Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Martial Arts at DuBois and Aero Space: Examples of Productivity in Learning?

I came across the W.E.B. DuBois Academy in some reading I've been doing. For those who don't know, the Academy is one of the best performing charter schools in Ohio. The school serves an at-risk population, meets AYP in Ohio, and has been labled a "School of Promise" by the Ohio State Department of Education for exceeding 75 percent academic proficiency among low-income and minority students--98 percent of the schools students are African-American.

The brainchild of Wilson H. Willard, III, Dubois Academy's mission is to engender a love of learning among its students, and not just any kind of learning: DuBois promotes productive learning. What is productive learning? While I'm not sure excatly what productive learnnig is, I'm pretty sure I've participated in it's antithesis--unproductive learning. To aid in reaching this end (productive learning) DuBois requires its students to enroll in martial arts physical education classes "to help them acquire the traditional martial arts values of self-control and discipline." DuBois boasts that their combined martial arts trophy wins are close to 700. That's impressive for a school that serves students in grades 1-12. But the Aero Space Kindergarten, a Chinese preschool and kindergarten in Beijing, may have them beat, see above.

Martial arts is part of the curriculum at Aero Space. The children are adroit in martial arts. The children are 2, 3, 4, and five years old. The children pictured above are four. For the self-control and discipline haters out there the children were also very carefree, outgoing, and seemingly full of whimsy. I had nearly half a classroom of five-year-old english language learners crawling all over me, asking me questions, and eager to sing to me and with me. If productivity is related to self-control and discipline the 1.3 billion Chinese might be on to something. So might DuBois.

Now someone has got to untangle the effect size of Martial arts on productivity and we'll all be singing "nobody bothers me."


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