Saturday, September 28, 2013

Educator Self-Lobotomy with Slogans

It's not teaching if there's no learning... Justin Tarte . Blog. Life of an Educator. 9/27/13

Despite my advancing years -- which belie the common belief that with age wisdom increases -- I never cease to be amazed, disturbed, even, by how those who style themselves “educators” insist on benumbing their thought processes with hyperbole: short, catchy, unfortunately memorable slogans. (We ancients can remember such gems as, “I’d walk a mile for a mild, mild Camel “ -- a cigarette, not a beast of burden. Ah… nostalgia!) See Slogans: junkfood, dead-weight or poison?

Can you imagine doctors who would say, “If the patient does not get well, we are not 'really' practicing medicine.”?

Would a physicist declare, “Since our research failed to support our hypothesis, we must have been practicing culinary arts instead of physics!”?

What member of the clergy would concede, “Because our congregation members continue to sin, it must be the case that we are -- intentionally, or not -- servants of Satan.”?

Even those putative educators enamored of snappy, mindless slogans might reconsider their allegiance to exaggerations such as “It's not teaching if there's no learning” were they to be told that their paychecks would be reduced after a year in proportion to the demonstrated depth and breadth of learning of all the pupils in their charge, no excuses accepted.

At this point -- someone, particularly among a group of “reform-minded” educational “theorists” (usually not in-the-trenches public school teachers) -- will jump up and declare, “But it’s time we stopped making excuses for our failures and got something accomplished.” (Likely there will be much hand-clapping to follow and assorted hoots of approval.)

Really? What if they’re not “our” failures? Will our “taking ownership” of them result in our acquiring the power to have an effect on them? And since when does wanting to get something done count as being able to do it? Cheerleaders, and, even, enthusiastic fans, do not win games. Skilled, somewhat lucky players and coaches do.

Don’t underestimate luck: Whitey Herzog, widely recognized by fans as one of the top-ranking field coaches in baseball, once estimated that his skills made a difference in six to eight ball games out of the hundred and fifty or so his team played each season. (See Leadership subsection of Morality & Leadership)

Many people have wondered -- after considering the descrepancies among
a. who is permitted to become a public school teacher,

b. how he or she is trained, and

c. how, finally, our public spokespersons would have him or her evaluated
whether teachers are trained to fail. Are they merely cannonfodder to be expended in deeper conflicts among competing cultural and political interests? (See Cannonfodder)

At the end of the day, of course, we could just, more comfortably, perhaps, adopt the attitude that such slogans as “It's not teaching if there's no learning,” are just harmless pep-talk confected by teacher-trainers to whip up enthusiasm in their clientele.

I would suggest that it is more accurate, wiser even, to recognize such slogans as dysfunctional to the preparation of good teachers. They are not medicine, not even palliative, to the ills of schooling.

To examine these issues further, see Causal Fallacy in Teaching and Learning


--- EGR