Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by natasa778, Aug 22, 2015.
Amen to that. But really, one needs to apply the same critical eye to all sources, electronic or ink. Of course, that's tough to do when one is trying to learn the basics about a topic, which is what wikipedia is supposed to be for. So the problem isn't really Wikipedia. The problem is that public education is designed to ensure that we don't learn how to think, so we won't think the wrong thoughts.
As a science educator who taught her seventh-graders logical reasoning skills as the first unit every year, ! I give you the raspberry, sir! The raspberry!
I'm aware that not every educator does this, but logical reasoning skills are listed as something that is to be taught in our state science curriculum: it's there in black and white. I'm the only one I know who made it a separate unit, but I love the study of logic, argument, and logical fallacies. And it was most kids' favorite unit (though some liked chemistry better!)
I will say, however, that in certain spots in the US (cough!Texas!cough!) one particular political party has stated that they are against teaching critical thinking skills, because it causes people to question what they are told. I always included excerpts from the policy paper in my first lesson on the topic, and then asked, "why is what we are about to learn so dangerous?"
But this tendency to blame the lack of critical thinking skills on the nature of public education itself? You may be onto something there....
Public education is just that: public. The expectations are formed by the public. The school board is made up of random people who don't even have to have any background in education, they're just members of the public. If enough people in the public complain that their kids are having a rough time because the times tables are hard, the curriculum will get easier. If enough people complain that it isn't rigorous enough, it'll get harder. If people complain often enough that topics are glanced over, educational practice will develop more depth. There is no 'higher purpose' or 'guiding light' (or darkness): it's just the will of the public, 100% popular opinion. Trust me, I worked there long enough to know that if a member of the public said, 'jump', we said, 'how high?'
Education is a political institution that believes it's giving the customer just what they've ordered, which means that we should start looking a little closer to home for how and why the system is as it is. What is the average 'consumer' really asking out of their educational system?
No chance of that for now - it's easier to blame a minority group for a country's troubles, especially if that minority gave the public detention that one time in fourth grade when they totally weren't even doing anything wrong.
Public education here in Australia is failing in this (the teaching of logic and reason), and our curricula are set by state governments. Even university education has failed in this. It should almost be mandatory for all tertiary education. I had more training in logic and fallacies in my IT degree than my BSc degree. Which is to say, some versus almost none. Medical education seems to be similarly lacking, though the evidence based practice movement is trying to do something about this. (EBP, not EBM.)
I complained about the changes on the CFS and ME topic on Wikipedia to global advocacy quite a few years ago, with a several page detailed email. Indeed, Hooper comments on this in Magical Medicine. As a community we have seen this problem, and tried to do something about it, for many years.
Let the reader beware.
Well, obviously I thought it should be mandatory in middle school...
I agree. However I think some tertiary education might not need it as much as most
I agree, critical thinking skills are absolutely imparative. A course or unit is a good start but I also think these skills can be incorporated in lessons in all subjects and from a very young age, even preschool which is less academic but beneficial in social skills and problem solving.
I was also a teacher who worked at preschool, middle school and high school but by middle school, it might be harder for some students to shift gears as far as how they analyze and use critical thinking skills and can be especially a benifical reinforcement for students who have been exposed. It's not impossible, though and of course, it's never too late!
However, the population I worked with, students with emotional disabilies, seemed to often not be as flexible compared to a classroom with students not having this disability, even though students had to have a normal IQ. But the emotional factors had a big impact. A lot of these skills were benifical for social situations.
ETA I also taught in Texas for three years, so know exactly what you're saying. This was decades ago but the situation sounds worse. It's unfortunate, isn't it?
The first year for school I worked for was not in compliance with federal laws of inclusion. We didn't have even one minority student enrolled. This changed the second year and some of the staff, including the principal, had a hissy fit that this was going to occur. Pretty disgusting especially considering this occurred in the 1980s.
I didn't know the Taliban were politically active in Texas.
Thank you Texas for illustrating my point. Unfortunately they are not alone, and I suspect this is a prevalent attitude, at least covertly.
I've only had limited involvement with municipal boards, but I trust you. What strikes me most about local boards is just how little control they actually have. This applies to all of them, not just school boards. Most policies are carefully constrained at the state and federal levels, especially via grant programs. And once local budgets are sunk without the state/federal money, resistance to odious policies tend to evaporate.
I haven't extensively studied the history of public education, but what I have learned is troubling, to say the least. These institutions arose out of the need to mass produce compliant workers for the industrial revolution. The bosses naturally didn't want thinking workers who might organize and cause trouble, any more than slave owners wanted educated slaves that might revolt. These systems intended to erase the cultures of millions of immigrants and replace them with one culture of patriotism and obedience.
We can see the goals of regimentation and obedience very plainly by looking at the appalling history of the "Indian boarding schools". Although this history has been buried in the US, it is very much alive in Canada, where the horrors continued until 1996, when the last federally operated school finally closed. It is very obvious that the goal of these schools was to destroy an entire culture, with no concern whatsoever for the individuals damaged by these schools.
In addition to the bosses having little desire for workers who could think, political leaders had a similar problem: how to manufacture the consent of millions of people, many of which really aren't all that keen on traveling to foreign lands to kill and be killed for some vague concepts of "liberty" and "freedom", little of which they had experienced first-hand.
So public education, certainly a worthwhile goal, ends up being a tool of social control for the benefit of powerful establishment elites, as well as a profit opportunity for private interests.
p.s. I wish you had been my 7th grade science teacher
Ehhhh. I agree with the rest of what you wrote but not so much this. There are some hoops we needed to jump through to get our money, and it sucked - don't get me wrong. But when it comes to grants for individual projects, you wrote one, you sent it off. If you could write and follow instructions, you could get money for your project. Then there are places like DonorsChoose.org, where you could ask the public to fund you.
Our school board was All-Powerful... in their own little sphere. My mama calls this, "Manager of the Produce Department". That is, someone who has their own little realm in which they are very powerful and important and outside of that realm, they have no meaning to or power over anyone. But in that realm, they are King. They affect the day-to-day decisions, and in that realm they have final say.
And in education, even the higher-ups started off wanting to help children. We are also one of the ten professions least likely to be psychopathic. Most educational initiatives that are successful today have the child's welfare at heart, even if they're kind of stupid or misguided. The First Lady's initiative to get kids to eat healthier in schools is problematic, but comes from a good place. The National Standards, which have everyone up in a bloody uproar are well-organized, focused on the bigger picture rather than on fact-memorization, and the science standards are very geared towards project learning and - le gasp! - logical reasoning skills. I think people don't like the idea of them rather than they have actually looked at the standards. And states with education systems that aren't so hot are caught up in the very logical worry that it's going to be tough catching up to the rest of the country; states with excellent educational systems are not required to 'fall' to meet the national standards, so their worries are unfounded.
Parents' control beats out even them! Coca-cola funds our schools, and as such, we had Coke machines everywhere. This always struck me as a little weird. Well, I didn't need to worry! A bill passed saying you couldn't serve drinks with but so many grams of sugar (bye, regular Coke!) or caffeine (bye, Diet Coke!). The machines were filled with (still Coke-product) Dasani water, but you know the kids weren't purchasing it. I'm sure this cut into their profit margins significantly, but it still miraculously passed as a law. The schools took the 'paycut' because of a belief in the importance of student focus and general well-being.
Well, we would hope everyone is kind of naturally doing this already, but all you need to do is hear the average 'educated' person speak to understand that they have never had a formal understanding of logic, so why should I expect teachers to?
Having taught in many inclusion classes, I can attest that this is true. However, some students with emotional challenges took to the logic like a duck to water: it was a set of rules they could follow to understand the thinking of others. It made their world clearer and sharper and more sensible, so they loved it.
I think the idea behind the refutation of logical thinking was that it could be used to counter religious arguments. Teaching in a religious community, I always told my kids that faith is "belief without proof" and they should not try to apply religious thinking to science, or scientific thinking to religion. I wish we could have had a more open dialogue about it, but such is not the world in which we live.
To me, 'inclusion' means not minorities but children with physical, emotional, or mental handicap (though perhaps they would not like it called that). Or perhaps you mean to say that there was neither children with disabilities nor minority students in the classroom?
I think I picked the wrong words here. I am really thinking of the regular funding that is contingent on local policies. Over the past few years the State of Maine has been on a campaign to consolidate rural school districts. Part of that campaign includes funding cuts for school committees that refuse to participate.
As you can well imagine, the "local produce manager" isn't too keen on giving up their little fiefdom. Plus there is the minor detail that closing schools means that even little kids can spend two hours a day riding a bus, and that is just plain stupid. The interests of tiny towns get swallowed up by the maybe-not-so-benign interests of bigger towns. So when some school committees tell the state to take a hike, they find their state funding is reduced. making it even harder for them to keep local control of their schools.
The situation is now so bad that a neighboring town is in the process of de-organizing itself because they can't afford the school taxes. When they become an "unorganized township" the state takes over municipal functions and decides where to send the school kids. They lose all control, but their property taxes will decrease and residents will be able to keep their homes.
I absolutely agree with you that teachers (and even administrators - maybe) want to help kids. They sure aren't doing it for prestige these days, with the relentless attacks on teachers and their professional organizations. I've been hearing reports recently that some schools are having a hard time finding enough teachers. Of course there are no lack of teachers, just a lack of decent places to work - like nursing and so many other professions.
I wonder how this came about - exactly who are the players that goaded schools into allowing this. These machines were not in my high school 40 years ago. Coca-cola's sponsorship was limited to the football field score board.
Traditionally schools were the center of small town life. Now they seem like very foreign institutions to me whose "security" policies have the effect of excluding the general public. Anyone who comes within a hundred yards of a child has to be investigated and approved since we are all potential evildoers until proven innocent.
I participated in a campaign to stop fingerprinting of teachers in Maine some number of years ago. The campaign failed, of course, and now professional educators are treated like common criminals.
And the urban schools just seem to be day prisons where graduates can either go to college or go to prison. The best comment I ever heard about school security:
I see some similarities between the education industry and ME research. We hear lots of happy talk about how things are improving, but the proof is in the pudding. Americans are still dolts, and ME patients are still sick.
Haha, they keep trying to close down our little school - the only combined middle/HS left in the state. The larger schools figure (correctly) that more resources will go to them, in that case. Our tiny school has an excellent reputation locally (though we would not do so well nationally), and because it's small enough for every teacher to know at least the face of every kid, we have always had comparatively few discipline problems and higher test scores. The kids who come from other schools to ours always commented on the difference, too - in this case it wasn't something that was just in the heads of the faculty.
I don't anticipate it happening. My mother attended this school quite some time ago, and they were talking about shutting it down then. As long as it continues to outperform the other schools, it's safe on its little island.
Plus, our district is huge, square-mileage-wise. Our kids already sit on buses for hours to get home. I don't imagine anyone would be pleased with turning that into a two- or even three-hour bus ride to and from school (with stops). It's just not practicable to ask the bus drivers on that route to wake up three hours earlier to go to work!
This is rather off the topic of Wikipedia, so I think I'll stop with this one, unless we directly relate this back to the public and its ability to distinguish fact from belief.
How about this?
Wikipedia is the school library of the future (or maybe the present?). It's so much cheaper than buildings, books, and especially librarians. Who needs them when there's the Google search box? Same info, right? Why would kids need help understanding the info when there's computerized correspondence courses.
Nobody ever said, "Why do we need school teachers when there are correspondence courses by mail?" but somehow putting the same info on a computer monitor or tablet is completely different.
Soon many psychotherapists will be replaced by software. Doctors and teachers aren't far behind, especially in rural areas. I can see a day when rural students will be somehow self-taught at home, with Wikipedia as their main reference tool. I expect that could be a good model for some - what about the rest? Too bad for them, just like now!
But urban schools will still exist, since someone has to keep watch on all those future possible criminals and terrorists. Instead of teachers and librarians they'll have security guards, large study halls, Google and Wikipedia.
So the question still remains, who will control Wikipedia and what kids learn about the world?
This is a commonly-held fear amongst teachers, and I feel it has little validity. Education as a process involves so much more than just the passing-on of information, and technology can't take the place of an adult interested in a child's success.
I feel if I go into what other functions a teacher fulfills in a child's life, I'll end up waxing a little soppy, so I'll try to steer clear. But someone who says that Wikipedia could take the place of a good teacher may have never had one! I always wonder about teachers who say this, too. I wonder what their classrooms are like that they believe a question-and-answer program could ever take their place.
Even in 'Flipped Classroom', in which the teacher records five-minute lectures and all of that is watched at home, the main goal is to spend more time interacting with the teacher. The 'flip' refers to the fact that lecture is at home, and practical work (lab work and homework) is done at school - all so you can talk to the teacher if you get stuck. This is the most technologically advanced way of teaching today, as everything but hands-on labwork is done via computer, and yet the role of the instructor is more important than ever, and it could be argued that the purpose of doing things this way is to get more hands-on experience and labwork done, and to get more teacher-student interaction.
The way I see technology impacting the classroom in the future is that computer programs will help students get a more personalized education - one that travels at their pace - but that also allows for more one-on-one teacher-student and student-student interaction. Schneider's 'Chalkbored', one of my favorite books about the role of technology in education, discusses how it might work in a science classroom.
So, everyone starts off doing work at their own pace, though they discuss progress with their teachers to make sure no one's just clicking randomly. When three or four people reach a certain point, the computers are away and they do a lab, together, the teacher supervising but not doing-for. The teacher can pay them especial attention because everyone else is doing computer-work, sometimes having a question, sometimes not so much. They get done with their lab, clean and put their material away, and two days later, four more people are all ready to do the work. They get out the same lab kit and do it. It saves on materials and they, too, get the teacher's more-or-less undivided attention, because there aren't six groups all doing the same, (sometimes somewhat hazardous) thing at the same time.
Let's say Susan is a whiz at chemistry and she's always done before the others, but her English scores aren't so hot. Why not send her to the English classroom, so long as Ms. Horowitz over in English says it's okay? Just sit her with a computer and let her get the time she needs. If Ms. Horowitz isn't up front lecturing, there is no disruption caused by Susan's entrance or exit, and Ms. Horowitz will be there to help her if she needs it.
It's this kind of individualization and flexibility that technology has the potential to offer students. Judging from how important the teacher is to the classroom, I don't actually see Wikipedia or anything like it replacing the personal touch.
Oh, and I do teach organic chem students online. Several communications back and forth per day, every day. Despite everything being online, the students need explanations geared towards what they themselves do not understand. Teaching isn't just a science - it's an art - and sometimes you have to be able to near read their minds in order to understand why things aren't quite clicking. A machine will never be able to replace human compassion, understanding, and the reassurance that they are clever enough, bright enough, and capable enough to be awesome.
I absolutely agree with your view of education. The problem is that policymakers don't care whether specific techniques work, as long as they are profitable and "efficient". The tentacles of the Wall Street Parasites are reaching into every institution and squeezing tighter and tighter. Nothing matters beyond "return on investment".
I liked your descriptions of the individualized instruction approaches. I certainly could have benefited from them. The high school I went to in the early 70s was so rigid that I was not allowed to take typing - only women not going to college were allowed, apparently. I was unalterably placed in the "college track" - my own desires being irrelevant. I wanted to learn typing because I had already chosen a career in computer programming.
About the only two courses I enjoyed in that awful school was Electricity I and Electricity II. My mom had to fight to get me in there because they were not "college track". The courses were workbook/lab bench, two students per workstation. I had my own workstation since I was progressing much faster than the other students, who I would help. The instructor appreciated that, and he was a nice guy, so it was a good experience. The rest of the four years, not so much.
I guess my point is that the concepts of individualized instruction aren't particularly new, just the tools. Unfortunately the tools will be used as part of the Era of Austerity, in service to Wall Street, instead of serving students.
Remember these are people with all different goals and views, not one giant, betentacled monster of evil! (LOL). SOME of them value money more than education, but this is short-sighted to say the least, considering that the quality of our children's education is (to some degree) proportional to how many of them will grow up to be innovators and bring money into the country. I have met policymakers on both sides of the aisle whose main goal was to polish their smiles, and I've ALSO met people on both sides of the aisle who were deeply devoted to education.
In the 1960s, my mother was taking calculus and chemistry. But in order to get there, she had to have a conversation with the guidance counselor, who told her, "but dear... you're pretty enough to find a husband. You won't need a career. I'm going to put you in X instead, how does that sound?" Where presumably X was like, 'cooking your husband happy', or 'sewing for new wives' or something. Her own mother visited the school and said, "my daughter isn't just taking these classes, she's going to college and earning her degree, and she will have a professional as well as a personal life, and that is not up to you to determine." My grandmother was a tiny, soft little woman who capped five feet tall on a good day. It was probably like being attacked by a fresh marshmallow.
My mother was the only girl in both of those classes, and she kicked some serious butt there (having no other choice!) Sometimes you have to fight the Man.
I and my parents did a lot of fighting the Man. I never had a good teacher (one who was interested in kids' learning) until junior high, and never one interested in my learning personally until my second round of college in my 30s.
I totally went to the Christian Taliban grade school and middle school. They were the only public schools in our remote rural area. Local control run amok. The female teachers wore wigs so that their hair would be covered.
I learned logical thought at home, and it got me into a lot of trouble with my teachers. Sadly, my parents were not also equipped to teach social skills!
Love this descriptor, @NilaJones .... we always got a few back from there every year. (I assume they are all part of the same Network of Evul, right?) They came back to our school so damaged. There were times I wanted to march over there and give them a piece of my mind, but I was afraid of involuntary exorcism.
Potential trigger warning for the next paragraph. Skip it if you are worried.
One of my little ones returned after having been told (at age 14) that the thing to do was 'forgive' her rapist - who happened to also be attending the same school. She was forced to spend time working with this boy, sometimes alone or in small-group settings.
Okay, scary bit over.
...I thought that was a devout-Jewish-women thing and a Muslim-lady thing. I didn't know Christians even believed that women should wear their hair covered!
....and wigs? Why not shawls or something like the rest of the monotheistic triad? If it's a vanity thing, what's the point of it not being your 'real' hair? Nila, this sounds weirder and weirder and I'm sorry you spent your childhood there!
I really learned logical thought from my older sister, APhD (anthropology PhD... what I call her on here. ) That and my best friend growing up. We were all naturally argumentative and bickery... but it trained me to think logically and swiftly to counter others' arguments. Still, my understanding expanded dramatically once I decided to make a formal study of it for my students. I don't really remember what persuaded me to try. It might have had something to do with Sophie's World by Jostein Gaardner - an excellent book of philosophy, told in novel form. I think that was my first introduction to formal logic, at age 15 (the same age as the main character).
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