March 30, 2007

There must be a macro

I don't think a week goes by that I don't read some version of this story in today's Daily Mail:

Schools should teach children the key skills they need for life - like walking and thinking - not set subjects such as history or French, teachers' leaders have said.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers called for the National Curriculum to be torn up and the testing system abolished.

The union said teachers in local schools should be able to adapt lessons to fit a new framework focusing on important skills for life, rather than academic subjects.

Notice how the two-- no testing and teaching only thinking skills-- go hand in hand.

It actually would be a pretty cool idea. Instead of teaching subject matter content, schools would only have to teach magical thinking skills. And, with those magical thinking skills, students would be able to derive the subject matter on their own. Imagine how much less teaching and school that would involve. Too bad it's impossible.

We don't learn thinking skills in isolation. People's knowledge is tied to specific domains. If you don't believe me just go down and ask your local chess master to take out your appendix and you'll see what I mean. Or better yet, have him fix your toilet or argue your case in court or build you a particle accelerator.

Of course, the nutters who always propose these wacky schemes know this, because they always tie the teaching of thinking skills to abolishing the tests that would demonstrate that students have acquired the thinking skills.

15 comments:

CrypticLife said...

Also FTA:

"For the state to suggest that some knowledge should be privileged over other knowledge is a bit totalitarian in a 21st century environment. We are arguing that knowledge which traditionally has high status should not be privileged over other kinds of knowledge."

Because that would imply that some knowledge is actually MORE valuable than other knowledge when we all know that all knowledge has the exact same value.

</sarcasm>

Michael said...

I tell my teaching methods students (it's for students seeking certification in social science) that, despite what they may have heard elsewhere, students can't think if they have nothing to think about.

ShortWoman said...

You can't form an intelligent thought about something you don't understand. Sorry, reading and math are a preresquisite to "thinking skills".

rightwingprof said...

Walking?

KDeRosa said...

Yes, teaching the "walking" skill does set the bar somewhat low.

Barry Garelick said...

Research shows that kids tend not to learn what they havent been taught.

Parentalcation said...

I am finally glad someone has finally decided to address the walking achievement gap.

Study after study has confirmed that the ability to walk is a critical aspect of employment.

Our new information based society heavily depends on consumption of coffee. A recent study by a leading University determined it is much more economical to provide centralized coffee pots in office environments. Without the ability to "walk" to these coffee pots, employees will soon suffer from coffee withdrawal causing severe detrimental effects on worker productivity.

L.B. Ral from Progressive University cautions against a biased approach to walking instruction though. He notes that different cultures have different styles of walking.

Meanwhile, disabled activists have called the new emphasis on walking instruction discriminatory. They point out that thousands of wheelchair bound people across the country are able to get around quite well without walking. They recommend "walking" classes be replaced with inclusive instruction on "moving".

Instructivist said...

"Study after study has confirmed that the ability to walk is a critical aspect of employment."

It's an important 21th century skill. People better get on board with the cutting-edgers.

World Community Grid said...

lol what a bunch of nuts

Tracy said...

I like how it's the skills that nearly every kid learns anyway without any intervention by schools that they want to teach.

How about they go the whole hog, and claim credit for the number of students they have that can breathe? I mean, you do come across a few kids who can't walk, and people might get picky about what's meant by the word "thinking", but if a school sets a goal of teaching all of kids to keep breathing it's gonna have a pretty high success rate.

Parentalcation said...

Tracy, don't get me started about the breathing achievement gap. I was just reading a study about how breathing is a vital skill in today's ever-changing job market. Its easy for you to make light of the situation, but have you ever tried to get a job without breathing... well have you?

SusanS said...

The important thing is that you discover your walk and not have it imposed on you through kill-and-drill.

Rote walking may get you from here to there, but you will always be hampered by not truly understanding the why. And you can only prove that if you can write three different essays on how you got from here to there.

Changing the subject....hey Ken, where'd the comments go on the new post?

KDeRosa said...

Fixed the comments.

Independent George said...

Man, I can't believe I missed out on this comments thread...

urbanteach said...

I think the original UK article was meant as an April Fool spoof and accidentally got published 2 days early. The real joke is that it describes only too well what actually passes for "education."