A Soviet refugee, now an American scientist, is trying to start a charter school in Massachusetts to teach a rigorous math and science curriculum. The locals are suffering from “patriotic pique,” reports the Boston Globe.
“I believe kids in elementary and middle school are just wasting their time in school. Everybody feels they’re supposed to have fun,” said (Julia) Sigalovsky, 48, a Sudbury resident. “They’re capable of learning at a much higher level.”
. . . Critics have distributed fliers accusing outsiders of denigrating their schools by saying an American education is inferior to that of Russia, China, and Germany. At a forum last week, assistant superintendent John Petrin demanded to know, “Where’s this proposal coming from? Where is the need? It’s coming from the outside.”
Audience members said Sigalovsky’s school would be based on a model that is as discredited and obsolete as Communism. “She talked about Germany, how they teach in . . . China and Japan. I don’t want my kids educated like Germans,” said Tom Leveillee, 77, a retiree and World War II veteran.
The proposed school for grades six through 12 also is being criticized because it might attract the best students but be too hard for students with learning problems.
Sigalovsky’s concept is founded on some basic principles: that children should, and can, grasp theoretical knowledge before learning examples. That schools should teach physics, chemistry, algebra, geometry, and biology not just once in four years, but every year. That history should not be divided by country, but should survey the modern world. That literature should parallel the history courses and should focus on periods and movements instead of countries. That geography is not tangential, but an integral part of understanding world history.
Specialists in their fields would be recruited to teach. There would be some drilling, a famous aspect of Soviet education. A child would have to be enrolled by seventh grade. “If by the age of 13 they don’t have the habits, the hard work, and logical thinking, it’s too late,” Sigalovsky said. She says they will accommodate special education needs, but if a child cannot keep up, he will not advance.
Whether her ideas will work, I can’t say. The whole charter idea is that she should be allowed to offer the option to interested parents. And there will be parents willing to try out some of them fancy foreign education ideas.