Progressive Views About Education That Aren't: Alfie Kohn Clarifies

by: jeffbinnc

Sun Nov 15, 2009 at 12:30


(By invitation, following Jeff's great diary about Gerald Bracey. - promoted by Paul Rosenberg)

The Center for American Progress is "progressive." Right? After all, CAP's website touts it as a source for "Progressive Ideas." The homepage lists its "progressive priorities." And the "About Us" blurb declares CAP's mission to draw from the great progressive "social movements of the 20th century."

So you would expect that any thoughts about education policy emanating from The Center for American Progress would be, well, progressive, wouldn't you?

CAP's most recent opportunity to push for a more progressive agenda for reforming America's public schools was released to the world earlier this month with the publication of "Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Innovation," a follow-up report to another one bearing the same name two years ago. Even though the report was created in partnership with two well-known conservative organizations, you would expect that CAP would have inserted some fairly substantial representation of progressive education values in the report.

For instance, you would expect there to be some reference to educating children in ways that are similar to those pioneered by Francis Parker, who believed that children learn best by doing and that schools have to be child-centered. You would expect to find the influence of the great American thinker John Dewy, whose laboratory school proved that schools work best when they function as a community. And you would expect to see at least some reference to the developmental psychology of Jean Piaget and the work of Jerome Bruner who established that children aren't empty vessels that schools can just pour a standardized content into.

After all, the research base that proves that progressive education practices are effective has a pretty long history and is fairly well understood.

But anyone looking for a progressive influence in the "Leaders and Laggards" report will be sorely disappointed. Because there's none. Phrases such as "active learning" and "child-centered" never even occur. Nothing about schools functioning like communities, or kids being encouraged to construct their own meaning about academic content.

jeffbinnc :: Progressive Views About Education That Aren't: Alfie Kohn Clarifies
In fact, for a report that is ostensibly about what education policy should do to influence student achievement, there's hardly anything about student achievement in it. No attention is paid whatsoever to the factors that research shows are the most influential determinants of student achievement. And while the report does at least acknowledge that the teacher's influence is important (actually, it the most important factor that is within the control of schools), it says shockingly little about what teachers actually DO to improve achievement and how this can be leveraged systemically.

So one has to wonder why would The Center for American Progress, an ostensibly progressive organization, have nothing to say about progressive education?

It's hard to believe that CAP's influence on the report was stifled by the two other right-wing authors, especially since the report carefully notes the disagreement that CAP had with the other two authors over school vouchers. Instead, what's far more likely is that when it comes to education policy, CAP just isn't very progressive.

What Is Progressive Education?

Finding a voice for progressive education is indeed a tough proposition, regardless of political party. Case in point: No Child Left Behind, considered by many to be the most anti-progressive education policy ever enacted, was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy, who many consider to be the most progressive Senator in US history.

So why don't people who claim to be progressive believe in progressive education?

To answer that question, there first has to be clarity about what is indeed progressive education. And for years, virtually the only prominent spokesperson for progressive education practice has been Alfie Kohn. In his many books and articles, Kohn has become the leading figure in progressive education and has laid out very clearly what is-and what isn't-a progressive approach to education practice.

Drawing from the influences of Dewey, Piaget, and others, Kohn contends that progressive education must adhere to certain principles. In his article, "Progressive Education: Why It's Hard to Beat, But Also Hard to Find," Kohn contends that schools that are progressive
Attend to the Whole Child: "Schooling isn't seen as being about just academics, nor is intellectual growth limited to verbal and mathematical proficiencies."
Support Community: "Children learn with and from one another in a caring community."
Encourage Collaboration: "In place of rewards for complying with the adults' expectations, or punitive consequences for failing to do so, there's more of an emphasis on collaborative problem-solving."
Instill Social Justice: "Students are helped to locate themselves in widening circles of care that extend beyond self, beyond friends, beyond their own ethnic group, and beyond their own country."
Tap Students' Intrinsic Motivation: "When considering (or reconsidering) educational policies and practices, the first question that progressive educators are likely to ask is, 'What's the effect on students' interest in learning, their desire to continue reading, thinking, and questioning?'"
Develop Deep Understanding: "Facts and skills do matter, but only in a context and for a purpose. That's why progressive education tends to be organized around problems, projects, and questions - rather than around lists of facts, skills, and separate disciplines."
Use Active Learning: "In progressive schools, students play a vital role in helping to design the curriculum, formulate the questions, seek out (and create) answers, think through possibilities, and evaluate how successful they - and their teachers - have been."
Take Kids Seriously: "In traditional schooling, as John Dewey once remarked, 'the center of gravity is outside the child': he or she is expected to adjust to the school's rules and curriculum. Progressive educators take their cue from the children-and are particularly attentive to differences among them."

Based on decades of research, Kohn asserts that, "Across domains, the results overwhelmingly favor progressive education. Regardless of one's values, in other words, this approach can be recommended purely on the basis of its effectiveness." He also readily admits that progressive schools are "rare." But he counters that by pointing out that,

"If progressive schooling is actually quite uncommon, then it's hard to blame our problems (real or alleged) on this model. Indeed, the facts have the effect of turning the argument on its head: If students aren't learning effectively, it may be because of the persistence of traditional beliefs and practices in our nation's schools."

So coming back to the question, "Why don't progressives believe in progressive education?" the answer can't be found in any well constructed argument that progressive education doesn't work. Instead, what's really at the base of this disconnection between progressives and progressive values in education are four pervasive mindsets that tend to influence American beliefs across the political spectrum.

Mindset #1: The only valid outcomes are those that are quantitative and measurable.
That progressives are just as apt to believe in this mindset as anyone else in America is pretty hard to refute. Especially because this mindset is so pervasive in the analysis of just about every endeavor in our society-from business management, to military policy, to sports.

CAP's L&L report is replete with quantitative measures of all kinds, nearly 20 "indicators" in all, for all 50 states-all rolled into extremely intricate "grades" for each state. The word "data" occurs 465 times in the report. The word "teaching" not so much: 75.

But this obsession with quantitative measures is intrinsically anti-progressive when it comes to education. Within the context of an argument against teacher merit pay based on student test scores, Kohn points out:

"Despite what is widely assumed by economists and behaviorists, some things are more than the sum of their parts, and some things can't be reduced to numbers. It's an illusion to think we can specify and quantify all the components of good teaching and learning, much less establish criteria for receiving a bonus that will eliminate the perception of arbitrariness. No less an authority than the statistician-cum-quality-guru W. Edwards Deming reminded us that 'the most important things we need to manage can't be measured.' . . . [T]he problems are multiplied when the criteria are dubious, such as raising student test scores. These tests, as I and others have argued elsewhere, tend to measure what matters least. They reflect children's backgrounds more than the quality of a given teacher or school."

Mindset #2: People and organizations do the right things only when they are incented to do so.
The entire premise of No Child Left Behind and, in turn, Arne Duncan's "Race to the Top" funds is built on the belief that rewards and punishments are the best way to manipulate schools and teachers into "improvement." In the case of NCLB, schools are told that unless they make certain "performance improvements" (i.e., test scores) they won't receive Federal Title I funds meant to support the education of poor students. In the case of Duncan's "Race," states won't be eligible for billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds unless they enact specific measures such as lifting caps on charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores.

This stubborn insistence on a reward/punishment approach is prominent in the recommendations made in the L&L report, from "sanctioning" low-performing schools to "rewarding" teachers for test scores

It's hard to find progressive leaders who refute this mindset. But fortunately, there's Kohn. In his groundbreaking book Punished by Rewards, Kohn forever shatters the mindset that carrot/stick is an effective way to run schools and educate kids. From the backflap:

"[Kohn] shows that while manipulating people with incentives seems to work in the short run, it is a strategy that ultimately fails and even does lasting harm. Our workplaces and classrooms will continue to decline, he argues, until we begin to question our reliance on a theory of motivation derived from laboratory animals."

Within the context of education alone, the punishment and reward mentality is particularly damaging because it assumes that "people could be doing a better job but for some reason have decided to wait until it's bribed out of them. This is as insulting as it is inaccurate. Dangling a reward in front of teachers or principals-'Here's what you'll get if things somehow improve'- does nothing to address the complex, systemic factors that are actually responsible for educational deficiencies."

Mindset #3: Competitive ranking is always a justifiable frame for evaluating people and organizations.
From the proliferation of award programs, to contest-based reality TV shows, to the list of Best Places to Live-Do Business-Go to College, Retire etc., etc., just about every facet of American culture is dominated by obsessive ranking.

Sure, you can enjoy an episode of Iron Chef, but is that the same way to evaluate schools and education? It seems that CAP would have no problem with that, at least as demonstrated by the L&L report. Grading and ranking form the primary framework for the study's entire focus. There's even an interactive "report card" with colorful maps that show the practically endless variations in state rankings you can create.

But in a progressive approach to education, that emphasizes collaboration and problem solving versus competition and power grabs, competitive ranking runs counter to the goals of good education. As Kohn explains, competitive ranking of schools is a road to nowhere and antithetical to progressive values:

"'Consider the sport of ranking the U.S. against other nations on standardized tests. Once we've debunked the myth that test scores predict economic success, why would we worry about our country's standing as measured by those scores? To say that our students are first, or tenth, on a list provides no useful information about how much they know or how good our schools are. If all the countries did reasonably well in absolute terms, there would be no shame in (and, perhaps, no statistical significance to) being at the bottom. If all the countries did poorly, there would be no glory in being at the top. Exclamatory headlines about how 'our' schools are doing compared to 'theirs' suggest that we're less concerned with the quality of education than with whether we can chant, 'We're Number One!'
Sadder still, the same competitive mindset shows up as district is pitted against district, school against school, student against student. Several years ago, one superintendent in the Northeast vowed that his city's test scores would "never be last again" in his state. Like so many others, he was confusing higher scores with better learning. But this appalling statement also implied that his students didn't have to improve; as long as kids in another community fared even more poorly, he would be satisfied. Such a position is not only intellectually indefensible (because of its focus on relative performance) but morally bankrupt (because of its indifference to the welfare of children in other places)."

Mindset #4: Education is necessary, primarily, as preparation for the workplace.
This mindset that education is mostly about preparation for the workplace is extremely shortsighted but popular nonetheless, even among progressives. Warns CAP in the L&L report, "our schools consistently produce students unready for the rigors of the modern workplace." And "far too many students graduate from high school unprepared for the rigors of college and the workplace."

One of the main flaws of this mindset is that it's built on the assumption that we actually know what the workplace of the future is going to be like. But an even more persuasive reason to doubt the link between academic learning to workplace performance is that it really doesn't appear to exist. As Kohn points out:

"Various strands of evidence have converged to challenge the claim that the state of our economy is a function of how good our schools are at preparing tomorrow's workers. For individual students, school achievement is only weakly related to subsequent workplace performance.  And for nations, there's little correlation between average test scores and economic vigor.
Schools make a tempting scapegoat when a company's financial results are disappointing or when the economy as a whole falters.  But an employee's educational background is only one of many factors that determine his or her productivity.  Worker productivity, in turn, is only one of many factors that determine corporate profitability.  And corporate profitability is only one of many factors that determine the state of the economy - particularly the employment picture.  Does anyone seriously believe, for example, that the main reason U.S. companies are shipping jobs by the millions to Mexico and Asia is because they believe those countries' schools are better?"

Furthermore, turning education into work preparation fundamentally misunderstands what a progressive view of learning is. Kohn explains:

"Even the most enlightened businesses, however, are still quite different from what schools are about--or ought to be about. Managers may commit themselves to continuous improvement and try to make their employees' jobs more fulfilling, but the bottom line is that they are still focused on--well, on the bottom line. The emphasis is on results, on turning out a product, on quantifying improvement on a fixed series of measures such as sales volume or return on investment. The extent to which this mentality has taken hold in discussions about education is the extent to which our schools are in trouble.
In the course of learning, students frequently produce things, such as essays and art projects and lab write-ups, whose quality can be assessed. But these artifacts are just so many byproducts of the act of making meaning. The process of learning is more important than the products that result. To use the language of "work"--or, worse, to adopt a business-style approach to school reform--is to reverse those priorities."

Progressives Need to Prepare
With the reauthorization of NCLB coming "early next year," according to Arne Duncan, progressives need to prepare to debate on what's at stake for our nation's children and how we should go forward to ensure we have a system of education that is accessible and beneficial to every student.

But if so-called leaders of the progressive community don't have a clue about what is really a progressive approach to education, how can we even enter the debate, much less be heard and be persuasive?


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Thanks so much for posting this (0.00 / 0)
I don't always agree with Alfie Kohn, but I admire him for the challenges he places on people.  I greatly enjoy using some of his writing when teaching Human Growth and Development because he has such a wonderful way of approaching the issues that challenge common assumptions.  It's especially fun to watch students try to justify why they should still tell children "good job," after reading Alfie's very compelling piece about why it's a bad idea to do so.  

I probably have better things to do with my time than this.

thanks so much for commenting julie (4.00 / 1)
I'm not sure I "always" agree with Alfie Kohn either. But the main point I'm trying to get across is that anyone professing to be "progressive" needs to have at least consider his framework and why or why not to operate within it. And yes, the "good job" piece by Kohn is a great one.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Right (0.00 / 0)
I don't disagree with that at all.

I probably have better things to do with my time than this.

[ Parent ]
It's Worth Noting (4.00 / 3)
That Edwards Demming, "the man who invented quality" was staunchly opposed to the use of grades, and would specifically have rejected both myths 2 & 3, and probably 4 as well.  Newt Gingrich tried to reinvent Demming in his image, and claim himself as a disciple, and to my knowledge, my opinion piece in the LA Times while Gingrich was speaker of the House was the only "mainstream" media piece disputing this malarky.

Demming's POV was simply that such testing was largely meaningless, based on the same principles of measurement theory that he had applied to information, manufacturing and sales process.  He did think that tests could be useful in determing if systems were flawed (in all the above cases), but he had solid mathematical arguments to show that the error margins in testing were routinely much larger than the variance in individual performance.  The result was that making people try to respond to how well they did in performance tests (even things as seemingly solid as monthly sales reports) had the primary effect of making them constantly adjust themselves to respond to what was basically statistical noise.

Of course, there are all sorts of stories of remarkable people who were judged to be poor students for one reason or another.  But Demming's perspective explains why these aren't the exceptions, but but credible examples of a systemcatic disconnect.

Of course, this doesn't get anywhere near the positive side of Kohn's insight into the proper nature of education.  But it does underscore just how totally lost our so-called "progressives" are in blindly babbling on as they do.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Thanks Paul (4.00 / 2)
I'm not as knowledgeable about Demming and appreciate you adding to the depth of that reference. And also thanks for asking me to come back to write more about education issues. The direction that I took for this diary grew out an exchange between educationaction and me in comments to my Bracey diary where he/she lamented
"The most basic facts about the dangers, for example, of using standardized tests for evaluating poor schools, even the  most traditional poor schools, seems impossible to get across even to the lefties.  Or the fact that however problematic some ed schools are, teachers who go through a rigorous program produce significantly better learning for their students.This makes education an especially bizarre political/social arena."

I really wanted to work that problem out philosophically: why people who consider themselves to be "on the left" still tend to look at education with a very conservative mindset. Kohn's writings just make it so much easier to see the disconnect among progressives.  

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
A Lot Of It Is Simply Pure Ignorance (4.00 / 3)
Suppressing knowledge, including awareness of alternatives, has always been one of the core strategies of the right, and they've practiced it relentlessly with respect to education.

The real tragedy of the past 60 years is how generally complicity and compliant would-be progressives have been, something I would trace back to the success of McCarthyism, matched with the Cold War liberal adaptation.  This is clearly related to the issues that John Emerson has been dealing with, too.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Absoutely (4.00 / 1)
But even after would-be progressives are made aware of the conservative nature of their thinking, I wanted to attack the usual props they resort to to keep their would-be progressivism standing. It's hard for me to believe that the education policy folk at CAP don't know Dewey and Kohn. So I'm making some assumptions about the justifications they might have for the ridiculous report they put out.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Yeah (0.00 / 0)
You're taking dead aim at the folks at CAP, as you should.

I was thinking more broadly about how it is that they could even begin to think that way in the first place, and how come so many people don't see anything wrong with it.


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Ahh, but you haven't yet answered the question (0.00 / 0)
which I can't necessarily answer either, although I can always hope you will :)

I still think it has something to do with the problem of looking to education as a solution to economic problems, and a series of misunderstandings that reverberate from that.  You hit the economic misunderstanding, above, but not the reverberations.  

Of course, I may be off base, here.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
Combined with (0.00 / 0)
The inherent "looking down" on those who don't "know enough" by those who do (racism, classism, etc.), e.g., that the "problem" of being uneducated implies a state of being lesser than "us."  

Sorry cluttering it up with all the posts.  I should go to bed.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
An aside: testing and grading are things that fascinate me (0.00 / 0)
I have an odd facility for standardized tests, or at least I did in high school when we had to take a bunch of them.  I just have this weird knack for doing extremely well on them.  I always thought they were, however, a ridiculous metric for much of anything.  I remember in particular taking the ACT and scoring in the 99th percentile on the one category I didn't comprehend at all.  I just gave up on that section of the quiz; someone suggested that maybe subconsciously I knew the answers even though I thought I didn't and I had to explain that I knew it was a timed test so I stopped trying to get the right answer and literally stopped reading the questions and just started answering things randomly after I was about halfway through.  It worked to my advantage, but not in a way I felt was at all useful or meaningful except as a means to an end.

As a teacher, I struggle with the question of grading and have really mixed feelings about it.  But I am a fairly harsh grader.  I expect a lot of work from my students.  What I tell them is that if we changed to a structure without grading, I'd be perfectly happy to do so, but if I am expected to grade my students, I'm going to try to make the grades mean things.  Too many of my students think they deserve an "A" just for showing up and submitting their work on time, even if they never participate and the work is substandard.  I'm fine with never failing anyone and never giving anyone an A, but I'm not fine with giving people an A who haven't done good work.

I probably have better things to do with my time than this.


[ Parent ]
Two Things (0.00 / 0)
(1) I, too, always tested very well--though never in something I knew nothing about--and felt absurd while doing so.  Particularly when I'd come to a question where I knew what the "right" answer was, even while I could write a brief essay about why it was wrong.

(2) My sister teaches in a community college, and your second paragraph could have been written by her.  But there's no contradiction here with Demming.  In fact, the sorts of attitudes that drive my sister crazy are the direct results of the incentive systems Demming criticizes.  

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Grading (0.00 / 0)
When I was teaching in the classroom I struggled with grading too and never thought of myself as an easy grader. I ended up employing standards of activity/effort+product+participation that were written down and discussed at the outset. If you wanted to fail my class you really had to try. But every semester some students would.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
I hadn't thought about this until your comment (0.00 / 0)
but today's educators are "progressives."  They're just the administrative progressives and not the democratic/collaboratives that Kohn loves.  And the administrative progressives--believing in the power of centralized bureaucracy and the discretion of administrators to lead progress despite the stupid little people who muck it all up--have always been the ones in command of education.  

Great example: Tyack's One Best System: http://www.amazon.com/One-Best...

Of course the Administrative progressives always had a pretty limited understanding of the limits of administration.  E.g.: Scott's Seeing like a State: http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-L...

And. . . GREAT POST JEFF!

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
So ... In Factory Earth We All Kick Soma & Make ... (0.00 / 0)
painted flowers on our toes? Origami? Watercolors of the sunset and sunrise, if we bothered to get outta bed? Poems about thinking about getting outta bed, or the struggles of capturing sun events with paintbrushes?

I have a leather shoelace which is 38 inches long and weighs 7 grams. I need 2 of them for my boots / shoes. Do only U$ relatively affluent North Americans get boots and shoelaces? What if 6.4 billion people got a pair of boots and a pair of leather shoe laces? 6,400,000,000*14 = 896... with LOTS of Zeroes Grams of leather laces.

What if I use cotton laces, or poly laces, instead?

How many dead animals, or acres of cotton, or barrels of oil do we need? How do we transport the leather, cotton or oil? How to process it for manufacuturing? How to we fund the making of the transportation, processing and manufacturing? WHY will people show up to transport and process and manufacture shoelaces ... or boots ... or the trucks or trains or wheelbarrows for transporting... or the roads for transporting on ... or the organic biodegradable tofu roof shingles for the buildings of doing the processing, manufacturing of the shoes, laces, trucks, wheelbarrows, WORKERS ... or apartment windows

OR, who f'king cares, cuz we're all gonna go to college and we're all gonna write papers about people who are meanies and about unethical people and about people who are untruth-i-ness-ful!

++++++++++++++

What is REALLY needed is a dose of Reality about Factory Earth.

What is Factory Earth?

Well, it is a Earth where MORE than the kids of the affluent get to go hiking in the Grand Canyon... unless ONLY the self annointed selfless get to see the Grand Canyon, and the rest of the 6.4 billion eat their soma in order to make sure the annointed are eco-tourists and have their boots and laces?

On Factory Earth 6.4 Billion people need and want education for their young, need and want training and retraining so they're able to do the work of Factory Earth, need and want their garbage disposed of smartly, need and want their water safe to drink and their sewage not around their ankles, need and want a roof and walls against the local elements, need and want power for their lights washing machine and the frig, need and want their health care so they can participate in keeping Factory Earth running, need and want their retirement security so they don't have to work in Factory Earth till they drop dead at their post, need and want their clothing, their LIESURE, transportation of the organic biodegradable tofu roof shingles, shoes, band aids, ... musical instruments...??

Well, we can either a Factory Earth that works for all of us, OR

we can all be working so OUR Factory Earth massa has a bigger yacht/aircraft carrier/floating fortress than YOUR massa!

What is REALLY needed to get Factory Earth running well, and to keep it running well, are the science and math and accounting and finance and technology ... skills to build Factory Earth into a well run machine for ALL of us inhabitants of Factory Earth - even the goddam snail darter!

(psst... and a knowledge of philosophy, history, literature, sociology-politicalscience-economics ... is needed to apply those technical skills!)

I'm in 5th year of teaching high school math. I'm 49. I've made over 50 grand ONCE in my life, 50 grand which would move me outta the appx. 160,000,000/ 211,000,000 Americans with 2008 money income of 50 grand or less.

The BEST things education policy people could do to HELP my kids in my classrooms?  

...my scores and scores of unskilled kids, kids who are gonna have a LOT of challenges in our current DYSFUNCTIONAL Dickenson Factory Earth...

The BEST things Education policy people could do would be either:

1. figure out what their grandiose ideas cost in time to implement per kid, per class, per school ...

AND pay for the time to implement the grandiose idea,

OR

2. all get on 1 of these rusting hulk cargo freighters, make sure it has no life boats or flotation devices, then paddle out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and then sink the f'king thing!

What a bunch of toe painting parasites - and now they have powerpoint!

rmm.



It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way


Man, you've said a lot (0.00 / 0)
So mostly I'm just going to acknowledge your sense of frustration. In fact, I think most educators share your level of frustration. And people wonder why a recent survey found that 40% of classroom teachers in the US are "disheartened?"

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
I like my kids ;) The Edu-Policy Twits Are a WASTE (0.00 / 0)
of skin, desk apce, salary ...

It takes a LOT of work to feed 6.4 billion people.

If we all output about 2 liters of of ... yellow and brown stuff a day, that is 12.8 BILLION liters of yellow and brown stuff.

WHAT are we all gonna do with all that stuff?

We're all going to get doctorates in English Literature and the OTHER people will take care of our shit and piss!

Is Anyone Gonna Figure the Cost of Any Idea, Or ... are they just gonna keep turning out the f'king powerpoints and turning out the f'king tomes?

Are we gonna FIX any f'king thing on this planet, OR, we're just gonna keep "educating" this f'king parasite class of pontificators?

If it isn't education, it is health ha ha ha care, or transportation, or General Motors --------- show me SOMEPLACE these big brains have done ANYTHING but justify their own existances at the top ??????????

Oh, and, by the way - let's add in some fascist string pullers who think we peee-ons all exist so they can live on yachts, and we can be their boot lickers, ass wipes, serfs and cannon fodder! ;)

rmm.


It is too full o' the milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way


[ Parent ]
i'll bet your someone's favorite teacher :) (4.00 / 2)


[ Parent ]
I hear you (4.00 / 1)
Retired after 40 years.  I was fighting the mentality of the Duncans, the NCLB mentality for years.  Listening to Duncan, Gingrich and Sharpton this morning made me sad.  I am sad that I am glad to be out of education. I know what works.  I have seen it. I still hear from kids I had over 30 years ago.  Positives.

Kids are not widgets.

We have to do more than pour facts and/skills into their heads, test to see if they're there, stamp them as A(dvanced)P(roficient), PP(Partially Proficient), U(nsatisfactory and move them down the conveyor belt.

We are missing so much here.  

I am sad, I am angry, I am frustrated and I am no longer in education.  I feel bad for all the students who love to learn, all the teachers who love to teach and learn.   They are being cheated by these idiots.


[ Parent ]
And the fact that you left as a result (or it sounds like that) (0.00 / 0)
is a direct result of the efforts of these idiots.  They are making it worse.  It can be worse.  It used to be better (and I'm not talking about smiley-face nostalgia).

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)

[ Parent ]
I've believed for a while (4.00 / 1)
That our education system needs to be re-made from the ground up, because the fundamental assumptions it's built upon are completely, utterly, 100% wrong.  And that was mainly based on my personal experience with it (the stories I could tell about my elementary school...).

I think the ultimate fundamental false mindset, that all the others result from, is "education should be about what to think, not how to think."  Cliche, I know, but true nonetheless.  Learning how to think was an accident for me until college.

Sometimes, I've felt like I'm the only person who has this opinion.  Good to know there are others too, even if we're in the far minority. :/

There's a really good book I found at one of my college's "we're selling excess library books for $1 apiece" sale.  I forget the title, and it's back in America right now, but it basically revolves around an argument that our educational system should be based around the same concepts that teach children to read.  I really need to read that book cover-to-cover when I get back...


Teaching how to think (4.00 / 1)
I think it's a fundamental mistake to take one's own experience with public education and project it out as a broad assertion of what's wrong with all public schools. That said, I agree with you that learning how to think is the most important goal of education. And believe me there are lots of schools and teachers that succeed in doing this. The problem is that most kids don't have the chance to go to these kinds of schools. "Rebuilding from the ground up" has become a popular frame of the right wing, which uses that phrase to suggest that the whole concept of public education should be reconsidered within a "market-based" frame, i.e., corporate take-over. The real truth about US public schools is that they work, but for just some students who are lucky enough to go to those. And what really needs to occur is taking what works for effective schools and leveraging it across the broader system.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Whoever said it was public education? (0.00 / 0)
I`m honestly not trying to brag, but I went to one of the best private elementary schools in Las Vegas, and I hated it.  And from all the stories I`ve heard, it`s not much different in the public schools.

You`re right that some teachers are much better than others, and some schools are much better than others.  I`ve had some really good teachers.  But I think it`s hard to argue that the system in general is built on a foundation of erronneous assumptions.

I don`t see why you`re complaining that I`m taking a right-wing phrase and using it in a liberal manner.  If you ask me, they`ve taken enough of the language already, and I`m tired of it.  But maybe we should start by making "freedom" liberal again, and work our way up.

You say that US public schools "work."  What exactly do you mean by that?  I would argue that the vast majority of US schools, public and private, do not work, for many reasons.  The most major being because they tend to foster hatred of learning instead of love for it.

Have you noticed that practically nobody likes going to school?  Am I the only person who sees a serious problem with that?


[ Parent ]
Okay (4.00 / 1)
Since the entire focus of my diary was about public schools I assumed that that was what we were talking about. Here's what I mean about some public schools that work, I'll let Yong Zhao speak for the effectiveness of US schools:
"Having grown up in China, experienced the Chinese education system as both a student and teacher, and closely studied its history and recent reforms as a researcher, I understand the reasons behind its reforms. China is determined to transform from a labor-intensive, low-level manufacturing economy into an innovation-driven knowledge society. An innovation-driven society is driven by innovative people. Innovative people cannot come from schools that force students to memorize correct answers on standardized tests or reward students who excel at regurgitating dictated spoon-fed knowledge. Thus China decided to change its 'test-oriented education' into 'talent-oriented education.' To engineer this change, China made a conscious, global search for models-education systems that are good at producing innovative talents. As a country with the most Nobel laureates, most original patents, most scientific discoveries in the 20th century, and largest economy in the world, the United States of America seems a reasonable candidate."

In short, our schools -- the public schools that operate at the optimum level of effectiveness -- lead the world in terms of producing highly innovative and thoughtful students. But only a fraction of our children get to attend these kind of schools. That's the problem!

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Honestly (0.00 / 0)
There`s not much of a difference between public schools and private schools on average (other than the reputation), IMO, so I didn`t bother specifying.  I apologize if that caused confusion.

Of course, changes in public education policy will have effects on private schools as well.

In short, our schools -- the public schools that operate at the optimum level of effectiveness -- lead the world in terms of producing highly innovative and thoughtful students. But only a fraction of our children get to attend these kind of schools. That's the problem!

So, let me get this straight.  What you`re saying is that some public schools are really good, and give their students very good education.  The problem is that most public schools--and most private schools for that matter--aren`t really good (they range from merely alright to soul-crushing), so most children attend the crap schools instead of the good schools.

If that`s your argument, then I agree completely (with the addendum that a few private schools are good too; I went to one for middle school, though it`s gotten much worse since I left, unfortunately).  But it seems a bit unusual to say that American public schools "work" when it`s really just a small fraction of them that "work."

But even our bad public schools are better than those in China or, say, Japan.  And don`t get me started on Japan`s admissions system--it`s truly insane.  But that`s a different topic.


[ Parent ]
I share your opinion. (0.00 / 0)
And most research also bears out the fact that the typical private school is not necessarily any better than average public schools. But I want to address your comment:
But it seems a bit unusual to say that American public schools "work" when it`s really just a small fraction of them that "work."

We could argue about the size of the "fraction" -- whether it is indeed "small" -- but rather than that I'm sure you agree that regardless of the size of the fraction the difference it can make in a child's life is huge. Furthermore, because schools reflect the society around them, the fact that these schools can work reflects the unique character of American society to create democratic institutions that work on a broad scale. Where are schools are not working it is reflective of how our society is becoming less democratic.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
However, you can't just transfer "good schools" from place to place (0.00 / 0)
since good schools are almost always the result of an interaction between the teaching staff and the level of the privilege of the students.  I know you know this, but it can get lost in discussions like this.

I went to one of the best public schools in America, not because we had great teachers, but because many of the students were children of academics and other related folks from the local university.  There was another half of our school of kids from low income areas, however, that didn't get that good of an education.

In fact, there is good research showing that low-income kids get little attention in good schools than they get in mediocre schools.  Because the school is doing so well, it doesn't need to worry about the kids who aren't doing well.  It may actually be worse to be a low income kid in a high level school than it is to be in a mediocre school.  (I'd have to dig up the specifics of the studies.)

I would argue, in fact, that kids from upper-middle-class families are more likely to be intellectually "damaged" by most schools (at least till high school) than they are to be helped.  Your kids would likely do better to just leave them alone and not let them watch too much TV.  They will get everything they need from you.  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
That's a very interesting observation (0.00 / 0)
And I'd love to see the research along those lines. I'm pretty sure that Marzano has looked at the effects of schools and teachers on different levels of students, based on their preparedness for school, but I'm not sure if he looked at it in the exact terms you've expressed. I'd have to check.  Thanks for bringing this into the discussion.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Okay (0.00 / 0)
Since the entire focus of my diary was about public schools I assumed that that was what we were talking about. Here's what I mean about some public schools that work, I'll let Yong Zhao speak for the effectiveness of US schools:
"Having grown up in China, experienced the Chinese education system as both a student and teacher, and closely studied its history and recent reforms as a researcher, I understand the reasons behind its reforms. China is determined to transform from a labor-intensive, low-level manufacturing economy into an innovation-driven knowledge society. An innovation-driven society is driven by innovative people. Innovative people cannot come from schools that force students to memorize correct answers on standardized tests or reward students who excel at regurgitating dictated spoon-fed knowledge. Thus China decided to change its 'test-oriented education' into 'talent-oriented education.' To engineer this change, China made a conscious, global search for models-education systems that are good at producing innovative talents. As a country with the most Nobel laureates, most original patents, most scientific discoveries in the 20th century, and largest economy in the world, the United States of America seems a reasonable candidate."

In short, our schools -- the public schools that operate at the optimum level of effectiveness -- lead the world in terms of producing highly innovative and thoughtful students. But only a fraction of our children get to attend these kind of schools. That's the problem!

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Yes, you could remake it into something much worse (they are) (4.00 / 1)
[ Parent ]
thanks for this great diary (4.00 / 1)
i work in labor organizing in education, and it's amazing to see this from the United States and to see the veneer of progressivism unveiled where it is just that - a mask.  I think if half of these myths were debunked, the United States might start heading for being a reasonable place to live.  What's upsetting for me is that most poeple who live there don't have a choice - and have to deal with the kind of bull$hit you're refuting.

one thing i would note, which maybe is obvious to a lot of people interested in this issue, is how many of these myths depend on the same basic preconceptions that have driven policymaking in other areas - neoclassical economics uber alles (i.e. market funadamentalism), total failure to comprehend anything valued for something positive besides a numerical metric especially financial reward, enormous class bias and other kinds, a disbelief that collaboration, sharing, imagination, etc., have any place in the adult world (and here in the child's world) - in their appropriate place, and a dismissal of what actually works or could work in the name of a false construction of 'what actually works' that is highly selectively designed for consumption by groups like CAP or Congresspeople, etc.  

The parallel to the healthcare debate is obvious, but you see it in the debate on the wars as well, on foreign policy, and in many other respects.


You're so right that these myths extend beyond the education debate (0.00 / 0)
But in the context of education, it's just more obvious that the right/left dichotomy has become a false choice because the true "left" position has been buried and is not even in the debate. And the parallel to the healthcare debate is totally obvious because at the heart of this is truly a struggle for democracy and equality, which is basically the American voyage. Thanks so much for commenting.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Thanks for this (0.00 / 0)
For a number of reasons I seem to have been living this stuff the last week or so.

Whether it is coincidence, or convergence, there suddenly seems to be some growing awareness among progressives about what is going on in the name of education "reform". There also seems to be a sudden surge in various pushes for "reform". I'm seeing it at the higher ed level.

One point I think we may disagree on and where I probably disagree with Alfie Kohn is on the issue of progressive education-aka "student centered learning", "constructive learning", etc. Actually, a lot of what is being done in the name of "education reform" often incorporates significant rhetoric about constructivist philosophies of learning. In my own experience, some of those most actively trying to tell their colleagues how to teach their classes are also the most active in propagating "assessment". And as far as administrators go, everyone that buys into the "reform" movement (which is de rigeur if you are a University administrator these days) also pays at least lip service to constructivist education.

I've written in the past that a lot of what is being done in the name of "reform" is not consistent with constructivist education, so the movement pulls in two contrasting directions at once.

As far as my own style of pedagogy goes I make constant and concerted efforts to engage students in a number of ways in the classroom. But the fact remains, there is a body of knowledge that students need to learn and very few students are up to "constructing their own knowledge" (whatever that phrase means).

Don't misunderstand me-I agree with a lot of what you are saying here. And I am definitely an admirer of John Dewey.


Thanks for your comment (0.00 / 0)
I think some of the uncertainty you're expressing about a constructivist approach to pedagogy is reflected in Kohn's observation about the rarity of progressive schools and classrooms. Especially if you're dealing with students in higher ed who have been indoctrinated with years and years of rote learning. I too taught in higher ed and found it extremely challenging to introduce students to another form of learning that wasn't about "just tell me what's on the test." But there were always some students that totally got what I was doing. They were usually from more well-to-do public high schools of the northeast and mid-atlantic states. Even if they didn't have the "body of knowledge" totally down they were able to deal with the uncertainty of that and see it through the lens of a workable problem.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
It is not commonly understood (4.00 / 1)
that in Dewey's Laboratory School, where he developed most of his ideas on education into more coherent form, when kids just needed to learn something, it could be quite appropriate at times to just get them to learn the damn stuff instead of trying to make constructivist fancy footwork around it.  

Dewey was a pragmatist.  He tried to figure out what "worked" at the same time as he struggled with what it meant for education to "work."  

Dewey also created his educational model in a school with an incredibly small teacher-student ratio, populated by upper-middle-class professor's kids, etc.  He would absolutely not have suggested the same techniques for overcrowded schools with kids from very different backgrounds.  But he would have tried to figure out the best approach to achieve the most egalitarian and democratic goals.

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
For those who are interested (or obsessive with much time on their hands) (4.00 / 1)
Two key books to understand Dewey's vision of education:

The Dewey School published in 1936 by two of the teachers in the Laboratory School with an enormous amount of detail about exactly what they did, apparently just reprinted (I ended up having to photocopy the entire book): http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-L...

Tanner's The Laboratory School, which I frankly don't love, but does have a reasonably good overview of the school in it: http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-L...  

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
So humor me re #1. Plus, a contribution. (0.00 / 0)
If something isn't quantifiable, how do you know it exists?

I'm being serious.  It reminds me of the arguments on rec.sport.baseball back in the Usenet days about clutch hitting.  No matter what definition was used, it could never be established that such a talent existed in Major League Baseball, yet people insisted on creating narratives around it, ARod being the most recent example.

It's possible that the use of some data set in the future will establish that clutch hitting does indeed exist, but to claim it does before finding evidence is like, well, claiming God exists before finding evidence.  I don't think that argument would go over very well with the reality-based community, do you?

If #1 said something like "current metrics aren't predictive of advanced learning", I could agree, but your quote seems to rule out that formulation.

Anyway, this thread also brought to mind this article in the New York Review of Books.  Hope it's useful!


Is Poetry Quantifiable? (4.00 / 1)
Seriously, dude.  It's intuitively obvious (as my calculus teacher loved to say) that some hitters tighten up under pressure, while others respond well to the challenge.  Quantification may be difficult indeed--even, perhaps, impossible--but we know that these extremes exist.

In fact, the problem of knowing that something exists, but not being able to quantify it is precisely what Kohn was talking about...as was Demming.

The key difference here is that yammering on about quantifying clutch hitting wastes afternoons.  Yammering on about quantifying education wastes lives.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
Solipsism != proof (0.00 / 0)
Many things that were "intuitively obvious" turned out to be dead wrong.  Or do you still think the Sun revolves around the Earth, which is flat?

And note that I specifically said "It's possible that...in the future [we] will establish that clutch hitting does exist".  But in order to claim it in any serious fashion, you have to provide evidence, which will require, in some form or another, gasp, quantification!  There's a wealth of new data coming on line in baseball, with Pitch F/X (all pitches are tracked from hand to bat/catcher's glove) and Hit F/X (all contact is tracked), so who knows what we'll find out in the future, but to just claim "it is so" is beneath you, Paul.

As for the "yammering", it's an incredibly useful exercise in scientific analysis.  The intellectual rigor in analyzing baseball has led to it's practitioners expanding outside of baseball to, among other things, political analysis.

It's kind of funny that you like leaning on your calculus teacher to end this argument.  It's the reliance on axioms that seems to blind mathematicians to the reality that such axioms are only 100% correct in the artificial construct of math itself, and are by no means guaranteed to be correct in the real world.  We keep seeing this over and over; mathematicians come up with some "proof" about reality that requires saying something's "intuitively obvious" that, well, isn't:  Leavitt (Superfreakonimics); the financial industry; one of the Intelligent Design guys ("irreducibility").  It's why I say that you should never believe a mathematician when it comes to science.*

I'll add Kohn and Demming to my never-ending stack of things to read, but from what I've seen here, Kohn may be making the leap from "difficult" to "impossible", and Demming seems concerned about sample size (error bound >= volatility).  So far I'm unconvinced that quantifiability is impossible for some things, even if they're difficult or impossible currently.

* Note:  I am a mathematician. :-)


[ Parent ]
The Intuition Of The Wise Is More Reliable Than The Data of The Foolish (0.00 / 0)
Intuition is hardly solipsism, so that's a pretty weak place to start.

The ancient Greeks (and even the Egyptians before them, I believe) knew that the Earth was round, and even had a pretty accurate figure for its circumference.  This knowledge was lost in the Dark Ages, but was recouped from the Arabs during the Renaissance, and was well known among experts at the time that Columbus ignorantly believed the circumference was only 15,000 miles.

My point is, you've got to know the lay of the land before your intuition counts for anything.

But, that's only a defense of what I said before.

Let me strike at the heart of what's wrong with your claim: There's nothing inherently wrong with folk knowledge, anecdotal as it may be.  For example, it's remarkable how well common plant and animal names map onto biological genera.  Not perfectly, of course.  But, then, quantitative measures aren't perfect, either.  Point is, this sort of knowledge is useful in itself, and much more often than not it lines up with advanced scientific knowledge once that is developed.

What you're doing is essentially (a) denying the existence of folk wisdom, simply because it sometimes fails (as if everything human does't, sometime or another) and (b) conflating the possession of such wisdom with the process of developing testable good-enough theory--which are actually two different things.

In light of the above, it's pretty funny getting that math=/= science lecture from you, because it completely supports the sense of the argument I've just made.  'Sides, my calculus teacher used that phrase to gloss over something he wasn't going to prove--either because he would prove it later, or because it was about to be assigned as homework.  It was never a reference to the physical world, and usually a reference to real analysis.

Finally, one reason I'm a Jamesian pragmatist is precisely because it so clarifies the relationship of math to the world.  Math gives great insight into the world, but not very reliably if you don't stand back and ask the pragmatist's question, "what for?"  It's precisely the combination of pragmatic framing and intuitively grasping what math to use where for what purpose that allows math to be so incredibly useful.  But the math alone without that other stuff is totally inadequate.


p.s. Not sure what you mean about Kohn, but Demming was not simply on about sample size, but all aspects of measurement.  He was particularly sensitive to processes in which variances in inputs placed limits on everything else.  This isn't a sample size problem, necessarily, since the variance in the size of widgets won't change with a larger sample size, you'll just get a more accurate measure of the variance.  But the variance itself is often the problem for the kinds of things Demming was interested in.

In arguing against sales bonuses, for example, he talked about how random month-to-month fluctuations (variance) could easily overwhelm any real difference due to performance of the individual.  Now, abstractly, one could characterize this as a sample size problem, but in the real world, there is no way to get a larger enough sample size.  Demming's underlying point through almost all of his work was to trust the individuals involved, and develop  collobarative problem-solving relationships.  (Yes, he was a New Deal liberal.)  Quantitative analysis was great for understanding the system as a whole.  But using it to try to understand the individual, and then control them was antithetical to his philosophy, and, he repeatedly showed, antitetical to actually improving the functioning of the whole.

He was very much pro-worker, and anti-"management", but enlightened managers embraced him enthusiastically, because he helped them get superior results.


"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


[ Parent ]
"If something isn't quantifiable, how do you know it exists? " (4.00 / 1)
Have you ever been in love? How do you know?

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
So being well educated is a matter of personal opinion? (0.00 / 0)
Point taken that that there are some things we "know" that aren't, as yet, quantifiable.  However, I maintain that that doesn't mean we won't be able to quantify them in the future.  (re love:  Brainwave measurements, etc.  You need to adopt a Penrosian model of quantum neurobiology to claim it's impossible, and we simply don't know yet, so why throw up our hands before we've even investigated?)

This eventual quantifiability doesn't help us in the present.  However, I think you'd agree that being well educated requires more engagement with the world than being in love does.  Therefore, there's evidence that can be used to determine if a student's education has been successful.

I'm not saying that CAP's definitions of success are good, but however you want to slice it, we'll need to agree on what "successful education" means, and once we have that agreement, measurement will be necessary in one form or another.  In turn, the predictive value of those measurements will then need to be seen.

If it comes down to a "panel of experts" approach, so be it (this is regarding higher level learning; we can agree that basic knowledge is necessary and more easily quantified?), but your point #1 seems to claim that no measurement is possible.

"Throwing the baby out with the bathwater" is the phrase that comes to mind when I hear people reject quantification.


[ Parent ]
By "personal opinion" (0.00 / 0)
I mean "whether one is considered well educated is solely determined by one's own opinion".  It would be as if the Scarecrow recieving a diploma really did make him smarter.

[ Parent ]
You need to read more carefully (0.00 / 0)
Here's what I wrote (emphasis added):
The only valid outcomes are those that are quantitative and measurable.
Of course there has to be some quantifiable evidence considered in any evaluative system created for public schools and school kids. The fallacy is in thinking that only the quantifiable stuff is worth including in such a system. This blinds the evaluators to other important outcomes.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
I think I read it correctly the first time (0.00 / 0)
You're claiming some positive aspects of education are unquantifiable.

I'm claiming that those supposedly nebulous aspects are also quantifiable, it's just a matter of finding how to quantify them.

Whatever we agree is a "good" outcome of education, we need to determine whether those outcomes are being achieved, as I've written before on this thread, that measurement doesn't have to be as atomic as a standardized test, but it does have to exist in some form or another.


[ Parent ]
"just a matter of finding how to quantify them" (4.00 / 1)
And we've got all the time, money, and resources to do this, don't we? In the meantime we could be implementing qualitative measurements that would work fine, but "no" everything's got to be quantified otherwise it's not worth considering. You are being totally unrealistic.

What I'm claiming is that some positive aspects of education are unquantifiable now, but that doesn't mean they're not worth measuring.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...


[ Parent ]
quantifiable in theory ~= quantifiable in practice (0.00 / 0)
much of what people value most in their own education cannot be reduced to a scalar by any method now known.

There is no such thing as a free market.

[ Parent ]
This is a misunderstanding of the act of measurement (4.00 / 3)
Any quantitative measurement is an act of simplification.  E.g., "two apples," requires us to treat the apples as the "same" even though any yahoo can see that no two apples are the same.  Things are not "there" in the world to be measured, they are assigned to categories and those categories are then measured.

This is why, for example, simple measurements of teacher activities have repeatedly been shown to have not validity in evaluating teacher capacity.  They simplify the activity of teaching too much to allow evaluation of the complexity of the unique activity happening in the specific context.  

When we confuse what we measure for what "is" we get into real trouble.  

The correct question is: "why are we abstracting these categories to measure, how are these categories arrived at, and what do and do not these categories reveal about the rich context being analyzed."

--Aaron Schutz (Core Dilemmas of Community Organizing)


[ Parent ]
Thanks for taking my question seriously (0.00 / 0)
I agree with your summation:  Over-modularizing a system can lead to incorrect analysis.

I disagree with Paul and jeff that quantifying is a fool's errand.  Quantifying does not necessarily have to be at an atomic level.  For example, musicians for orchestras audition behind a sheet, so only their music can be heard.  Essentially, it's a "panel of experts" that determine if the audition is successful, rather than, say, a series of measurements of the frequencies played by the musician.  Depending on the subject, and what's trying to be determined (basic knowledge, or higher level thinking), judging by expert may be better than using a test.  I maintain that both are methods of quantification, though.


[ Parent ]
Good diary, except for this (0.00 / 0)
... for years, virtually the only prominent spokesperson for progressive education practice has been Alfie Kohn...

IMHO the MacArthur award is a reasonable indicator of prominence.

http://www.deborahmeier.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D...



There is no such thing as a free market.


You've got a point (4.00 / 1)
Deborah Meir is great. I'm not as familiar with her work as I am with Alfie Kohn's but I don't think she has written as specifically and passionately about what it means to practice progressive education, although certainly her ideas are progressive. Maybe Paul will invite me back to write something about her. Thanks so much for your positive comment.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Some of Deborah Meier's books (0.00 / 0)
(Amazon may be cheaper, but Powell's is unionized)

Many Children Left Behind(2004)
http://www.powells.com/biblio/...

In Schools We Trust (2003)

http://www.powells.com/biblio/...

Will Standards Save Public Education?  (2000)

http://www.powells.com/biblio/...

The power of their ideas :lessons for America from a small school in Harlem
http://www.powells.com/biblio/...


There is no such thing as a free market.


[ Parent ]
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