Friday, August 11, 2006

Ed pablum masquerading as visions

This writer decries a "crisis of ignorance" but I am afraid his prescriptions will lead to more ignorance.

I also find it hilarious that an artificial marker like the turn of a century is said to make the world "unrecognizable".

Anyone who has read Tom Friedman's "The World is Flat" or seen Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" knows that our times are radically different than they were even 10 years ago. Our children and the "yet to be born" are inheriting a world and way of living that is becoming unrecognizable. The awesome power and potential of the Internet and the new technology being created is transforming how we communicate and collaborate while at the same time we are on a collision course with destructive environmental issues the results of which are impossible to calculate.I'm reminded of Buckminster Fuller's words, "There is no environmental crisis, or food crisis, or energy crisis. There is a crisis of ignorance." As an educator, those words are disturbing. Why are we so ignorant? What is it about our approach to education and our way of living on this planet that has caused this crisis?
Apparently, the way to overcome ignorance is less emphasis on knowledge and more failed progressive ed practices.

Equally disturbing is our approach to education does not consider how the brain works and how people actually learn. Why do so many children lose their uniqueness and joy of learning? For many students, it's the extra-curricular activities - music, theater, sports - that excite and fully engage students. These activities bring out the best in young people and foster important skills - the ability to collaborate and commit to a high quality performance - to do their best. Students choose these activities and I'm convinced that if students had more choice in what they learned and classes were more project- and problem-based, more experiential and hands-on, students would develop the essential skills for the 21st century. In other words, the three Rs would be replaced by the three Cs - creative problem solving, collaboration and communication - integrating the basic skills in deeper, more relevant learning experiences. New models for schools are being created around the country. Hi-Tech High in San Diego and spin-offs of that school are being developed. The Met and Big Picture Schools developed in Providence are also being replicated. Thirty Project Based Learning Schools under the EdVisions network have opened around the country. The Great Maine Schools Project is working at "reinventing the American High School" - all of these attempts are being funded by the Gates Foundation. At present, however, most schools still follow an obsolete Industrial Age model. The NCLB legislation is emphasizing skills that are being learned through drill rather than developing those skills through relevant learning experiences that prepare young people for the 21st century.


Anonymous said...

Gotta love "educators" who promote student "choice". Any parent, of course, know that if they gave in to their kids' choices all the time, they would never develop properly. They would likely not choose to say "please" and "thank you", or wash their hands after using the bathroom. Such things must be taught and enforced...oh wait, I'm sorry, that's not how their brains work. Silly me.

Applied to the educational context, this is sheer lunacy. ALl of this higher order thinking cannot take place without knowing the three R's. I taught math in summer school to several illiterate and innumerate children. Seventh graders who can barely read, add, multiply, etc. Perhaps they are just working on their problem solving and collaboration skills. Collaboration: The blind leading the blind.

Anonymous said...

Very funny he points to music, drama, and sports, three things where success depends on drilling and practice. Could their engagement be a result of observable progress? The author says:

"These activities bring out the best in young people and foster important skills - the ability to collaborate and commit to a high quality performance - to do their best."

In music, this includes finding the discipline to play through the same 8 bars of a song several hundred, often several thousand, times before it's right. Music also fosters this discipline since it's plainly evident that things aren't right.

Music students learn to make music not by tackling projects or what have you, but by learning the basic skills of thier instrument, then applying them to songs. This is the part of it that is not seen unless you've been through it.

Drama and sports work much the same as this. Think about it, how often do you see veteran baseball players, who should be able to do this in their sleep, go out and take infield before the game? Correct answer? Before every game. They know that practicing individual skills, even at that high level, is important to performing their best.

So, the author makes a point I'm quite sure he didn't intend to make, that practice of individual skills is vital to deeper learning, and that the learning of these skills loses meaning if it's done in a larger context.