What do Students Need to Learn?

Edited by Phil Farnham, UHHS Teacher


This report is a "work-in-process" documenting answers to the question, "What do students at University Heights High School need to learn?" along with some comments about how that is being accomplished. This is not designed as a comprehensive treatment of the question but is a composite of major points made in interviews with most of UHHS staff and some discussion with several students. The explicit aim of the project was to explore, mainly with the staff, their thinking about this fundamental question - What do students need to learn? - and to summarize some key points using direct quotations as appropriate. As such, it constitutes a beginning effort which we hope will be of some value in further discussions amongst the staff and students at UHHS, as well as parents and all others interested in what students need to learn at UHHS, and in the education of our youth overall.

The "resource material" of this report is primarily some twenty interviews with UHHS staff shaped around the following questions:

1. Based on teaching and taking part in the overall UHHS community and on your understanding of the role of education and school in todays' society, how would you describe, as concisely as possible, what you think is most fundamental, most important, for students at UHHS to learn?

2. Based on the subject areas you are working in, whether in interdisciplinary seminars or separate classes, what are the most important things you think the students need to learn in those areas?

3. As members of Ted Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, we are committed to the principle of Student as Worker; our goal is to engage students in all aspects of their learning. Toward this end, we are committed to student participation in the academic and social life of the school and in grappling with the questions of race, sex, drugs and other important aspects of the students' own lives. Based on experience with the several cooperative structures and dynamics of our community, such as Family Group, Seminar - Team Teaching and others, how do you understand the school to be meeting these needs of students?

After taping the interviews, which were done on a voluntary basis, the staff was able to edit their transcripts and contribute to the development of a rough draft. This draft included contributions from several students, mainly from brief interviews done in Family Groups using the same framework of questions. A draft was then prepared which aimed at concentrating several of the points made by the staff regarding the three framework questions. Quotations from the staff and students were selected which made or elaborated on such points. The staff took part in a group editing session following which the present version was written.

We repeat, this report is not to be viewed as a polished, "last word on the subject" piece, but a working document which we trust will be some contribution to further serious thought, discussion and practice. All of the points discussed and many more are, we think, of some importance, and merit serious consideration. This initial effort indicates that more and deeper exploration with staff students and parents would be extremely worthwhile.

For those reading this report who are not familiar with University Heights High School some minimal information might be helpful. UHHS is one of several alternative public schools in the New York City public education system. It is also a "Middle College" high school, meaning that it is a high school-college collaboration with direct involvement from the City University of New York. It opened classes on the campus of Bronx Community College in February of 1987 and serves some 300 students are primarily of Hispanic and Afro-American roots and live in the Bronx and Manhattan. Students apply to UHHS for a wide range of reasons, many are described by the system as "at risk," most come to UHHS in order to have a different school setting. All have been in some other high school previously; most have a history of truancy.

UHHS operates with interdisciplinary team teaching in seminars, with individual classes in the afternoon. Every student meets every day for an hour with his or her Family Group, counseled by one or more teachers. Grading is done by points awarded for work accomplished each four week cycle. The dropout rate thus far is under ten percent, regular attendance averaging 70-75%. Those interested are urged to contact UHHS for further materials and information.

Section I


Choices, Taking Control, Critical Thinking

"Students need to learn that they have choices in every aspect of life. The knowledge that has been developed at UHHS allows them to be able to examine different aspects of possibilities in any situation they may face. And, if they are not creative enough to satisfactorily accomplish their needs then they are capable of seeking help from the proper source ... I think the students here deal very well with the world, better than / would! Some of the obstacles which they endure would be things which I would fold under and they still have the ability to come to school, to function, to learn the three R's, and still deal with the real work - reading, writing, thinking comprehensively."

This quotation captures a lot of the thoughts expressed by the UHHS staff and students who responded to the question: "What do students need to learn at UHHS?" It is a liberating view, aware of the difficulties and challenges which UHHS students face and confident that they can rise above personal and society-wide obstacles, learn that they can have wider fields of choices and concretely prepare to make those choices and follow through on them.

The responses of the staff also manifested a strong desire to help the students develop their overall ability to deal with a huge, increasing amount of raw information, images, experiences and knowledge; to process it critically, to use it to make a wide variety of decisions and choices about individual and collective life now and in the future, to be able to communicate and express thinking and feelings as clearly and powerfully and creatively as possible to other people and society at large, to be able to take more control of their lives and influence the life of society to the greatest extent possible.

Also there is considerable understanding that accomplishing this at UHHS - to develop the capacity and skills to 'Think more critically, analytically, individually, not by rote, to gain confidence in their own abilities to solve problems in creative and unique ways", to "use their minds" to 'Take control of their iives" - is not easy, particularly in the Bronx in 1989: "Students need to learn that education is not optional...it is mandatory. Without proper quantitative disciplined learning they will be in positions of subservience, uneducated, underemployed, always the cannon fodder-eveiy day they don't learn that, the closer they come to living a shorter life and a less productive and fruitful life. "

Ideas of exactly how this would be best accomplished at UHHS differ significantly among individuals but there is a focus on some key major points:

One point discussed in several ways is "critical thinking", or as one student phrased it initially, "the most important thing to loam here is to be able to see the pros and cons of everything." Teachers described it: Helping the students to "use their minds, " 'to always ask why, " 'the ability to ask questions of assumptions and information fed in," and "in old fashioned terms, discrete information is only fully realized when you deal with critical thinking and analytical skills. "

As suggested in several of the earlier quotations, members of the UHHS community understand that "critical thinking", being able to make sound evaluation and judgments, is not an optional academic exercise, and several pointed out that students at UHHS come into the school with an already fairly well-developed ability to use their critical judgment to survive in the world of the Bronx. One teacher related this to a perspective on teaching: 'They (the students) analyze situations they are involved in outside of school, and certainly how to manipulate this system, too. A lot of those skills were there since they were little children I don't think we are teaching critical thinking so much as helping them to learn how to use the skills they have."

The point this teacher makes is that "traditional" teaching of traditional critical thinking sometimes comes down to presenting students with one or more interpretations which they are supposed to get out of reading a novel or studying an historical event rather than seeing the most important thing to be helping the student develop and use the critical capacity they already have to "see the pros and cons of everything."

A brief account of a student discussion may be to the point here. In sessions discussing the most important things to learn at UHHS, the question of studying history arose. Students emphatically stated that the main reason to study history, if not the only reason, is to be able to influence and change the present and the future: "Why is this here - why things are the way they are today - the United States is the United States and did not come from a puff of smoke ... what mistakes cannot be repeated, what are alternatives, what was successful, and to learn the truth about the country's history and not be lied to about it.. to know 'history' is written with a point of view ... the white race sees history, they wrote it, but the Civil Rights movement shows you have to be able to say right or wrong... "

In the course of this, one student pointed out that you learn in history things which are both good and bad, which can contribute to the future and which should not be repeated. The example the student used was of sex orgies in decay of the Roman Empire. His point was that such widespread conduct both reflected and contributed to the breakdown of that society and should not be repeated.

Another student used this reference to sexual life in Roman society to argue that the view that AIDS was originally caused by sex, as well as drug use and homosexuality, is undercut by the fact that there were all these sexual orgies in earlier times and AIDS evidently did not result.

These are controversial questions but these students demonstrate serious effort to use the study of history to try to understand what is going on today, to develop their abilities to use what they are learning to "see the pros and cons of everything." We will return to this very "critical" question of "critical thinking" at several points and from different angles throughout this report.

Self-Discipline, Working Together, Student-as-Worker

Another common thread in staff and student responses dealt with how relatively familiar ideas such as self-discipline, study habits, individual appreciation and development of "learning how to learn" take shape and practice at UHHS and how this works out in a conscious effort to create a "collaborative", working together spirit and reality at UHHS. The term for this is in part captured in the "Student as Worker" concept which envisions the students, individually and cooperatively, taking up the challenge of being both the focus and the main "engine force" of the learning process. Any discussion of such concepts runs the danger of piling abstractions on abstractions so following are a few comments by staff and students and examples of what this means "on the ground" or in the day to day life of the school.

In response to the question 'What is the most important thing I need to learn at UHHS," one student's summation reflects several common sentiments: "One important thing I've learned in UHHS is how to work together, how to deal with things and accept one another the way we should. Education wise there is so much we can learn ... everything is important .. the thing that helps most, is the most "important' in learning, is that a person has interest and is ambitious, and curiosity .. everything in life doesn't come straight to you, you have to earn it. You have to learn how to work with people, not only by yourself. You learn a lot more if you know how to get along and work together. UHHS has taught me to learn together as a team. "

The interrelationship of the individual and the community at UHHS was also described as "self-discipline, responsibility and respect for each other" as one Family Group summed up what was most important to learning at UHHS. The words self-discipline and responsibility came up frequently in student comments, with sincerity and understanding, many times from students who do not have the best records of attendance or work done. Such gaps between what the student appears to know about what is needed and what is taking place at a particular time in that student's life and performance is not, at UHHS, attributed to hypocrisy, duplicity or manipulation or jive , but is considered a manifestation of sharp and real contradictions in the students' personal and social lives. The learning dynamic at UHHS with an emphasis on the Student as Worker within cooperative participation and responsibility certainly does highlight the challenges and problems these students confront.

Of course there is an emphasis in a variety of ways and perspectives from the staff on the crucial matters of self discipline and responsibility with cooperative effort. These must be more than nice ideas at any school and definitely at UHHS in the Bronx today. Urgency and concern is clear in several staff comments:" ' -unfortunately these students don't have the luxury of time to play with. The acceleration of factors in their lives and the impact on them is moving too quickly. They walk out of the door in the morning and don't know if they are coming back at night. When you live in that environment and life style you don't have time to talk about 'maybe I�ll go to school.� You have to figure ways of getting out of the violence or ways of empowering youseff so that you can change that environment. "

Or as others said:

We need to 'first make them want to show up" and 'to learn self discipline which is a skill itself." Several underlined that "learning how to learn" is fundamental. Not in an abstract academic sense, though both students and staff spoke of a need to put more emphasis on specific, concrete skills and content, but considered most fundamental is to "pose a problem or question with the students having to find the answer through reading or research or discussion ... (this) starting them on the way of thinking and finding out that they can do something..."

How well this theory of individual and collaborative responsibility and learning is "working" is a real question and concern, and this report will take up in more depth how it "works' in particular seminars and classes. Here an experiment in math studies may help people understand more of the perspective and process.

An initial trial is underway in teaching math with a cooperative, students-in-teams method. One class is divided into groups of four or five students who have a variety of levels of math abiity. As a particular area of math is taken up, the team works together on the drills and assignments with the more advanced helping those who are having more trouble . The points which students will get towards their math credit will depend on two things: The work which the individual student does on the quiz or tests, and the amount of improvement the team as a whole shows over previous level of work done on this material. The method is aimed at motivating all those involved to come to class, to get credit but also to help all members of the group improve and to help slower students in certain areas of math to have the best chance to improve, while the more competent students deepen their own grasp of math and help others and the group.

Several students have said that they are having better success with math than at another school or in their earlier experience because in their view there is more individual and small group attention at a pace they feel they are able to handle. At the same time the math teachers do not claim that they have broken through in conclusive fashion in areas of students showing up for class, doing the work, and overcoming the "math block." All students and teachers recognize that the comparatively small size of UHHS and the resultant teacher-student ratio is a major factor in the general success achieved.

Other versions of this cooperative, Student as Worker process goes on in several settings at UHHS and more will be discussed later in the report. The point here is that there is a great deal of conscious awareness on the part of staff and students at UHHS of the need to learn seff discipline and responsibility whether it concerns a spcific skill or subject or participation in the UHHS community. It should also be noted that several responses by both staff and students demonstrated that there are many examples of inspiring progress and gains made in this dynamic, and also because the school is small, staff and students are in comparatively close and substantial contact and the "failures" also are quite obvious and are a source of frustration and concern as well.

Skills, Content and Standards

A third major category of what staff and students at UHHS think is most important to learn has to do with the matter of skills, content of subject area, meeting specific requirements for high school graduation, getting general and particular information and training for possible employment, preparing for college, and learning more about essentials of living, from health and environmental concerns, to coping with living in society.

There is in both staff and students responses an underlying insistence that students at UHHS must not be "shortchanged" in their educational experience, that UHHS students deserve a chance to "get what they want out of life ... they are entitled to that and we need to teach and help them learn how to get that." Of course there are different views of what that means, but also some agreement that there are some things which must be learned. This is not limited to passing New York State Regents Competency Tests required to graduate from high school or other specific job and career pre-requisites, though the necessity of those are fully recogized. But also in the words of a science teacher, "to learn and care about the fact that the universe is small and that each creature has a place and a responsibility to itself and its environment to be able to better make appropriate decisions for a better community - our universe. "

In section II this report will deal with some of the more specific subject areas, but there are some overarching categories or areas which were noted, directly or indirectly, in most of the responses. One of these is, not surprisingly, the skills and processes and content involved in reading, comprehension and communication. Several staff pointed out that in the world today this must encompass the "media", including the radio and especially the impact of visual communication, most notably television. This point, to be further discussed in Section 11, means that to be "literate" today requires people to be able to comprehend and critically evaluate written, verbal and visual material, to understand how the form, source and perspective of that material influences the message, to be able to use competence in all of these media-written, verbal and visual - to enhance the literacy in any one of them, and to be able to communicate as powerfully and effectively as possible in writing and speaking, and to an increasing degree in the visual media as well. This is a huge, challenging task and people at UHHS feel that there are both significant advances being made and much more that must be done, from mastering the technical skills to developing the most critical and creative capabilities.

There are several areas in which needing to learn certain skills and processes and information is a relatively straightforward matter, though individual perspectives on how important these are vary. Learning to use the word processors both in writing and reports of school work and future use of this skill is readily accepted and taken up. Learning a minimum of math and science at least and an understanding about health and basic biological functions and broader environmental processes is generally seen as important. For example, considerable attention is given to such things as learnig about AIDS, nutrition matters, sex information, pollution... the oil spill in Prince William Sound was unanimously understood to be a major disaster issue posing serious problems in this country and the world.

The relationship between what staff and students at UHHS emphasize as most important to learn and the matter of standards posed by "external" demands such as the RCT tests, college entrance exams, "accepted" norms of grammar and speech presents a knotty question. A clear statement of reality and responsibility was formulated by one teacher, 'We do live in a world of standards and standardization and it Is another form of oppression not to expect our students to be as good as any others." There is a strong emphasis on the need to achieve a "bottom line" in order to meet such standards.

Within that agreement there are different views of such things as the RCT tests. On one hand some teachers recognize certain validity in the tests, especially, though not only, in math. It indicates a "legitimate minimal /eve/ of competence." Others see such exams as irrelevant at best and perhaps even counter productive, not a sound method to teach even minmal standards. No one 'leaches to the test" except in exceptional cases. Many believe that success in RCT tests and meeting standards in general should be a byproduct of 'teaching beyond such minimal requirements. " For example learning about the different scientific and social aspects of an environmental disaster such as the oil spill in Prince William Sound should, in this view, also equip students to take RCT and SAT tests.

Whether viewed as a positive or negative necessity, this realistic orientation to the RCTs reflects a similar perspective on the need to learn to "negotiate" or it manipulate" other manifestations of the "system." In the realm of English most staff and students observed that there exists a certain standard English which must be learned and to some extent internalized and used. Several also spoke of the validity and importance of other languages, especially Spanish and "street language," both of which are important dimensions of how students at UHHS express themselves and communicate. Whether described as the overall capacity to "cope and code switch" with discreet input and information or "being able to communicate what you want to communicate when you want to communicate," the point is made that students can not simply ignore such requirements however they may choose to respond to them.

Concerning the Question of a "Cultural Literacy Core"

In the next section this report will explore further several subject areas and an appropriate transition to that might be a brief discussion of how several UHHS staff reacted to the current controversy in educational ranks about "Cultural Literacy." The concept is popularly associated with two of its most visible promoters, Hirsch and Bloom. They state that there should be a minimum national standard, a "core" of knowledge about United States traditions, culture, history.

The stated goal is to make sure that all students at some point in their public education know an essential minimum to help make them educated citizens and able to comprehend other information which assumes that everyone has such a minimum "core" knowledge. The core is essentially and consciously based on traditional "American" culture, meaning Western, or Europe and the United States, as understood and transmitted by the major institutions of this countruy. Hirsch has actually compiled such a core list in his widely promoted book and in a recent exchange in The New York Review of Books he used 1492 and the Columbus discovery of America as an example of something everyone should know.

Several UHHS staff spoke directly or indirectly to the question of "Cultural Literacy" as it applies to education overall and to UHHS in particular. Everyone underscored the problem of WHO would decide WHAT would be the "core," but beyond that there were significant differences about what cultural literacy should mean and whether such a core or curriculum approach is feasible and or advisable.

At least one teacher thought that "there is some basic understanding we all should have ... some basic knowledge we al/ should be walking around with.. " such as the fact that in 1492 Columbus did discover America, "at least for the Europeans" or that on Dec. 7, 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Such basic information should be learned in grammar school in this person's view, 'At the high school /eve/ we can possibly talk about why .. but before you can start to debate an issue you have to know something about the facts." And several others agreed that one has to have some minimal information about a subject in order to discuss it intelligently. But this teacher also stressed that learning how to find the information desired was far more important than simply memorizing dates.

Other teachers rejected outright any idea that there could or should be such an overall agreed to "core" saying, "...it [a core] has no meaning. A farmer's agreed-to core would be different from an electrician's in the Bronx. I don't think it is valid." Another stated flatly, 'A/l of the stuff Hirsch wrote about is white middle class, Western European knowledge and we are dealing with a school which is basically 'minorities',, and that denigrates the Spanish literature, the Black literature and everything else. lf you are saying to somebody it is important that you learn this,, you are saying that its not important that you learn the other. "

In between these extremes, several teachers spoke positively about the value some kind of "multi-cultural" core might have, especially if it were determined by the local school in conjunction the local community. This would explicitly not be limited to Hirsch's understanding of a "Western" core or cultural literacy: "if we just stick to Greek, Roman and Christian values and philosophy it is not enough and it definitely hasn't proven to be the salvation of the world! There should be Asian, Latin American, African, everything. In our own education we haven't been exposed to that enough ... and we should be expanding it - women's issues, Past injustices such as Native American culture and much more. "

Another teacher turned the question around: "I am finding I am learning so much from these students about worlds that are not my experience. How are Hirsch or the powers that be going to input that kind of knowledge or culture?" Another suggested that teachers at a school such as UHHS should have a chance to spend a few days literally living with the students in the Bronx so as to better understand that student and the real life situation of the students."

On balance the sentiment of the staff ranged from a very qualified affirmation of some minimal core of knowledge to a heavy skepticism and outright rejection any such core imposed from above. Some staff viewed it as an effort to have a "homogenized" society which in these teachers' view was exactly the wrong direction to be going, especially in a place like New York City where a traditional "Western" culture standard may be viewed as more discrimination and oppression of the myriad of nationalities and ethnic groups which make up the population. Instead several emphasized that people need to learn more about and from the diverse cultures represented.

Section II

What Students Need to Learn: Subject Areas

If the idea of a core curriculum imposed from above is not what most of the UHHS staff think to be the answer to 'What do students at UHHS need to learn?", what should be taught in specific subject areas such as Math, Science, English, Social Studies and other areas?

This section will deal mainly with three such areas: "English" in the broad sense of literature and writing, reading comprehension and communication; Mathematics and Social Studies. The bulk of the responses more or less fell into these categories however references to other subjects such as Science, Languages, Art, Health and Physical Education will be noted as well. Also UHHS staff underlined the interpenetration of the different disciplines and the importance of relating various subjects, such as Art to the whole process of learning in the school:

"I think they [the students] need to know something about art criticism which goes back to critical thinking and judgment-art history is important We have minority students, Hispanic and Black, and it is important for them to know that they have an art history, that there are people in their culture who for years and years were artists. In a seminar studying different structures and cultures and families, e.g, Indian and African tribes, I bring in books to show them designs and things from these cultures in clothing, housing, whatever and then the students do artwork based on these designs."

Mathematics We will begin with math because it poses the question of what students need to learn in relatively sharp relief. The "bottom line" which all teachers and students understand is that in order to graduate from a public high school in the State of New York the student must pass the Math RCT. Even those students who have some kind of learning "block" about math, and teachers who may think the standards required for passing the RCT test to be irrelevant to either practical use of math in the students' daily lives or a deeper understanding of math, know that every student must deal with this requirement.

The other end of the spectrum of 'What students need to learn in math" is as wide open as the RCT end is closed. Several math teachers spoke of students learning how practical and universal math is from daily decisions about how much time to allot for getting to school to how math is used in building bridges and low income housing. One flatly stated that 'We have to teach math in a totally different way, we have to alter the curriculum completely .. We should be teaching math really from the engineering point of view-how it applies, how and where math comes into building a subway train or plafform ... math and physics together. "

At the same time emphasis is placed on what was described as the "beauty", the "art" of math, such as finding the easiest way to solving a problem rather than a "caveman way." If possible students need to learn this "artistic" way of doing math in part because it shows that they can work such processes through in their minds and apply the logical method involved to other math and science problems, in higher math and science courses in high school and college, in various engineering and experimental fields and in life generally. The point is that to really progress in math and science, work related to that the most minimal "caveman" capacity, or RCT level, or dependence on computers will not do.

A common agreement amongst the math teachers is that, at a minimum, students need to learn that if you follow the logical and proscribed process, whether at a very simple or very complicated level, you will arrive at the correct, right answer. This "abstract qualitV' as one described it, or "objective and very concrete" procedure as another put it, is what some call the "righteousness of mathematics" as opposed to the conditional and qualified answers which are involved in much of the disciplines of social science, literature and others.

One math teacher pointed to this as something of an equalizer. That is, in social science the student may think that the answer has to be the "right" answer as proscribed by the text book or the curiculum or the view of the teacher. In math there is a right and wrong reward depending solely on whether the student understood and carried out the logical procedure internal to the particular problem.

Ironically the discussions with the math teachers also suggested that it may be this very abstracted, clean notion of an absolute right or wrong answer which has in one way or other played into a student's development of a math "block". If somewhere in the student's math studies, probably earlier than later, he or she ran into a situation where, for any number of reasons a particular math procedure was not quickly and correctly grasped, yet others in the class appeared to understand, and if the teacher, for a variety of reasons moved too quickly, this student's experience may well have been one of being wrong, "absolutely wrong". Then, intimidation and other aspects of whatever makes up a "math block" in a student begins to set in. Since math is usually taught in a sequential manner, with one process more or less needed to move to another, the early frustration and withdrawing from being exposed as "wrong", unable to "get it", inferior to peers, takes on a geometric progression resulting in real math illiteracy. The "language of math" indeed becomes a "foreign," even antagonistic, language and neither appeals to practical use nor the artistic beauty of math can cut through that.

In any case the math teachers agreed that the student, at whatever level, has to learn to have confidence in their ability to carry out the math proceedure and that they will arrive at the right answer when that is done. A certain amount of drill and practice is needed, and more of it in the case of students who hope that they will never need math since they are convinced that they will never master it.

As one teacher put it students need to learn 'to approach math as an instrument, rather than a body of knowledge they have to acquire and possibly be scared about. ft is something they can put to use in their daily lives ... it's like taking a tool like a carpenter would do, such as a plane to a board .. to reach out and grasp math as proving something he or she may want to show. Its relevance to science for example ... to solve scientific problems ... this can act as a reinforcement of math skills already learned such as being able to use decimals, fractions, etc. at a basic /evel, to be able to work simple physics experiments. Another area even more important is in tryng to come up with a solution mathematically to a science problem, eg if they were calculating velocity, or acceleration and they got the concept of it and they knew that there would be an equation out there which would answer the particular situation and statistics which they may have."

This teacher was convinced by the response of students that the integration of math and science into a morning seminar was proving to be the right move and more of that needed to be done. Another explicit move on the part of UHHS math teachers has been to initiate team work groups amongst the students as described in Section 1. The slower students learn that they can struggle through their difficulties with math, with their peers helping, and overcome their alienation from the material and the whole math learning experince. They also learn enough math to at least pass the RCT and be able to handle most of the practice of math involved in other classes and day to day living.

The more advanced students learn the fundamentals of math more thoroughly through working with peers who challenge them to explain it to them in simple but profound ways. For example the advanced student will see that there is a beauty and art to math in the easiest, simplest way as oppposed to the "caveman" method being used by the student he or she is helping.

To really understand mathematics, and related to that a good deal of science, the question of the historical development of the discipline is important. In fact math teachers thought that if it were possible to teach more of that to all math students, it would enhance the math capacity at all levels. The early development of navigation, sun dials, irrigation systems etc. carried on through to the math in the scientific technology of space exploration and medical research as well as the development of mathematical tools and concepts in relation to these-learning of all this would be learning the practicallity and beauty of math in the most sweeping and exciting way.

Whatever the level of math being taught, from "Pre-RCr to advanced algebra, geometry, logic, ...it was stressed that going faster than a student can go is futile: "Covering a proscribed amount of materials is not our goal. Rather we would like to go deeper, to develop understanding of concepts and esthetics of math ... students enjoy thinking hard and investigating math concepts as long as they can be convinced - often through the awarding of points- that they are not Wasting time.' If we can counteract their own impatience with themselves we will have given them a great gift."

English-Reading, Writing, Uterature, Communication, Creative Expression

We are, in this section, encompassing a wide range of related skills and content and processes, much more than is traditionally thought of when the subject area is "English". The interdisciplinary team/seminar teaching at UHHS does in practice bring many of these different aspects together, and even in cases where a separate course is being taught the relatedness of these disciplines is consciously brought out. The responses in this general English category more or less fell out along three related questions:

1. The issue of students learning some sort of standard, "accepted" norms and forms of communication, such as proper usage.

2. The development of critical comprehension and analysis and using that in communication.

3. The area of creative appreciation of a wide and diverse range of cultural forms and enhancement of the students' ability and practice of creative thought and expression.

First, though far from most important in view of UHHS staff, is the "bottom" line" minimum: the graduation requirement that all students must pass the RCT's in Reading and Writing. In fact questions were raised about the validity of the writing RCT, in particular: How relevant is being able to write the exact correct form of business letter? How can you measure and grade the writing ability of a student by how precisely the student adheres to the standard form of report or essay? Overall the view of the staff is that passing the RCTs in Reading and Writing should be a by product of much more comprehensive and creative learning not only in reading and writing in the English language but of developing ability in comprehension, critical thought and creative expression in a broad range of communicative fields.

There was also general recognition that in order to be able to deal with the demands of jobs, college, even daily life in highly organized society students need be able to communicate in the accepted institutionalized forms: An earlier quotation is worth repeating here: 'We do live in a world of standards and standardization and it is another form of oppression not to expect our students to be able to be as good as others."

However, there are some differences at least in emphasis. Some staff and students expressed concern that more attention be paid to making sure that the students were learning and being corrected in standard English. This is more than a narrow concern about being able communicate in the prevailing mode of the US society. In some cases it reflected a more general concern about whether there is enough formal academic instruction. The repetition of the same mistakes in English in some student's writing is one of the problems behind such concerns. Another staff member said that she frequently has students who are doing a lot of writing, very creative writing, saying, 7 meant to say..." when in fact that wasn't communicated clearly. No staff advocated a strait- jacketed approach to teaching such things as usage, but as with most of the subject areas there were significant differences in how much priority should be placed on teaching a specific content and form.

Beyond the question of learning sufficient skills in communicating in English both staff and students placed great emphasis on the ability to interact critically and creatively with a given text or work and to develop that capacity to be able to use it in all aspects of intellectual life.

One teacher, in discussing the work a seminar was doing with works such as Billy Budd, Merchant of Venice and others put forward the following view of why such books should be read: "From the overall view of why study literature at all - why bother to read and interpret and to think about the books and issues which the author put in these works of fiction? I think the most important thing to get out of it are the thinking skills. It is one of the most direct ways of teaching such skills, higher thinking skills. It is taking something and saying this is what it says on the surface, how much deeper can you I go? It forces you to use your imagination and to think about abstract issues, to think philosophically in a way. And it is flexible. A work of art can be interpreted in countless ways. There is no right and wrong, which gives you latitude which is also important; to see that things can be interpreted in different ways, there is no one way of looking at them.

'You can look at something one way and then step back and here is somebody else's interpretation, which helps you learn this flexibilty yourself .. This is important in something like problem solving in life situations. You feel there are no options but this may give you a habit of thinking that you have more options - how can / think about this differently.? So this kind of study and interpretation of literature helps give people a more flexible kind of intelligence ... a tool of the mind and that is much of the purpose of studying literature besides the humanistic values.

"[This abiIiW carries over. You have a tendency to see something written on a page and think that it is etched in stone, that is the way it is. But as soon as you start to say, 'Well, this can be interpreted this way or that way - as long as you stay with the text, I think it helps in other ways such as reading a newspaper article. You start to realize that this is just this guy's point of view. Or viewing a photograph or a movie, you can see that something is manipulated to make it look a certain way. How else might it look? That is the highest goal you can reach for. You might see the news and you ask, 'Well, what didn't they show? Or a movie, how else might it have been shot? So you are not so subject to manipulation... "

Specifically in a reference to students' interpretation of Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice , 'The quality of mercy is not strained" and "is mightiest in the mightiest. " One student referred that back to an earlier reference to God, that the quality of mercy is the mightiest things in God, Another that "mercy in the strongest makes them stronger." This teacher concluded, "So it could refer to kings, powerful people, God, there are others. There are a number of times when a student comes up with an interpretation of such line which I didn't think of at all, which is right there."

Another English teacher who works in video a good deal thinks that such a critical and creative approach to written material must also apply to the approach to visual communication, especially television. In reading a book such as The Color Purple or in the case of another seminar, plays such as Fence , The Glass Menagerie , Canterbury Tales, or any of the wide scope of material students at UHHS read, there is a great deal of emphasis on "interaction with the text." In some cases "lit logs" may be key student work, regular entries which record the students reaction to the text. These are not summaries but feelings, memories, thoughts that the text brings to the student. These form the basis of eventually writing about the work in poems, essays or other forms, most appropriate. In the case of studying the plays, the students may write and act out their own play based on their responses to the original work.

As staff pointed out, this process goes beyond, though it includes, learning about the specific text. It helps the student understand the creation and presentation of the work, how the author's perspective, experiences and use of the form is involved and much else. It also helps to unleash the students' critical and creative energy. Mastery of the text is crucial, but to serve this larger purpose. One result of such an approach is that seminar groups write and produce their own booklets of poems or essays, 'Tales", and more.

Comparing work in video to the above approach to a written text helps to make clear what several staff think needs to be learned about that medium. First, it is particularly easy to see that video is a process: 'When you are making a documentary you have to think about what you are going to do and then the whole thing becomes a process ... We might brainstorm for a whole day about topics and things they might want to do and then narrow that down - what are the issues connected to the one they have chosen, who are the people we could talk to, what research in books and magazines we need to do ... keep narrowing down the focus, keep talking to people, interviewing people in the street or whatever .. then you have all these tapes and part of the process is looking at the tapes and thinking we could make it about this and then doing another interview and continue shooting..."

Second, given the importance of the media, especially the visual media, in communication today and in the students lives, 'We should be teaching media skills, or whatever you would call it, the way we teach writing and reading-we say these are skills, eg. how to look at television? I think they almost have to get into the process of making videos to understand what, for example, editing is in video, in television. How stuff gets made if they are to really understand what they are watching and how it got to be that way .. what they are NOT seeing ... what a camera is all about .. how it limits and exaggerates what we see. And they have to loam those skills just as much as they have to learn writing and reading if not more because they spend more time with it. There are a very small group of people right now who have the skills to do this stuff, just like hundreds of years ago we didn't think everyone needed to learn how to read. And I am sure that in the future this is going to be required."

The case for a comprehensive and very serious critical approach to all the information and image input today was underlined by another teacher who observed that students "are being bombarded with negative, manipulative messages through entertainment, the news media; it is useless to list all the ways they are propagandized and manipulated." Her experience is that UHHS students are developing the ability to take apart such things as the reporting of the very publicized brutal rape and assault of a woman jogger in Central Park which took place in the spring term. The students were able to step back and evaluate 'What we know for sure happened, what we think happened, what is being reported and what are the issues" and to use that to discuss all this in relationship to the issues and reporting of other highly charged events such as the Howard Beach attack in 1986.

Closely related to, but also distinct from, explicit critical comprehension and communication is the need to develop creative appreciation and expression, such as the books of poetry mentioned earlier, artistic creation, video works and more. In important ways this is tied into the rich diverse cultural roots and background ot the students.

One student suggested that every month the school should have a special celebration of a different culture so that people will be able to better understand and appreciate the different backgrounds and students would have a chance to express themselves in what they understand about their cultural heritage. A teacher made a similar suggestion and several responses indicated that learning about one's own heritage and that of others was a top priority.

The importance of studying material representing the different cultures, including literature and art, was highlighted by several teachers. Certainly the overall rejection of any narrow "cultural literacy core" as noted earlier indicates that the staff has some unity about the negative aspects of imposing more "white American male" standards on students' creative efforts.

Putting this into practice, of course, proves more difficult. On one hand the idea is to encourage the students to study and develop the most creative understanding and expression, yet on the other, there are standards to be met, such as in the standardized use of English. Moreover the majority of students at UHHS rely upon various expressions in Spanish, or a form of "street language" to express many of their thoughts and feelings. Unless these are to be "put down", which no one agreed to, then there is at least the need for students to learn how to 'translate" at appropriate times without losing the desire and ability to deepen their appreciation and expression of different cultures or "sub-cultures."

In this connection several students and staff members felt that there might be more emphasis placed on UHHS being more bilingual. Everyone needs to know how to handle English well, but more emphasis might be given to more people learning Spanish. The reasons given were both practical in terms of being able to talk with many more people, and "cultural," with more appreciation of the cultures represented.

Social Studies

The last major area to be reported on is the general social studies area including Global and US History, Economics, Geography, American Government, and aspects of Philosophy, Anthropology and more. Some of these subjects are taken up in separate classes and many are also integral parts of the interdisciplinary seminars.

Establishing an agreed to minimal, "bottom linen of what students need to learn in the area of social studies poses some particular questions. New York State is instituting an RCT in social studies. All UHHS staff agree that or practical reasons (graduation) students need to learn enough to pass this test.

But even more than in other disciplines the content and interpretations of what students need to learn, beyond what is needed for meeting standards, is subject to widely differing views. Such differences in part reflect the diversity of political experience and views present in the ranks of teachers and students in any school and especially amongst those who have chosen to study and teach in the area of social studies. These differences, which are present in the UHHS staff, also reflect and concentrate political questions and perspectives in the wider society and indeed the human community on a world scale. Since it is such an important and controversial area it might help to define a framework for the discussion of the UHHS staff and student responses.

Broadly categorized, these perspectives range from seeing the existing economic, political and ideological structures and the content and operation of a given society to be overall sound, if with significant problems which need to be reformed in some way, to viewing those same structures and content as fundamentally flawed requiring some kind of radical change.

Depending on how a particular question comes up in the life of a school and society, individual views on a particular issue frequently fall out somewhere between these two "extremes", and not always towards the same end of the spectrum. Moreover people can and do change their minds. But overall people do, implicitly if not always explicitly and consciously, more or less define and find themselves somewhere on the spectrum, and act and teach with that orientation. And such views do reflect and interact with all manner of political questions related to educational and society wide structures, procedures, content and overall ideology/world view.

Thus even the approach to an RCT test in social studies or other requirements varies within UHHS staff from thinking that such a standard test and content is good because it provides a minimum people should know to being skeptical at best about a test and a curriculum if that is to be "imposed" from above. The strongest critique comes from a perspective which is more critical of the existing institutions and operations of existing society.

Indeed the critique and approach can even welcome an "official" top down curriculum and content and test in social studies so that, from this point of view, the students will be better able to recognize such as the "official story". This can then be compared and contrasted with different content and interpretations, if alternative histories" for example, and the students' critical ability is developed in the process.

An example from an experimental Social Studies RCT test of June 1988 illustrates what is involved. A mulitple choice question asked how Franklin Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy" towards Latin America differed from earlier US policy in that region. The "correct" answer was that the Good Neighbor Policy was based on cooperation rather than domination. This is the official view of US history in most texts and in this test, and it is the only answer for which the student will receive credit. But there are quite different accounts and interpretations of US actions in Latin America during Roosevelt's presidency which were not even listed as one of the multiple choice options.

As several people noted, every society today and in the past, propagates a more or less official, "correct" version of that society's history. And on virtually every important question there are "official" and "alternative" interpretations, not only particular historical events but broad social, cultural issues which frequently come under the umbrella of "social studies."

It is in this area that the controversy over a cultural literacy core is sharpest. Arguing against such a core, one social studies teacher said, 'Western civilization did not start the history of the world .. it is more important for students to begin to understand African, and Asian and Third World History and how the Western World took from Africa and Asia ... when you begin to understand that there were scholars, medical science and legal institutions in Africa and Asia when Europe was in the dark ages you begin to understand that there is more to it than the story being told .. how can you explain geometry for example without talking about the pyramids and howthe Egyptians used that .. where math was developed in the first place is important,"

That this is not an irrelevant debate amongst teachers was brought home when a specific historical question which Hirsch assumes all students who finish the sixth grade should know was asked of a group of UHHS students. The question was, "What happened in 1492. Of the seven or eight students present the responses were: "it seems so far away', "the Boston Tea Party', 'American Revolution". "Columbus discovered America" and 'Who cares?" Moreover the "correct" response when stated did not elicit any other agreement and the young man who said it remembered from a "stupid little nursery rhyme I learned as a kid."

Although these answers might shock Mr. Hirsch and others, the fact that they did not know that 1492 was the precise date Columbus discovered America did not particularly trouble the students. However several did have knowledge and interpretations of what took place when Columbus landed, particularly the young woman who had earlier remarked "Who cares?" She said, "Actually he wasn't the first to discover America, the Indians were already here. They were born here. They were pushed out, killed, and made slaves. "

Several UHHS staff discussed this "What happened in 14927, matter in some detail in an editing session of this report. The tentative consensus was that it should not be a matter of either making a fetish out of knowing certain dates or of making a principle out of not knowing certain dates. In fact it would be a good thing to know that in 1492 Columbus landed in this hemisphere but also to know a number of other things about that time in history such as what took place with regard to the lives and well being of the people who greeted Columbus, what kind of vision and skills it required for Columbus and the crew of the ships to make this sail, why the Spanish crown sponsored Columbus on this voyage, what else was going on in Spain then (the Spanish Inquisition began in 1492) and Europe, and many other facts and interpretations which would put 1492" in context and help the students develop a more profound and critical understanding.

There may be major topics which all social studies teachers and others would agree should be taught. As one staff member said, both he and William Bennett might agree that the Constitution is an important part of American history and that it is important to understand it to understand the workings of American politics and power structure. But as that teacher recognized there will be definite differences in how the Constitution is taught and studied and what is learned.

It may be useful to quote at length here the description of how this class is approaching and discussing the Constitution:

"One of the things we talk about is how did the Constitution come about? Who created this document and why did they do it? What were their positions in life and their motivations? And what were the arguments surrounding it?. There is a tendency in a lot of American schools to deity this document as though it appeared in a flash of lightning to these Founding Fathers who were not unlike Saints or Angels who never ate, or went to the bathrroom, etc. By humanizing the document and getting into the question of interests and power-economic interests, social interests, personal interests, we have been able to make this document, which is the law of the land, a bit more accessible to the students because they can understand it in more real terms of how people work and relate in society, and to see the not always obvious relationship between economic interests and political decisions.

'We look at specific individuals and their social standings, the type of holdings they had; merchant bankers v. farmers, plantation and slave owners, and how these very real economic interests were the basis for political arguments about how power would be distributed and the Federalist debate. We helped them to see that this was not some pure Olympian debate but that there were a lot of economic considerations and that that is important to remember al/ the time. And this led to discussion about the very real tension between property, equality and liberty which lies at the heart of our polily~

'This is a theme we are trying to extend through the analysis of history up through the War of 18/2 to see how the country was eventually split and went to war over mainly economic interests and reason, and how money makes the world go round to a great extent in our society and that is very much evident in our history.

"Dealing with the Bill of Rights - we try to connect that with their own experience of growing up in NYC and why it wasn't a part of the original Constitution and who it was who wanted it and who did not and for what reasons. Also it is connected with what has been, the evolution of these rights and how defined and determined by the Supreme Court, looking at some current cases like gun control, abortion, unreasonable search and seizures, freedom of speech and religion ... immediate to the students and about which they can speak. "

As this staff person says, William Bennett or someone with a different political perspective on things, would teach the Constitution rather differently. And there could be a difference in what students learned, beyond the names and dates and some important familiarity with original text, depending on the teacher's political perspective. Bennett's "What Students Need to Learn" might be closer to what is in a proscribed text book or on an RCT test but this UHHS staff thinks that il-Is, teaching closer to what the UHHS students need to know to better understand and deal with how the Constitution and interpretations of it bears upon their rights, and life itself, today in the Bronx and elsewhere.

In other seminars and classes other staff teach the basic workability of the capitalist system, as perhaps the best possible system, or at least as the system in which these students can and/or must operate. Teaching how the system works is crucial in the view of one staff member so that the students will know the "rules of the game" and be playing with "the right equipment" and win as much as possible.

In this approach, learning the practical operations also is a good way to learn theoretical dimensions. In Economics, a class studied consumer buying and managing personal budgets. Another class "played" the stock market with 1100,000" while next year plans are to have a class actually operate a small sales business at the school. And several sessions of a seminar were devoted to learning how to analyze and do briefs on legal cases and the seminar conducted a "moot court" in part to learn more about how the legal system operates.

Clearly there are differences within the staff about what is most important for UHHS students to learn in social studies and it is just as clear that all the teachers believe that they are teaching "what is most important." The stated philosophy of the school is that such diversity is not only inevitable, but is healthy and should be openly acknowledged and understood by staff and students alike. Since these are vital and controversial questions, carrying out this philosophy in a way in which the students can "see the pros and cons of everything" is not a simple matter.

Throughout this report both students and teachers said critical thinking and communication was extremely important. The responses show that in social studies this becomes even more complex but also possibly more crucial. Literally what a teacher chooses to require the students to read or view in a class and the discussion which takes place about that is a direct input into the students' thinking. This can more or less reinforce the "official" version usually provided by a society's institutions, especially school and media, or it can pose alternatives. On any issue or question of significance and interest to the students in any subject, what goes on in the classroom and school in general either reinforces the prevailing and more or less official perspective or it tends to raise questions about it.

Section I referred to several students' view that the main purpose of studying history was to be able to influence and change the present and future course of events, both for themselves and society. They also said that meant learning about both the successes and mistakes in the past so as to be able to build on the former and not repeat the latter. And they spoke about needing to be able to say "right or wrong" about such things as the civil right movements and war, and to learn what is the "truth" and what are "lies".

If nothing else, this discussion of the responses and thinking and perspectives about what students need to learn in social studies serves to underline the high stakes involved if developing critical capacity is to be a real priority in what students need to learn. And particularly if the first two major points of Sec I are taken seriously: "Students need to learn that they have a choice in life" and to develop their ability 'to take in a huge and increasing input of raw information, images, experiences and knowledge and to process that critically .. to be able to take more control of their lives and influence the life of society to the greatest extent possible. "

Beyond any particular facts, there is considerable agreement that students "need to learn" in social studies that they "should always ask why", that there is more than one version and interpretation of things, that they can search out and evaluate other information and interpretations, that teachers have different perspectives and are up front about that as well as honestly trying to present and discuss material which will help students to be able 'to see the pros and cons about everything", that what they have experienced, indeed their heritage, their cultural backgrounds and what they feel and say are respected, and that what they think and do in their lives can and must make a difference in society.

Section III

What do Students Need to Learn About Individual and Community Life in UHHS Itself And How That Relates to the Whole Society?

This last section takes up several broad questions and runs the risk of generalities and platitudes about extremely crucial questions of social relations, questions which are part of the "breathing in and out" of every school community. That is, every school teaches a great deal about individual and collective life both in practice and precept, consciously and unconsciously. At UHHS there is a relatively high priority given to consciously trying to have structures and processes which encourage students and staff to participate cooperatively in all aspects of the school community's life.

Every student is a member of a small Family Group which meets every day to talk about students' educational experiences and countless other school matters, as well as discussion about major questions such as drugs, sexual relations, race and more. There are several joint committees which deal with social and educational issues. The concept of "Student as Worker" calls for initiative and cooperation. The staff and students interact at all levels in a wide variety of ways. In all of this what is it that is it that is being learned or needs to be learned?

A large part of the effort of Family Groups and other collaborative effort is directed at keeping the students coming to school and doing the academic work. The idea is to have the student learn that there are other students and staff who really care and are not going to easily let the student slide off into cutting school and classes and assignments and drift into the world of the street. The need to go on to college or prepare for work after high school is a central theme in all of this as well as a great effort to create and maintain a school identity. If a student drops out for any number of reasons there is a concerted effort to bring that person back.

Several students responded that learning to work together was the most important thing in the schook-to respect each other and be open to differences, to be open to and open minded about other people and their experiences and opinions. Students do experience and learn that social relations with people of differing backgrounds and experiences and interests can be carried on in a relatively comfortable and supportive setting. Deep friendships are built and students frequently make moving and powerful statements, including those at graduation about such profound experiences and relationships.

Whether in Family Group, or other ways, students learn that they can talk about major questions in the school and larger society and about their personal problems and in fact are encouraged to do so. Many of the staff underlined this as an essential dimension and dynamic at UHHS. Several pointed to the relatively "safe" environment of the school which allows the students to interact with each other and staff without the presence or fear of guns, kinves or violent incidents around the corner.

For example on the question of drugs there are differing assessments of how much it is used by UHHS students, but there is no doubt about it being a major problem in the communites where most of the students live. Even if UHHS is freer of drugs than most NYC high schools, and most schools in the burbs as well, there are few student populations in the country who live in a more drug infested area. For many the opportunity to deal drugs is more of a temptation than using them. And the violence connected with the drug trade including the police actions in the "war on drugs" is part of these students' neighborhoods and daily lives, part of a larger oppressive situation.

In this situation students "needs" differ. Some still have little real knowledge about drugs and this is provided, especially by other students who talk about either their own experience or of people they know well. More often students have a good deal of such knowledge and the problem is to stay off them and/or away from the "fallout" of living in a drug area.

Both students and staff underlined that there are real limits to what can be done in any school about such a massive and pervasive and complex problem but the theory and practice at UHHS is that every opportunity should be provided for students to talk about it with each other and staff, and with "outside" experts including ex-addicts, who have different experiences and approaches to how the drug question should be handled.

Several staff pointed out that the Family Group and other interpersonal relations at UHHS call for a great deal of emotional support. In the words of one , "a lot of love goes on here.. everybody really is here for the good of the students and I think the whole country had better do that if the country is to survive." Another staff member said that though there were definitely differences on a lot of questions "nobody is just putting time in here, picking up the paycheck. "

Good intentions of course have their limits and another staff told of a favorite learning experience "about the limitations of family groups and the collective structures here. We did some stuff about homosexuality and a kid in my Family says, 'Yo, if my brother was a faggot I would kill him' and I thought 'Oh MY GOD' and I looked at him and my face showed my shock and he goes, 'Oh sorry .. if my brother was a homosexual I'd kill him'. So what he had learned was that we use the term homosexual here!" Nonetheless it is important that students learn that some terms and attitudes about such things as sexuality and race are not simply accepted as OK where people are trying to learn to learn and live and work together.

The questions of different life styles, cultures, races, languages has to be, as one staff said, "a topic of discussion in any NYC school and certainly is in UHHS. Virtually all students and staff responses indicated that students learn and do well at openly discussing such questions in Family Group and at UHHS generally. In fact, several teachers indicated that the students themselves were frequently better at these discussions than the teachers. The sense of what should be discussed, and how, was more real and out of their experience than for several staff of different backgrounds. Also it was suggested that another reason that staff may have more difficulty is that staff may have a number of stereotypes and hangups, even if intellectually those have been discarded. Teachers do indeed have much to learn from the students at UHHS as both students and staff pointed out. Students need to learn that this is both possible and desired.

Another question raised in several ways about the experience at UHHS, overall, had to do with how much and how well it "translated" into the students experience with the "outside" world. To the extent UHHS does provide a more comfortable setting and community in which students can learn and relate to diverse groups of people, the "real" world of the NYC and the world may seem to stand in even sharper contrast. How do students learn to switch as needed? How do they learn to influence and change society?

Responses to this very difficult and urgent question varied. On one hand was a strong feeling that these students have more than enough "dealing with the real world" in their lives and do not need UHHS staff to tell them that it is a rough world out there and how to cope with it. In this view the task of UHHS is to provide a real alternative experience of education and relating to people so that they will have some sense that "it is possible to live in a cooperative society and be motivated to work towards it to one degree or another." Along with this goes a very strong emphasis on all of the collective, cooperative structures and processes, the concept of 'learn" at all levels is foremost.

On the other hand, there is the realization that challenging questions remain: How relevant is UHHS to the wider community from Bronx Community College to the Bronx itself`7 To the dynamics of the larger society in this country and the world? To the crucial debate and struggle going on in the ranks and field of public education - acknowledged by all sides to be in deeper and deeper crisis? How well are the UHHS students being prepared for the most difficult task of forging creative and constructive lives in a city and world which appears to careen from one crisis to another?

These and many more questions do not rest when we are considering what students need to learn today. It may be appropriate to close with a comment from staff spoken particularly to those who would teach: 'We live on a planet and we may not have a lot of time. Do we want to take a global view of learning, values and change or do we just go through the same routines without questioning? That is where critical thinking comes in for us ... we should be questioning what we are teaching and if it is effective, its purpose. And if we don't do that how can we expect our students to do it? Regardless of what subject it is"!

This project is a tribute to a number of people: Phil Farnham did a most intelligent and thoughtful job of interviewing and writing this ethnographic study of our staff and how we see our students learning and how we envision doing that in the depth we all yearn for.

The International High School did a similar self-study and we thank them and the Assistant Principal in Charge - Eric Nadelstern - for the many creative and progressive things they inspire in the rest of us.

Our staff and students are the subjects and the substance of this project. They regularly surpass anyone's imagination in their reach for and grasp of what is vital and most important to all of us.

I am proud to submit this, our work-in progress. We invite you to join in our dialogue.