Thursday, August 8, 2013

7 Myths of Education

I've been reading 7 Myths of Education, by  Daisy Christodoulou.  The book describes English schooling, but it's very relevant to some of the trends we see here.   You might call it "half-arsed progressivism" --  that is, it's a lot of poorly-understood progressive ideals pasted on to the traditional authoritarian system we're all accustomed to.  The result is the worst of both worlds:  an enforced school experience with no discernible content being taught.

As Ms. Christodoulou quite correctly points out, the schools are trying to follow the philosophy of people (e.g. Rousseau) who were against having schools at all.  That's where we are today:  we're trying to run schools according to the thinking of people who were opposed to schools.  Similarly, we're using a math curriculum designed by people who don't like math and would prefer to write journal entries.

A few relevant bits:
One of the strongest messages I received when I was training and beginning to teach was that I should not talk very much.  I remember one teacher trainer telling me that if I was talking, the pupils were not learning. 
It is a baffling overreaction:  to move from legitimate criticism of mindless rote learning to the complete denial of any kind of teacher-led activity.  The solution to mindless rote learning is not less teacher instruction; it is different and better teacher instruction.
Independent learning suggests a reduced and sometimes even non-existent role for the teacher.  If it really were possible to learn independently, why would we need teachers and schools?
While the final aim of education is for our pupils to be able to work independently, endlessly asking them to work independently is not an effective method for achieving this aim.
Just because our children are over-examined, it does not necessarily follow that they must therefore be overburdened with knowledge.
That last one really speaks to me.  I often find myself trying to explain to people how it is that our local schools are toxic pressure-cookers and simultaneously not teaching anything.   If the kids are overworked, why are they so undereducated?  It's because the work they do is pointless. 

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