Tuesday, March 27, 2012

educational philosophy quiz

I tied my highest score for perenialism and existentialism (22). My lowest was social reconstructionism (13), makes sense, followed by progressivism.

You see a graph of all responses. For those that think my chastising of progressivism, social control in education is out dated, not happening, think again. The new teachers and those in teaching colleges have scores here which align with the highest score in progressivism (22) followed by a close second, social reconstructionism (21). The lowest is existentialism (14).

EXISTENTIALISM: Related to education, the subject matter of existentialist classrooms should be a matter of personal choice. Teachers view the individual as an entity within a social context in which the learner must confront others' views to clarify his or her own. Character development emphasizes individual responsibility for decisions. Real answers come from within the individual, not from outside authority. Examining life through authentic thinking involves students in genuine learning experiences. Existentialists are opposed to thinking about students as objects to be measured, tracked, or standardized. Such educators want the educational experience to focus on creating opportunities for self-direction and self actualization. They start with the student, rather than on curriculum content. (YES!!! THIS IS WHAT EDUCATION SHOULD BE! IS IT ANY WONDER THAT MOST TEACHERS RATE LEAST IN THIS?)

ESSENTIALISM is an educational philosophy whose adherents believe that children should learn the traditional basic subjects thoroughly and rigorously. In this philosophical school of thought, the aim is to instill students with the "essentials" of academic knowledge, enacting a back-to-basics approach. Essentialism ensures that the accumulated wisdom of our civilization as taught in the traditional academic disciplines is passed on from teacher to student. Such disciplines might include Reading, Writing, Literature, Foreign Languages, History, Mathematics, Science, Art, and Music. Moreover, this traditional approach is meant to train the mind, promote reasoning, and ensure a common culture.

PERRENIALISM Perennialists believe that one should teach the things that one deems to be of everlasting importance to all people everywhere. They believe that the most important topics develop a person. Since details of fact change constantly, these cannot be the most important. Therefore, one should teach principles, not facts. Since people are human, one should teach first about humans, not machines or techniques. Since people are people first, and workers second if at all, one should teach liberal topics first, not vocational topics.
A particular strategy with modern perennialists is to teach scientific reasoning, not facts. They may illustrate the reasoning with original accounts of famous experiments. This gives the students a human side to the science, and shows the reasoning in action. Most importantly, it shows the uncertainty and false steps of real science.
Although perennialism may appear similar to essentialism, perennialism focuses first on personal development, while essentialism focuses first on essential skills. Essentialist curricula thus tend to be much more vocational and fact-based, and far less liberal and principle-based. Both philosophies are typically considered to beteacher-centered, as opposed to student-centered philosophies of education such asprogressivism. However, since the teachers associated with perennialism are in a sense the authors of the Western masterpieces themselves, these teachers may be open to student criticism through the associated Socratic method, which, if carried out as true dialogue, is a balance between students, including the teacher promoting the discussion.  (ehh I kinda agree and don't. I scored high because I believe we are not to train workers but minds. I like facts but think we do need to train how to think, scientific reason for example.)

PROGRESSIVISM Progressivists believe that education should focus on the whole child, rather than on the content or the teacher. This educational philosophy stresses that students should test ideas by active experimentation. Learning is rooted in the questions of learners that arise through experiencing the world. It is active, not passive. The learner is a problem solver and thinker who makes meaning through his or her individual experience in the physical and cultural context. Effective teachers provide experiences so that students can learn by doing. Curriculum content is derived from student interests and questions. The scientific method is used by progressivist educators so that students can study matter and events systematically and first hand. The emphasis is on process-how one comes to know. The Progressive education philosophy was established in America from the mid 1920s through the mid 1950s. John Dewey was its foremost proponent. One of his tenets was that the school should improve the way of life of our citizens through experiencing freedom and democracy in schools. Shared decision making, planning of teachers with students, student-selected topics are all aspects. Books are tools, rather than authority. 

    Social reconstructionism is a philosophy that emphasizes the addressing of social questions and a quest to create a better society and worldwide democracy. Reconstructionist educators focus on a curriculum that highlights social reform as the aim of education. Theodore Brameld (1904-1987) was the founder of social reconstructionism, in reaction against the realities of World War II. He recognized the potential for either human annihilation through technology and human cruelty or the capacity to create a beneficent society using technology and human compassion. George Counts (1889-1974) recognized that education was the means of preparing people for creating this new social order.
    Critical theorists, like social reconstructionists, believe that systems must be changed to overcome oppression and improve human conditions. Paulo Freire (1921-1997) was a Brazilian whose experiences living in poverty led him to champion education and literacy as the vehicle for social change. In his view, humans must learn to resist oppression and not become its victims, nor oppress others. To do so requires dialog and critical consciousness, the development of awareness to overcome domination and oppression. Rather than "teaching as banking," in which the educator deposits information into students' heads, Freire saw teaching and learning as a process of inquiry in which the child must invent and reinvent the world.
    For social reconstructionists and critical theorists, curriculum focuses on student experience and taking social action on real problems, such as violence, hunger, international terrorism, inflation, and inequality. Strategies for dealing with controversial issues (particularly in social studies and literature), inquiry, dialogue, and multiple perspectives are the focus. Community-based learning and bringing the world into the classroom are also strategies. It promotes education as a means to create a new social order. (creepy)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Death of Education part V

from The Death of Education by Eric Olsen....

The problem with this kind of teaching [worksheets and basically all the "educating" you see in schools today] is that it creates a system in which students have no long-term responsibility in the course. Once each paper comes back to them it can be promptly thrown in the recycling bin. Once each test is taken the information learned can be instantly forgotten to make room for the next unit's information.

THis quote had me up half the night. Seriously.
It really irked me that my students would just toss their work in the recycling bin, and forget all about what they learned. Teach, assign, grade, toss, repeat. But, I couldn't figure out why it bugged me so much, except that maybe they threw away their precious work, don't they care? But it is not, was not, precious work. It was often busy work given to "master" a standard. I meant well, I really did. With my obsession of vocabulary worksheets (they had to use it in a sentence, define it, guess meaning from context, draw a picture of it, give synonyms, antonyms, part of speech- these worsheets would get the gold star and blue ribbon for model lesson, perfect worksheet, by most educators, schools, colleges, textbooks etc) and the significant rise in standardizded test vocabulary scores. I WAS effective, these worksheets WERE effective. So what was wrong?

They were, simply, part of the teach, assign, grade, toss cycle. Sure, they raised test scores but did they do anything more? No. Did they build upon each other? No. Think of learning as this: as a child, you learn to walk, of course. First, you roll on your tummy. Then inch, and finally crawl. Then you stand, creep, take a step, two steps, three, and you're suddenly running, jumping, kicking. Think of this model for education. PLEASE do. Try and apply it. Where do my vocabulary worksheets and vocabulary tests fit in? Maybe....crawling. Each week, I gave different words. Here, baby, crawl on blue carpet. Next week, baby, crawl on beige carpet. The following week, baby is taught to crawl on green carpet. Or, student, define, test, prove your proficiency in these 10 vocabulary terms. Next week, how about these ten?     

Think of many lessons in school....back to your day as a student, or your children as students, or if you work in school, your own observed experiences. How many courses, classes, lessons and units teach us valuable lessons, building on one another, so that we roll, crawl, walk? Very few.

The idea that all students- if they are actually learning something they don't already know how to do- will be successful from the start of a class is preposterous....

..and yet it happens everywhere, every day, all the time. We tell students they all start with class with an A. An F is certain doom. There is no room for a learning curve, you know, the stage between rolling and walking. Students are supposed to walk from the first day of school each year, and if you mark down that it is October and they are still crawling (or "failing to master the curriculum")  the teacher is neary tarred and feathered for being a "bad' teacher, the parents are angry their child is failing, administration is asking why half the class is failing. Again, I know from experience, where I tried to have students revise essays to earn an A, and most ended up with F grades, refusing to revise (even if I told them verbatim what to do, add a period here, indent, that word ends with an E not Y...) but who "failed" and got "in trouble"? Me.  Instead of starting my students out crawling and telling them hey, keep at, it, you will get stronger legs and be standing and creeping in no time, and then, bam! Walking! I got....stuck. Students were so used to getting praised for walking, getting As, when they still were rolling, had yet to master the idea. They had un-edited essays, just waiting to be edited and improved. But they'd always received As, Bs, Cs for a shoddy essay, why try for a good essay? Why walk when you can roll and be told you're walking?    In this instance, I had only one student revise her essay more than once. Of 35 students, 5 revised their rough draft once, so that 6 total did any revisions. The others were content with their F. I mean, they knew their parents, or the principal, would freak out and either make me change the grade to a C, fire me, or secretly change the grade behind my back anyways.

The problem here is, I've been so used to a crawl-only system, I am stuck on how to make a 100% course, in English, where things build upon each other, students begin failing or nearly so and end succeeding, where work isn't tossed because it is needed for the next task or discovery. I want to develop a curriculum based on this, but I'm stuck.....how do I do it? And, if I figure that part out, could I actually implement it in a classroom? Because NCLB, standards, tests "Claim" to build on skills, scaffold, be valuable bla bla bla, but they are anything but.

Which brings another question. I'm bolding it because it's that...wow...WHAT IF I OPENED A PUBLIC SCHOOL (CHARTER?) THAT SAID TO HELL WITH NCLB TESTS AND STANDARDS?  I'd face to lose at least 11% of revenue, as that is how much comes through the fed for following NCLB and its standards and tests. What if I found some non-biased billionaire to help me out, make up for that loss of 11% revenue? Sure I'd have some major mobility in school, as parents realized OMG, my child is not assessed, neither is the teacher, how do I know they're learning, being taught, progressing? How can I grade the value of my child's education without standards and standardized exams???" again, the devil you know is better than the devil you don't- parnets will likely still embrace NCLB. But I'd also attrach students who stayed. I'd become a montessori/private school style school, but for FREE. Not a charter school that follows all the ed code and NCLB and just does the same damned things the public schools do, with just more freedom. No. It's not a "charters are so much more free, I mean, look, they can teach how they want to..as long as it meets state and federal standards, API, AYP, NCLB.....they have total freedom....to do exactly as the public schools have to do.....wait...it's the same, just one is a shade different with the same goals and procedures". No. It would be the education our children DESERVE and FOR FREE.  As long as, you know, my school could get WASC accreditation, A-G requirements, state funding for all my rebellious ways. You know, as long as my credentian wasn't revoked, my school shut down or taken over, as long as I wasn't ridiculed into social and professional suicide, because the status quo is fighting to maintain their position at ALL COSTS including THE COST OF YOUR CHILDREN.

The Death of Education part IV

From The Death of Education by Eric Olsen....

Very quickly they [teachers] learn that by maintaining a low profile they avoid all kinds of negative consequences , things like parent-teacher conferences, principal-teacher conferences, counselor-teacher conferences, as well as a host of extra-currilular stress in the form of letters to the editor, discussion among school board members, and the chiched but very real gossip around town.

Maintain a low profile- don't make waves, and you avoid contention and get to keep your job! Maintain the status quo and you get tenure! Don't try and shake things up and actually try and teach, educate, because that means we, the school, will make life a living hell for you, the teacher. I know this because I have experienced it first-hand. I could go on and on (and have in previous blog posts) about my experiences in the classroom, getting written up for challening the system. Sure I can say I care about kids and their education but I best stay in my subordinated, shovel the same sh%$ around, do-nothing- position, smiling as I deal out worksheets, scantrons, and scripted curriculum. Speaking up, voicing my opinion, challenging the system paints me as the enemy and I am exiled.

Something is very wrong with that.

Teachers routinely give out passing grades to students who have failed....teachers escape having to justify flunking a student and students get to move on to the next class without having to master the skills and concepts taught in the course.

I have seen grades "magically" change in the transcripts, students held back magically promoted to the next grade, I've been told I must (or be fired) give failing students an "incomplete" which, guess what, becomes passing credit (again, "magically) upon graduation. Suddenly, when I, gasp, expect children to EARN their grade, they simply don't.... besides, if three years after my class, their F in my class is suddenly a C, do I hold my word, that an F is an F, a C is a C and so forth?    I have had former students tell me something like, "college is sooo hard, I was a good student in high school but not anymore. College expects me to know all this stuff I was never taught". Businesses and colleges alike cite the disparity between high school and college/the work world- kids come to college/work knowing very little.

This was the drive behind the accountabilty movement and NCLB, but if NCLB's standards and assessments merely assess rote learning, fact regurgitation, simple concepts, is it any wonder why children are still not "prepared"? The very system brought about to change the dumbing down of education just perpetuates it.  And, we get students in high school who do not know how to divide, read a newspaper, or speak to an audience because, to not damage their precious little butterfly egos- or to just avoid the "drama" they are passed up and up and up and on. Someone else's problem, who will take the easy road and pass them, until they are so far behind that the current system truly cannot help them advance. That is a travesty. Intellectual abuse.   And...also...we wonder why kids don't do their work, do well on tests? They either lack the skills, or they know the system is a game to their advantage- why work your butt off for a B when you can go to class, text your friends all period, never do a thing, and pass with a B as well? Why even try?

The Death of Education Part III

The Death of Education by Eric Olsen....

In this method the teacher reduces the level of skill that is necessary in all assigned work so that she doesn't have to teach anyone. Instead of writing assignments, worksheets are given so that those in the lower third can still progress by working with partners or copying the answers from someone else outside class. Instead of reading that requires thoughtful and evidence based answers, these teachers ask simple, knowledge-based questions that deal primaily with the most superficial aspects of the writing: character details and actions, plot points, and descriptions of setting.

Very true, in curriculum and testing. But ask a student a more complex question, "why do you think ___did ___?"  , "In your opinion, should ____ have done ___ and why?" students run into a wall. They're been so trained by high school (even 5th grade in my experience) to look up an answer, "the main character is Susan, says so on page 5" and not actually THINK that they don't know how. I see high school students thrashing through book pages, near the point of tears, looking for the answer to, "in your opinion....."    

Olsen also writes, but I'll praraphase, about extra credit. Students can slack through a semester, do nearly nothing, and then the week before grades, pull all-nighters of extra credit to raise their D to a B. Students have come to expect extra credit, as have parents. Even administration has; Olsen mentions that he had failing students and angry parents and the principal suggested to give the child extra credit to raise his grade.   I humbly admit I've given extra credit, but it is to such litte a degree that their 68% D might become a 69% D; not an A. That way if a child has an on-the border grade, a 89.3% B+ they can bump it to a very low A-.

Regarding inclusion, Olsen states,

And so every year, the entire group goes right along together up to the next class, despite their deficiencies, despite the fact that they're not "exactly alike and at the same time and year", so that by the time they get to secondary school there is no way to give low performing students the remediation they need, much less challenge any student to reach their full potential

If students are not allowed time for "practice makes perfect", to master a topic because "we have to move on to the next standard. The class next door is 3v worksheet answers ahead of us, hurry!" then this just perpetuates the gap between the inclusion students and the rest. It's cruel, to not give them the time and help they need, to not give that to any student, really.

Which also reminds me of something I hang my head in shame about. I had a student who, well he did pass my class, but....sigh. I had a final project where they compared Of Mice and Men to racism, genderism, ableism in history. He chose his project on racism and genocide; since we had "closed internet" I had to provide students (and the tech guy) websites that I had specially allowed to be seen, so it was easiest to give say, 5 websites on various genocides and have them report on how they all relate. Well this child used the wi-fi across the street to get the websites he wanted, and he spent three weeks reading about the Armenian Genocide. He turned nothing in so without evidence, I had to give him an F. Shame on me. I was so entrenched in the system that I wanted paper-based evidence that he mastered the concept, and that he connected the 5 genocides to slavery which conects to Of Mice and Men.... which he did not do. So, sorry, F it is. But I bet you, had I realized this, and sat down and asked him to tell me what he learned, he'd talk my ear off. He might not overtly say "it relates to the book because....." but darnit, he learned.

Also... by high school, since everyone just passes kids on, you get nearly illiterate kids. Why are there so many illiterate adults? People wonder, how did they make it into high school, graduate, without reading? Well, some would say "I don't know" to a question and get passed on to the next teacher. Or they would copy a friend's worksheet and thus pass the class. They'd say "I don't want to read aloud today" and get away with it.  They'd show up to class and get a C just for being seated. By the time I get a child in 5th grade who cannot even compose a sentence, or in 10th grade when a child cannot even grasp let alone use punctuation, and cannot even comprehend/read the syllabus, what do you do? When they are at a 1st grade level and ready to graduate, what do you do (other than secretly chastise prior teachers for passing him on)? Even if you hold the child back, repeat 10th grade, will they go from grade 1-10 in ability, especially in the way our system teaches? No, because Mrs. Teacher, you are teaching 10th grade standards, not 1st.  I was once chastised by administration for teaching long division- a 4th grade standard- in 5th grade. So why did I do that? Thev standard of the day was mean, median, mode. With more than 3/4 of my class unable to do long division, how could they average the word problem's basketball scores of 43, 88, 72? So I had to "go back" which was forbidden. So if this happens in each grade, then a certain portion of the students are "stuck" with 1st grade knowledge in high school and there's nothing we can do to help them because it isn't in the standards, isn't in the scripted curriculum.

Olsen also writes about making learning "entertaining". I at first disagreed with him, I mean, hello Olsen, learning needs to be fun! Duh! But these lessons often do not actually teach you to think, a video game where you shoot at the right answer to addition problems might seem fun but is it really really teaching true knowledge? "entertaining" education is really just a glorified worksheet, a "fun" way to get rote, dumbed down, simplied worksheet-style answers from kids.

For both parents and students in this situation, the only variable that they can detect to explain why these students are struggling is the teacher

Again, one of those post-it-on-a-billboard statements! I love it! Your child is not failing because they never did a single piece of work, the teacher failed because he did not give you work you could do, the work must have been too difficult. Or, the work was too boring. You didn't get to know the student enough to make learning fun, relevant. Or, you have it out for my child. You didn't offer enough extra credit. You didn't accept work that was 3 months late. You give too much work. Your too strict and mean. You can't expect my child to do that much work. bla bla bla bla bla. I've heard it all. No longer does a parent or even principal ask the child, "did you honestly TRY in the class? Did you actually ask for help? Did you attend tutoring, re-take test sessions or the like?" No. All fault is with the teacher.

The Death of Education part II

The Death of Education by Eric Olsen......

As long as their student is being promoted along with others of their age and continues to stay out of the principal's office, most parents feel they have done their duty if the child gets a diploma....as long as their students' grades are what they should be, parents don't care

Which is why teachers kowtow to parents and admin- not by choice but for survival. If Billy passes and isn't in too much trouble, all is well with the world... even if that means dumbing things down to where Billy gets an A for just coming to class. It is survival for the teacher and admin too. If too many kids fail, it looks bad for the teacher and admin- they are not doing their job, they're ineffective.  So why not design a curriculum where no one fails unless well, they don't even try? Olsen gets to that. Just know I myself have been in "trouble" for too many failing grades, But if a child honestly does not even TRY...what can you do?

To begin with, students resist genuine learning because they've never been epected to do it before. Secondly, learning a new skill takes time, patience, and most importantly, plenty of mistakes. Unfortunately, in today's public school culture, "failure is not an option". The near universal expectation in our schools, that students will be successful right from the beginning of any class if the teacher is doing his job correctly, is actually antithetical to the way learning works in the real world.

Which is why when I taught high school, it was as if irreviersible damage had already been done. I knew a student who left our school because of my grading practices. He never turned in a SINGLE assignment all year, except tests....usually with "IDK (I don't know) or really "off" answers showing no thought process, ie the same vocab. word for each vocab test answer. He said- and mom fully agreed- "I should get a C, at least, I mean, I came to class every day. All my other teachers did that." Can you believe it?!?! 

With what.....over 100 standards in English grade 9 alone, is a teacher given time, patience, to teach a skill to mastery? With scripted curriculum and every teacher on the same page at the same moment, is there time for knowledge to sink it, and be utilized? No. So education becomes surface knowledge, facts to remember then forget, to spit out when needed, 2+2 is 4, the answer is C because it is C. And of course as a concept is introduced, most will "fail" to understand it but, whoops, sorry kids, gotta move on; the failure for instant mastery is reflected on the teacher if these failures are "caught". The teacher is a bad teacher if kids don't "get it" right away. So if you just shove out worksheets and scantrons, you avoid this.

The devil you know is better than the devil you don't.

This is why real change- not minute tinkering called reform, but real change, won't happen in schools. Complete change is an uncertain, chaotic, scary devil. Sure things "suck" as they are now, but we are familiar with the devil that is our current "sucky" education system so we stay with it. Better safe than sorry.

more to come!!!

Death of Education

I should be writing my book, but last night I saw I had downloaded a book to my Nook, eons ago, called Death of Education by Eric Olsen and I started to read it. It is in a way, eye opening and yet confirming, like John Taylor Gatto's books are.....a "I knew it, but they clarifies it" type of book you want to share WITH EVERYONE. YES EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT.

Here's some excerpts. Oh and the author is a former teacher and is bashing the system more than teachers.

I continue to go to work every day, standing up infront of students in my classroom and assigning them busy work that does little more than exercise their ability to perform skills they learned a long time ago. In short, no actual learning occurs.

Exaclty. Wow. Well, Skinner-style conditioning and a factory model of schools bla bla bla (a big chunk of my book can be inserted here) made it so that the goal of education was to perform a skill, an output. Students will _________. Outcome based education. Like Pavlov's dogs, students will regurgiatate useless facts, low-level learning, usually in the form of bubbled-in A B C D answers. And I have been guilty of assigning busy work, because it met some stupid standard, was part of the inhumnae scripted curriculum, was "research proven" to improve test scores yada yada....when all it does is mirror a slow paced lobotomy, robbing children of true in-depth thought and knowledge, passion, drive. But why? We'll get to that.

The reality is that the current culture in public schols across the United States actively discourages genuine teaching. It begins with college education departments delivering theory and practices that are ocmpletely divorced from the practical realities of the modern classroom.

Exactly! I cannot stress that enough. I was talking with my husband, discouraged since I have yet to get a job. He suggested I look outside education, I mean, my MA is in Administration, I could manage a business, workers, something. I became stoic- manage? direct? lead?  Olsen wrote something about educational admiistrators being the only self-chosen leaders, they did not move up the ladder by promotion. That got me thinking to my admin. courses, how they didn't discourage some to say, drop out of the program, they could never even lead a lemming off a cliff. Nope, everyone was passed on through. Well, they had to have taught leadership right? Ok I had a few good courses, Leadership being one of them. I actually learned tools, how to apply them, case studies and alternative methods....you know, things you will actually, gasp, need and use on the job. But so many others were just reading a text, regurgitating it, discussing it, antiquated theory. Heck even my Personnel class...I thought, wow I can learn how to manage people, resolve conflict, and with what's happening at work right now, I so need that!  Nope. We learned about collective bargaining. Not really even the ins and outs of it, but looking at districts' CB paperwork and kind of regurgitating base facts. Recall when you'd read a book in school and you got lame base level questions, "who is the main character? On page 3, paragraph 2, what happens? What time period is this set in?" Well, it was "analysis" like that. Then we had three classes based on writing our thesis. Three.

So, based solely on what I learned, could I resolve conflict at the workplace, hire and fire employees, observe and report their performance? Could I calm down an angry employee, parent, etc? Could I speak with stakeholders and get the school or workplaces needs met and impress them? No. I could....hmmm....look up the answer to a question about a contract, i.e. "how many hours am I supposed to work a day?" I could look up some ed code (which is helpful actually....but only in schools) and I could explain to you the trials and tribulations of Mexican Americans in the past, in schools. I could tell you my Myers Briggs type is INFP bordering on INTP, and I could show you a plethora of articles I read and responded to. But....is that....what I need? No.

OH! About testing....wow...I could go on and on about that topic. So here's Olsen again,

Thus we are left to measure success of students and teachers alike using nothing but the score itself,, produced my students with little incentive as they are forced by law to take the test, and manipulated by teaching methods designed with only one goal in mind, that of raising the scores not teaching.

Man, preach it, Olsen! I could write 300 pages about that and yet Olsen said it in one sentence. Wow. I think this needs to be posted on billboards across the nation.

More to come!!!!