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September, 2015

  1. Malicious “group think” in education

    September 30, 2015 by Tunya

    Malicious Groupthink Explains 21 C Learning Fiascoes — Personalized Learning Plan Rollout

    For at least 5 years now we in Canada, as elsewhere in the English-speaking Free World, have seen “school turnaround gurus” traveling between points spreading 21st Century Learning Plans. This became Common Core in the US and variations on the theme — Personalized Learning in BC, Inspired Learning in Alberta, Achieving Excellence in Ontario.

    Two months before our BC Provincial Election (May 2013) an Education Ministry official, after describing the BC Ed Plan to a parent group, said: “Regardless which political party gets in, the plan goes ahead. It’s global transformation.” (Implication: It’s unstoppable!)

    This was rather shocking. In BC we have distinctly singular political parties — from Communist to Socialist to Liberal to Conservative to Libertarian to Less Work party, etc. — running in elections. None of these parties take their marching orders from anywhere but from the local BC electorate! Not from some global entity!

    Just where does this “global transformation” plan come from? We do know that the Alberta’s “tall poppy” excellent school achievement reputation was irksome to some and had to be cut down. This leveling-down (dumbing-down some would say) is now being accomplished.

    But in the UK the “constructivist” agenda driving 21st C Learning agenda — to construct and discover new knowledge and drop old knowledge — is being replaced by a revival of core knowledge curriculum. Thanks to the voices of a few outspoken educators and through books like E D Hirsch’s — The Schools We Need and why we don’t have them. See papers from a recent UK lecture — Knowledge and Curriculum

    Nonetheless, pell-mell, we in BC are proceeding with this “global transformation” — untested, imposed and without safeguards governing human experimentation or proper training of teachers. But, lo ! The Ministry of Ed IS appropriating 2 instructional days for PD on this new curriculum. 2,000 teachers will be selected to lead the PD. One must ask: Are parents to get $40 day to find alternate education or day care provision as they did when teachers went on strike last year ?

    I think the Groupthink Syndrome aptly applies to this massive effort being mounted internationally and gathering recruits — like some mass hysteria or religious crusade. I’m not the only one doing groupthink analysis on this juggernaut but I get my clues from this paper — Victims of Groupthink by Paul't Hart —

    Some of the symptoms are:

    – illusion of invulnerability

    – belief in inherent morality of the group

    – direct pressure on dissenters

    – stereotype of out-groups

    – avoiding the influx of outside opinions

    – consensus-building, concurrence-seeking

    – driven by perceptions of opportunity

    – “the group”, not individuals will stand accountable for any problems

  2. Whole-Language Fall-out

    September 18, 2015 by Tunya

    Whole-Language Baggage Continues To Clutter Education Agendas 

    It’s true — I’m finding out as I research the whole-language movement — it was never just about teaching reading. Whole-language has religious, ideological overtones. It sets out to shape the holistic, humanistic child. It attracts discontented teachers.

    Reading — the physical act of reading — is a straightforward skill taught engaging the language hemisphere of the brain. English is a phonetic language. Decoding takes patience, but once learned (and taught), also becomes a transferable aptitude applicable to other challenges beyond reading.

    Whole-language approach is a huge package of social and emotional learning, emphasizing “guessing” of sight words, and encompasses school experiences far beyond primary years when basic reading should have been mastered and “reading to learn” replacing “learning to read”.

    It’s a long, unpleasant story — the Reading Wars. Started in 1898 by John Dewey who called phonics a “drill” and perversion he helped set in motion the collectivist/progressive movement in education, “learning by doing”, and we still reap the dubious and damaging “rewards” in 21st C Learning initiatives in our Western English-speaking world.

    The late Samuel Blumenfeld (The New Illiterates, Crimes of the Educators) quotes in his book on Homeschooling the words of Dr. Seuss on the matter:

    “That damned ‘Cat in the Hat’ . . . I did it for a textbook house and they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt in the Twenties, in which they threw out phonic reading and went to word recognition . . . I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country . . . there were two hundred and twenty-three words to use in this book . . . I read the list three times and I almost went out of my head. I said, I’ll read it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme that’ll be the title of my book . . . I found ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ and I said, ‘The title will be ‘The Cat in the Hat.’”

    See more on this viewpoint – see comment :

  3. Flabby Families & Absence of choice

    September 9, 2015 by Tunya

    Choicelessness Leads To Flabby Families

    Certainly, the model of Education Savings Accounts as a way of ensuring education as a public good is overdue. Thankfully, both persuasion and budgetary realities are convincing legislators to release their tight controls over prescriptive education spending and to trust parents to make wise decisions using ESAs. The more jurisdictions (5 US states so far) that do this the better the chances of an educated public — people able to lead self-sufficient lives and participate in free democratic citizenship. Such is the yet-unproven promise of these new models. (We can be sure there are still considerable resistance and overt and covert opposition to ESAs. Good luck with the continuing effort!)

    Yes, the freeing up of the education dollar has had a long discussion over the decades. Coons and Sugarman did propose something along the lines of ESAs or vouchers way back in ’78. Now, I would like to bring forward more of Coons’ views as they relate to family policy as counter to persistent centralizing efforts.

    See this interview — School Choice as Family Policy: John E. Coons —

    Some short excerpts:

    “ [Choice as family policy] . . . is one of the most important things we could possibly do as therapy for the institution of the family, for which we have no substitute. The relationship between the parent and child is very damaged if the parent loses all authority over the child for six hours a day, five days a week, and over the content that is put into the child's mind."

    "What must it be like for people who have raised their children until they're five years old, and suddenly, in this most important decision about their education, they have no say at all? They're stripped of their sovereignty over their child."

    “And what must it be like for the child who finds that his parents don't have any power to help him out if he doesn't like the school?”

    "It's a shame that there are no social science studies on the effect of choicelessness on the family. If you are stripped of power—kept out of the decision-making loop—you are likely to experience degeneration of your own capacity to be effective, because you have nothing to do. If you don't have any responsibilities, you get flabby. And what we have are flabby families at the bottom end of the income scale."

    We won’t expect any sympathy or studies on lack of choice from the new Think Tank, Learning Policy Institute (Linda Darling-Hammond, Pres and CEO), will we? Yet one more “non-partisan” central command effort to keep families at arms-length from their children’s education.