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  1. Critical Thinking & Critical Theory

    December 17, 2017 by Tunya

    Question asked:  Is critical thinking for logical pursuits or activist behavior? 

    Annie Holmquist from Intellectual Takeout did a very fine and interesting interpretation of Uri Harris’s article on Critical Theory (the last of his 3-part series). It was published with the title: The Historical Origins of ‘Critical Thinking’ Theory, Dec 13, 2017. It ran for a short time, enough time to garner 5 comments. Then it was pulled, with anyone trying to read it getting the message: Access denied – You are not authorized to access this page.
    I wanted to read the comments and participate, at least to praise Annie for the insight she passes on to parents. I am a parent and now grandparent and have been really troubled by what seems to transpire as “critical thinking” in school curriculum but which can become an opportunity for encouraging social justice topics and discussions of “oppression”. You can imagine my gratitude to see someone articulate this so well. Here are some excerpts: “ . . . critical theory appears to do away with solid, factual evidence, and instead exerts itself as a feelings-oriented agenda . . . the average individual believes that instruction in critical thinking is a good thing . . . But given the above definition of “critical,” is it possible that the average parent has been misled about the topic? Instead of teaching children to thoughtfully and logically evaluate objective facts, has instruction in critical thinking been teaching them to abandon objective truth and instead follow after activist ideas?”
    In a list of topics for the day, Intellectual Takeout had this descriptor for this article by Annie Holmquist: America has a love affair with critical thinking… but is critical thinking based on rational thought, or an activist agenda?
    Yes, I think parents and public are being misled when they are told “critical thinking” is a big emphasis in schools today. I think much of that activist slant on the topic comes from professional development and the tons of books on the topic, books that have the word “critical” in the title. I think even teachers may be misled as they might reach for a book with critical in the title and it turns out to be Critical Literacy in the Early Childhood Classroom: Unpacking histories, unlearning privilege, C R Kuby, 2013, Teachers College Press.
    There are a lot of books of that nature for teachers. I’m glad I was able to read Annie’s article before it disappeared. This insight is indeed significant. Plus she provided links, one of which led to this series of articles by Uri Harris — very illuminating plus the comments are enlightening as well. If this insight gets out to parents they will be more skeptical about all this hype regarding “critical thinking” in the schools!

    [ my comment to Quillette — “White Women Tears”—Critical Theory on Lindsay Shepherd written by Uri Harris , Dec 9, 2017  http://quillette.com/2017/12/09/white-women-tears-wilfrid-laurier-critical-theory/#comments ]

     


  2. shaping of groupthink and other maladies . . .

    November 25, 2017 by Tunya

    Shaping of Groupthink and Other Maladies . . .

    While groupthink has yet to be classified as a mental illness in the huge Diagnostic Manual it is something to guard against. I note that the matter of defending oneself from it was a Quora Question, which elicited a number of good suggestions (How do you defend yourself mentally against groupthink?)

    Two recent events bring up the topic — Wilfred Laurier University free speech controversy & Chilliwack school trustee calling for a public review of new sex education guidelines. The first, while in full public hullabaloo nationally and now subject of an inquiry, the second is still bubbling along as a local issue just because it happens to be in the “Bible Belt, you know”!

    The first protagonist, Lindsay Shepherd, was subjected to a “struggle session” intending to shape her university lessons to politically correct expectations. She was far-sighted enough to have her session taped for all to hear the pressure tactics. The second protagonist, Barry Neufeld, was not so favored. He belongs to a corporation called a school board, which makes decisions by consensus. Who knows what “struggle session (s)” he endured in discussion of a radical new sex education proposal before he broke rank and privately went to the public via a Facebook post? Even the Minister of Education is pointing fingers. But, I’ve read the hundreds of comments (pro and con) to the news stories. This protagonist has indeed stirred up a hornet’s nest and he and his many followers deserve to be heard, not silenced or have him forbidden from seeking re-election.

    These “struggle sessions” are an import from the Cultural Revolution in China and are meant to humiliate one into compliance with the group. There are all kinds of ways in which people are subjected to pressures to follow a party line or prevailing dogma. As one who watches school systems closely I despair over the current push for so much group work and collaboration. Is this meant to shape early toward groupthink? Let’s look into both groupthink and “struggle sessions”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_session

    [to Facebook 25 Nov 2017]

     


  3. reed college protests

    November 23, 2017 by Tunya

    [ Comment to Washington Examiner today, students triggered by Steve Martin King Tut   http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/students-triggered-by-steve-martins-king-tut-on-snl/article/2640679 ]

    Are Reed Millennials Prepared For College?

    I’m wondering if current students have been adequately prepared to even participate in Humanities 110?

    From their High School Years have the students had some previous experience in reading important literature, having dialogue in class time, writing essays and, applying the ground rules of civil discourse? Did they have the experience of Animal Farm (Orwell), for example? Just from a quick read (on the Internet) of some student papers and lesson plans about Animal Farm I think this is a standard item in most High Schools. I think some of these protesters now at Reed may not have had this experience. Maybe a remedial course on Animal Farm about how totalitarianism gets embedded would be useful?

    Sent to my FB and to Joanne Jacobs on Reed College

    Are Millennials Prepared For College?

    While this post by Joanne Jacobs is rather disturbing it is welcome because it leads to a good starting-point to begin understanding the attacks on free speech on campuses. Frankly, I believe it would take a Master’s Thesis mindset to read all the links and thousands of comments and probably several weeks of composing to deliver something truly illuminating.

    However, we could gain some sense of what’s happening by trying to decipher what’s in front of us now.

    For me, at this point, I’m wondering if current students have been adequately prepared to even participate in Humanities 110? It’s been around since 1943 and we would surely be well-served to know some history and reports of satisfactions from this mandatory course for all first year students. I do like the goals as framed in the course outline, and note that Reed is considered the most liberal college in America. So what are the students protesting?

    To elaborate on my question: From their High School Years have the students had some previous experience in reading important literature, having dialogue in class time, writing essays and, applying the ground rules of civil discourse? Did they have the experience of Animal Farm (Orwell), for example? Just from a quick read (on the Internet) of some student papers and lesson plans about Animal Farm I think this is a standard item in most High Schools. I think some of these protesters now at Reed may not have had this experience. Maybe a remedial course on Animal Farm about how totalitarianism gets embedded would be useful?

    http://www.joannejacobs.com/2017/11/its-not-greek-to-me/


  4. tutoring explosion

    November 21, 2017 by Tunya

    Priorities Matter

    Who said this at the latest researchED event in Toronto, Nov 10, 2017: “ Why is education the least empirical of all human pursuits? We need to build an empirical base.” ? Those may not be the exact words but I heard it over live broadcast and wasn’t there to note who said it or verify exact words.

    Anyway, the point is that this conference was about sharing proven practices that work, and work repeatedly, in education. It was no surprise that such a statement should be made here. What remains is that there be a commitment to that mission, i.e., build that empirical base.

    The definition of empirical is: “concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”.

    Paul, in reporting the growth of tutoring in Canada and other parts of the world says: “It’s no accident that the private tutors provide early reading instruction utilizing systematic phonics and most teach Math using traditional numbers based methods.” Apparently to counter the rather ineffective results from “Discovery Math” and “Whole Language”.

    Not on the 21st Century Learning bandwagon is this list from the Edvocate with 10 Essential Skills For The Education Leader of Tomorrow, Nov 11, 2017 http://www.theedadvocate.org/10-essential-skills-education-leader-tomorrow/ #2 says: “The ability to implement large-scale turnarounds. The bar is set increasingly high for student achievement in numeracy and literacy.”

    Seems simple, doesn’t it? That’s the priority. It certainly is for most parents — strong numeracy and literacy. That’s why the explosion in tutoring. These are needed skills for today and tomorrow. It’s the schools that are lagging!

    [my comment to Educhatter post of today, 20 Nov 2017, on huge growth of tutoriong]


  5. research ed Toronto Nov 10-11, ’17

    November 14, 2017 by Tunya

    My Parental POV & Significance Of researchED in Toronto (Nov 10/11, ’17)
    I wasn’t there, but was tuned-in to the audio and twitter feeds. Hoped to hear things that would warm my parent-advocate’s heart. This was, after all, not for parents but a conference intended to inspire teachers to become more research and evidence-based in their practice. That in itself is #1 in my praise of the conference. On the whole, I feel parents strongly do want their kid’s teachers to be grounded in practices that are proven to work — not fuzzy stuff. I have always said that the education field lacks discipline and rigor and not a profession like health, accounting, or engineering. Pleased to hear someone on the first panel say to this effect: “ Why is education the least empirical of all human pursuits? We need to build an empirical base.”
    #2 A highlight at the conference of 30 speakers was Michael Zwaagstra, with standing room only. If his presentation was anything like his article of the same title: Content Knowledge is the Key to Learning, I can see why it was popular. Maybe it got out that he has strong views on progressivism and its latest manifestations in the provinces of AB, BC and ON where some parents are getting a bit antsy. Read just the Executive Summary, p4, of 18 and you get the picture: http://michaelzwaagstra.com/…/FC200_Content-Knowledge_JL311…
    #3 It was twittered out that Greg Ashman, a “graduate” of three such researchED events in Australia had just been published in a UK magazine — worth reading — https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/11/a-teacher-tweets/ People who have been bedeviled by the education enigma should be happy to know there is a movement where the leading founder says: “We are at the mercy of gurus and snake oil fads without evidence-based education.” (Tom Bennett, #rEDTO17)

    [on FB 12 Nov ’17, with some of my comments in conversation]

    Tunya Audain Brave New World ? ? ? 

    Jan 2016 this OPINION by a university professor, David Livingstone, described BC’s new curriculum, designed by “education experts”.https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/Grassroots-Education/3UuuiBWJU74
    “The next generation will lack the desire, the ability, and even the attention span to read with understanding. Their thoughts will become shallower, not deeper . . . No longer tethered to the past, the future will look more like a blank canvas upon which “the experts” can plan a Brave New World.” Such is tyranny.

    Michael Zwaagstra presents similar fears and in his essay hits hard on the need for proper reading methods to be taught. His presentation will shortly be in audio and I’ll report when.

    Doesn’t all this smack of our fears a decade ago, Heather? You, as trustee, visited a successful program to teach reading in Scotland.You brought back the information. Why don’t school systems learn? Who runs the show? These are questions that must be asked, AND answered.

    – 

    Accelerated Contradictions – False Dichotomy – BC New Curriculum

    I can remember when Michael Fullan, one of those mentioned at rED2017 as a “guru”, visited BC in 1986. His topic: New Cultures for School Improvement. (I wasn’t there: It was for administrators.) It’s been a steady flow of such gurus to BC who undoubtedly chalk up massive frequent flyer points!

    In January 2015 Tom Albury (GELP) said: “This is a pivotal moment for BC . . . if we can continue to work together in this way we can build on how far we've got and really accelerate and sustain this — we'll achieve what nobody else has yet achieved and that is to transform the system across the whole province.” 

    Where are we now? It takes an international event like reasearchED in Toronto to highlight BCEd Plan as a False Dichotomy (Zwaagstra’s slide)  https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DOYEthYXcAAphSq.jpg