Posts Tagged ‘teachers’

Preface to Democracy and Education

July 10, 2007

The Preface is incredibly brief and straightforward, but the problems in it can only grow throughout the book. I question Dewey’s “endeavour to detect and state the ideas implied in a democratic society and to apply these ideas to the problems and enterprises of education.” What ideas does a democratic society imply? Would those implications have changes since 1915? (Not that this matters.) The idea that an actual democratic society has ideas implicit in it and that one can go about detecting and stating those ideas is not an idea at all but misconception based on an idealization of democratic society. This misconception can only lead to a polemical argument. What ideas are actually in play in our specific democratic society? To be of any practical use to the problems and enterprises of education any ideas applied should not be implied but in play.

Dewey clearly explains that “the philosophy stated in this book connects the growth of democracy with the development of the experimental method in the sciences, evolutionary ideas in the biological sciences, and the industrial reorganization, and is concerned to point out the changes in subject matter and method of education indicated by these developments.” I wonder if his philosophy and purposes are a problem? I am not an expert on Dewey, but wouldn’t be stretching it to say he launched the progressive education movement in the States. The progressive movement is today stalled. Could it be that the simplistic philosophical foundation of the movement is it’s problem? Dewey confuses possibility with progression. He sees implicit in growth, development, evolution and reorganization a progressive improvement. We now know (and Dewey could have known then) that the possibility of improvement will not necessarily actualize. What does this mean for the philosophy stated in this book?

Chapter 13: Unteachable Students

January 12, 2007

I don’t know if I’m going to read any more of this book anytime soon. This is the pattern I’ve followed for years. I read a chapter that interests me, an introduction or preface, and then put the book down for another. I have a hard time reading books like this. Books that are literally summed up by their title. I am, however, well into Questioning Technology, although I’ve yet to write a word, I am enjoying it. Coincidentally, A Critique of Cynical Reasoning came in the mail yesterday, and from the initial flip-through, it also deals with the events of Paris 1968. Connections like that excite me. Just as an aside, the preface of Questioning Technology is all you really need to read to understand where Feenberg is going with his argument, but I haven’t stopped reading yet, and I’m sure it’s because there’s a depth in Questioning Technology’s argument that just isn’t there in Hold on to your kids. I’m also going to write up a couple chapters from the Education Reader. Another book I don’t think I’ll finish. Maybe I will. I am thinking about something here. I react strongly to certain ideas. I just turn away in frustration. Like in some paper this week sometime, there was a headline, something like How Canadian Are You? Under the headline there were two portraits. I can’t go into any more detail, because I don’t have anymore. The sight of this was enough. It’s an involuntary response. Some sort of thought exists on my part I’m sure, but I don’t bring myself to the point of confronting “How Canadian Are You? Under headline … two portraits.” The same thing happens with books like the Education Reader, that’s the word — confrontation. Maybe I should confront these ideas. I don’t have the time. I mean I’m already about 6 chapters behind in my write-ups here. You see I’m thinking out loud. … … I’ll add another book to the list, another parenting/education book. I think it’s called Kids are worth it. If I find that How Canadian are you? article, maybe I’ll write about that too. I don’t know what I’d write, I’m serious about the frustration. It’s a wordless reaction. Of the same sort I get looking through the Education Reader. Hold on to Your Kids and Kids are Worth it, are a different sort of frustration. If I read a chapter here and there, while reading other more enjoyable books between, I’ll eventually get through them. There’s something there in the struggle to read these books. I’m hoping. I read Kids are worth it over 4 years ago and couldn’t today tell you one thing about the book. That’s not completely true. It is a parenting/teaching book. I mention this because Hold on to your kids is the same genre. As someone who’s been a classroom teacher and who plans on once again teaching in a classroom, I’ve seen that these books make their way, or at least one idea makes its way around teachers lounge. And that’s the idea that parenting and student success are linked. Teaching in the best of situations is never easy. (That teaching is situational says something) But sometimes it is tougher than others, and when it’s real tough, parents aren’t much help. The problem with these parenting/teaching books is that they set the preparation for learning in the home. And when kids fail, the parents have failed.

In Chapter 13: Unteachable Students we read that a “shift in the attachment patterns of our children has had profoundly negative implications for education.” The authors go on,”Until relatively recently teachers were able to ride on the coattails of a strong adult orientation engendered by culture and society.” Now the title of this chapter names a category of student that doesn’t really exist (All children are teachable.), and that’s troublesome. It’s troublesome that our schools do nothing, read that they can do nothing for children so categorized. There are books written for everyone. Whatever you believe you can find validated in print. And here in Chapter 13 of Hold on to your kids teachers can validate their feeling that some kids are unteachable. They can read that they are not totally responsible for the education of children, because parents and all other adults who come in contact with children and shape society are also responsible. The way of thinking, the concepts out of which Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté create concepts are so simple they can’t possibly be mapped onto any reality. There’s a kind of defeated idealism at work here. Maybe I’ll come back to this later.

Chapter 13: Issues of Language and Power

January 8, 2007

Victoria Purcell-Gates is the author of Chapter 13. Her research could be used to prove that schools as they function today don’t work. In a nutshell, children who learn to read at home read in schools and children who come from non-reading homes don’t learn to read at school. What does that say? Schools exercise preexisting concepts.

There are problems with making general statements about education. There is a situational looseness in which the system is expressed very differently simultaneously, sometimes within the same space. Not only are all schools different, all teachers are different, as are all students, so in one classroom two students could have near opposite affective experiences with the same teacher. To say that our schools are failing to educate, doesn’t resonate with people who’ve had positive educational experiences. Teachers are in a position where their failure can be transferred to students. Teachers do their job and students fail or succeed. Statements against our system of educating, are often refuted with tales of teachers or students. Everyone has been to school and your particular experience may be at odds with the general idea that the system isn’t working, but predicting which kids fail or succeed is easy work, and the factors are found outside the school.

Purcell-Gates, I’m just going to ignore her political-correctness for now, offers two suggestions for what teachers can do to actually live up to their name.

  1. believe students can learn
  2. teach in the students language

What I like about this article is Purcell-Gates point her finger in the right direction. If students aren’t learning teachers need to do something. She writes,

“This crucial beginning stance on the part of teachers will help ensure that any failure in the achievement of these children will lead to an examination of their instruction and not a shrugging off of their futures.”

Preface to The New Press Education Reader

December 26, 2006

Today I started into The New Press Education Reader. The beauty of the new blogger’s labels is that it can keep together notes on my sporadic reading. I might not need to change my reading habits after all. I read the Preface today and had some reactions. I’ll put those down right now, and then after reading the articles, I’ll see how my thinking has changed. The first sentence “…a book I wish I’d had before I started teaching so many years ago,..” I’d bet a lot of teachers would say the same thing. Teachers are under-educated/under-qualified. I’m about to go through the process of qualification here in BC, and might document it, but that process is bureaucratic and has nothing to do with the qualities a person needs to teach children. I think there’s a science of learning that can be taught. Unlike medicine or engineering, teacher education is a real in-out experience. The qualities a teacher needs can’t be developed in 8 months. In Part One, “On Teachers and Teaching,” there’s an article about”how to educate not only teachers but children of color.” When I see this I wonder why there would be a difference. Part Two, “Combating Racism and Homophobia” Here’s the line that caught my attention:

Antiracism, Pollack writes, “requires not treating people as race group members when such treatment harms, and treating people as race group members when such treatment assists.”

It caught my attention. It seems such a silly thing to say. Racism is a collection of ugly conditioned emotions in an actor. Imposing the concept of race on children… Why not teach creationism..? And then to impose it willy-nilly like Pollack suggests…. silly. Part Three, “Advocates for Equality:”

Victoria Purcell-Gates offers her considerable expertise to illuminate what we need to do to build the language skills of [children in poverty]

This is something that interests me. Children in poverty, a group that is crosses colour lines, need more than faith. Language skills are retarded in poverty. There is a process of language acquisition, that can be observed. What I’m wondering is how the process is affected by delay. I’d like to believe that through providing proper nutrition and stimulation an elementary school could prepare any child for high school. Is this happening? I’d like to know what we need to do. Part Four, “Parent, Family and Community Involvement:”

William Ayers reminds us That “teaching, like organizing, is an act of faith.”

At this point I’d propose a Project for a Scientific Education (like Freud’s proposed Project for a Scientific Psychology.) An internet search brought this up which seems interesting and current.