Conservatives Battle Liberals In The Classroom

Discussion in 'Education' started by PoliticalChic, Nov 14, 2009.

  1. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    The political clashes that take place on the USMB actually have import if they inform views, and make us better able to fight the battles that should be fought in the real world.
    The following article should be read by those of us who have school age children, are interested in education, and especially mathematics education.

    The author, Sandra Stotsky, a nationally-known advocate of standards-based reform and strong academic standards and assessments for students and teachers, indicts progressive education as the culprit in the depredation of our childrens’ education, and indicates the reforms that would be cures.
    And she notes the difficulty in changing education due to the political milieu today.
    Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway?
    The ed schools' pedagogy adds up to trouble.
    13 November 2009
    Who Needs Mathematicians for Math, Anyway? by Sandra Stotsky, City Journal 13 November 2009

    A summary of the article:

    1. In 1989, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the chief professional organization for mathematics educators and education faculty, issued Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. The document presented standards for grades K–12, including algebra. The underlying goals of the standards—never made clear to the general public—were social, not academic. Some of the report’s authors, for example, sought to make mathematics “accessible” to low-achieving students, yet meant by this not, say, recruiting more talented undergraduates into teaching but instead the employment of trendy, though empirically unsupported, pedagogical and organizational methods that essentially dumb down math content. Math educators proclaimed a brand-new objective—conveniently indefinable and immeasurable—called “deep conceptual understanding.”

    2. The educational trends that led to the NCTM’s approach to math have a long pedigree. During the 1970s and 1980s, educators in reading, English, and history argued that the traditional curriculum needed to be more “engaging” and “relevant” to an increasingly alienated and unmotivated—or so it was claimed—student body. Some influential educators sought to dismiss the traditional curriculum altogether, viewing it as a white, Christian, heterosexual-male product that unjustly valorized rational, abstract, and categorical thinking over the associative, experience-based, and emotion-laden thinking supposedly more congenial to females and certain minorities.

    3. Two theories lie behind the educators’ new approach to math teaching: “cultural-historical activity theory” and “constructivism.” According to cultural-historical activity theory, schooling as it exists today reinforces an illegitimate social order. The primary role of math teachers, constructivists say in turn, shouldn’t be to explain or otherwise try to “transfer” their mathematical knowledge to students; that would be ineffective. Instead, they must help the students construct their own understanding of mathematics and find their own math solutions.

    4. Teacher-directed learning goes out the window, despite its demonstrated benefits for students with learning problems; instead, schools should embrace “student-centered” math classrooms. The progressive educators, by contrast, support “integrated” approaches to teaching math—that is, teaching topics from all areas of mathematics every year, regardless of logical sequence and student mastery of each step—and they downplay basic arithmetic skills and practice, encouraging kids to use calculators from kindergarten on. The educators also neglect the teaching of standard algorithms (mathematical procedures commonly taught everywhere, with only minor variations, because of their general applicability), insisting instead on the value of student-developed algorithms—this despite research by cognitive psychologists strongly supporting a curriculum that simultaneously develops conceptual understanding, computational fluency with standard algorithms, and problem-solving skills as the best way to prepare students for algebra.

    5. [T]he president issued an executive order in 2006 forming the National Mathematics Advisory Panel. The panel, composed of mathematicians, cognitive psychologists, mathematics educators, and education researchers, would examine how best to prepare students for Algebra 1, the gateway course to higher mathematics…The panel found little if any credible evidence supporting the teaching philosophy and practices that math educators have promoted in their ed-school courses and embedded in textbooks for almost two decades. Despite the proven effectiveness of these strategies [recommended by the Paned], many math educators view most of them with disdain—most likely because they entail more traditional, structured teaching.

    6. Baseless pedagogical theories mean that the educators’ long-term captive audience—K–12 teachers, most drawn from the middle academic tier of our high school population and the bottom third of our undergraduate population—will know even less about authentic mathematics than they do now. Alas, so will their students.
     
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  2. Polk
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    Polk Classic

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    I don't see this as a liberal/conservative issue, but good article.
     
  3. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    My objection to the direction that public education, known as 'progressive' since Dewey, is that protagonists have replaced academic content, as you see in the article, with the quasi-Marxist 'social justice.'

    If you liked the article, I recommend this one to you:

    1. At a recent meeting of the New York Teaching Fellows program (“Teach for America”: provides an alternate route to state certification for about 1,700 new teachers annually) , Sol Stern found the one book that the fellows had to read in full was Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.
    This book has achieved near-iconic status in America’s teacher-training programs. In 2003, David Steiner and Susan Rozen published a study examining the curricula of 16 schools of education—14 of them among the top-ranked institutions in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report—and found that Pedagogy of the Oppressed was one of the most frequently assigned texts in their philosophy of education courses.

    2. But rather than dealing with the education of children, Pedagogy of the Oppressed mentions none of the issues that troubled education reformers throughout the twentieth century: testing, standards, curriculum, the role of parents, how to organize schools, what subjects should be taught in various grades, how best to train teachers, the most effective way of teaching disadvantaged students. This ed-school bestseller is, instead, a utopian political tract calling for the overthrow of capitalist hegemony and the creation of classless societies.

    3. Freire never intends “pedagogy” to refer to any method of classroom instruction based on analysis and research, or to any means of producing higher academic achievement for students. [H]e relies on Marx’s standard formulation that “the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat [and] this dictatorship only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” In one footnote, however, Freire does mention a society that has actually realized the “permanent liberation” he seeks: it “appears to be the fundamental aspect of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.”

    4. The pedagogical point of Freire’s thesis : its opposition to taxing students with any actual academic content, which Freire derides as “official knowledge” that serves to rationalize inequality within capitalist society. One of Freire’s most widely quoted metaphors dismisses teacher-directed instruction as a misguided “banking concept,” in which “the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing and storing the deposits.” Freire proposes instead that teachers partner with their coequals, the students, in a “dialogic” and “problem-solving” process until the roles of teacher and student merge into “teacher-students” and “student-teachers.”
    Pedagogy of the Oppressor by Sol Stern, City Journal Spring 2009

    If we cannot reclaim the schools, it is the end of America.
     
  4. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    and from the 'teacher's pov', also City-Journal.

    Remember that most grade school teachers are 'education majors' not subject area specialists. Some are better at math than others, most are married to the text books and keys. If the teacher can't adjust, those kids are going to stay in the book, failing.

    How Not to Teach Math by Matthew Clavel

     
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  5. CrusaderFrank
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    CrusaderFrank Diamond Member

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    Educated people reject Socialism, hence our sabotaged educational system tries to keep people ignorant.
     
  6. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    I tried to add a rep, but it wouldn't allow...

    I'm grateful when attention is paid, (could we call this 'Death of a Curriculum'?) to the sorry state of education.
     
  7. chanel
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    chanel Silver Member

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    Our math dept is not permitted to grade homework and tests and quizzes may not count for more than 40 percent of their grade. Hence, 60 percent of their "achievement" is based on having a face.
     
  8. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    I think that, as data should inform policy, the No Child Left Behind Act is a good start, as it forces the educrats to present students' scores, but although the Act mandates annual testing for all states, it does not provide federal standards for testing practices. Left to their own discretion, states have created a broad array of approaches. Instead of trying to improve student achievement, some states may be watering down their own achievement standards to avoid accountability sanctions.

    According to the Fordham Foundation, between 2003 and 2005, 20 states have seen dramatic improvement in the “proficiency” rates on state exams that determine whether states meet federal guidelines for adequate yearly progress. But children in these same states have not posted similar gains on the federally mandated National Assessment of Educational Progress, leading some experts to declare that NCLB has started a “race to the bottom” in terms of lower state standards.

    Here, from the New York City Teacher’s newspaper is the spin to ‘explain’ why kids seem to be improving, on state exams, but when exposed to the NAEP, show where they really stand:

    “Teachers have been telling the UFT that there is too much emphasis on teaching to the state standards as measured by state tests. Now, the results of the national math tests this year support their claims.

    Students in New York State showed no real progress on these tests this year despite big gains on statewide exams.

    Flat scores on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math stood in stark contrast to large gains on the state test, where an unprecedented number of students have met state standards over the last two years.

    Education experts and commentators questioned whether schools have become so focused on teaching to the specifics of state tests that they have sacrificed broader and more challenging curriculums. Others wondered if state tests have misled educators about how much students actually know.”
    National tests show no progress in math - United Federation of Teachers

    So, according to the United Federation of Teachers, it is not that the system/curriculum is faulty, not teaching enough, but rather that teachers are doing too good a job at teaching ‘to the [State] test.’

    I don't see any hope outside of homeschooling.
     
  9. Annie
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    Annie Diamond Member

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    Thanks for the attempt. I've been lucky, I teach in a school where we are free to leave texts, as long as we adhere to standards. It's a good approach, but one the public schools really have problems doing, even with highly qualified teachers. Because they don't want one teacher 'teaching more' or 'differently', since all the parents would want the most effective teacher-you know, the one teaching.

    I was lucky with my kids and public schools too, as they all went to public high school. Upper income area-why I struggle with paying for townhouse-the parents want 'ability grouping and teachers that teach. Not exactly what state wants, but they do get around it. Part of the problem with public schools, the parents education and willingness to be involved, has more to do with their success than the texts, teachers, or published curriculum.
     
  10. PoliticalChic
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    PoliticalChic Diamond Member

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    We can't be the only ones who know and notice these things.

    Can it be that the vast majority of parents are less concerned with the education their children get than simply getting them baby-sat?

    Academic content is a key reason why we homeschool.

    At a recent trip arranged by a homeschool group to a NYC museum, my seven year old raised his hand to comment on the "tesserae used in the mosaic" the group was viewing.

    I was so proud of him!
     

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