Saturday, December 14, 2019

Edcucation - Again

It's not a bad article in Quillette. As he is discussing trends rather than overall scores there is likely something to what he identifies about teaching methods, and the fallacy or attributing scores to recent changes in methods rather than older practices. Yet genetics is not even mentioned as a possibility.  It is again invisible.

I'll keep ringing this gong.  Nearly everything you have read about education most of your life, including up to the present day, completely neglects the single strongest factor in test scores, our preferred measure of what children have learned. It's the elephant in the room that no one talks about.

Country-wide scores are going to change more as their demographics change than according to any other factor. If professional researchers and experts can't notice the elephant, why do we believe anything else they say?


Christopher B said...

Here's a thought. They have noticed, and their answer is to simply double down.

We've had at least two generations, going on three, of attempting to raise the overall education level of a genetically distinct portion of our population via a variety of methods ranging from early educational intervention to immersion in more highly-educable demographics. The results have not been promising, and I don't think it's an accident that we're now seeing a move from what was supposed to be a temporary opportunity-based enhancement system to a permanent outcome-based awarding of billets and sinecures to people who meet certain demographic characteristics. The reason for the change will never be discussed but it's pretty likely that everybody realizes why this is necessary. The upper tiers of society have arranged it so their offspring aren't impacted by this system, and the appropriate groups have brought into the jockeying and horsetrading for position that this implies. The people who are being left out largely realize what's happening now, and they aren't happy about it. The question that remains to be answered is how successful the powers that be will be in imposing this system, and how 'kinetic' that imposition is going to be.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That may be so. The sad part is that the people they hurt are the African-Americans they pretend to be protecting. Phonics is better for most students, but has been shown to be absolutely critical for A-A's. "Drill and kill" repetitive math likewise works better with most students, but is emphatically the best method with blacks.

As for content, the same applies. Some educators like to do things that are fun for them and academic and administrative persons will encourage these sort of creative project, imagination-based, lesser-known figures, interesting new angle sorts of projects and programs. Minority students, including immigrants, need the skeleton or skin, not the lymphatic system. Teach dates, teach presidents, teach wars, teach agriculture and trade, teach epidemics, teach clothing. Don't teach desserts, or pets, or what games the children played. In science, teach actual science, not the history of individual scientists. It's fine to know about Gregor Mendel or Madame Curie, but when we expand on the basic information, expand into more science, not more biography. All those will be more useful, especially to your students who may not be able to teach themselves just yet.

JMSmith said...

When an educator can teach what he pleases, he will naturally teach what he enjoys learning and talking about. Basic concepts are thus often slighted and a formal education becomes as idiosyncratic as an autodidactic education. Agains this valid objection, we should however place the benefit of students seeing someone who is really in love with their subject. I good teacher can simulate interest in material that he actuarially finds tedious, but many teachers cannot, and it is hard for students to get excited about material that their teacher obviously finds boring.

I've heard every imaginable argument why my colleagues should be allowed to offer an undergraduate course on the topic of their next article, and have yet to be moved. As I said, the result is graduates who have all the patchiness of the autodidact but none of the raw hunger for knowledge. But I am equally opposed to the practice of teaching straight out of the textbook or under the yoke of a rigid curriculum. It ends up being a little bit like religion: there has to be enthusiasm and structure.

I teach a course called the History and Nature of Geography each spring, and this naturally involves some biography. Now my students are senior geography majors, and so not quite the same as the students you are talking about, but I find that I can usefully stir their interest with stories of the men (and some women) who should be their heroes. Deploring the great explorers is, of course, the fashion in geography as it is elsewhere, but I prefer to present these men (and some women) as heroes in a proud tradition. A proud tradition peopled with heroes is a tradition students feel motivated to join.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Heheheh. Every time you post I'm pretty sure you're not who I'm talking about, even though I don't know your dark side.