Recently, I appeared on an Austin Based radio show,

What appears below isn’t quite a transcript, but for those of you who are more linear than aural learners, here are both their questions and my answers.


Our guest, David Greene, is an educator, author, and a champion of experiential learning. He is going to help us better understand why we need a system of education that gives teachers the freedom and flexibility to focus on our children individually to inspire them to be great in their own ways, about how our educational system is changing to a one-size-fits all approach and how independent teachers are the solution.


TWITTER: @dcgmentor


You used to teach high school, David – was this when you first realized that education was going the wrong direction in this country?

I have never said it was. My responses have been against those who said it was. We have had a long history of high quality teaching and reforms. Research has shown that education is only “as bad as they say” when there is high poverty, and all the social issues that go with it. But I can attest to evidence when that is the case and the exceptions to those rules, since I was both grew up as a student and taught as a teacher in one of those areas.

Why are teachers the solution?

Professionals are always the solution to issues within their own profession. Why do so many with a several million dollars, a political position, or a degree in journalism think, say, and convince others otherwise? I have a financial advisor from a major national company, and once I was in a national ad for their company where I said (in my own words) “I am not an expert, so I rely on one.” That should go for education as well.

In your book you write about “power of intrinsic motivation”. What do you mean by that?

Practical wisdom and intrinsic motivation have been researched by many, including Barry Schwartz (Practical Wisdom) and Daniel Pink (Drive), who have each written books any politician can understand.

Extrinsic motivation ONLY works best when the assignment neither inspires passion nor requires deep thinking, problem solving, or a more creative approach. Extrinsic motivation ONLY works best when the goal of the assignment is not to instill a long-range love of a subject or practice. In short, it can be used to learn to do simple, routine things.

As Pink explains, “The sorts of abilities that matter most now turn out are also the sorts of things that people do out of intrinsic motivation. Is this testing? No. It’s good teaching.

To achieve this intrinsic motivation, human beings not only need autonomy and mastery, they need purpose. Teachers must be able to answer the question kids often ask, “What are we doing’ this for?” If the answers are simply for a good grade or to prepare for the standardized exam, we are exacerbating the problem, not solving it. Kids need to know there is a real purpose to the assignment or work. Purpose and PASSION energize. Kids are more motivated pursuing purpose.

That brings me to the WISE PROGRAM:

LONG before the phrase “College and Career Ready” was created; long before there were NCLB and RTTT; since 1973 in fact, high school seniors, including both of my children, of all ability levels have created individualized real-world experiences called WISE projects, exploring their passions outside the traditional classroom.  Over that time, more than 40,000 WISE graduates at over 120 high schools have learned to collaborate and to work independently, developing organizational, research, writing, and presentation skills as they ignite a lifetime of personal growth.

In your writing, you address the problem with boys in the modern classroom – what is the problem, and why are boys failing?

AGAIN: We have failed to pay attention to the sociological, pedagogical, and biological research. One of the most consistent findings in the research is that over the past thirty years, schools have moved to teaching methods that favor how girls learn. Add this to the increasing data about how and why boys are faring less and less well in school, and you have an understanding about how much of a crisis this is within education, especially among minority males, our most failing demographic.

Recent studies show:

  • 72 percent of all female students graduated HS
  • 65 percent of all male students (-7%)
  • 49 percent of black males (-23%)
  • 137 women have graduated college for every 100 men
  • 130+ women earned master’s degrees for every 100 men
    • 185 women have graduated from college for every 100 men

Aside from those comparative annual statistics, in general, from K-12:

  • Boys are greatly outnumbered in every extracurricular activity outside of sports, from student government to student newspapers and academic clubs.
  • By twelve years of age, boys are almost twice as likely to have repeated at least one grade.
  • Boys comprise the majority of permanent high school dropouts.
  • Boys are approximately three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD.
  • Boys are ten times as likely to be referred for possible ADHD/ADD as girls.
  • Boys (ages fifteen to nineteen) are five times as likely as girls to commit suicide.
  • Boys are more than three times as likely to be expelled from school.
  • Preschool boys (ages three to four) are expelled at a rate about four and a half times that of girls.

In short, the average boy of fifty to seventy-five years ago would have been very likely diagnosed with ADHD today, especially if they were bored and gifted boys.

Do students perform better when they are given a more active role in their education?

 Yes. WISE projects, project based learning, and simulations all provide students with the power of self-determination with structured guidance. I constantly try to inform people of the difference between teacher controlled and teacher directed yet student-centered classrooms. In these situations the teacher acts far more as a composer-conductor of a jazz band than the General of an army.

What do you have against Common Core?

 I do not disagree with its most generic goals. Who doesn’t want students developing better reading ability or better critical thinking, or better problem solving skills? I, as well has many of my colleagues, have been working our entire professional lives on helping students develop those essential skills long before they came to be called 21st century.

However, Common Core State Standards was generated and exists as a result of a series of myths and lies. Myths and lies initiated how it originated, what it has become, how it was fostered upon states, and how corporations have found their way to control the money to be made in education. A common core of texts, resources, and lesson plans, curricula (illegal) tests and scorers was pushed on 45 states as part of the $4.3 billion bribe to accept Race To The Top funding.

Adoption of “common standards” was an incentive to win federal funding that would go along with the waiver from the NCLB mandate that all students be reading proficient by 2014. The problem was and is that The RTTT carrot is poisoned with common standards, newer tests and is, actually, NCLB 2.0.

All of these were part of a plan that told adopting states that they had to:

1.adopt international benchmarked standards and assessments that prepare students for success in college and the workplace. (But according to whom? …measures are untested unreliable and invalid.)

2.Build instructional data systems that measure student success and inform teachers and principals on how they can improve their instruction (but not to the kids tested because the grades come back in the summer and without an item analysis to help teachers figure out exactly what needed to be worked on.)

  1. Turn around the lowest performing schools based on these tests…(which led to controlled content, test prep, and cheating.
  2. Lifting caps on Charter Schools.

Teachers all over the country have done all of the good things in CCSS for decades yet the perpetrators have denied the existence of these good teaching methods and claimed them as their own.

Some of our audience members have probably considered “un-schooling,” which is very unstructured and student-led – but that’s not what you’re advocating. What’s the difference in your estimation?

 Un or home schooling is too hit or miss. Too often it is another case of “we know better”. How many qualified people are able to do a high quality schooling their own kids?

I can see the point home school advocates make in some districts where people feel hopeless and with no alternatives BUT a major problem with homeschooling is that it revolves only around individual, not communal educational needs and it also weakens the fight FOR better public schools. Plus in all honesty, in many cases, not all, it can be another version of I don’t want my kid going to school with “those kids”.

So you believe in assessment tools and structured feedback, but not tests?

 I ask this. Whose tests and why they are given? The oldest set of “standardized” tests like NYS regents never made a difference in any graduates ability, certainly not mine. I believe in Authentic Assessment that can accurately reflect how well a student is learning through a variety of measures like tests, essays, project based learning, cartooning, art, research papers, simulations, etc.… Each assessment MUST ALSO provide immediate and accurate NARRATIVE feedback which can immediately be used by a student to improve his or her skills, not just for the next assessment, but to improve the adaptive skills of learning how to learn, solve problems, and think critically.

What is the way forward? How can we get our schools back on track and our children more engaged and successful?

 To paraphrase the character Howard Beale in the classic movie, NETWORK,

“All I know is that first you’ve got to get mad. You’ve got to say, ‘I’m a HUMAN BEING, God damn it! My kid’s life has VALUE!’ Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

They have to get mad as hell. They have to vote locally and state wide first to make differences in local school boards and state legislatures. They have to organize locally as thousands have in Long Island New York or Nationally in groups like SAVE OUR SCHOOLS, UNITED OPT OUT, OR THE BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION AND… say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’

We have to learn from history. Populists and Progressives came together a century ago to get rid of the control of industries and the abuses of the first Gilded Age where Trusts ruled legislatures allowing them to reap millions and billions.

We simply have to do the same.