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Our Educational System is Broken: An Anecdote
Our Educational System is Broken: An Anecdote

Our Educational System is Broken: An Anecdote

In “Arne Duncan, Among the Scientists” (Curriculum Matters Blog on Education Week; August 25, 2009 12:21 PM) Sean Cavanagh writes:
[Secretary of Education Arne Duncan] also stressed the potential for the money to help states and schools recruit new teachers in math and science. Today, too many students are taught by educators who don’t know the content in those subjects, the secretary noted. He made another pitch for differential pay for math and science teachers, as well as for teachers in other high-need subjects, possibly spec-ed and foreign languages. He also mentioned the importance of increasing access to AP programs, and singled out a teacher-training program, the University of Texas’ “UTeach,” for helping produce the “next generation of great leadership” in schools. Interestingly, those remarks came on the same day that the Dallas-based organization that’s seeking to replicate the UTeach model and expand AP access said that its participating schools have seen a major increase in AP passing scores. … Overall, American schools need to churn out students with better math and science skills, said Duncan, who, as he has previously, cited mediocre U.S. scores on international tests as a source of worry. “We’ve become complacent,” he told the audience. “We’ve sort of lost our way. This is huge challenge for us.” © 2009 Editorial Projects in Education
And they are looking to be complacent in the future.  Sean Cavanagh, in “Grounded in Content” (Published Online: December 4, 2007, Published in Print: December 5, 2007)  gives us an illustration of the fact that UTeach seems to be the same old John Dewey-influenced mess:
Kenzie M. Yoder, a UTeach senior, is making use of those strategies as she student-teaches a pre-Algebra 2 course at Crockett High School in Austin, her final program requirement. One day this fall, she divides her class into groups of three and four to prepare the students for quadratic equations. She gives each group a written worksheet with various shapes made up of small squares and a small package of green and orange cutout squares. Moving from table to table, Ms. Yoder, 24, asks students to design shapes with the paper squares and describe them in writing. Then she asks the children to express the shapes as algebraic formulas. When students ask questions, she often responds with one of her own, aimed at leading them to an answer. “Explain to me, through algebra, how you get that number,” she says to one student. “It would be more helpful to me visually,” she tells another, “if I saw you draw it.” The tasks and hands-on activities are the sorts of lessons she learned from UTeach, she explains later. Different tasks have the potential to reach different students, such as those who learn through visual or audio means, the teacher says. Vol. 27, Issue 14, Pages 21-23 © 2009 Editorial Projects in Education
It sounds nice to title an article “Grounded in Content,” but the methods of John Dewey are neither grounded nor are they substantive. If they want to set education straight, then they need to adopt the theory, not of UTeach and such, but of the VanDamme Academy, the LePort Schools, Powell History (see also his “Why History?”), Falling Apple Science, and MGTutoring: an education theory based on and committed to reason. All of these educational providers are private, too; there’s another hint to Mr. Duncan and American education. Update (8-28-09, 5:15 PM CST):  Corrected a typo: “to Mr. Duncan,” instead of “of Mr. Duncan,” in the last sentence. Update (8-31-09, 3:25 PM):  Forgot to add to the “set education straight” list Elizabeth O’Brien‘s English Grammar Revolution!!

One comment

  1. Kenzie Yoder

    Well…… Today is May 24, 2011. I am in my 4th year of teaching and never recall giving anyone permission to use my quotes or observations of my teaching for this website. I haven’t been in this business long enough to claim I know how the game works yet but I do know enough to know that no one has the right answer or the right method. Teaching in a classroom changes everyday and methods change everyday. What works one student one day may not work the next and certainly there is no right way to reach them all BUT I do believe in making students think, show and explain what I am teaching. I feel no real learning has happened until the student can justify their answer, their process and their reasoning. I do not feel UTeach is solely to “blame” for this philosophy but I do think they played a part in it and I thank them. I guess I don’t understand nor do I have the time to really research this post but would like to say, please give all educators a break we are trying to find a way to reach our kids and create thinkers.

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