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Monday, January 24, 2011

"To really learn take a test." The Times pushes its testing agenda again.

The New York Times, as part of its ever increasing drum beat for testing, printed an article on its front page called: "To really learn, quit studying and take a test." The article reports a paper published in the journal Science that says that students retained more information after being tested than they retained from studying. In the Times' logic this means, "yea tests!"

They asked various authorities in Cognitive Science to comment and somehow managed to get people (Marcia Linn and Howard Gardner) who I know are anti-testing, to sound as if they were astounded by this study.

Let me make it simple for the Times: Learning is not actually about the retention of information. Of course, in school it is, but that is because school was designed to create mindless factory workers not thinkers. Real learning involves trying things and failing, and learning from one's failures. Real learning involves having a goal and figuring out how to achieve it, and learning from the experience. Real learning is about the modification of behavior and the modification of ideas.

School is about the retention of knowledge. But school is broken. Most students are miserable and could not possibly pass the tests they passed a few years after school is finished.

The New York Times has an agenda. It constantly promotes testing. I have a question for the Times' editors. Did you learn to run a newspaper in school? Or did it takes years of practice? Or does one just take a multiple choice test to become an editor at the Times?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Teachers can't take it any more

I get a lot of letters from people who hear me speak. Here is an excerpt from one that I received recently which I especially liked:

I listened with rapt attention to your talk. I was frustrated that it was difficult to listen and process everything you were saying at the same time. I didn’t want to miss a word so I was relieved when I checked out your website which helps immensely in filling in the blanks.
I am a former classroom teacher. One of my most major gripes is that we are not allowed to teach individually relevant curriculum (even to students who have Individual Education Plans) therefore we CREATE a host of behavior problems because students know that most of what they are learning is CRAP.
I also agree that the system is not going to kill itself. I lobby on behalf of changing public education at the local, state and federal levels and ran for public office for the first time this past fall. I didn’t win, but didn’t do too bad for a first timer with a lot of common sense reform oriented ideas. The current political climate is not much in favor of this. J
There was a time not so long ago when teachers didn't like my talks. But the last two U.S. Presidents have made sure taht taht is no longer the case.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The New York Times is Schizophrenic on Education

Sunday there was an amazing case of the New York Times not even reading their own newspaper and drawing the obvious conclusions about education. Kristof was writing his usual nonsense of how the Chinese education system is better than ours and why. (They score higher than the US does on tests and we should all worry, is now the mantra of New York Times apparently.)


But, in a different section there was an article about Amy Chua, the so-called “tiger mother” who wrote a book about how Chinese parents get their kids to do well at tests. As she is an American, a Yale graduate, and she mothers like her parents did, which means she forced her kids to do well in school. Americans are officially horrified by this book, while at the same time extolling the Chinese for doing so well on tests. Do we want nice parenting or parents who are into test prep? The Times is on both sides of this one.


In yet another section of Sunday's Times there is an Op-Ed piece on how Mark Twain’s Huck Finn, which uses a very bad word (one which wasn’t so bad in 1880) should now be taught in college as opposed to teaching it in high school and deleting the bad word. The idea that it should be taught at all is never discussed. Why shouldn’t it be taught at all? Because of the bad word? No, because novels shouldn’t be taught. What is the reason for teaching novels? Are we trying to create a culture of literary critics? I love Mark Twain but hated him in high school. I hated any book I was forced to read. Why do we force kids to read books that don’t interest them?


Maybe it is because they will be on the tests? How about if only Chinese students were to read them since they like tests so much?