Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Panacea for Education Ills?

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
The Flask

Stephen Downes rattled my dags with a short post earlier this month – more so because his post was shorter than the comment I left. It was really in answer to the (almost rhetorical) question:

Why Are People So Gullible About Miracle Cures in Education?

This was asked by Diane Ravitch who said:

“the schools just can't seem to shake this belief that all children will learn to the highest standards when:
  1. all teachers are great teachers;
  2. every school has a brilliant leader as principal;
  3. every superintendent has an M.B.A.;
  4. every school is run by entrepreneurs;
  5. every school is organized around a theme;
  6. every school is small;
  7. all schools are charters . . .”
She suggested that her list had only just begun.

Relevant to the first item in Diane’s list, however, I have to admit that I’ve been doing my rounds on posts about teacher bashing recently. But the further I go with this, the more I feel my comment to Stephen summarises the kernel of the problem:

I think people are gullible about miracle cures in education the same way as they were gullible about miracle cures for ill health. It's just that our research in education has lagged research in medicine tragically, and it is well known that education research is still in its infancy. Bill Gates recognises that.

As long as we have quacks who stand on their soap boxes selling their education tonic in a bottle to whoever is gullible enough to buy it, we are going to be seeing much more of this sort of thing.

There are regulations in western countries about how one can claim a cure for ill health in a bottle. There are not yet any useful regulations governing how one can claim a cure in education.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


Paul C said...

Regarding the Bill Gates' TED video I am trying to get a copy of Work Hard Be Nice by Jay Matthews. (The title sure seems trite.) Gates held it up as a model for change. I thought Gates was somewhat superficial in his overview of the whole question of education.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Paul!

Thanks for alerting me to this book - it looks a fascinating read and you've got me looking for it too now.

Yes, Bill Gates is not an educator. He is an innovator. If there is anything I could say in favour of what he is trying to do, it's that I wholeheartedly agree with nearly all of the points he brought forward - student engagement - pedagogy (though he didn't necessarily use that word in context) - statistics on 'average' teachers - the need for research into what makes good teaching.

I noted that he did not criticise teachers. This is a point in his favour, for so much I have read and heard about recently is into attacking teachers rather than analysing the methods and procedures used with a view to improving those and going forward with some practical experience and knowledge of how to teach.

Catchya later

Daisy said...

One of the biggest challengs I face in my fourth grade classroom is this: apathy. Another is this: poverty. No matter how well trained I am, how hard I work, if the kids in my class don't know where they'll sleep tonight, it's hard to care about long division. No matter how hard i work, if the parents buy the kid shirts that say "Homework? What homework?" and encourage that attitude, it's nearly impossible to teach that kid.
There are many effective programs that will help these kids, but superficial quick fixes will not.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Haere mai Daisy!

I couldn't agree more with you! In fact, in distance education there are only a few parameters that really determine success of the student. Leaving the student out of this important loop, what's left is care and attention from parent and teacher. If either one of these lets the student down, the likelihood of success is slim.

Very few young people in western society today are entirely self-motivated to learn (but there are some). A caring environment in the home (not necessarily a rich one at that) clears the path for the teacher to engage the student.

If the student is then willing, it happens.

Catchya later