Thoughts, Resources and Ideas on Education

Schools Serve Junk Food to Children

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Companies profiting from serving low quality food to schools might be no longer safe.  A 9-year-old Scottish girl, Martha Payne, started posting pictures of the food they get served in her school.  I believe that the ubiquity of cameras in phones will really help denounce things like this that have been hidden from parents so far.  It’s mind-blowing to see what  they serve to kids, but adding insult to injury,  it’s easy to see what the strategy is.  They give junk food that kids tend to like:  pasta, hamburger, ice lolly, pizza…   all with a very obvious intention, not to get the kids complaining. In the meantime they can make a good profit with collateral damage of making future unhealthy and obese children.

I also searched for a tray from a prison and truth is that it looks better than this girl’s (see bottom pic).  Maybe inmates are tougher to mistreat than children. The blogger girl has a hard time estimating the cost of any meal at above £2, but I think she is missing the economies of scale, so I would estimate what I see at below £1.  On the other hand, young inmates in her country get twice as much, as said in an article about prison food posted on http://www.billandsheilascookbook.com “In the UK, a prison catering manager has about £1.87 ($4) to provide food for each inmate every day. Young offender institutions are allowed double this amount at £3.81 ($8) per day”

This trays used in schools are also quite fascinating.  Of course they are convenient,  how could they not be?  that’s why they use them in prisons.  One could argue that it is a waste of time to give real plates to children as this is faster, cheaper and almost impossible to break,  but one could make that argument for the use of these trays everywhere, also for adults at home and at fancy restaurants.  If we don’t like it for ourselves we shouldn’t like it for our children, should we?

See the girl’s blog at http://neverseconds.blogspot.co.uk/


School’s tray


School’s Tray 2


School’s Tray 3

Nottingham Prison’s Tray


Written by Arvin Abarca

May 13, 2012 at 10:41

Different Types of Giftedness

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This now already old classification of the different types of gifted people might help parents and educators to better understand attitudes and behaviours that can be just a sign of giftedness.  If every teacher would read this list even if only once in their lifetime, I believe that much talent would be saved in the long run.   Many attitudes that are considered disrespectful or unfocused, that often get their “perpetrators” punished for them, have an origin on a uniddentyfied talent.  From my experience I got to conclude that the problem many gifted children face is that their lack of adaptability and compliance makes tutors think they are being defied on their authority.  And sometimes it is true.  But for a reason…


Authors: Betts, G., Neihart M.

Published in:  Gifted Child Quarterly

National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)


Type I – The Successful.  Perhaps as many as 90% of identified gifted students in school programs are Type I’s. Children who demonstrate the behavior, feelings, and needs classified as Type I’s have learned the system.

Type II – The Challenging.  Type II’s are the divergently gifted. Many school systems fail to identify Type II gifted children.

Type III – The Underground.  The Type III gifted child is known as “the underground gifted.” Generally, these are middle school females although males may also want to hide their giftedness.

Type IV – The Dropouts.  Type IV gifted students are angry.  Type IV students are frequently gifted children who were identified very late, perhaps not until high school.

Type V – The Double-Labeled.  Type V students often do not exhibit behaviors that schools look for in the gifted.

Type VI – The Autonomous Learner.   Type VI students are independent and self-directed.

Figure 1

-Positive self-concept
-Guilty about failure
-Extrinsic motivation
-Responsible for others
-Diminish feelings of self and rights to their emotion
-Self critical
-High Achiever
-Seeks teacher approval and structure
-Non-risk taking
-Does well academically
-Accepts & conforms
-To see deficiencies
-To be challenged
-Assertiveness skills
-Help with boredom
-Appropriate curriculum
-Loved by teachers
-Admired by peers
-Loved and accepted by parents
-Grade point average
-IQ Tests
-Teacher nominations
-Freedom to make choices
-Time for personal interests
-Risk taking experiences
-Accelerated and enriched curriculum
-Time for personal interests
-Compacted learning experiences
-Opportunities to be with intellectual peers
-Development of independent learning skills
-In-depth studies
-College & career counseling
-Low self-esteem
-Heightened sensitivity
-Uncertain about social roles
-Corrects teacher
-Questions rules, policies
-Is honest, direct
-Has mood swings
-Demonstrates inconsistent work habits
-Has poor self control
-Is creative
-Prefers highly active & questioning approach
-Stands up for convictions
-Is competitive
-To be connected with others
-To learn tact, flexibility, self-awareness, self-control, acceptance
-Support for creativity
-Contractual systems
-Find them irritating
-Engaged in power struggle
-See them as creative
-Discipline problem
-Peers see them as entertaining
-Want to change them
-Don’t view as gifted
-Peer Recommendations
-Parent nomination
-Recommendation from a significant, non-related adult
-Creativity Testing
-Teacher advocate
-Acceptance and understanding
-Allow them to pursue interest
-Advocate for them at school
-Modeling appropriate behavior
-Family projects
-Placement with appropriate teacher
-Cognitive & social skill development
-Direct and clear communication with child
-Give permission for feelings
-Studies in-depth
-Mentorships build self-esteem
-Behavioral contracting
-Diminished feelings of self and right to their emotions
-Denies talent
-Drops out of G/T and advanced classes
-Resists challenges
-Wants to belong socially
-Changes friends
-Freedom to make choices
-To be aware of conflicts
-Awareness of feelings
-Support for abilities
-Involvement with gifted peers
-Career/college info
-Viewed as leaders or unrecognized
-Seen as average and successful
-Perceived to be compliant
-Seen as quiet/shy
-Adults see them as unwilling to risk
-Viewed as resistive
-Gifted peer nomination
-Home nomination
-Community nomination
-Achievement testing
-IQ Tests
-Teacher advocate
-Acceptance of underground
-Provide college & career planning experiences
-Time to be with same age peers
-Provide gifted role models
-Model life-long learning
-Give freedom to make choice
-Recognize & properly place
-Give permission to take time out from G/T classes
-Provide same sex role models
-Continue to give college & career information
-Poor self-concept
-Has intermittent attendance
-Doesn’t complete tasks
-Pursues outside interests
-“Spaced out” in class
-Is self-abusive
-Isolates self
-Is creative
-Criticizes self & others
-Does inconsistent work
-Is disruptive, acts out
-Seems average or below
-Is defensive
-An individualized program
-Intense support
-Alternatives (separate, new opportunities)
-Counseling (individual, group, and family)
-Remedial help with skills
-Adults are angry with them
-Peers are judgmental
-Seen as loners, dropouts, dopers, or air heads
-Reject them and ridicule
-Seen as dangerous and rebellious
-Review cumulative folder
-Interview earlier teachers
-Discrepancy between IQ and demonstrated achievement incongruities and inconsistencies in performance
-Creativity testing
-Gifted peer recommendation
-Demonstrated performance in non-school areas
-Seek counseling for family -Diagnostic testing
-Group counseling for young students
-Nontraditional study skills
-In-depth studies
-Alternative out of classroom learning experiences
-Low self-esteem
-Demonstrates inconsistent work
-Seems average or below
-May be disruptive or acts out
-Emphasis on strengths
-Coping skills
-G/T support group
-Skill development
-Seen as “weird”
-Seen as “dumb”
-Viewed as helpless
-Avoided by peers
-Seen as average or below in ability
-Perceived to require a great deal of imposed structure
-Seen only for the disability
-Scatter of 11 points or more on WISC or WAIS
-Recommendation of significant others
-Recommendation from informed special ed. teacher
-Teacher Advocate
-Recognize gifted abilities
-Challenge them
-Provide risk-taking opportunities
-Advocate for child at school
-Do family projects
-Seek counseling for family
-Placement in gifted program
-Provide needed resources
-Provide alternative learning experiences
-Begin investigations and explorations
-Give time to be with peers
-Give individual counseling
-Self confident
-Self accepting
-Accepted by others
-Desire to know & learn
-Accepts failure
-Intrinsic motivation
-Personal power
-Accepts others
-Has appropriate social skill
-Works independently
-Develops own goals
-Follows through
-Works without approval
-Follows strong areas of passion
-Is creative
-Stands up for convictions
-Takes risks
-Support for risks
-Appropriate opportunities
-Accepted by peers and adults
-Admired for abilities
-Seen as capable and responsible by parents
-Positive influences
-Psychologically healthy
-Grade point average
-Demonstrated performance
-Achievement Testing
-Teacher/Peer/Parent self nominations
-IQ tests
-Creativity Testing
-Advocate for child at school and in community
-Provide opportunities related to passions
-Allow friends of all ages
-Remove time and space restrictions
-Do family projects
-Include child in parent’s passion
-Allow development of long-term integrated plan of study
-Accelerated and enriched curriculum
-Remove time and space restrictions
-Compacted learning experiences with pretesting
-In-depth studies
-College & career counseling and opportunities
-Dual enrollment or early admission
-Waive traditional school policy and regulations

Written by Arvin Abarca

May 4, 2012 at 22:38

The Valedictorian’s Revenge

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This speech is a very inspired criticism by an “insider” of the educational system, a valedictorian. Erica Goldson, graduating from her high school top of the class of 2010, crafted a very harsh speech directed towards the same guys that were happily showing her off as an example of what you can achieve when you follow their directions. Priceless. She then decided not to go to University and travel around her country instead.

Full text transcription

Here I Stand
Erica Goldson

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.” 
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast – How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” 
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”
This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.
Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn’t you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.
I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.
John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don’t do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.
H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not
to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)
To illustrate this idea, doesn’t it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?
This was happening to me, and if it wasn’t for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.
And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.
We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren’t we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.
The saddest part is that the majority of students don’t have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can’t run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be – but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.
For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.
For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.
For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.
So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn’t have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.
I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let’s go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we’re smart enough to do so!

Via: americaviaerica.blogspot.com

Written by Arvin Abarca

May 14, 2011 at 15:49

Posted in Education, Learning, School

Changing Education Paradigms

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Brilliant animation to support a great speech by Sir Ken Robinson about how and why the current education system is completely out-of-place. He touches key subjects such as ADHD, factory-like school organisation, and my blogs’ main theme, grouping children by year of birth.


Written by Arvin Abarca

February 26, 2011 at 13:13

Posted in Development, School, Video

Is Your Child Gifted?

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Traits in Young Gifted Children (source: http://www.giftsforlearning.com/traits.htm )

  1. Need less sleep, even as infants.
  2. As infants, may get fussy if set facing one direction for too long
  3. Frequently reach ‘milestones’ such as walking and first speech earlier than average
  4. May speak late, but then speak in complete sentences
  5. Strong desire to explore, investigate, and master the environment (opens up cabinets, takes things apart)
  6. Toys and games mastered early, then discarded
  7. Very active (but activity with a purpose, not to be confused with ADHD)
  8. Can distinguish between reality and fantasy (questions about Santa or the tooth fairy come very early!

4 to 11 years old questionnaire:


Written by Arvin Abarca

September 30, 2010 at 22:21

Posted in Uncategorized

Dyslexia (video)

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A very nice and artistic short video on dyslexia, the learning disability for which one has difficulty reading. It is estimated to affect up to 10% of the population to some extent.

Written by Arvin Abarca

August 25, 2010 at 22:11

Posted in Uncategorized

Furniture Corner Protectors

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The bauhaus movement brought us simple, elegant and futuristic looking furniture

Corner Protectors

Image 1

that still looks modern 80 years after it happened in Germany’s mid 1920s to mid 1930s.

The designs were so successful that inspired somehow most modern furniture one can buy these days.  The reason of their success could be thought to be because of it great aesthetic appeal.  But once you have a child you realise of the real reason:  Sharp, clean cut corners means cheaper production costs, one of the goals of the original designers. Children safety was most definitely not one their priorities…  specially when you realize that furniture edges tend to be right at the height of a child’s head for the years that they are learning and mastering walking and like running to go to places.

So here they come the sharp corner protectors, and we found out that the only ones that really stick well are the soft foam ones (image 1).


Forget the other ones in hard plastic.  They are cheaper, but they just don’t stick enough and your son or daughter will play getting rid of them in a fraction of a second.  These can also be detached from the surface, but it is much harder to do so and they can be adhered again easily.

Toddler Shield

Image 3: Toddler Shield

If you happen to have a really dangerous piece of furniture, like a crystal table and want to keep it (probably the best would be to send it to the storage room for many years), I found this extreme solution (image 3).

Expensive, but sure worth it if it works well.

Written by Arvin Abarca

August 19, 2010 at 23:04

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