We speak with Melissa Rivers, Principal of the Scammon Bay School in Alaska’s Lower Yukon, a mile from the Bering Sea. The isolated, tight-knit Yupik Eskimo community is subsistence-based, harvesting moose and salmon. Students are artistic and learn by making things, but also must prepare for standardized tests designed for very different environments. For the past several years, Scammon Bay has participated in a cross-cultural exchange program run by the Alaska Humanities Forum to promote understanding among Alaska’s urban and rural communities.
We speak with Dr. Mark Santow, Chair of the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Dr. Santow and his middle school son, along with 12 other plaintiffs, are suing the state of Rhode Island in federal court under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for failing to provide civics curricula and other components of an adequate education to some Rhode Island students. The suit is especially notable because most education equity cases are brought in state courts. We discuss the racial, socioeconomic, and political underpinnings of educational inequality.
We interview Lev Moscow who, for the last 14 years, has taught history and economics at The Beacon School in New York City. Lev reflects that advisory, done well, can serve as a venue for students to explore questions of ethics, purpose and happiness. He talks about balancing the history curriculum to include non-European perspectives. Getting students to read more than a few sentences is perhaps today’s teachers’ greatest challenge and Lev explains his approach.
Lev refers to John Dewey, Tony Judt, and these resources:
Amy interviews Leo Ackley, who emigrated to Finland in the 1972. He taught art, history of architecture, design, and engineering in Finnish schools for 37 years. We discuss the Finnish system. Teachers have autonomy to develop their own curricula. Finnish administrators are answerable to teachers rather than the other way around. Homework is rare and standardized testing limited to a single exam towards the end of senior year. Finland is consistently in the top five in PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) rankings.
Photo by Baptiste Valthier