True or false: Educational progressives promote teacher creativity, while traditionalists support scripted lessons. If you said true, pick up the latest issue of Education Next and read Barbara Feinberg's article. It chronicles the lofty career of uber-progressive Lucy Calkins, creator of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and beneficiary of a $5.4 million no-bid professional development contract from the (mayor-controlled) New York City school system. While Calkins became famous 25 years ago for her innovative and mostly laudable ideas about teaching young children to write, Feinberg explains that "over time, some of her methods became dogmatic and extreme, yet her influence continued to grow." Among her more idiosyncratic demands: children shall not write fantasy. "Once upon a time is against the law in our school," explained one six-year-old. A teacher's diary communicates the widespread frustration among the rank-and-file: "Sometimes I feel like I'm a robot regurgitating the scripted dialogue that's expected of us day in and day out." Did we mention that Calkins is supposedly a "progressive"?
"The Lucy Calkins Project," by Barbara Feinberg, Education Next, Summer 2007