William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

This Partly Explains Why Education Is Such A Mess

An educator facilitating the actualization of inherent learnabilities.

A trained educator facilitating the actualization of inherent learnabilities.

I am away from the computer today.

Alternate title, A Few Moments With The Teacher’s College (Columbia) Record. Many educators are told what to think at this institution before they are released into the wild, so it is of some importance. Jim Fedako first raised our awareness–and what could be more important than that!—of this site. Here are some of the featured articles.

This magazine may be the best argument for homeschooling you will ever discover. Here are a few articles culled from recent entries.

Article 1 Teaching as Jesus Making: The Hidden Curriculum of Christ in Schooling.

Background/Context: The ideas of teaching as salvation and teacher-as-martyr are not new concepts. Prior research, however, has largely failed to explore the historical and cultural religious roots that continue to inform the ways in which teachers are constructed. That is, though prior work has engaged with thinking about religion and thinking about teachers as saviors, little work has been done to uncover the hidden curriculum of teaching that positions teachers as versions of Christ in the public school classroom…

Findings/Results: We illustrate that although we think of teaching as a secular activity and assume that religion has been expunged from public, including teacher, education, the sediments of religion remain present in how the teacher learns to imagine, construct, and enact his or her work as teacher as savior and martyr.

Shorter summary: “I’m not too fond of religion, but I am a god to my students.”

Article 2 The “Two-Way Street” of Having an Impact: A Democratic School’s Attempt to Build a Broad Counterhegemonic Alternative

Background/Context: Critical education studies tries to make sense of the relationship between education and differential power in an unequal society and to what degree schools impact the social order. A premise in this field is that a fundamental aim of critical education is exposing unequal social, cultural, and economic power relations and engaging in social action that transcends the setting of the classroom and school. Counterhegemonic schools are thus generally characterized by an aspiration to be meaningful beyond the school community and a commitment to social transformation…

Conclusions: Many obstacles stand between a counterhegemonic school and being socially meaningful, including sociohistorical and political factors. No less important, however, are the broader structural aspects to creating a space in which transformative schools can succeed. Although bottom-up attempts may push hegemonic forms to incorporate certain aspects of their vision, they cannot have meaningful and widespread impact if unaccompanied by broad support and action at the policy level and if they do not become organic parts of a larger transformative agenda.

Shorter summary: “Not all schools and not all kids are the same.”

Article 3 Dialogue Across Differences of Position, Perspective, and Identity: Reflective Practice in/on a Student-Faculty Pedagogical Partnership Program

Background: Inspired by various conceptualizations of both cultural diversity and cross-role partnership, this discussion challenges the assumption that holds sway in many people’s minds: Differences primarily divide us. The context for this argument is a program that pairs undergraduate students and faculty members in semester-long partnerships to explore and revise pedagogical practices…[Emphasis added]

Research Design: Through systematically documented reflective practice, I draw on audiorecorded conversations, mid- and end-of-semester feedback, and follow-up interviews with student and faculty participants in the program, as well as on my own reflective notes and less formal communication with participants, to identify the ways in which these faculty and students conceptualize differences as resources for learning…

Conclusions/Recommendations: Higher education needs to create more opportunities for students and faculty to engage in dialogue across various kinds of difference…

Shorter summary: “I like when students and teachers talk.”

Article 4 Postmodern Test Theory

…Conclusions/Recommendations: The model-based reasoning that characterizes test theory is useful not because it measures extant traits defined and evidenced in the same way for all students, but because it helps us organize our thinking, marshal and interpret evidence, and communicate our inferences and their grounding to others. A skeptical attitude about models in assessment makes our uses of them more flexible, more powerful, and, ultimately, more effective at meeting and fulfilling the aims of education than they would be if we believed that they accurately captured the totality of the phenomenon. Our understandings of students’ learning and programs’ effects are enriched by multiple perspectives and diverse sources of evidence, some new or previously neglected but others with familiar (albeit reconceived) forms.

Shorter summary: “Tests tell us which kids are doing well and which poor, but I don’t like this.”

11 Comments

  1. Executive summary: If we debase language sufficiently, we can do what we like.

  2. P. Kenneth Steele

    February 14, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    If they’re going to be skeptical of the models, you’d think they’d do that for the climate change models – which are still wrong!

  3. Martyrs? So teachers are willing to die to be the saviours of the children? Really?

    So many words, so little said. Luckily, trees no longer must die for this type of drivel to be published. It’s hard on the zeros and ones, however.

    No matter what the case for home-schooling and no matter how much parents proclaim they despise government intervention in their lives, still over 95% send their children to be indoctrinated by public schools. I see no evidence that the number can be changed, considering some of the college courses out there (The Joy of Garbage, How to watch television, Tightwaddery, or the good life on a dollar a day–taught at a private college) that parents spend thousands on just furthering the indoctrination and lack of useful knowledge. If parents pay for this, they certainly aren’t going to give up the free indoctrination of public schools. People just do not want to act on this and there’s little one can do if people line up and volunteer to lose their lifestyle and freedoms. Hey, it’s a free country and if one wants to change that……

  4. Jeff – exactly correct, and it has been so from the start. I should just cut and paste some John Dewey, who, when he wasn’t acting as an apologist for Soviet Russia, wrote about education in a manner designed to defy comprehension – one never knows exactly what he’s talking about (although some strong suspicions quickly arise). He’s a hero of modern education.

    He was smart enough to be purposely obscure; now days, with the quality of education, especially in schools of education, so glaringly and appallingly low, there is little risk any of the writers will tip their hands, since they lack the command of basic English composition required to do so even if they weren’t useful idiots.

  5. It is a hard slog through the College of Ed speak. Briggs’ summaries helped me quite a lot. In fact, he shows we could condense the entire curriculum of the college of education down to the front and back of a single 8 and a half by 11, and the time spent there by the average student to one semester. We’d all be better off.

  6. You might want to read the book that revealed the depth and origin of the hate-America belief system at Columbia Teachers College. Let’s say that it was not an accident.

    “The KGB influence agent at Columbia, Dr. Counts, created the anti-American point of view in education and academia. In his 1932 speeches “Dare the School Build a New Social Order,” declared to American teachers that they needed to “change society.” Counts told American teachers that they had a duty to bring about a new age of collectivism. Counts told teachers that the “age of individualism is dead.”

    http://www.frontpagemag.com/…/kent…/putins-spy-ring/2/

    The book, with full details: http://www.willingaccomplices.com

    In fact, I use the Columbia Teachers Record’s regular articles today, as examples of the complete success of the operation to destroy American exceptionalism by subverting education and academia. Columbia TC was a two-fer–they got into both the academy and education.

  7. I always told my kids to tell the teacher what he or she wanted to hear. No “standing up for what you believe in”; rather, put your head down and be quiet. I thought that I would be able to counterbalance whatever was taught in school at home. In retrospect, I think maybe I was 50% successful, and we went through some tense times when the kids were less willing to hear from their parents and put their lot in with the individual teacher.

  8. “Those who give themselves to the presumed study of the presumptuous promulgation of educational theory are usually both deceivers and deceived. The murky language where their minds habitually dwell at one unminds them and gives them the power to unmind others.” Robert Mitchell, The Graves of Academe. (link: http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/graves-of-academe/)

  9. “It is a poet’s luxury to sit around and wonder what the vintners buy one half so precious as the stuff they sell. For us, it is harsh necessity to discover what the school people learn one half so preposterous as the stuff they teach. It’s not all that easy, for the stuff they learn usually turns out to be twice as preposterous as the stuff they teach.”—Richard Mitchell

  10. “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”
    Confucius

  11. Believing that others are using the same definitions as you are is where the beginning of wisdom stalls.

    If you have to redefine your terms at the beginning of every conversation, the conversation never gets very far. Too many terms to define.

    Even two people well versed in each others definitions are likely to have to stop and assess where they are each standing periodically.

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