Thursday, October 20, 2005

We Don't Need No Education

Seeing as how I teach for a living, I haven't really done a lot of blog posts regarding education. This is my first real post dealing with educational wonkism. The picture you see is one I took tonight of a poster that hangs on the wall at Chapman University in Roseville, which is a suburb of Sacramento. I have had to look at that infernal poster for three years now. I started my teacher credential program at Chapman in 2002, and now that I am working on my Masters Degree in Education, I have to look at that poster once again. If you cannot read the finer print, be sure to click on the photo and it will enlarge. As you can see, this poster spells out what Chapman University considers to be the attributes of an effective teacher. For those who are not familiar with educationese, many of these terms are buzzwords that make educationists slobber all over themselves with delight. Let us start with the very first attribute: Constructivist. There is this philosophy that permeates schools of education and that philosophy is Constructivism. According to constructivists, the teacher is supposed to step aside and let the kids discover - or construct - knowledge for themselves. You see? On the surface, doesn't that sound wonderful? What it means in real life is that a math teacher is not supposed to make kids memorize their times tables or teach them that a triangle is always 180 degrees; the students are supposed to "discover" that knowledge for themselves. According to the religion of constructivism, instead of being a "sage on the stage", teachers are supposed to become "guides on the side". Isn't that great? Instead of passing on thousands of years of wisdom that have been discovered by some of the most brilliant minds in world history, teachers are supposed to shut up and expect students to reinvent the wheel. What's funny is that when I was going through my credential program, and my constructivist-loving instructor told us that we weren't supposed to lecture; that we were supposed to let students discover the knowledge for themselves - how is it that my instructor let me know about this little nugget of information? That's right, in a lecture!
Let us move on to my next bone to pick: Mediator of Diversity. OK, what the hell is that anyway? How does one mediate diversity? The only translation I can think of is to separate the whites from the blacks from the hispanics from the Asians so they don't beat the tar out of one another. How's that for mediation? What an empty insipid statement. Only a bunch of pointy-headed college academics could have come up with that one. If you look underneath that Mediator heading, you will see a sub-heading called unity within differences. That reminds me of something Bill Clinton once said, and that was, "Our diversity is our strength". No, sorry Bill and sorry Chapman, our diversity is not our strength and our unity is not within our differences. Our unity is derived from our commonalities. Our commonalities are what makes us all Americans. The belief in the rule of law, the belief in hard work and individual effort, the belief that we are all created equal. There are some common beliefs that we all share, or at least, we all should share. The fact that we are a diverse people is fine, but what holds a country together is a shared set of values, culture, and language. For confirmation of my position on this matter, please visit eastern Canada, Serbia/Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, or any other country where people focus on their diversity instead of their commonalities.
Next, let's discuss that trait known as Change Agent. This is one of my favorites, because it is one of the most subversive. "Change" what? Unfortunately, I being a teacher and a reader of some great books outlining the history of our country's educational system, I can tell you what changes they are talking about. How about indoctrinating Kindergarteners about the homosexual lifestyle? How about the passing out of condoms to school children because after all, they are just animalistic beasts with no self control who are "going to do it anyway". How about the continued teaching of whole language instead of phonics in many of our country's schools? I could do a whole other post on whole language (which I probably will soon). This is the method of teaching children to read whereby instead of being taught the sounds of letters and combinations of letters, students are taught to guess a word's meaning based on its shape or context. California changed to Whole Language (WL) in 1987. Within five years, California's reading scores were tied with Mississippi's for last place in the country. California has since scrapped WL, but the upper grades who (supposedly) learned to read in the mid 1990s are still struggling. There's much more to this story, but like I said, it is a whole other post. This change agent crap goes all the way back to educator John Dewey in the 1890s and early 1900s. It was Dewey who led the way in changing our educational system from one that concentrated on teaching our kids cognitive (academic) skills, to one that concentrated on teaching our kids social skills, all in the name of switching the United States from a capitalistic, individualistic society, to a socialist, collectivist one. I would say that we are well on our way. Even today, with all the talk of academic standards and content, teacher candidates are being taught that students should learn these standards in social ways that I consider to be incompatible with quality teaching and learning, such as collaborative work whereby a group is given a grade instead of each individual student. I'm sure many are familiar with this concept. If you were the smart kid in the group, you ended up doing all the work, and the lazy kid in your group got the same grade you did. Constructivist teachers think that collaborative work is just the berries. If you look under the Facilitator heading on the poster, you will see that one of the sub-headings is collaborative. By the way, teachers are not supposed to be teachers anymore; they are supposed to be facilitators. This plays into that "guide on the side" garbage. The way I figure, if I am supposed to sit there and let the students do all this themselves and not corrupt them with my knowledge and influence:
1) Why did I go to college for four years and then another year to get a teaching credential?
2) Why does my school district pay me tens of thousands of dollars a year to sit there as a glorified cheerleader/babysitter as my charge "discover" their knowledge for themselves?

Just another day on the education battlefield.

Good Day to You, Sir.


jonathan said...

You got another teaching credential/degree b/c it meant a pay raise...right? I feel the same way about my M.Ed...useless educational philosophy garbage (constructivism), but a nice pay raise for doing my job (teaching).

Chanman said...

That is exactly why I am pursuing an M.Ed. in this oh so tedious program: to move over on the salary schedule. Kind of sad isn't it?

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