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Praxis

Love in the Schoolyard: A Flash Mob in Brooklyn

Something unusually delightful greeted students on the morning of June 19 as they lined up to enter Public School 10 in Brooklyn. The event had nothing to do with standardized testing, Common Core curricula, preparation for college or careers. It was a flash mob: a couple of hundred parents and teachers dancing, bouncing and pirouetting in an intricately choreographed performance whose sole aim was to surprise and enchant the kids:

P.S.10 Flash Mob 6-19-2012 (Official) from Benton Collins on Vimeo.

If you don’t have time to watch all ten minutes of beauty, you’ll want to see the 4:00 mark, when the beloved principal and assistant principal sashay out of the building twirling boas, and at 5:20 and beyond when the kids join the fray and boogie to LMFOA’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

I argued two weeks ago that humor belongs in every classroom: it makes us smarter and builds tighter community. The PS 10 flash mob is testament to a broader principle. Peter Hobbs called the event “a victory for humankind.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau explains why in a poignant passage from his 1762 book “Emile, or On Education”:

Men, be humane. This is your first duty. Be humane with every station, every age, everything which is not alien to man. What wisdom is there for you but humanity?  Love childhood; promote its games, its pleasures, its amiable instinct. Who among you has not sometimes regretted that age when a laugh is always on the lips and the soul is always at peace? Why do you want to deprive these little innocents of the enjoyment of a time so short which escapes them and of a good so precious which they do not know how to abuse? Why do you want to fill with bitterness and pains these first years which go by so rapidly and can return no more for them than they can for you? Fathers, do you know the moment when death awaits your children? Do not prepare regrets for yourself in depriving them of the few instants nature gives them. As soon as they can sense the pleasure of being, arrange it so that they can enjoy it, arrange it so that at whatever hour God summons them they do not die without having tasted life. (Alan Bloom’s translation, p. 79)

One-off events like the PS 10 flash mob will not, by themselves, restore a sense of humanity to our test-obsessed, fun- and creativity-deprived educational climate. But they are a start. As PS 10 parent coordinator Madeline Seide put it, “there’s a lot of love around here.”

Follow Steven Mazie on Twitter: @stevenmazie 

 

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