Sunday, October 02, 2005

Non-instruction (rev.)

Of all the educational lunacies dreamed up by educationists, non-instruction must be among the looniest.

Here is an account from the frontlines of what is not happening in a high school math class. The account relates the experiences of a student in a math class in which the teacher won't teach. It was posted at Kitchen Table Math, a lively math site that has been called "the hippest online math ed community in the known universe."

Hello, my name is Colin Johnston and in this post I will describe the horrors of high school algebra.

On the first day of my junior year, I stepped into my math class. I will leave names out so as not to offend anyone. I had heard mixed reviews about the math teacher that I would have this year, but people generally said he was a pretty good teahcer. As the bell rang, the class sat down and waited patiently for him to enter the room. He slowly stepped into the classroom. He looked like a smart enough guy. He then passed out the textbooks and walked to the front of the classroom. He began talking about the curriculum we would cover this year, his grading scale, etc. He then said something, however, that didn't go down as easily as the other things he had mentioned. He said "You kids have been told how to do everything in your math careers. That is, up until now. This year, you are going to learn how to teach yourselves."

What? Then why don't we just take this class at home, over the internet? What is the point of having a teacher that doesn't teach? I made these same arguments to my friend after class, but he just shruged it off. "It will probably get better as the year goes on." He said. I guess I would give it a shot.

But as this year has gone on, things have gotten worse if anything. Now, the norm for the class is come in, sit down, spend an hour correcting last nights assignment (it takes so long because everyone has so many questions), get the new assignment, and puzzle over it for 10 minutes until you finally give up due to complete lack of understanding. Such is life in the new new math, Constructivism.
As Colin says, why not just take this class at home, over the internet? Maybe constructivists are on to something and this is the wave of the future. It would help save hundreds of billions spent on "education."


Polski3 said...

What CRAP. Parents of those students need to rise up in rebellion and run the principal or whomever is running that looney bin out of town.

Polski3 said...

What CRAP. Parents of those students need to rise up in rebellion and run the principal or whomever is running that looney bin out of town.

Anonymous said...

Take heart! This may be a sign that these officious loonies are laying the foundations of their own obsolescence.

al_art said...

I'm not clear why this is considered "constructivism". I had an algebra teacher like this in 1973, though he did not announce a justification. We just figured that he was burned out and waiting to retire. My father taught me algebra that year. I passed it along to several other students in the class. My parents did speak to the teacher and possibly to the principal, but with minimal success.

Instructivist said...

"I'm not clear why this is considered "constructivism"."

You are right. It could just be laziness.

Constructivism would appeal to the lazy. It gives them a rationale or excuse.

Jenny D. said...

You know, this guy could use the homework and the correcting as a huge opportunity to teach. Like what if three students went up to the board and did the problem as they had on the homework, and then the teacher led the class through the problems. Some students made mistakes, that might help others learn where problems are tricky.

Or maybe students used different ways to solve problems. Maybe the teacher could use these ways to solve problems to help illuminate how flexible and powerful math can be.

But honestly, running a class like that is HARD work. And I suspect that's not what this guy is about.

Anonymous said...

I attended and now teach in NYC public schools. If I had been taught the way that I am forced to teach now, I would be an idiot.

I was not self motivated to learn anything. I learned because I was disciplined. There would be serious consequences, (short term and long term), for poor grades.

Left with my fellow classmates to "uncover" or "discover" anything--ha, ha, funny--they were just as unmotivated as I. The few group projects I was forced to do were annoying. We spent all the time in school socializing then had to do the real work at home.

Will we ever get back to teaching and learning? This back alley teaching that I do; always looking over my shoulder, scared that I may be caught teaching, coming up with excuses when I am caught teaching is highly stressful.

Imagine watching a person drowning and throwing in a few more non-swimmers in to help. Next, the group must figure out a way to save themselves. I, as the teacher, must watch and facilitate their experience.


NYC Educator said...

I love that anonymous comment.

Also, I agree completely.

I remember a group assignement we had in college. Tasks were distribute to everyone, except the person the rest of us determined to be incapable of accomplishing anything. We did well.

In high school, the odds can be a lot worse. To rely on it completely is nothing short of idiocy.

Catherine Johnson said...


I'm having trouble commenting...

Catherine Johnson said...

I did it!

Catherine Johnson said...

thank you!

Instructivist said...

Sorry for the effusiveness. I revised it.

Catherine Johnson said...


I like effusiveness!

That should be apparent from the number of exclamation points !!!! and CAPITAL LETTERS and boldface expressions I use in my own life!