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January, 2016

  1. Dumbing-down Hong kong

    January 31, 2016 by Tunya

    Tall Poppy Syndrome In Hong Kong ?

    Look at the description of a new school for Hong Kong: “inquiry-based, play-based and student-centred approach that will contrast with the worksheet-oriented and teacher-led traditional local schools.”

    Hong Kong has always scored high in international school achievement tests. Why would anyone want to bring in a style of schooling typical to “progressive education”? With an emphasis on group work and making children “happy” these schools pay little attention to basic skills. Many parents are thus forced — if they can afford it — to buy private tutoring for Reading and Math for example.

    I feel that this “inquiry-based” approach, if on a large scale, will soon bring down the high achievement Hong Kong is now proud of.

  2. Methods Matter – Phonics

    January 25, 2016 by Tunya

    Methods Matter

    1 Reading in schools is mainly treated in one or other of two ways: (a) a skill or tool to be acquired to enable further learning or (b) a social practice — a worldview — to be applied throughout the educational experience from pre-K to college.

    2 Phonics is the method by which the skill in (a) above is acquired. Whole-language and various other whole word practices — (b) above — do not “teach” as such but expect students to gain literacy by both memorizing lists of words and guessing others from the context of what they are reading. Whole-language is banned in Germany after being tried in the 80s and declared bad practice.

    3 Direct Instruction is a general term for the explicit teaching of a skill-set using demonstrations of the material, rather than exploratory models such as inquiry-based learning. (Wikipedia) Phonics is the method described above and Whole-language is the second.

    4 Why were we never told the value of these things for children? The public and parents have generally been kept ignorant of the Reading Wars that have raged within education systems for over 100 years. A split started in the early 1900s after John Dewey’s essay — The Primary Education Fetish — gained popularity when learning by “doing” (inquiry) started to supersede “drill” (direct instruction). Philosophic, political and corporate profit-making helped keep this contest internal.

    5 Oh, we were? Yes, people did get a flavor of the division and the harms that children experienced. Illiteracy rates did not decrease satisfactorily and the sensational book — Why Johnny Can’t Read, 1955, Flesch — caused considerable debate. But, like water off a duck’s back, little of lasting importance transpired over the last century. The practice of teaching claims “professional autonomy” is a sacred trust and behind closed doors teachers choose their methods according to their inner lights. Currently, there is a mish mash of various styles and combinations of methods — no real standard practice as any other profession adheres to.

    6 Didn’t know that! You DO know all that, Will Fitzhugh! And, much, much more, besides. Thanks for being provocative in trying to stimulate some shame and action in this neglected disservice to children. Hopefully others can bring us up to date on the state of Reading in our 21st C world. I do hear of a promising development that in England the Reading Reform Foundation (RRF) has reconstituted into IFERI — International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction and is promoting international use of the Year One Phonics Screening Check —


    [posted to Education Consumer Clearinghouse — Will Fitzhugh asks “innocent questions” ]

  3. Public Education Fraud – Chapter 2

    January 17, 2016 by Tunya

    Is Public Education A Fraud? — Chapter Two — A Professor’s Doubts

    Here is a skeptical professor who speaks out about our new curriculum in BC. What he says applies substantially to the rest of Canada, US with its Common Core problems, and anywhere else in the world that is facing “21st Century Transformations”. He feels students will find “the whole exercise is pointless.”

    Here is Prof David Livingstone’s Opinion Piece in the Vancouver Sun yesterday with the title — BC kids guinea pigs in dubious public school experiment. The title is different in the online story — Brave New World is in the title —

    “ . . . few parents I have talked with know their children are about to become the subjects in a very ambitious social experiment based on some questionable hypotheses.”

    “The new curriculum is designed for the “21st century learner” for whom, we are told by the Ministry of Education, learning facts will become less important.”

    Dr Livingstone is correct in noting that parents are largely unaware. On top of this “the system” itself is going into uncharted territory. And “personalized learning” in its fullest implementation opens up serious questions of privacy, womb-to-tomb data collection and social engineering suspicions.

    Human experimentation should have strict protocols in place to protect subjects — especially young children who are yet unable to stand up for themselves.

    I think this expose by Dr Livingstone is a good time to start developing a consciousness about the harm that can occur when radically new, untested and unproven, techniques are to be used in teaching and learning. Parents need written safeguards against which they can check whether their full permission should be granted to have their children participate. Example: The program has qualified, well-prepared personnel. The program is supported by research with supporting references. Parents are part of the feedback and evaluation of the new program.

    I haven’t seen any such safeguards enunciated anywhere in these sweeping international education “transformations” and “paradigm shifts”. I think these illuminating observations by Dr Livingstone could be the spur to develop statements about the rights and responsibilities of those involved in the education of young children.

  4. Public Education Fraud – Chapter 1

    January 16, 2016 by Tunya

    Is Public Education A Fraud? — Chapter One — Teacher Activism

    A mother writes that she feels lucky when it comes to her children’s education. After considerable struggle and effort “My son was lucky. He got the help he needed . . . “ The implication throughout her long story is that responsiveness to students is a matter of luck and parent’s persistence. Other students are left behind.

    Her son is now inspired to learn — but what is he learning? So much of current 21st Century Learning is all about learning to work together — demonstrating competencies of collaboration, communication, cooperation. But mastery of the individual tools (hard skills) of learning — reading, math, and scientific method — are not a priority anymore.

    Please note that the hard skills — the legendary 3Rs — are measurable. Emphasis on “competencies”, which are just a teacher’s subjective opinion on a checklist are “nice” but not what kids are sent to school for. The school system’s unilateral “transformation” to competencies without public consent is seen as an avoidance of accountability. Is this not a trick, sleight of hand, a fraud?

    Parents want some certainty when they send their children to school and that is why this parent says greater choices are needed so that a good fit can be had. Education should not be a matter of luck or a lottery as in some cases in the United States.

    But, there are obstacles to choices. This mother points out that the one-size-fits-all public school model and the requirements of unions are obstacles. Let me draw your attention to another, behind-the-scenes major influence in this matter and it is the teacher training institutions.

    The ACDE, an organization of the Deans of Education in Canada, has adopted principles in the training of teachers, not just for pedagogic purposes but also for political activism. An Accord signed in 2005 states as one of its 12 principles:

    • An effective initial teacher education program encourages teachers to assume a social and political leadership role.

    In the Fall 2006 “Education Canada” journal, Rob Tierney and Alice Collins say: “The twelve principles advance values and ideals about the teacher as professional, life long learner and social activist.” Tierney was Dean of Education, UBC, at that time.

    In the ACDE General Accord they mention one of their goals being “to create a public discourse around the shaping of Canadian society and the crucial role of public education.” To do this they relate to governments and other organizations including national and provincial teachers’ associations. In addition, signatories “advocate for increased public funding.”

    Also troubling is this statement: “Those signing the General Accord become part of a network with shared commitments and values relative to education and are contributing to national, public discourse on the importance of public education in developing and sustaining a civil society.”

    I thought we already had a “civil society” in Canada ! Or is something else in mind?

    Kenneth A Strike who wrote a number of books about ethics and education writes in his book “Liberal Justice and the Marxist Critique” that these two philosophies are in constant conflict in our education systems. “Marxists are likely to see schools as sites of class conflict . . . part of the Marxist theoretical hard core . . .” Liberals are “capable of free choice, and their choices command the respect due to the choices of free agents.”

    I prefer the Liberal project versus the Marxist agitation. Which other profession (doctors, engineers, accountants, pharmacists, etc.) train professionals to be social and political activists? Just another aspect of the fraud.