It’s time to start writing again. First, the third party lords of our schools are back at work. And, I’m getting more and more spam from sites that want me to call upon my inner seventh grader.
Yesterday we had a meeting about questioning and shifting to a more constructivist style of teaching. Of course, the explanation was very vague and condensed. The presenter did a fabulous job of saying: “you [the faculty] teach in an antiquated manner. You must replace your broken teaching style with this new one, and then figure out how to also prepare your students for the test that measures the old way…and while we’re at it, we will be evaluating you with this new form.”
I am not opposed to a style of education that is more liberating. Students actively constructing their own knowledge and understanding optimizing their personal skill sets and developing new ones is marvelous. I strive for that in my classroom…when it’s possible. There is no doubt that I have some hang ups with this cavalier attempt to reform this school and district.
For starters, I’m concerned that teachers here will be evaluated with a corporate instrument that is designed to measure a teacher’s implementation of practices that very few understand. I gather the instrument will seek to quantify something that isn’t terribly quantifiable unless heavily deconstructed.
Further, teachers around me already smell the next best thing. Utterances of “this too shall pass” were audible in the meeting. There will be little to no training beyond the simple “here are some strategies we will be looking to see you use.” An entire philosophical construct will be reduced to mere strategies.
Finally, they recommended teaching less content in order to allow the students develop their own understanding. Help them learn deeper. A fantastic idea, but will the test change? Are we going to have time to help learners adjust? Will teachers have a chance to adjust?
Is this a trap or permission to really teach?
“I have spent thirty years as a scholar examining the nature of democracy, and even more as a citizen optimistically celebrating its possibilities, but today I am increasingly persuaded that the reason for the country’s inaction is that Americans do not really care about education - the country has grown comfortable with the game of ‘let’s pretend we care.’”
- B. Barber, in “America Skips School: Why we talk so much about education and do so little”
In lamenting the lack of progress in many problems in American education (or, at the very least, in the public opinion of education), many have pointed to political gridlock and the lack of political will as the main problem, among other things.
This, however, is the strongest wording I’ve seen as of yet for another direction in which the finger is pointed: at you and me. The argument is that everyone, from politicians to lay citizens, feels compelled to pretend like they care about education when really, they don’t.
What do you think? To what extent do you think this is true?
So in the year 1800, a municipal report prepared under the Consulate of Napoleon Bonaparte had the following to say about the “deplorable” conditions of their elementary schools:
But what are they being taught today in elementary schools? They learn to read, to write, to calculate. Can this purely mechanical education suffice to prepare man for happiness? The citizen magistrate cannot think so.
This was near the end of the French Revolution, and the main objective of reports like this one was to press the importance that “liberal ideas and republican morality be presented to youth with the earliest rays of their intelligence, as soon as they have sense of good and evil.” So by “happiness” they were most likely referring to a sort of conformity into and virtuous, productive loyalty to the nation. (x)
So I know this is taken somewhat out of context, but as educators, do you think that you’re preparing your students for a life of happiness? Do you think that’s your job?
And as people, do we think the job of schools is to “prepare man for happiness?” And if so, how does this fit into our discussions of what education should look like, both outside and within the classroom?