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by John Savage, Founder of The Academy for Individual Excellence

     There are several casualties of this thing we call education. The concept of compassion is one of the first things to go out the window.

     There's not a kindergarten child anywhere who doesn't want to try, but there are children who don’t know how to try, or just do not have the ability to try. And so, from the very get-go, they are told that they're not as good as someone else. So they are told that whatever they attempt is not significant enough, or good enough. That's really tough for anyone; it is especially tough for a child.

     For decades schools have been taking the children who are really capable academically and grouping them together, so they are never in a school environment where they can look at other individuals and truly understand their struggles. And they never learn how to give and support and have empathy.

     Because we divide up children so much, and sort them by ability level, they never get the opportunity to watch someone else work just as hard as they do and still not be able to produce the result they want. They never learn to respect that other child for their work and their effort and their engagement. And those other children never get the chance to be respected by classmates who can acknowledge that work and that engagement.

     If you put kids of different abilities in the same room and don't structure it differently, here's what tends to happen. Yeah, Billy gets done in five minutes with the 10 questions the children were asked to do. Mary over here is taking 30 minutes to do it. In many classrooms, Billy will sit there for 25 minutes with nothing to do. He will twiddle his thumbs, and get frustrated because the class is having to wait for Mary, and the teacher says, "Mary, are you almost done? Billy is already done; he's having to wait. Come on, you need to hurry."  That doesn’t breed in Billy the compassion for someone else who doesn’t process things in the same way or have the same ability he has.

     The way classes are structured at AIE lets us teach the students how to rely on one another and relate to one another in healthier ways, to understand the differences in one another in a healthy way. In our classrooms, just as at home, we have kids of different ages and different abilities—and the kids with the higher ability levels learn to help their classmates who need it. They’re not competing; they are helping one another along. They are looking after one another, just as they would a brother or sister at home, out of compassion.

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