Friday, January 28, 2005

Technology misused to dumb down education

This story from England is worrysome. Could the U.S. be far behind?

Educationists forever babble on about alleged new needs created by the transition from one century to the other. Somehow these alleged new needs are said to make academic knowledge superfluous.

This story tells how technology is put in the service of this dumbing-down campaign:

Symbolically, Ken Boston, its chief executive, chose the annual educational technology show at Olympia earlier this month to launch the movement's manifesto.

Called the "Futures Programme", it aims to ensure that the national curriculum and assessment methods are "responsive to the changing demands of work and life in the 21st century". The document's message is summed up in one artless sentence: "Young people say that school prepares them well for examinations but not enough for real life and work."

Instead of dismissing the statement as anti-educational nonsense, the QCA embraces it. Employers, it explains, are not looking for people who are educated. Yes, they want them to be "literate and numerate and have information technology skills".

But what they're really after are "people who can build and maintain relationships, work productively in teams and communicate effectively. They look for problem-solvers, people who take responsibility and make decisions and are flexible, adaptable and willing to learn new skills."

Here is how it works:

In history, for example, instead of learning about the Norman invasion of Britain, 12-year-olds should log on to the internet, search for websites on the Bayeux Tapestry and then present their conclusions on the "reliability of the tapestry as a source of evidence".

Thirteen-year-olds, instead of learning about Henry VIII, should search the internet for images of the king – "old, young, fat, thin" – and use these to "produce leaflets presenting different views of him".

Fourteen-year-olds, instead of learning about the First World War, should "produce presentations to sell a history trip to the battlefields in northern France, tailoring the content and form to the perceived needs of their audience".

No comments: