Saturday, 2 October 2010

A couple of interesting books and some good quotes

Two books by the same author:

I loved this review, as it tells me all I need to know about a certain type of teacher (ie, wishy washy)

After reading through Sykes "Rules you won't learn in school" I'm very glad he has never influenced either my own children or my students. Just responding to the "11 Rules You Won't Learn in School" which has been floating around on the Internet for years, let me to these responses:

There are some great review this book, such as:

There is that moment of sublime revelation experienced by Winston Smith in George Orwell's 1984 when he reads a book that explains everything he already intuited from his experiences with the bureacracy and Big Brother. I experienced the same epiphany as soon as I began reading Dumbing Down Our Kids.

As a teacher, I have already endured the idiocies chronicled in this book. Cooperative learning? That was a two-day seminar. Self-esteem? Another inservice. Hey, I attended one in which the presenter passed out a packet of information including - so help me God - a "hugging homework" assignment. Did someone say "mission statement?" As a member of the campus Site-Based Decision Management Committee, I put in my two cents' worth when I tried to insert the notion that education should develop individual knowledge and responsibility. It was okayed and seconded by fellow teachers. Somehow, the version now hanging in our school district boardroom omitted my input. Equity? Been there, done that with our equity specialist. Here's an updated version of Mother Goose rhymes from an inservice handout I saved:

Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick.
Jill be nimble,
Do it, too.
If Jack can do it, so can you.

If Winston Smith were a teacher, he'd know the party line is preceded by the phrase "research is showing." Party committees are headed by hacks with self-important titles like "equity specialist" and "curriculum coordinator". The language is corrupted to the same extent as Oceania. Students engage in "cooperative learning" formerly known as cheating. "At-risk students" is preferred to "just plain lazy".

The aeries of districts are crowded with doctors of education. It should come as no surprise that universities dole out honorary doctorates in education to distinguished guests because they are less likely to perpetrate the least amount of damage, unless he or she attempts to put it to use as an administrator or, worse, a consultant.

"Dumbing Down Our Kids" is filled with samples of impermeable writings by people who are so besotted with their own self-importance that sarcasm would be wasted on them. A dissertation for a doctorate in physical ed stated "The purpose of this research was to create a connectionist model for simulating contextual interference effects in motor skills. The model was a multiple layer, heteroassociative, nonlinear, feedforward interpolative recall network trained by back-propogation of errors."


Another pioneer in New Math curriculum frankly admits that "I do not do long division or long multiplication anymore." He helpfully and frankly admits he's lazy and found a better method of doing math which "involves pushing a few buttons on my calculator." Incredibly, this pioneer is the founder and director of a mathematics project at the University of Chicago. From the same people who brought us the A-bomb, yet another bomb. I leave it to you to decide which bomb is more deadly.

Textbooks are largely "books without authors. . . slaves to readability indexes, and mandated never to offend any conceivable special interest group."

It simply amazes me that so many dunderheaded fools, from federal to state to local level, actually get to make decisions that affect how I work in the classroom. I work in a business that is ostensibly set up to make people smarter. And yet the very same people who run the business are as dumb as a crate of anvils. It is as if NASA contracted a company that specializes in running fireworks stands to design heat shields for the spacecraft. I can't make people walk a mile in my moccosins, but if reading this book makes them boil with anger, then at least I'm not alone.


cav said...

I won't comment on this until a certain person who is holidaying in WA arcs up with his comments

Boy on a bike said...

C'mon Cav - no guts, no glory!

Anonymous said...

As someone who had a crack on the inside of the education system in WA.... and gave up I suspect I would concur with much of the argument. Then again, the responsibility argument needs to be applied to more issues than education... reconciliation for one.

All I can say is that if you are a parent and you want them to succeed, then be prepared for a lot of involvement, disappointment in education standards and eventually the satisfaction of a child becoming self aware and choosing their own education path.