Dr. Michael Hynes, superintendent of the schools in Patchogue-Medford on Long Island (New York) really knows what “whole child education” is. I wish he were advising Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, who throw the term around, as in “whole child personalized learning.” Hynes could set them straight.

They could start by reading this article, which appeared in Newsday.

Hynes recommends this startling documentary about “hypernormalization.” Unlike Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, he knows what “whole child education” means.

He writes:

The hypernormalization of public education has been creeping into our schools, becoming the official party line with a federal mandate of testing our children to death with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This legislation required that students in grades three through eight be tested every year in English Language Arts and mathematics. The later incarnations of the law have only upped the testing ante by making high test scores such a priority that a school’s existence might well depend on making the mark.

This means that what most of us consider “normal” is no longer normal. School days filled with reading, writing, math, science, social studies, playing outside, working out problems with friends, art, music and taking an occasional trip are no longer normal. If we compared our public school experience from 25 years ago with the “new normal,” we witness children losing the ability to play in the classroom (when true learning takes place), the significant decline of recess and the loss of social and emotional experiences that benefit all children. This new normal is teach less and test more. And because of the high stakes attached to the tests, schools are forced to focus on academic outcomes at the expense of a child’s social and emotional growth. Under this hypernormalized model, teachers now rank and sort children based on a proficiency model instead of how much growth each individual child might show…

I recognize that the obstacles in achieving a new healthy normal are huge, as our politicians at the state and federal levels, along with so-called reformers and business opportunists who have reaped financial profits from this system, continue to praise and fund a high-stakes, test-driven school model.

But make no mistake: This new normal, as research has shown, is taking an unacceptable toll on our children. Focusing on the whole child, regardless of scores, is what desperately needs to become our newer normal.