The four sides to the education debate


There are four types of people fighting about education. They are:

  1. Teachers. Most of them know what they’re talking about, because they’re the ones on the front line. They can be divided into dumb teachers and smart teachers. The dumb teachers are the reason for the debate. The smart teachers aren’t paid enough.
  2. Administrators, principals, etc. Once again, these people know what they’re talking about because they were once teachers. Some of them were once bad teachers and are bad administrators, but they just sit around and let the paychecks roll in, so their effect on the debate is minimal.
  3. Parents. They can be divided into negligent parents, good parents and outspoken parents. The negligent parents are not heard from, and the good parents nurture their kids and only get in the way of teachers if those teachers aren’t doing a good job. The outspoken parents are never satisfied, are usually jerks, and blame everything on the teachers. They usually don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t understand how education research can distort facts, so they usually end up supporting dumb educational models or just yell a lot.
  4. Education researchers. Some researchers (like Isabel Beck) were once teachers and so they focus on the practical applications of education research. The others don’t know what they’re talking about because they’ve spent 25 years in academia and have never seen a 9-year-old before. The latter group is full of assholes.

The first two groups are constantly being chided for accepting “unproven” models for teaching reading by the third group. The fourth group (excepting the Beck-lead subgroup) put out unrealistic or ineffective models that power the third group. And these last two groups are the bane of my existence. That is all.


Comments 5

  1. jason wrote:

    What sets teachers apart from the pack, though, is that we immediately see how well things are going for the kids. Administrators don’t have time to regularly talk with students and hence can’t track their day-to-day progress; parents are a little closer to the action but often get second-hand accounts of classroom practices through their kids; researchers often couldn’t find children with two hands, a flashlight and a map.

    The sad part is that groups 2, 3 and 4 routinely distrust teachers and think that they have a better perspective on what goes on in the classroom and what works for the kids.

    It’s like my old department head used to say: “Educational research spends lots of time and money to get answers to questions that you could get in five minutes from any classroom teacher.” Truer words were never spoken.

    Posted 25 Feb 2007 at 9:41 pm
  2. Fraser wrote:

    “research … get answers to questions that you could get in five minutes from any classroom teacher.”

    That teacher’s answer will always be the status-quo.

    Posted 26 Feb 2007 at 12:34 pm
  3. Eve wrote:

    Not true at all, Fraser. I could argue that some of the best instruction results from teachers experimenting with new strategies they’re taught and discussing what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have enough respect for them.

    Posted 26 Feb 2007 at 6:40 pm
  4. Fraser wrote:

    I’m sure some of the best instruction results, as shown in the setting of an experiment, did come from teachers. The entire point is that the teacher’s conjecture went through the experimental phase. That’s the key part of your second sentence. It’s not enough that an idea was thought up, that idea must be scrutinized.

    An experiment that proves a teacher’s conjecture is more important than the conjecture itself. Experiments are more important than theories. Some teacher’s conjectures will be good, some will be wrong; but it’s the experimental evidence that shows which conjectures were good and which were bad.

    Argue all you want that “some of the best insturction results” came from teachers. Which ones were they? How are you going to figure that out? I really hope it’s a test of some sort.

    I have nothing but respect for working people but I wouldn’t let a soldier plan civil defense or a lawyer interpret law. Their insight can be used and tested to deterim if it’s a better system or not. But people the world over from short-order cooks to cops working a beat to students siting in a classroom have always said “If I were in charge things would be different!” Yeah well, everyone thinks that. We need an impartial opinion.

    I guess if the tests that were run are totally wrong (flawed/biased/whatever) then they are totally wrong and should be ignored. I’m not a scientist and am not in a position to review it. But you’re argument (here, but moreso in the other thread) doesn’t seem to suggest that. You’ve said that the results were good! Did I misunderstand?

    If DI gets better results in a lab than it does in a real school setting (somehow) then shouldn’t you be calling for a test that closer mimicks a real school setting and then see whether DI is still better experimentally? But if the experiments do accurate reprosent real life than I guess you could argue that it’s impractical to get teachers to actually follow a system like DI. I think that suggestion would be highly offensive to suggest that teachers aren’t professional enough to follow a highly regulated curriculum and are so stubborn that they’ll never follow a plan that they consider “beneath them”.

    An experiment, that is designed well enough, will review the truth of any matter.

    Posted 27 Feb 2007 at 11:27 pm
  5. Eve wrote:

    Isabel Beck was a teacher until she received a PhD in psychology and developed some of the best curricula I’ve seen.

    I’m tired of talking about DI; suffice it to say, DI has an unfair advantage over the other programs against which it has been tested. The more recent teaching strategies that are doing so well up in Canada have never been compared to DI, but I hope they do eventually so all those DI windbags can shut their mouths.

    Posted 28 Feb 2007 at 8:23 am