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‘Book Reviews’ Category

  1. “Stealthy” Education Shifts ?

    May 31, 2017 by Tunya

    21st Century Education “Shifts” ?

    Hopefully, the book “The Case for Contention” will help resolve some nagging questions parents have about education reforms sweeping into schools without their awareness. “Knowledge’ and academic pursuits are being shifted to competencies and “soft skills” as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and a whole host of other unmeasurables. How do you measure empathy?

    Also, age-appropriateness is a concern to parents — what degree of controversy is appropriate at what age?

    Additionally, are teachers able to lead balanced discussions or do they lean on popular texts for their own background learning? A quick search of the Internet yields, for example, in the primary grades books on Math and Social Justice; for secondary history Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”; and in college/university “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is frequently assigned reading in the social sciences — all rather biased points-of-view!

    Now, since the authors of “The Case for Contention” do say, “parents may legitimately ask that the schools represent their side of the issue” when and how can parents be “legitimately” involved? So much that transpires in schools today is unknown to parents and public. If the aim of public education is indeed enlightenment — “to advance truth and strengthen democracy” — then we need more information about the content of 21st C Learning.

    commenbt sent to Joanne Jacobs blog,  The review by Steiner is important to read: .. He quotes the significant quote by James Madison:  

    A people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

    —James Madison (1822)  and lead one to pursue how Dewey viewed Madison's point of view.  Book — Reinhold Niebuhr and John Dewey: An American Odyssey gives some discussion of Dewey (communitarian) and Niebuhr (libertarian?) ]


  2. Choice is the answer

    January 20, 2017 by Tunya

    Choice Is The Answer

    “ . . . the educational bureaucracy has tended to replace parents in deciding what and how our children should learn. The most expedient, and perhaps the only way, to return control to parents is an arrangement whereby parents can choose the schools their children attend and — if they are not satisfied — can move their children from one school to another.” Milton & Rose Friedman, Tyranny of the Status Quo, 1984, p 143)

    My comment to article:  

    Former NEA Lawyer: Abolish the Department of Education

    Would we see a change for the better in the nation’s schools if education was placed back in the hands of local communities?

    Annie Holmquist | January 9, 2017  



  3. Teachers as Avengers ?

    January 11, 2017 by Tunya

    Should Teachers Be Avengers?

    Teachers should do more to steer people to the progressive point-of-view. Democracy’s supposedly “wrong” turns in Brexit and Trump need correction. So say a number of teachers in opinion pieces in the TES (Times Education Supplement). The word “brainwashing” comes up.

    The latest has Oliver Beach proposing that teachers work harder at shaping student dispositions — “The next world leader is sitting in a classroom today”. ]

    What is so striking is the irony. These “thought leaders” do not admit that they are proposing groupthink!

    All this has been foretold and expected through the use of sophisticated propaganda techniques precisely designed to develop this progressive mindset. This book lays it out — Soviet Impregnational Propaganda, Baruch Hazan, 1982 — “ . . . the basic propaganda target is the large social group and not the individual.”

    The chapters include these groupings to be manipulated: sports, the cinema, theater, language studies, and literature. The aim of these propaganda techniques and formation of opinion is to “promote uniform behavior of large social groups”. Today, since 1982, we could guess that media and the education system have been added to that list of groupings.

    We should recognize that these opinions being now parroted are indeed the result of successful permeation. We should strive mightily against teachers taking on the role of heroic avengers — shaping students to predispositions rather than becoming objective, analytical and independent thinkers. Individual thinking is not the norm while collaboration and group projects are being normalized in schools.

    Unfortunately, this shift to social/emotional learning (SEL) in education outcomes has already seen much worldwide adoption. Even the valued OECD’s Program for International Student Assessments (PISA) has been testing for non-academic factors in school. One question students are to reply Yes or No to is: “I feel happy at school.”

  4. The Peter Principle Writ Large

    October 22, 2016 by Tunya

    The Peter Principle Writ Large

    The Globe and Mail Editorial concludes — large school boards, not only in Vancouver — “the bigger they are, the more troublesome they become. “ Brilliant!

    School boards per se are not a problem. It’s only as they grow in size and complexity when problems start compounding. Foreseen 40 years ago this effect was dubbed the Peter Principle — “Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails.”

    Ironically it was actually the Vancouver School Board where this model bloomed and provided the raw research material. Laurence Peter was a teacher and counselor for 25 years at VSB, Excelsior City School Board in the book, The Peter Principle, which soon became an international best seller.

    The book elaborated on offshoots of the basic principle and most of us are more familiar with this observation — “In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” Given the latest fiasco (firing of the Board and 6 staff away on leave) I would say that VSB has definitely reached its highest level of incompetence yet!

    [comment on Globe & Mail Editorial, Schooling the Vancouver School Board (A BC education)  Oct 20, 2016 and sent ase letter to the editor.]


  5. Jeanne Chall, reading expert, treated “shabbily”

    August 8, 2016 by Tunya

    “ . . . reviewing the research on phonics, Chall told me that if I wrote the truth, I would lose old friends and make new enemies. She warned me that I would never again be fully accepted by my academic colleagues . . . Sadly, however, as the evidence in favor of systematic, explicit phonics instruction for beginners increased, so too did the vehemence and nastiness of the backlash. The goal became one of discrediting not just the research, but the integrity and character of those who had conducted it. Chall was treated most shabbily . . . “

    Persist & Find The Paperback Edition, 2002

    When acquiring the Jeanne Chall book — The Academic Achievement Challenge — it's worth getting the edition that contains the foreword by Marilyn Jager Adams: "In a new foreword to the paperback edition, Marilyn Jager Adams reflects on Chall's deep-rooted commitment to and enduring legacy in educating America's children. "

    If you are either a teacher or otherwise very interested/concerned about the field of education you will grasp what a contested field it is. Most of the public and practitioners simply do not know that this field is plagued by rivalries, which seriously intrude and harm both the teacher side and the student side.

    There are a number of angles to be aware of: a) political — left or right philosophies, certain their view is correct about what’s best; b) economic — there's big bucks in the competitive publishing business; c) belief systems that verge on group-think and mass hysteria when fads proliferate and defy reason. You may know of other categories of disputes in the field.

    For example, Rick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, sees progressives as dominating the ed reform discussions & efforts — 90 to 10 percent. Conservatives have little "refuge", he says.

    But, there is a third force (besides the progressive and traditional) which is completely marginalized in these contests — the purely practical side — teaching and learning via what works and is evidence-based. What the 21st Century needs is education free of partisanship, free of greedy self-seeking profiteering, free of hysterical faddism and free of downright laziness in avoiding the discipline of proper pedagogy. But, Chall promoted what worked and was treated "shabbily". (See quote in my previous comment.)

    Parents, who are legally, and in reality, those ultimately responsible for their children’s well-being and education are frustrated that the trade, industry, field, whatever (hard to call it a “profession”) is so prone to dissension and lack of self-control and self-regulation. Even more frustrating is the field’s tendency to sideline critics and parents as if “the system” has achieved some mantle of “social license” to keep blundering along.

    If you want to do right in this trade, it's advisable to know the landmines! This foreword by Adams is the most succinct statement I have yet to find in the literature that warns about the insider problems fueling the Reading Wars, Math Wars, and Science Wars — real obstacles to practical education today.

    People who respect the art and science of teaching and seek the best choices for children eagerly await the emergence of some practical standards to guide the future of education. At present, there is a real crisis of confidence about the field of education, both within the field and amongst the public in general.

    [Apologies for this editorial. I just meant to pass on the information about the important foreword in the paperback edition, 2002, of Chall’s book, which contains a key insight into her contribution and travails. Got carried away because while the School Wars continue to do havoc, there are few writings that actually describe or even hint at these invisible hindrances to education.]

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