Op een amerikaanse mailing list over onderwijs stelde iemand de vraag ‘ik wil mijn collega’s overtuigen om een directeur te zoeken die terughoudend is met het volgen van onderwijsvernieuwingen’ en vroeg om voorbeelden van ‘educational fads’, kortdurende modes die net zo snel verdwenen als ze opkwamen. Een poster stuurde een zo mooi lijstje dat het de moeite waard is hem integraal over te nemen.
From: “Keith Knauss” firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Thu May 18, 2006 11:01am(PDT)
Subject: Re: Ed follies – historical
Here are some snippets on some educational fads.
I like this one best:
Bagley sharpened his argument by offering the following contrast:
If I were seriously ill and in desperate need of a physician, and if by some miracle I could secure either Hippocrates, the father of medicine, or a young doctor fresh from the Johns Hopkins school of medicine, with his equipment comprising the latest developments in the technologies and techniques of medicine, I should, of course, take the young doctor. On the other hand, if I were commissioned to find a teacher for a group of adolescent boys and if, by some miracle, I could secure either Socrates or the latest Ph.D. from Teachers College, with his equipment of the latest technologies and techniques (fads) of teaching, with all due respect to the college that employs me and to my students, I am fairly certain that I would jump at the chance to get Socrates.
New math, open education, self-esteem, and whole language:
In California, for example, statewide achievement test scores fell as whole language and bilingual education were mandated by the California Department of Education. They are prime examples of curricular initiatives mandated without any solid evidence that they would do what parents and taxpayers want. The California DOE advanced the theories of education professors, not the aims of the parties who pay for and use the public schools.
Public education’s recent history is riddled with equally egregious examples. From the “new math” and its successor the “new, new math” to “open education” and the “self-esteem movement,” the public schools have convulsed with fads. Most have been ineffective, many have been destructive, and virtually all have been implemented with only nominal regard as to whether they serve the public’s educational aims.
Consider just a few of the now-discredited ideas that held the educational establishment enthralled for a few years:
a.. California’s failed “whole language” reading program cost the state billions to help undo its damage to public school students.
b.. The worthless “open education” fad in the 1960s — which sought “openness” by doing away with walls between classrooms — imposed huge construction costs on cash-strapped school districts that came to understand the noise-reduction benefits of walls.
c.. The “fuzzy math” fad failed so badly that 200 distinguished mathematicians and scientists signed a letter denouncing it.
Perhaps the biggest fad operating in the public schools today — that makes educators prone to adopt other educational fads — is called “learner-centered” education or “discovery learning,” which attempts to teach students how to think but without systematically teaching a body of knowledge.
While a few gifted students may learn adequately without systematic teaching, writes Stone, “most other students — especially those who may be poorly prepared, poorly behaved, inattentive, weakly motivated, or otherwise not well prepared for school, i.e., the other 90 percent — are not well served by this type of teaching.”
Then why do public schools keep chasing after these fixes? Because the public school system is strongly influenced by schools of education that are out of touch with the public’s desire for strong academic achievement, Stone concludes.
Don’t forget about the latest fad: The Gates Foudation’s Small Learning Communities with dismal results
I’m Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. Public education has had to suffer through some awful fads over the years. Whole language was such a disaster California had to spend billions to reverse the damage done to students. “Fuzzy math” was so horrible, 200 leading scientists and mathematicians signed a letter denouncing it.
The latest, according to an independent institute study, may be the worst: “learner-centered education” or “discovery learning.” The idea is to teach students how to think, but not teach them anything to think about. In other words, “critical thinking” – as opposed to, say, biology or geography or english lit. It’s like the old joke about the new math, where the idea was to understand what you were doing, rather than to get the right answer.
Sure, a few gifted students can learn on their own. But the other 90 percent can’t. They need direction. They need subject matter. Schools of education, which spawn these nonsensical fads, can spin airy fantasies all they want, but in the real classroom, students need real teaching.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I’m Pete du Pont, and I’ll see you next time.
Is there a message in the California story for the rest of the country?
The message is basic standard traditional education works, testing works, educational fads are a disaster.
Feted and Fizzled Innovations
Since the early sixties-when I entered teaching–the number of educational innovations and initiatives that have been feted, then fizzled is astounding. I won’t attempt a comprehensive list but the following ten readily come to mind:
1) whole-language reading instruction,
2) bilingual education,
3) open education,
4) self-esteem enhancement,
5) discovery learning,
6) new math,
7) learning style matching,
8) developmentally appropriate practice,
9) outcomes-based education, and
10) heterogeneous grouping.