Debate Magazine

“both/and” Vs. “neither/nor”

By Stevemiranda

One of my greatest challenges in explaining PSCS to people is this: When I say that we have no required academic classes, a lot of folks translate that in their heads as, “Oh, this school doesn’t really deliver academics in a serious way.”

When I say that our product is an environment in which kids feel good about themselves, which leads them to challenge themselves in a variety of ways—including academics—a lot folks think, “Hmm, OK got it. It’s a trade-off. This school does the social-emotional stuff really well, but we’d better hire a tutor to make sure the kid gets the academic stuff.”

One of my greatest challenges is explaining that it’s not a matter of “either/or.” It’s about “both/and.”

PSCS is about developing the whole child. When kids feel whole, the barriers preventing them from learning—fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of adults, fear of not being smart enough, fear of doing something hard—dissolve away. What follows is a grasp of academic material that is much more profound than anything that can occur in an environment of coercion. It’s “both/and.”

The tragic irony is that, for many kids—and remember, one-third of 9th grade students nationwide do not graduate in four years—academics is the primary focus of their school. The social-emotional pieces are, for the most part, ignored. So their school experience can be summed up this way: “neither/nor.”

We have a choice in how we’re going to educate young people in this country. It’s a choice between “both/and” vs. “neither/nor.”

We as a society have chosen “neither/nor.”

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