I congratulate you on your work about education reform. However, the edu-crats may have tricked you into following their assertions that the top-down approach is the way to work. That is, get the public funding and budget in order, maybe throw in some type of teacher evaluations, and all will be well. And then San Diego Unified School District likes to say that their education reform will come from the bottom-up approach. But in their case, that really means no reforms at all, which suits them fine. They like things as they are — dismal education results seem to suit them fine.
I propose no top-down approaches to reforms. Unlimited funding, good budgets and proper evaluations will do little to reverse the damages to education that they have done over the decades. Up until the last four years, they received increased, not decreased, annual public fundings. Yet, they produced dismal results starting in the 1970s and continued to present.
I propose some real bottom-up reform approaches which I list below. These are four teaching methods that have to be eliminated in order to reverse their damages of the past. Plus, there are few costs to implement these reforms. The public schools can change them tomorrow. The education colleges are the big hurdles as they have so much invested in the old failed teaching methods. But that is another story not to be addressed here.
1. Collaborative vs. competitive learning models.
Get rid of the collaborative model. First of all, it is the lazy teacher method of instruction. Instead of evaluating 32 students, they are put in groups of four, work on some “project” together and the teacher has to do only eight evaluations since each student in the group gets the same grade.
Within the group, the students quickly sort out each other. The smart, hard-working student does all the work. The lazy other three skate and go along for the ride. Not much learning takes place, but the project is turned in, and they all get the same grade.
Finally, this entire flawed learning model is just a backhanded slap at the edu-crat perceived “evils” of competition. The teacher colleges have successfully asserted this and manipulated it into all education curriculum.
2. “Critical Thinking” vs. factual learning models.
Get rid of the critical thinking mumbo-jumbo. Once again, this is also another lazy teacher model (see a trend here?). Instead of teaching facts (who, what, why, when, where, how), they want to teach “analyze and synthesize,” “compare and contrast” and “how do you feel about…(fill in the blanks.)” This may be fine at the college levels, but not at public schools in which the students are not familiar with most of these real facts.
The students have learned how to game this system as well. They can turn in “brilliant” papers analyzing such things as the Vietnam War. But after submission of their critical thinking papers, they cannot tell you when the war was fought, who were the leaders of the U.S. and Vietnam at the time, nor even locate Vietnam on a map. None of these facts are apparently important to today’s edu-crats.
Remember “New Math”? Now largely neglected, that was the predecessor to the critical thinking mess. The student would be somehow able to understand the calculation of a math problem, without necessarily having to get the right answer. After many years of declining math scores, even some edu-crats figured out this was not working.
3. Get rid of the “critical thinking” standardized tests.
Few of these multiple-choice tests actually test for knowledge. Most answers can be “all of the above,” “none of the above,” “A or C, or D and B,” etc. Some ask for “the best” or “the worst” answer. Such answers imply that there are no answers at all, or at least that the answers are up to the reader. And since there is no feedback, the “real” answers remain unknown. No learning takes place here. Facts or knowledge are not imparted and apparently not important.
4. Get rid of electronics in the classroom.
Any independent observations of any classrooms will conclude that about 75 percent of student time is wasted on use of iPods, smart phones, cell phones or in-school computers. It is wasted on texting, games, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Once again, this is the lazy school method. To them, somehow electronics are the magic tools for education. They are very good for the computer science classes, but should be forbidden in every other curriculum. No internet access should be allowed in the classrooms. It is not needed. Lots of proprietary education software exists. The schools can buy it and the students can use it. After all, this is high school! The students are not writing research master theses. They should be learning facts first, before writing their critical thinking papers at the college level.
The heads of the old-time educators will explode upon reading the above. It upends everything they have successfully implemented and put upon our public schools. And we witness the abysmal results of their work.
Gary Cristofani lives in San Diego.
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