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The 12 commandments of schooling

Editor’s Note: In honor of the March 13 birthday of the late John L. Mahoney (who is described in this week’s editorial and at the end of this column) and in light of public discussion on the naming of the science and technology center at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, it seems a good time to remember what he wrote as his last column in these pages on May 20, 2010, as follows: ­Lest it appear that what follows dropped in out of nowhere, let me explain. These ideas have been in my head at least since the sabbatical in the early 1990s that brought me to 68 of the better schools I could find in our country. They have been refined in years of close observation since. And they have been edited by two teachers currently working in challenging school situations. Thanks, Kathleen, and thanks, Mike. Finally, I should add that I intend to fulfill my commitment to my profession for as long as life permits, regardless of title or position. 1. Thou shalt organize schooling to serve the needs of students with all the different intelligences (see Howard Gardner), not just those tested on the SATs.2. Thou shalt make it clear to all that the primary purpose of schooling is not to teach students but to facilitate their learning. In fact, it is to teach them how to learn.3. Thou shalt ensure that teachers take responsibility collectively for the progress of their students by assigning them not as individuals but in teams.4. Thou shalt recognize, proclaim and never apologize for making affect (Maslow) at least the equal of cognition (Bloom) in pursuit of learning.5. Thou shalt incorporate in the practices of schooling opportunities for older students to help younger students in pursuit of learning and growing.6. Thou shalt ensure that, as they grow older, students have increasing opportunities to take responsibility for their own learning.7. Thou shalt develop in all students profound respect for human diversity.8. Thou shalt take every opportunity to celebrate significant progress in student learning.9. Thou shalt ensure that teachers are evaluated by peers in their teams with an administrator signing off on the process.10. Thou shalt see that schooling is organized, wherever possible, to involve students in solving some of the real problems of community living.11. Thou shalt organize schooling to involve parents as partners in their children’s learning.12. Thou shalt see that school administrators are held responsible for promoting and sustaining a culture throughout the school and its community that respects learning for all students. John L. Mahoney was a high school teacher for 21 years and a high school principal for 12 years. He was an education consultant who made a study of schooling in the United States. He died May 14, 2011.

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