October 15, 2010

And, now we see the violence inherent in the system

It was very sweet to see Dick Schutz defend Nancy Flanagan in the comments of this post.

Though normally ideological foes, they’ve found some common ground: they’re both statists when it comes to how our public schools should be run.  Schools should be run by the state with schools operating as monopolies in geographic based districts.  Competition.  None.

They both claim not to like the status quo and that reform is needed.  Specifically, they both believe that instructional reform is needed.  However, their views on education reform are diametrically opposed.
Dick is a a code lovin’ instructivist.  Nancy is a whole language lovin’ constructivist.

And, unfortunately, in their preferred statist system only one of them gets to run the show. The other gets to complain from the sidelines.

It makes for a good illustration why our present system is incompatible with real reform.  They both want reform, but want to maintain the present system.  This means one of them will have to gain central control of the system and then impose their will on the other.  Things would stop being lovey-dovey real quick.

It would make for a great reality show.


KDeRosa said...

I corrected the misspelling, Dick. Sorry.

The title is an allusion to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Now on to the substance.

The point of the post, Dick, is that you and Nancy seem to agree on most everything, except what type of instruction is effective. The irony is that in our current system you both can't coexist peacefully. Whoever gains political control will dictate their view on instruction. And, this is why the current system can't be reform; it is inherently unstable and will vacillate between the whims of whomever is in political control.

A statist is someone who thinks the state/government should be the used to achieve goals, in this case the goal of educating all children.

Re instructivism, when you say "but kids have to be taught, carefully taught," that means you're basically an instructivist or at least close enough for government work.

Re "I don't see myself 'complaining from the sidelines,'" that's what we all are doing because we're not in power and we're not happy with what is going on in the system.

I sure as hell don't want to "maintain the present system. I've worked all my professional life to try to generate operational fixes.

That's clear. However, the pint of this post and posts like it are to demonstrate why such fixes won't ever be adopted or if adopted won't be maintained for long in our current system. Effectivesness of instruction is not a goal in our system.

but the political and economical obstacles are daunting

Not daunting--impossible. This isn't like sending a man to the moon.

But hey, when Nancy gains "central control of the system," I'll be more than glad to accede to her will. It will be a major Reform, and a huge value added to the Federal -Corporate Partners currently running the show.

Now this I don't follow at all. When Nancy is in charge it'll be whole language all the time. How is that a value added?

Dick Schutz said...

That helpful clarification for me, Ken. Monty Python are one of my heroes, but I missed or have forgotten the quote. I accept the rest of your post--it's close enough for blogger work.

I really don't know where Nancy Flanagan stands with respect to reading instruction. I stand on the Alphabetic Code and on teaching kids how to handle the Code and the other linguistic conventions that are involved in the written English language.

The popular use of the term "phonics" is an anachronism that has sustained the "Reading War." The War has its roots way back in the Rousseau-ian era. From the 1890s-ish to the 1920-ish era, "Phonologists" (precursors to linguists) were pretty close to figuring out the relationship between written and spoken English. The Phonologists of the time viewed letter-sound correspondences in terms of the vocal apparatus--hence the term "phonics." That was close enough, and reading instruction was not a particular problem in that era.

Then in the 1920-ish era, Psychologists came along with "research" showing that whole words were more easily recognized/learned than word elements. Thus the "Dick and Jane" era, followed by the "eclectic era," followed by the "whole language" era (not to be confused with the "whole word" era. We're still in the Whole Language era, although WL is masked as "Balanced Literacy" in the US and as Mixed Methods in other parts of the English-speaking world.

That's a very quick and dirty account of the history o f reading instruction, but it's enough for the purpose of the comment.

"Phonics" today has lost all meaning--it's pretty much an honorific or pejorative term, depending upon where one stands with respect to "instruct kids, carefully" vs. "let kids bloom and 1000 flowers will grow."

The Brits are set to put the two views to a test that should end the Reading War. The UK Coalition government is lined up on the side of the Alphabetic Code. While the US has all-but nationalized the el-hi enterprise, the Brits are devolving authority to local school units.

It's an interesting "reality" performance/contest. Smart money would be on the Brits.