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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What Works in Schooling: the “Newfanglers” versus the “Oldfashioned.”

Invention consists in avoiding the constructing of useless contraptions and in constructing the useful combinations which are in infinite minority. -- Henri Poincare
After a century or more of fiddling with schools and the kids in them, it should be apparent to anyone who can fog a mirror that there is not even a will-o’-the-wisp of a new method for teaching everyone, everything, everytime, everywhere, as is often “mandated” by federal, state and local school authorities. The “newfanglers” who populate our educational research institutes are much more adept at promoting their careers than student learning.

This is not to say that there is some "good old fashioned" method that works best, either. Time magazine recently featured the dicta of yet another befuddled educator: “what works best is a good teacher with a chalkboard and a class of willing students.”

This is mere rhetoric: it is like saying that health will be achieved by eradicating sickness; or, strength, by overcoming weakness. Such buffoonery is not uncommon in many areas of our public discourse.

Since our Home of the Free and Land of the Brave purports to be democratic, equal “respect” is accorded all opinions, from the least informed, most prejudiced to those most carefully considered. So it is that, to avoid a suspiciously “elitist” complexity, our public discourse, even among the technically skilled, tends towards vacuous hyperbole.

Thus, we Sons and Daughters of Liberty, lacking the means to even identify, much less achieve, ill-advised or unclear school goals, persist in trying to fix schools that either aren't broken, or which can't be fixed.

To follow this train of thought further, see What Works? Under What Conditions? And Who Really Cares?
-- EGR