Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st-Century Skills

Not specifically about math but dead on observations by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post.

Peyton Wolcott ( of Texas is right about schools in America being run by vendors. This is the most disgusting example of all--"No Vendor Left Behind" or "Partnership for 21st Century Skills." There is a need to expose Ken Kay, the founder of the Partnership.

Charlie Hoff connects the "21st Century Skills Fad" to Federal Way Schools:

Are our Federal Way school board members living under a rock?

At a recent school board meeting, where there doesn’t seem to be any crisis over achievement, even when only one in seven Blacks can pass the 10th grade math test, the board decided to pass a “Resolution” imploring the Legislature to “increase” the state’s funding of education to a level required by the Constitution to be “ample” and to comply with the lawsuit that the district won, known as “Fair Funding” that costs another $ 850 million.

Perhaps the school board, by living under a rock, hasn’t heard that the state was at least $6 billion short of paying the current costs for the next biennium.

The “ample education” that educators seem to be talking about would cost somewhere between $2 and $4 billion to which they petitioned to add “Fair Funding” at a cost of $850 million. The board went on to suggest that “all school boards” should join them in demanding that the taxpayers and Legislature fund education at these levels. No mention was made of what the school districts would do with this money, or how this additional largess would improve the achievement of the children attending these enriched schools. I guess the Legislature and taxpayers are to buy a “pig in a poke.”

Board member Amye Bronson-Doherty then went on to say that “she wanted her children to get ‘21st Century Learning Skills,’ a new buzz word for the educators, instead of the skills of the 1970’s.” As a product of education of the 50’s and a teacher in the 60’s and 70’s, I can assure Amye that most of the kids I meet and tutor aren’t getting the “skills of the 50-70’s.

In fact I would like to suggest that they don’t have the skills of the 17th Century children. While it is conjecture I would like to suggest that many, if not most, of the children in the Federal Way School District would be hard pressed to do Arithmetic with the children on the Mayflower of 1620.

When I was a school administrator, in the late 60’s my responsibilities included attendance at the 13 Amish schools, origins in the late 18th Century, and one Mennonite school in our district. These schools, taught by “uncertified” young unmarried Amish women, were turning out, in one room school houses without lights or running water, kids who were better prepared to calculate a 20% discount than the public school students nearby. No fancy curriculum, no “collaboration,” no “projects,” no “coaches,” or any other recent development for “improving” education.

Why do I think this is true? In both the case of the Mayflower children and Amish children, the adults in their lives have made education a clear priority for their children. Children were, or are, not permitted to diminish the importance of acquiring the skills that are needed to be a responsible adult.

Parents and other members of both of these communities all share the belief that children must prepare themselves for responsible adulthood. The use of some pretty “negative,” by current standards, actions such as “shame” and the “dunking stool” make it pretty clear to children that their society expects, or demands, that they apply themselves to their education. There isn’t any “special education” among Amish children, and I don’t think that it was even thought about in the time of the Mayflower.

Director Tony Moore stated at the Board meeting that this financial crisis was also an “opportunity” for the district to improve the education of our children by adopting different ways of educating children. With 6 out of 7 of our Blacks and 3 out of 4 of our Hispanics not meeting the minimal standards that this state defines it would appear that a different approach is needed, instead of asking the Legislature for the “pig in a poke.” Director Moore also stated that he felt that we could not wait for the Legislature to act to start making changes in our system.

In the early 1900’s Robertson Davies, a noted author wrote, “Education is hard work, not 
play, and its rewards are a seriously informed, wide ranging attitude towards real life, and the beginning of a great adventure." I believe that both the Amish, and the Mayflower passengers would agree with this. In fact there are many adults today who would concur.

More recently “Larry the Cable Guy” is thought to have written, “Hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off now.” I fear that this motto is held in high regard by a very significant portion of our youth, and is not countermanded by the adults in their lives.


Anonymous said...

Yes, look up the partners for 21st century

Adobe, Ford, TI, HP, ...

There's the Rockefeller-Snow 21st century incentive fund act that will be voted on shortly. Power is truth.

Here's a link to a controversy involving Porter, Sup for Oklahoma City and on the 21st century board. You can see the links to Houston (Rod Paige) and Ohio State (Waits and Demana - TI role of Graphing Calculators) where also some of the original research used by Treisman was done (in Houston) that supported Socratic teaching methods in urban elementary classrooms.

Gary Stager also has a page with a list of research articles including the one above.

This is more of the same imbecile, fascist reform that should have been investigated and castigated a decade ago if our government or institutions of higher learning had had an ethics that believed in honesty and truth.

Signed Nicky Future

If you want to know how in Sam Houston did Socratic methods ever start in Texas then read the biography of R.L. Moore. Moore was a racist.

Anonymous said...

Hoff is right about a few things. Education is hard work, but hard work gets rewarded. Students in low track classrooms believe school imposes work that for them is meaningless. I would have to agree.

Although we could argue all day over ownership. Lets put it in simpler terms.

Either work is too hard and students don't understand how to do it. Or the work is so simple that they finish it in five minutes. Standards does not address this issue and it has to do with curriculum.

Hard work is valued in all cultures, including American. I would argue that our schools are more Puritan than American, because both standards created two groups of people - probables and possibles. This proved impractical for colonists that had to put up with the Puritans and worse resulted in a society of hell-bound adults ruled by bigoted tyrants.

Public chool was a prison for illegitimate children. Hoff is deluding himself. The school he is so critical about, is the same school he adores. He needs a good dunking.

Anonymous said...

As a new disciple of 21st century skills, I propose imposing a tief. If parents want their children to have an education so badly, they should have to pay for it with a pound of flesh. Students will be reminded daily that education is hard work and they will lose weight faster. That will guarantee success for all.

Anonymous said...

Giving up of one's thumbs should be enough for a laptop and a printer. And instead of the decimal system, students could now learn base 8.

Anonymous said...

Here' an interesting blog that discusses some parallels that were used by reformers to introduce Core Plus into Washington's Public Schools.

1. WASL comparison matching 20 something schools using reform curriculum. There is usually confusion because schools and textbooks are not identified.

2. The studies do not follow standard educational research protocols.

3. The audit team is affiliated with the teacher trainer, in this case Merlino who happens to be the evaluator for Washington's MSP. Webb (Madison) is also one of the committee person's responsible for aligning WA's standards to the WASL from way back. The QCSD group was last active in 2007.

Facts about QCSD Integrated Math: Even at 64% proficient & above PSSA, QCSD is still failing 1 of every 3 students in our high school. The recent "audit€ ’´ of the district math curriculum was not fair and impartial. Both the professors on the audit team, Styer and Mauerer, have vested interests in promoting the IM/Core Plus curriculum. Mauerer was a consultant on discrete mathematics to Core Plus, and is directly involved with National Science Foundation, who funded IM. Styer is affiliated with Joseph Merlino€ ’²s IM MSPGP grants. Merlino works with the NSF on the integrated math program, was responsible for offering Quakertown part of a $12.5 million grant to implement IM in the first place, & includes Quakertown as part of his study about IM. There is a fairly updated list that shows Quakertown on the list for more grant money. Our children are literally the guinea pigs. The grants could be why this district have dug in their heels. But they must consider if it's really worth the money to sacrifice our kids futures. A three page list of comments from graduates/srs. was presented to the Board saying that IM did not prepare them. Basically all teachers from K-12 said in the recent teacher's survey that there is basic math missing in the present curriculum. These are facts and real results, not studies by people with a vested interest in making it look good. Our Board is not listening, preferring to rely on the "experts" like Merlino's group. On the SATs, researching 20 top performing high schools in Pennsylvania, use traditional maths in middle & high school, except 3 which offer a choice of traditional or reform. One middle school uses reform math. Many of these schools are the same or more economically disadvantaged than our school. In 2004, QCSD placed #229 out of 501 on average math SAT scores. 57% of those higher performers also have higher % economically disadvantaged

Anonymous said...

A math war is a meaningless device. It is a media fiction created by conspirators to impose a backward, elitist curriculum on our society that prevents underprivileged children from progressing in school.

Anonymous said...

You cannot be serious.

Anonymous said...

Tell that to half the children that cannot graduate from high school. Power is truth.

Anonymous said...

That student is taught the best who is told the least." Moore, quote in Parker (2005: vii).

From Higgins:

The reasoning of scientific racists goes like this:

science can tell us the facts and, once we know the facts, we will know what to do. However, science cannot provide a basis for human judgment precisely because science can never provide all the facts.

Science is, at best, a statement of probabilities, an approximation, a contingency statement. The judgment that all men are created equal is not a scientific fact but a political and moral judgment about which science has nothing to say.

Attempts to use science as if to say something about the moral order are misunderstandings or worse. Science says nothing about the ought-to-be and science can say nothing about the moral order.

If African Americans are short or tall, young or old, male or female, or whatever else, the knowledge says nothing about their rights under the Constitution...

...Thomas Jefferson put the matter this way concerning blacks: "whatever be their degree of talents, it is no measure of thei rights." (quoted here, p. 11) But, in fact, in the name of science various scientists have eschewed that morality and political judgment preferring that their science prove the worthiness of citizens.

Scientists curry the favor of bigots by providing apparently useful data to them.

Take one example: by the 1840s, the challenge to slavery had begun in earnest and so had the defenses of that peculiar institution. In the early part of the decade, the flawed data of the census of 1840 came to be used as a political weapon against the abolitionists. Data of the 1840 census seemed to indicate that blacks living in the North tended to suffer from mental illness at a rate far higher than slaves living in the South.

Indeed, free blacks in the North had lunacy rates ten times the rates of slaves in the South. The conclusion was drawn by Southerners that the Negro suffered unduly from "mental activity and where there is the greatest mental torpor, we find the least insanity." (p. 15)

Slavery, it would appear to those who looked at these data, was the appropriate social state of the Negro.

Well, the data were wrong. The inexperienced enumerators had erred. And the champions of the South knew well the data's flaws but, like politicians now, they used the data of incipient demography to their own advantage.

[This sounds like the education research? we read about it today.]

Then, as now, ideologues used facts which suited their special perspectives. Science served perspective -- not the other way around.

3. Vivienne Mayes-Malone, Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin: She could not enroll in professor R.L. Moore class, as he explicitly stated that he did not teach Blacks. Overlooking all this, another of her professors, complaining against the civil rights demonstrations, said to her: "If all those out there were like you, hard-working and studious, we wouldn't have any problems." Her reply: "If it hadn't been for those hell-raisers out there, you wouldn't even know me."

In April of 1999, songwriter Tom Waits released "Mule Variations," a rough-edged (though often comical) lapse into cynical territory, punctuated by heavy-handed piano playing and the constant plucking of poorly tuned banjos. Waits has always been the stuff of the impoverished poet, the raspy singer who records in barns and buys his equipment used from country pawn shops. The album's seminal track was entitled "Chocolate Jesus," and served as nothing less than an indictment of a host of American attitudes towards religion — through that hoarse cough of a singing voice, Waits accused America of wanting a "candy savior," ignoring all versions of God other than the ones found convenient and appealing. The song was released amidst the first waves of the newest invasion of religiously-informed popular media overtaking America's cultural landscape but, like so much good art, got virtually no popular attention. Regardless, Waits was examining something he saw in American society, a cultural tendency to cling to certain images of God that are neither accurate nor helpful but that seem appealing nonetheless. The reasons for this are traceable: Firstly, that, like sex and violence, religion sells. It is provocative, charged, and potentially controversial. Secondly, that these specific texts often resonate with readers because they may be seen as a reaction or a challenge to traditional ideas about organized religion.

Anonymous said...

How might a 'great American theologian' and a known racist react to find he was related by illegitimacy to an African American, named Caesar.