Can schools teach privacy or even honor it? For the most part, a school is not a private place, nor can it be. Students regularly submit their work to their teachers. Administrators visit classrooms and observe lessons in progress. Visitors come to evaluate schools. Schools send reports to their districts. Adults must look out for the welfare of the children; nothing should escape their eye. Yet much learning takes place in the seclusion of the mind. To think independently and well, we must think alone, removing ourselves from distractions and passing influences. We do this when solving a math problem, pondering a historical question, or memorizing a poem. Schools may have forgotten the importance of this. In their mania for “student engagement,” they blithely discard private thought with no regard for consequences.
Classrooms around the country, from kindergarten into college, have replaced teacher-led instruction with the “workshop model,” typically a short lesson followed by small-group activity in which each group member has a specific task. One member may be the note-taker, another the timer, another the spokesperson, and another the moderator. As the group busies itself, the teacher actively monitors the groups and records their behavior on forms and checklists. Is everyone engaged? Are they practicing Accountable Talk®? Does everyone have a specific role? Are they producing evidence of their work?
Amen to the sanctity of the individual mind. Encourage it. Treasure it. Worship it.
As Thomas Jefferson said (though I don’t know the exact citation):
Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.