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When Education Teaches: How -vs- Why

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“Bridie, how can we celebrate George Washington’s birthday?”

It was a very straight forward question from a precocious seven-year-old and I jumped on it, eager to teach a little history lesson as well as to encourage use of the internet for actual research and not just a way to see what your friends ate for breakfast.

First, I explained that Washington's Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February, meaning it can occur the 15th through the 21st inclusive, in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States, who was born on February 22, 1732.

I was even more chuffed with myself to add that colloquially, it is widely known as Presidents' Day and is often an occasion to remember all the presidents, not just George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is also in February. The term "Presidents' Day" was coined in a deliberate attempt to change the holiday into one to celebrate all presidents. I even explained the correct punctuation of "Presidents' vs President's" Day.

On a roll, next we (I) went to “The Google” and learned that Presidents’ Day is also a state holiday in most states with official names including Presidents' Day and Washington's and Lincoln's Birthday. Depending upon the specific law, the state holiday might celebrate officially Washington alone, Washington and Lincoln, or some other combination of U.S. presidents. Some states even celebrate Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson but not Lincoln.

I was really quite proud of the collection of information we (I) had gathered, assuming that the question had now been completely and thoroughly answered. When I finally looked to the seven-year-old, instead of seeing an expression of satisfaction, it seemed more like I was just annoying him.

“Is this what you wanted to know?”


“Okay. What part of your question did I miss?”

“The whole question.”

“Okay.... Can you explain that a little bit more?”

“All those people are dead.”

“Well, yes that is true.” (?)

“You can’t have a birthday when you are dead.”


Note to self:   Answer the question that was asked.

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Bridie Gauthier is the Head of School of the Montessori School of Manhattan, educational circuit speaker, and author of Practical life for Parents – A Pocket Guide for Parenting Real-Life Moments.

Bridie co-founded MSM in 2002, and in 2011, launched a charitable outreach project, which built and continues to fund a preschool for two and three-year-old children in the impoverished Batey Lecheria, Dominican Republic. To date the D.R. Project has taken more than 200 of the youngest children off of the streets of the village.

Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Bridie has been an educator of young children for 30 years. She left Canada for the bright lights of New York City in 1995, where she met and married her husband Joe. Bridie shares her time running MSM, travelling to the Dominican Republic, to conduct faculty training seminars and to work hands-on with the children of the Batey, public speaking, and spending time with the full-time joy in her life, Kai.

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Sunday, 14 February 2016

    Too funny. Our kids are so clever and I truly believe smarter than we are. I learn so much from them daily. If not for them I wouldn't have half as much to write about.

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