Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Living in the Eighties

This comment by TangoMan, in conjunction with its elevation by Eduwonkette, and the subsequent discussion, has led me to conclude that the entire educational policy community is slipping into some kind of postmodern collective fugue state:

Here's my hypothesis - teachers don't think like scientists. They're more idealists at heart. They envision a certain role for themselves and they gravitate to approaches that reinforce their idealism. (...)

Any solution has to start at ground zero, that is, the point where all teachers find common origin, education schools. These institutions must inculcate skepticism into the practitioners of teaching and those who make careers of research....More teachers need to adopt the practice of skepticism and chuck overboard the role of advocate for approaches that appeal to them and the role of progressive educator who is intent on implementing the cutting edge of new approaches (where more emphasis is given to the notion of progress than efficacy.) They need to learn to look at a new approach and find that their first instinct should be to tear it apart, rather than to embrace the approach and try to give it a chance....To put it simply, less embracing and more skepticism needs to be at the core of the education school experience.

That's a pretty indirect approach based on a whole stack of suppositions. What if we took a more direct approach, cut out the middle man, and just mandated that teachers use curricula based on scientifically-based research? What if we got really serious and the federal government allocated a billion dollars a year to the effort, to purchasing said curricula, training teachers to use it, etc. etc.? Doesn't that seem a lot more straightforward?

That is, of course, what we did, and, on the whole, the results have been underwhelming (at best). Research obviously plays an important role in improving education, but are there limits to the extent to which we can research our way out of this problem? I mean, does the research show that research-driven curriculum and instruction can be the primary driver of education reform?

Regardless, to continue talking about education as if the past 7, 15, or 20 years never happened is just mind-numbing. As Obama said, it is time for some people to start owning their failures. Not pretending the past seven years didn't happen would be a start.

1 comment:

matthewboh said...

You might want to take a look at a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson about schools killing creativity in kids at http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html