News and analysis from The Center for Michigan • http://thecenterformichigan.net
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at http://bridgemi.com

Original article URL: http://bridgemi.com/2013/10/longtime-educator-believes-schools-can-do-better-by-doing-differently/

Brunch with Bridge

Welcome to Brunch with Bridge!
Every Sunday, you'll find in this space one or more guest columns by interesting Michigan residents with something interesting to say about life in our state. We hope you'll find it a place to stop by regularly, read, and comment.

Longtime educator believes schools can do better by doing differently

A TEACHER LEARNS: Carmen N'Namdi has learned a few things in her years as an educator, chief among them that education should not be strictly job training.

A TEACHER LEARNS: Carmen N’Namdi has learned a few things in her years as an educator, chief among them that education should not be strictly job training. (Courtesy photo)

I ran into Carmen N’Namdi at the opening of the “Detroit Resurgent” photo exhibit opening at the Michigan State University Museum recently. Although we were at an art opening, N’Namdi’s mind was on education.

That makes sense. She founded the private Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit in 1978, oversaw it becoming a charter school in 1995 (among Michigan’s first), and served as head of the school until retiring in 2008. She now serves as executive director of Nataki Educational Services, and on the boards of the National Charter Schools Institute, Michigan Future, Inc., and the Michigan Association for Public School Academies.

As an activist in education, N’Namdi knows something about what’s going on when it comes to teaching children. And she is concerned about how schools are preparing students in the 21st century and the global marketplace.

“We need to teach values and principles that transcend time,” N’Namdi said in a subsequent interview. “That is what I’d like to think we’ve been working on at the school the past 35 years. One of those things is introspection. As a country we don’t value introspection. We think of that as a weakness. We need to know ourselves. …We should be raising people to understand the importance of and development of humanness. I’m afraid our need to get things under control will not allow for that. Most of our entrepreneurs were not traditional students.”

Most people think of education as learning a set of skills for a specific job. Introspection runs a little counter to just getting the job done. But N’Namdi takes it even further. She believes students should play more, too. She says this at a time when anything that isn’t focused learning for a specific skill is becoming unpopular. There are some who even suggest there should be no more summer vacations so students can keep their noses to the grindstone.

“I think that we’re going to have to make sure that we are learning in a much broader context,” she said. “Students need activities, recess and games. There is almost no recess now. When I was in school I experienced goal-setting on the playground. In four-square I wanted to spike that ball. I worked hard until I got that spin on my ball and the spike. When students play something and go to something new, they’re watching and learning. During recess you learn logic, how to keep trying and how systems work. Everyone who does well academically is not necessarily good at the other things.”

Right now our state legislators are fighting over adopting the national Common Core education standards for math and English in K-12 schools. Somehow it has become a political argument in Michigan although a recent statewide survey shows 71 percent of citizens support the little-understood standards.

N’Namdi is neutral about the standards themselves but wonders about what drives the thinking about education these days and what influences the drive to standardized testing. Teachers and public schools have been pushed up against the wall in recent years as businesses seek more competitiveness in the international marketplace.

“This Common Core thing is very interesting,” said N’Namdi. “If that’s what you want, then train teachers that way at the university. It isn’t that it’s good, bad or anything. …I do know that with that comes business. We have to buy the materials to prepare for the Common Core. The testing materials are printed and published. Once you take the test you have to work for the kid that didn’t do well. All of these things become big money makers.”

Some of this is about money. Who’s going to make it in the education system and who’s going to make it after finishing school and going to work. Parents are concerned that their children are competitive in the marketplace of the future. We don’t really know what that future will look like.

But we do know that the Great Recession we’re fighting to recover from was caused by greedy Wall Street bankers who were willing to make money at the expense of almost anybody without thinking much about it.

That’s not about education; that’s about ethics. Maybe those folks could use a little more introspection – and a little more time on the playground.

Larry Gabriel is a freelance Detroit Metro Times contributor who was named Best Columnist by the Association for Alternative Newsmedia in 2012. He believes there is wisdom in blues lyrics and that the best brunch is poached salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado. The views and assertions of guest columnists do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

No comment yet.Add mine!

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

In northern counties, workers and business find each other lacking

Hidden poverty stalks a Pure Michigan setting

Postcard: How a git-’er-done spirit helps one rural school district

Postcard: When elk is for dinner

Postcard: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy

Postcard: A roof and a bed

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.