Today, he'd be fired. But when he died a few years ago, he was celebrated...The teaser on the sidebar "Popular" list got me to click, but my hopes are dashed. It's nice to look at the past for sighs and nostalgia and exclamations of "You can't do that today," but you can't look to this past and see how to fix education.
The essay writer, Joanne Lipman, does try to extract some lessons — "A little pain is good for you," rote learning works, etc., — but she begins with predictable disclaimers:
Now I'm not calling for abuse; I'd be the first to complain if a teacher called my kids names. But the latest evidence backs up my modest proposal.(We're using "modest proposal" unsarcastically now?)
Lipman assures us that "Studies have now shown" that something she calls "conventional wisdom" — nurturing self-esteem and a joy in discovery of knowledge — is wrong.
Kupchynsky was a music teacher, and I don't know what went on in Ukraine that led to his ferocity and his relocation to a northern New Jersey high school, but he was off the norm even then. (I happen to be an authority on high school in northern New Jersey in the 1960s. I had 4 years of direct personal experience.)
Anyway, Lipman has a book to sell, about Kupchynsky, and maybe it will fire up the same crowd that got excited about "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" a couple years ago. Remember that? It was also about drilling youngsters into proficiency playing classical music.
But most of what kids need to learn isn't music performance, and those who get carried away thinking about strict music education ought to demonstrate their love of strictness by being stricter with themselves as they contemplate the effectiveness of different approaches to educating children. Consider whether there's something self-indulgent, sentimental, and even perverse in your dreams of fixing education by getting tough with children.
Did you instinctively resist my suggestion? Ah, you just took my tough test of whether you are serious about toughness.
And you failed!