Meet the new education– Same as the old education

This week’s TIME magazine reported on the Khan Academy.  Irony drips from Salman Khan’s claim to being an education outsider (page 41):

I think there’s an advantage to being an outsider–I am not colored by the dogma of the Establishment.


Cut the Crap

Dear Salman:

You ARE the Establishment. Continue reading →

Philosophers ask these questions.

In Philosophical Issues in Education: An Introduction (1989), Cornel M. Hamm explains what people do when they philosophize:

. . . they ask, and try in various ways to answer, three sorts of questions: (1) What do you mean? (Or, what does it-the word, the concept-mean?) (2) How do you know? (Or, what, in general constitute the grounds or kinds of grounds for claiming to know something?) (3) What is presupposed? (Or, what assumptions or presuppositions are you now making or must you make for the proposition you are now asserting?) It is when one acquires the habit of asking these questions about one’s own and others’ speech and writings that one begins to be a philosopher. As you acquire the habit of asking (and also answering) these sorts of questions in the context of education you will be on your way to becoming a philosopher of education.

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Philosophy “matters” more than curriculum

The title of the Education Week blog, “Curriculum Matters,” is a play on the two meanings of “matters.” It addresses all kinds of curriculum issues (matters); and because curriculum influences everything in the school, it “matters” above all else.

That is why blogger Catherine Gewertz described how principals are being brought up-to-date on the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum.

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— “We are a public school, not a private school.”

At a recent school board meeting Asheville Middle School parents and students expressed concern about school safety. The principal gave this explanation for their concerns:

We are a public school, not a private school, and I think there are some people who are looking for a private school experience in a public school.  (AC-T, 5/13/2012)

That is true. Many parents want their child’s public school to be like a private one. That is the idea behind charter schools. Legislation exempts charters from oppressive state and district regulations, hoping they will be more like private schools.

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What do teachers want?

This question is the headline for a Bridging Differences blog.   Diane Ravitch discusses two social science studies of what teachers want.  According to her, the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher “showed that teachers across the nation are demoralized and that their job satisfaction has dropped precipitously since 2009.”  She asked,

What has happened in the past two years? Let’s see: Race to the Top promoted the idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students; “Waiting for ‘Superman'” portrayed teachers as the singular cause of low student test scores; many states, including Wisconsin, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio have passed anti-teacher legislation, reducing or eliminating teachers’ rights to due process and their right to bargain collectively; the Obama administration insists that schools can be “turned around” by firing some or all of the staff. These events have combined to produce a rising tide of public hostility to educators, as well as the unfounded beliefs that schools alone can end poverty and can produce 100 percent proficiency and 100 percent graduation rates if only “failing schools” are closed, “bad” educators are dismissed, and “effective” teachers get bonuses.

Is it any wonder that teachers and principals are demoralized?

Another survey, released about the same time, has not gotten the attention it deserves. This one conducted by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is called Primary Sources: 2012. It contains valuable information about what teachers think.

You can read the studies, or bemoan low teacher morale; but skip the commentaries at the end of the Bridging Differences blogs.  Even though commenters want to improve education as much as I do; they wage war on each other, instead of bridging differences.  (I love the irony.)  They illustrate what we get when we believe pride is a virtue and humility a vice.  We can’t even communicate with each other because we are so busy being proud of ourselves.

To hear what teachers want, go to my video interviews with teachers.  There you will see humility, instead of ugly pride.

Learned watching cable news, #7

Week of March 5, 2012

According to House Speaker Boehner (“Now with Alex Wagner,” 3/10/2012), some of the dumbest and raunchiest Americans are in Congress.  (After the annoying commercial, move the slide bar to the 6:15 mark.)  Evidently, we elected people to Congress who are like the dumbest, raunchiest of my classmates in high school and college.

Boehner said “raunchiest” because he wants his colleagues to have strong characters and generous spirits. Members of Congress who received diplomas may be “schooled,” but if they have not developed character and spiritual virtues, he calls them “raunchy.”   His language is colloquial, but I can see (smell) it.

Good school or bad school?

PBS asked this question about PS 1 in New York City.

At the end, according to John Merrow (end of transcript):

So, what do you think? Is PS-1 a good school or a bad school? You may have already made up your mind, but the people who make decisions about budgets, about who gets hired, who gets fired, they rely on test scores.

Merrow confirms what educators bemoan, but have not been able to convincingly argue against.  Test scores define “educated” in today’s public schools.  That should be troubling to every philosophical person in the country.

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It’s simple — just teach the 6 virtues!

Scholarly Crap:

Here is another recommendation for what we should teach in public schools, complete with complicated qualifications:

From the article:

So, instead of defining high school success solely in terms of mastering a common, college-preparatory curriculum, we should develop a broader and more individualized measure of high school success where students achieve a sense of competency by demonstrating mastery in an area that most interests them—whether it is math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports—while achieving acceptable proficiency in core academic areas.

Educators should teach young people “math, physics, cooking, mechanics, or sports” and core academics.  Is this a new idea?  How many of these do we pump out each year?  How is that working?

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Teacher Evaluations: Delicate Conversation? or Ironic Ignorance?

The Washington Post headline reads, “Evaluation of DC Teachers is a Delicate Conversation:”

The article is about a teacher who wanted to know why a “master educator” evaluator gave him a low grade on his math lesson:

Master Educator:  This does not measure your effort . . . But I do see your effort . . .

Math Teacher: So — what is this measuring?

Master Educator: It’s measuring the effectiveness of that effort . . .


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Marching is good, this is better

The July 30 Save Our Schools march in Washington puts a spotlight on teacher frustration.  (Was there ever a time when teachers were not frustrated with policy makers? students? parents? administrators? or other teachers?)  Anthony Cody’s June 22 blog describes his frustration with the democratic governance of public education:

In my previous blog I asked if the Washington marchers were marching for anything in particular.  That was silly of me.  They are marching because they believe many things about improving public education.  Diane Ravitch listed hers in this blog:

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