Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meier: Hammer, Meet Nail

Deborah Meier is precisely on point here, as part of her dialog with Diane Ravitch:

We disagree about the role and meaning of progressive education—both historically and today. You see it as having had a significant and negative impact on the schooling of America's kids, and I see it as having been largely ignored, but as representing important and useful ideas for what democracy and equity in education might look like.

This isn't just a Meier/Ravitch problem, though, it runs through the entire on-line discourse about education. There is a whole universe of bloggers who would, for example, take it as a given that problems in math education are directly attributable to the widespread adoption of progressive methodologies (constuctivism, discovery learning, etc.); meanwhile, I've been in a lot of schools -- a lot of schools with explicit ambitions toward progressive education -- and seen very, very few classrooms that truly implemented progressive pedagogies in math. Part of these differences are regional (which is why it is more extreme on-line conversations than off, I think), part of the difference is that the critics are attacking implementations that are inadequate half-measures that I wouldn't consider "progressive," but clearly, if we can't agree on where schools are at now, it is pretty tough to carry the argument forward constructively.

A corollary to this is expressed by ed-tech pundits and bloggers who have long been fundamentally sympathetic to progressive education and its history but have, I guess, have gotten themselves accustomed to trying to communicate with people who have ignored it all their lives, so they constantly are inventing ways to re-package progressive education as "new," which, as you might have noticed, drives me insane, because it drives the discourse to the lowest common denominator and never lets it move forward.

More please:

We disagree about how much of a crisis we are in as a nation—and whether the real danger is foreign competition. I'd place democracy, as the crisis issue--she may or may not agree with me on this. Of course the status of our workforce and democracy are not unrelated, but we may disagree on whether raising our youth's skill level is going to create well-paying jobs.

You should already know where I stand on this one.

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