular, because South Korea has a very strong for Froebel presence. So it was great that he and I were really we’d both kind of experienced the same thing in South Korea. Well, should we?

John: Should we jump in? What do you think?

Jay: Let’s do it.

Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Without further ado, Dr. Jeynes.

Jay: So, Bill, how did you first discover Froebel?

Jeynes: Well, first of all, my experience and kindergarten was very positive. And of course, I went to kindergarten back in the early 60s and Froebel was still the, the theme in terms of what was done in the classroom and kindergarten was one of the finest years I had in school. And then as I got older and went to college, I first became introduced to him and I thought, oh, okay, so he’s the guy behind this. And then of course, that is I went to graduate school. Harvard was very much into learning from the mothers and fathers of the education movement. And I thought that was very valuable to learn about them. And then as I started to read some books about him and and works by him, I became all the more interested because I thought, wow … and by that time, I should say, of course, our nation was steering away from Froebel. And I thought we were really losing something in the process. Because, for example, we were encouraged to play house in kindergarten, which, you know, nowadays is almost frowned upon at least in in some circles. I mean, there, there are some cities now where they’re really trying to push recess out of the schools, places like Atlanta and Virginia as an entire state. They’re trying to do it in California, where, where I’m from and so forth. So I really recognize that there was something I experienced when I was in kindergarten that people go into kindergarten now or not. Experiencing and so I really felt the need to go back to some of the roots of our education system.

Scott: So can you tell us what you’re currently working on in relation to early childhood?

Jeynes: Well, I’m very interested in terms of forming a foundation for children. So I’m doing a lot of writing on that. I’m very interested in for Froebel’s emphasis on the fact that Kindergarten was a place where such a foundation was developed, because originally his of course “kinder-garten” is a garden of children. I mean, that’s, you know what it means. And he viewed the Kindergarten as a place where we’re to experience unity with God and unity with each other. He was a minister and a son of minister. And of course, obviously, we can’t incorporate all of that now and in the public schools, but we can incorporate this element of being united with one another. And he really believe that a foundation in which children cooperated with one another, loved upon one another, and lived lives of self-discipline was was very, very important. And so I’m doing a lot of work in that area. And I’ve also become interested, sadly, in how the moral development of children even at that stage and the ability to resolve conflicts might stem the flow of a lot of anger that we see in children today that in later years often leads to school shootings.

John: So Bill, I in school did not do very well, when it came to testing. What’s your opinion on standardized testing today?

Jeynes: Yes, sad to say now, it’s hard to believe and in fact, most parents aren’t even aware of it. But most states now have standardized testing for kindergarteners. And now granted most of the states have it at the end of the kindergarten year, okay as they prepare to enter the first grade, but there are even place many places in New York and California that have placement tests for those entering kindergarten. And Bill Clinton emphasized standardized testing. No Child Left Behind under George W. Bush went a step further. Now we’re even going further into that with common core. And we really need to take a look at standardized testing and the influence that it’s having on children. I mean, is it even good for a kindergartner to take a standardized tests? And even if maybe they’re, you know, some might say they’re there’s some place for it. I would disagree with that. But even if there’s a place for what are we even measuring? I mean, are we measuring truly a child’s achievement? Or in fact, are we measuring a child’s ability to sit still? And in fact, some of the most brilliant children we have in the kindergarten, I would argue, are those who cannot sit still who are wanting to be creative and wanting to experience the adventure of life, but they haven’t yet acquired the skills of being able to sit down, have a number two pencil in their hand or you know, what have you and take a test.

Jay: Is that what we’re still doing? Are we are we still slugging bubbles?

Jeynes: To a large extent? Yeah, to a large extent. Yes. So this this is of great concern that there’s such an even now most of the push for standardized testing, at least at the kindergarten level is it is by states I mean, but even at the federal level, very encouraging and in mind is written into the laws many times that it’s expected by the third and fourth grade, which, hey, we’re talking about eight and nine year olds. And even the research that has come out, you know, this is one of the encouraging things about froebel. Because the research that comes out today that contemporary research supports froebel. It indicates number one, that standardized testing isn’t even the best predictor of future achievement. If you test kindergarteners, it’s not even a very good predictor of future achievement. Research has shown that the child’s ability to care for other people the self discipline, again, some of those moral characteristics that Froebel emphasized that actually those are better predictors number one, the contemporary research also indicates that giving standardized test to kindergarteners is developmentally inappropriate. Okay, that’s number two.

Jeynes: Number three, there’s also a lot of research arising now that it causes undue stress to children. So there are all these indications that we’re really not doing what we should be doing. And and keep in mind, we’re talking about kindergarteners. I mean, I don’t have a problem so much with something like the PSAT Yes, I think it should change. But come on, there’s a big difference between an 11th or 12th grader taking a test and someone at kindergarten.

Scott: So why do you suppose it’s built in the the laws in the first place? You know, what kind of effect is that having on the kids?

Jeynes: Well, at least under the last three presidents who have really put it at the top of their priority list that we need to reduce the achievement gap, okay? And that they say, we’re not really comparing students, we’re comparing schools, we’re wanting to make sure that for example, schools teach geometry, okay. And so if you administer a standardized test and their children And youth who at one school are not doing well, and a particular aspect of math or reading or whatever the case may be, then it doesn’t say so much about the students. It says, “Hey, wait a minute, that school probably isn’t teaching that particular subject.” So that’s why we have it. But again, high-stakes testing is it’s not good, especially for young kids puts an undue amount of pressure on them.

Jeynes: Standardized testing that has definite time limits, almost always there’s a certain timeframe. You say 20 minutes to an adult, and they have a pretty good idea what 20 minutes looks like. But to a child, a lot of times they’re, you know, taking it easy, just you know, taking their time and then all of a sudden the 20 minutes is over. And in reality again, you haven’t really measured their intelligence, you’ve measured their ability to gauge time.

John: So what is it we’re actually seeking to gain with this testing model?

Jeynes: Well, I do think, as I mentioned before, I mean, these days, the primary goal is to reduce the achievement gap. You know, I, I think in many cases, their their motivations aren’t particularly bad. They do want to reduce the achievement gap, but the question is at what cost? Okay? And you’re right, because Froebel really felt that we should encourage children to be creative, that’s when we bring out the most in them and so forth. But so I think number one is the one of the main reasons is to reduce the achievement gap. That’s the main goal these days.

Jeynes: Secondly, I mean, there is a there is a sense in which they want to act in a way that is, at least from a budgetary standpoint, is efficient and standardized tests. It’s much easier to do it efficiently. There is also an element that they want to take sub subjectivity out of, you know, out of the equation and so forth. But whatever their goals might be, the end result is that we have a very mechanized system of education right now. I mean, it is very rigid. So, in a sense, you know, I feel a little bit uncomfortable saying what are their goals? Because aside from the achievement gap and, and budgetary issues, I think the politicians are going to vary as to, you know, why they have these goals. I know that a lot of the corporate CEOs, they fund a lot of educational initiatives, because they want effective workers, and they want to be able to have students that know A, B, and C so that when they get a job, they can perform well, but I mean, is our education system only about equipping people for the workforce? And I would argue, no, I mean, they’re for example, in Common Core, which is the most recent attempt to standardize the curriculum and what is taught in schools, and children need to be more than just people who are equipped for the workforce.

Scott: What I think is so interesting about standardized testing is it’s really measuring memorization and literacy and that but Google and Apple and a lot of the other job creators out there are really looking for a whole different set of skills. You know, what, why are we still locked into this system?

Jeynes: Well, I think that a lot of people are behind the curve. And I think that one of the reasons why you have this movement towards standardized testing is that it’s been revealed now for the last few decades that even though we used to be probably number one in education, that we fallen behind most of the other industrialized nations and for that matter, even many of the developed up in countries, and when the learning gap the book The learning gap was published by Stevenson and Stigler back in, I think it was about 1992. They elevated the East Asian system, the Chinese system with the emphasized Hong Kong, Japanese. And of course now you can include South Korea, Taiwan, what have you. And it wasn’t their book that really propounded this idea. But a lot of people thought, well, they’re, they’re tested to death. Okay, let’s, let’s follow them.

Jeynes: And that’s kind of a sad stereotype, because I’ve taught in Japan, and that’s really not the way the education system operates at all. Yes, it’s true that as you get to the higher grades, there’s a lot of pressure with tests. But if you look at the kindergarten, and the elementary grades, actually, places like Japan and South Korea are more loyal to the froebel model than we are in the United States. And someone might ask, Well, how did that come to be? Well, it came to be because they imitated our education system. Whenever Meiji put forth an education policy in the late 1860s and early 1870s, he realized that American schools, at least at that point, largely followed the formal model. And he said, “Let’s incorporate this.” And then of course, it was carried over to South Korea.

Jeynes: So here’s the irony, one of the justifications of the CEOs emphasizing testing and our government officials emphasizing testing as well, we need to compete with our competitors in Japan and China, but they have this false stereotype about what they are actually doing. And I think that to build upon what you said about Google and Apple and and others is that we’re today we’re relying on largely an industrial model of education, in which everyone is the specialist was the argument given in the 1920s and so forth that teachers were now the education specialists and everything needed to be compartmentalized and so forth button Now we’re living in the information age.

Jay: So what is your assessment of the current public school model? And what is it that we need to prepare for the future?

Jeynes: Well, clearly, we have some problems in American education right now largely because we are relying on an antiquated model, a factory model that again, you know, a lot of these people develop a model in the goodness of their hearts. I mean, john Dewey argued we needed an industrial model that we needed to become specialized, and the teachers were the education specialists. And maybe that worked for a while. But we live in a new society and which the best workers are no longer the ones who can best fill in bubbles. Our best workers are the ones that can think creatively. And the wonderful thing about Froebel is that he was ahead of his time, he realized the importance of creativity and we Have an education system that again it is it’s antiquated, it no longer meets the needs of society. And here’s the irony. One of the arguments given as to why we are teaching our children this way and relying on the industrial model is to make them into good workers but and we may be making them in a good industrial workers that would have done fine 50 or 80 years ago, but we live in the information age, and we need children who are creative. We need children who are cooperative, I mean, more and more. We have joint ventures and so forth. Children need to learn to work together. And that was one of the great values of play. So the irony is that if we are to have a truly 21st century model of education, there’s a lot that we can learn from Friedrich Froebel.

John: So we had this incredible system that was ahead of its time, and then we didn’t What happened?

Jeynes: Well, it’s very interesting because when the kindergarten first came to the United States in 1855 and in Watertown, Wisconsin. From about 1855 to the early 1870s. It was largely limited to private schools. Okay, they were the ones initially experimenting with it. And then in St. Louis, in particular, in just after that, in the early 1870s, it was recognized that, wow, this should be something that is done nationwide. And if you compare the kindergarten enrollment, say in 1872 versus 1892, I think it went up by something like a factor of 20 times. I mean, it was it’s spread like wildfire. But Elizabeth Peabody gave a warning at that point and said, you know, we have to be very careful that we do not standardize kindergarten, and it just become like the first grade of elementary school now for years she was wrong for decades. She was wrong. So a lot of people put aside her comments and thought, No, no, no, she just didn’t see. But now she’s saw things quite accurately in terms of how they eventually developed. And so there was an attempt by progressives, especially in the 20s and 30s, to lay hold of the kindergarten model and so forth and incorporate it into their vision. But sadly, they took it from many of the people who are most effective in terms of its everyday practice and without realizing it, they did begin to standardize it. And then also what you have is that the followers of Piaget not so much Piaget, but the followers of Piaget said, you know, what we need we need to test to see how children progress towards the through the Piagetian stages. And so they started to advocate for standardized tests.

Jeynes: And then when the Bible and prayer and basically de facto decision to remove character education as well because schools just didn’t want to touch it, because some people would say, “Oh, you teach on the golden rule, that’s Christianity and so forth.” So in essence, moral education, character education was pulled from the schools. In the early 1960s, well, that created a vacuum that created some empty space. And so income, the standardized test makers and again, those advocating, we need to trace children’s development through the piagetian stages. And so standardized tests be begin to become much more common in the early 60s. Then, in addition to that, from 1963 to 1980, we have a decline in average LSAT scores 17 consecutive years that had never happened before. Not even anything close to it. Parents were shocked. Teachers were shocked. And it was Wow, what do we do about this, the College Board, in fact, even put out a series of reports to address the problem. I mean, that’s how concerned people were. And just to put it in historical perspective, before that time, sa t test had never even fallen two consecutive years, meaning if it fell one year, it either stayed the same or went up the next year. And so in the minds of those advocated standardized tests. They argued that well, we need more of them then to be able to better prepare students to take these when they go to college. So that was another step in the direction of more standardized tests.

Jeynes: And then, of course, as I mentioned earlier, in 1993, you have a real push for an emphasis on the achievement gap Bill Clinton brought it to I mean, again, it had been there since the 60s really but as a president, he really emphasize it as Bush and Obama. And so we’ve had a series of stages that have brought more and more standardized testing and, and less and less valuing the the child as a as an individual and also education in the the broad mode that froebel envision, it’s become more and more narrow, more and more emphasis on math and more and more emphasis on reading and arts and PE and music and so forth, who needs that and even to a lesser extent, social Studies in science, it’s really for the most part all about math and reading and after that it goes down in a hurry.

Scott: So, rather than focus on what was causing the decline, they just double down on academics.

Jeynes: Yes, yeah there was definitely a sense in which they focused on, if you will, the symptoms rather than the cause. And this is a problem. And I think many times our, our government is guilty of this, that it was just like, you know, you go to the doctor and sometimes doctors over prescribe antibiotics, because it because even if it’s caused by a virus, it’s you know, here and they they satisfy the multitudes. And that’s only going to help so much if you focus on the symptoms rather than the causes.

Jeynes: And you know, you can also make a very good argument that some of our biggest problems in schools and some of our largest problem in society-at-large are not a lack of intelligence, but a lack of some of the qualities that Froebel felt that every child should have. I mean, we have, again, an increase in, in school violence having an increase in school shootings, you look at the problems that we have in the world today. Maybe some of our leaders, maybe Putin did not learn to maybe didn’t play enough in kindergarten, okay. Maybe, you know, our leaders need to get along better. And just to give one last example, I think you can make a very good case that this last recession that we have had, that no one’s saying that those on Wall Street and those in government and those buying homes they really couldn’t afford. No one’s saying they lacked intelligence. For the most part, the argument is they lacked character. They were self centered, they were greedy and so forth. The very qualities that Froebel wanted to counter in the Kindergarten and in the early elementary grades,

John: And teachers are okay with this?

Jeynes: No. a lot of teachers are very concerned about these trends that we’re having. And they’re very concerned even about the school shootings, and about the alienation that that children feel. And and again, a lot of that goes back to the corporate model. In fact, in the 1950s, the argument was we actually needed larger schools so that you could offer more courses and so forth. And the idea is, “hey, bigger is better.” Those of you who were around in the 1950s, remember, you know, General Motors, General Electric, IBM, these were the corporations that dominated and it was the corporate industrial model. And now unfortunately, it’s taken a long time, but teachers are their eyes are opening and I think in many ways, it took especially common core for a lot of eyes to open because of course, initially, boom, boom, boom, it looked like Common Core was going to be practiced by almost every state in the country.

Jeynes: But what happened is, I think when you had Bill Clinton … let’s start with Bill Clinton. But again, it’s a it’s a trajectory really, that has continued, you know, through all the Presidents we’ve had since he really emphasized the fact that we needed to reduce the achievement gap. And we needed our, the decentralization of our school system was contributing to that he argued, and so we needed more testing. And we didn’t need to deal so much with what many educators and corporate CEOs would consider fluff. Well, art, yeah, that’s play, you know, but I mean, you know, what, what’s art and so forth. And if you were to ask Bill Clinton, well, but aren’t you taking us away from our decentralized routes? He would say, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m just, you know, dealing with the excesses.”

Jeynes: And with George W. Bush, the same thing. He moved us in the same direction even more so under No Child Left Behind. And if you were to ask them to Well, are you taking us away from our decentralized routes and an emphasis on the whole child? “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m just adapting to the excesses,” and same thing with Barack Obama. But now we’ve gone 23 years in which presidents have argued “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, we’re still emphasizing the whole child” and so forth.

Jay: So people don’t like the system they’re in. Are they just leaving and going to other schools?

Jeynes: I think I think to some extent, I think that of course, the homeschool movement has has grown considerably. I think one of the reasons it’s grown is, you know, in reaction to what is taking place in the public schools that the parents and the charter schools for that matter, they want to see the the whole child addressed in the school and you know, here’s the irony here, we are imitating the the Asians, okay. And yet, if you go to places like Japan and South Korea, they acknowledge that we have problems. In fact, I’ve even had educators tell me, I’ll say what are your students do so well in school compared to ours? And they say, “well, we just basically imitated your system. We’re basically doing what you used to do. We haven’t changed. You have.” And I think there’s something to be learned from that. And then also the other thing, though, is they’ll say that but they also say that there’s one aspect that they really admire about the American system of education and that’s our emphasis on creativity. You know, we went all these Nobel prizes. I mean, you just take Harvard and Chicago alone. And each of those universities is one more Nobels and all but three or four countries. I mean, it’s unbelievable. And yet, we are actually taking our system of schooling away from that.

Jeynes: And so that’s why I think you have a lot of parents emphasizing a homeschooling charter schools. And here’s the irony that as much as they emphasize the whole child, who for quite a number of years, who were the children who are winning the spelling these the National Spelling these almost always they were homeschooled. So some people would say, Well, you know, if you get if you emphasize the whole child, if you emphasize too much the individual and so forth, and their overall development, they’re going to take a hit academically well Wait a minute, you look at the National Spelling Bee winners. And it’s also been shown on standardized tests, that homeschoolers are usually about two years ahead of those in public schools. So surely a lot of parents are looking in that direction.

Scott: So why is there such a disconnect between what we know and what we do?

Jeynes: Well, there is and i think it’s it’s a mentality that affects our entire our entire country. I think that even the way we equip our children, you know, everything’s focused on college. That is another area where the East Asian system, you know, differs from ours, and I wouldn’t point the finger in any one direction. I think that you can point the finger certainly, I mean, the the leaders of our country need to set the example I think if we had a president, and I’m not saying I see anyone on the horizon is emphasizing this. I’m just saying If we had a president who would emphasize this, that would certainly send us in that direction. Again, I think the corporations contribute to this problem, because they’re focusing more on the output rather than the input. I think it’s a lot of factors. So how does

John: The value in our college and high school systems affect early childhood education and even the K-12 system.

Jeynes: I think that we, with that emphasis that we have on high school and college, it affects the, for example, the salary structure of teachers. Now, there are some districts that require elementary school teachers to get paid just as much as high school teachers. Okay, but even now, there there is still a gap. And I think speaking historically, for a moment, there’s something that we can learn from the Great Depression era, because the interesting thing is you would think, because funding naturally was lower for public schools back then, that achievement would plummet. In reality, it skyrocketed and we have to ask why? Well, there were a number of times actors, people thought of education as the way out of tough times, and so forth. I think there is an element that we’ve become somewhat spoiled as a society. And we don’t emphasize education enough at the early levels. But also, one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that the school districts did an excellent job through the Great Depression in which salaries on average went down 45%, between 1929 to 1933. But they realize that in order to attract the best teachers into the profession, and teaching was much more valued back then. That’s why we were probably number one back then.

Jeynes: They tried their best to keep teacher salaries as stable as they possibly could they cut back on other things they didn’t, you know, they maybe didn’t update their grounds, they they didn’t have night classes and so forth. They found ways to cut back understanding that if you’re going to attract the best minds in the field, you’ve got to pay them what they’re worth. So the interesting thing is that overall Even as salaries went down across the country about 45%, for teaching, it went down only about 16%. And in the northeast, it only went down a few percentage points. And so what you have is in the northeast, this is a spectacular thing. The teachers on average in 1934, actually made more than doctors by about 20%. And this attracted a lot of great minds into the teaching profession. Now granted, one of the reasons for that is that doctors especially took a hit during the Great Depression.

Jay: So why Froebel? Why are you so invested in his principles?

Jeynes: Froebel is very attractive to me as an educator, because I think he he envisioned really what education should be in the long haul, not just for his lifetime, but for the long haul. And that’s one of the principal reasons why I’ve really been impressed by Froebel. So for example, I if I were to mention three things that I think our education system can can learn from Froebel, one is I think we need to return to more of the garden environment that he envisioned that children need to learn how to get along. The playing house is a good thing. I mean, the seeds of becoming a good mom and dad and interacting well with one another can actually be laid in playing house. And we have a huge problem today in America with people being unable to to get along. So that really attracted me. And I think too many times these days, we define education too narrowly. It’s all about academic outcomes even as the same as happened economically, we just assume that people’s welfare is defined by GDP, and that’s it, but there are all these other factors. We really that philosophy See that we don’t emphasize the whole child translates and do we don’t emphasize the whole adult either. So that’s the first thing that attracted me.

Jeynes: The second thing that attracted me is his emphasis on play and recess, as as very productive play has become a four-letter word in our society. Now don’t worry about me, I realized that it is a four-letter word, but Froebel saw play is absolutely necessary. In fact, he viewed it as God’s gift to children to develop morally and develop social you learn so much when you put I mean, you learn how to abide by the rules. You learn how to cooperate, you learn restraint, and you learn self discipline. You learn how to be a gracious winner, and not to be a sore loser and so forth, how to work with other people, especially if the game involves working on a team. I mean, play is immensely valuable, as is recess by the way. I mean, this is the crazy thing. Research has shown that workers Do better adult workers when they have coffee breaks, okay? And you might remember there was a musical many years ago called How to Succeed in Business without really trying and one of my favorite songs in that musical was if I can’t take my coffee, break my coffee, break my coffee break something within me da eyes. And I would argue that the same thing is true with children in recess. I mean, even as adults, we need a break. And we all know you know, once we go and have our coffee and get refreshed a little bit, we go back, our mind is refreshed and we’re able to focus more where children are no different they need that break and where you have places like Atlanta and California and Virginia emphasizing we really want to push out recess. I mean, give me a break, do we understand how the how the human mind and the human being work so I appreciate his understanding that we as human beings, not just children, But we as human beings, we need a break.

Jeynes: And then the third thing that I think that we can learn from Froebel, I really like his emphasis on character education, moral education, particularly on love. Another four letter word. By the way, I would argue that love is the most feared four letter word in education. I’ll repeat that. I believe that love is the most feared four letter word in education. And I’ll give you an example about how far we have drifted in our education system from an emphasis on love. Now, I won’t say which graduate school that was at. But when I attended graduate school, the professor asked the class, he said, “What if you had a child who was at risk, and really had some issues at home behaviorally, and so forth? How would you deal with that child?” Well, I thought the answer was obvious. So I raised my hand, and I said, “Well, I begin with loving that child.” And you know what? The professor did not know how to handle it. He didn’t know how to answer And so he started to pace the room. It seemed like for several minutes, but it was probably for maybe 40 seconds, but he went back several times, nodding his head with his head down and saying, “okay, okay. Okay.” And he kept on doing that and I’m going, “Oh, boy, you know, what did I say?” And then finally said, “Okay, okay, that’s fine for you. If you can love the child, that’s fine for you. But what about the rest of us who can’t?” And I thought, “Oh, my goodness, am I in the wrong place?”

Jeynes: This is training educators now? The students the other graduate students in the room as we as we went out of class, they said, “Boy, Bill, did you tell him. Great job” and I said to them, “could have used a little help, okay.” But that reveals a huge problem and Froebel emphasize that. We need to love the children. The family needs to love the child. This is in fact, a Johann Pestalozzi, who Froebel drew a lot from Johann Pestalozzi, in terms of developing his various rubrics, Johann Pestalozzi asked a rhetorical question. And the question was, “why is it the children learn best at home than in any other environment?” And he said it’s because they’re loved in the home. And then he, on that basis, argued for the maternal role of the school, that teachers should be like mothers away from home that you need, you’re going to bring out the best in the child, you need to love them. And I really appreciate that about Froebel. Because so many of our problems today, I mean, whether it be Black Lives Matter, blue lives matter what have you, I mean, translated, if you really translate what’s going on, these are groups saying, you know what we don’t feel loved. And if we’re going to create a more loving society, it has to begin in early childhood education, and Froebel got that. And that’s perhaps the number one aspect of his philosophy of education that I very much appreciate.

Scott: So why do so many people who can send their kids to private schools?

Jeynes: And it’s especially a good question asked because of course sending your child to a private school involves some expense. And what a lot of people don’t realize they have a stereotype of families that send their children to private schools thinking oh, you must be loaded. Or and in reality, if you look at the at least the non-elite schools and you leave them out of the equation and emphasize faith-based Montessori schools and so forth, the average family sending their child to a school life ad to a private school makes only 18% more in income than the average family in the public schools. So it’s a very valid question to ask.

Jeynes: But clearly there is a hunger I think parents have they want their children appreciated for who they are in their entirety, their whole being … number one, and secondly, they generally want to have teachers that love their kids. You even say to my students in the parent teacher conference meetings, that’s usually what’s first and foremost on parent’s mind when you come right down to it. They want to know, do you love my child. And you know what, a lot of parents are voting with their feet, and others are arguing for vouchers and so forth, because they can’t afford it but they’d like to go that direction, because they feel like their whole child is appreciated. And also their their child is loved. And there’s actually evidence using nationwide data sets. In fact, I’ve done these analyses, that indicate that in private schools such as faith-based schools, Montessori schools and so forth, that the parents and the children feel much more loved by the teacher, and that she’s much more engaged in and concerned about their entire life and how they they develop broadly defined then is found in public schools. And I think that is a real major issue that that we need to address and that’s one of the primary reasons why parents are sending their children to Montessori schools and private schools.

Jeynes: Montessori schools, they really emphasize the the child as an explorer, if you will, you know, let the child be creative. Curiosity is something that is positive, you know, so I’ve had many public school teachers, usually public school teachers, they say to me, “Well, it’s me against the kids. Okay.” That’s, I mean, they’ve said that to me, I mean, I’ve heard that hundreds of times. “I’m surviving, it’s me against the kids in there.” And I think no, that’s not the way it’s to be viewed. I know, there’s some days you feel that way. Okay. We’re all human beings. But I think one of the things that is missed is children are naturally curious. And there are positive traits that children have that can actually make the classroom work better. And we need to draw out these wonderful qualities curiosity being one of them, draw them out from children, and wow they’ll explore.

Jeynes: One of the things I love about working, especially with young children. As the emphasis here is, especially on early childhood education is everything’s new to them. You know, you take them to a factory or you take them to a sporting event and it’s “Wow, I can’t imagine something that’s this huge” and so forth. I mean, they just they’re their eyes open up with a wonder. And that is what Montessori schools are all about that private schools the same thing. There’s an encouragement they a lot of the homeschoolers also emphasize learning via the internet. And they just encourage Yes, there’s some structure but they encourage students to do their own searches act on their own interests. And these are being done in a lot of these expressions of private schooling, whether it be Montessori or faith based or homeschooling and a lot of families are attracted to that.

Scott: So I want to thank Dr. William James from Cal State Long Beach for being with us today. Just a lot of really great stuff in there. I really resonated at the end with, you know, when we first put my son Max in a program, we really were looking for the teachers that were going to care about him. Yeah, you know, and we were really fortunate to find a Montessori school locally where we just had some really great teachers. So I just I just know that not everybody is going to be able to find that. And so I’m hoping that throughout these discussions and the podcast that we can maybe help to get some change going. I know, Dr. James has been traveling the world in writing about a lot of this stuff. His most recent book came out last October, “Eliminating the Achievement Gap,” which is available on Amazon. And I’d love to have a return visit for him, so maybe in the future, we can sit down with him again. But we just want to thank him for for the time that he did spend with us.

John: So Jay, tell tell our listeners, how they can stay connected with us.

Jay: Well, you can stay connected and apply couple different ways. One is to go to Check out what we’re doing there. If you want to check out what we’re doing on the documentary series, go to And I think there’ll be a new site up soon. Is that true?

Scott: We got something in the works. Yeah, absolutely.

John: And if you want to support what we’re doing, you could find us on And that support is definitely appreciated as we continue to put these podcasts together, from not only our interviews from the past, but also new people that are innovating today. And we’ve got some exciting episodes coming up featuring some people doing some incredible work in this field.

Scott: And the other thing is social media, especially Instagram and Facebook. We are posting little snippets of video and other things on there pretty much every week. So connect with this, Facebook and Instagram.

Jay: And if you want to hear any more of Bill singing where can you go, Scott?

Scott: That I don’t know.

Jay: We’ll just say ask Bill.

Scott: Yes, we will.

Jay: Thanks, everybody.

John: Thanks, everyone.

Scott: See you next time.


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