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Sun Aug 10, 2014, 02:28 PM

Rand Paul gets schooled: Libertarian fantasies don’t help kids learn — teachers do

by JAMES GOODMAN


When I was in elementary school, I remember wondering about the day when teaching would become automated, and human teachers would be obsolete. I remember thinking that information could be delivered through computers (as I was seeing with early educational software) and that students could even input responses that could be automatically evaluated. And the technology was very new then, so of course it would only get better (and of course it has gotten much better). What I failed to understand, at that age, was the critical importance of direct human interaction in the process of education.

According to Politico, Rand Paul is “planning a major push on education reform, including education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.” As one specific example for improving education, Paul suggested that “if you have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus, that person maybe should teach every calculus class in the country.” He allowed that “You’d still have local teachers to reinforce and try to explain and help the kids, but you’d have some of these extraordinary teachers teaching millions of people in the classroom.” As an example, Paul lauded the work of Salman Khan, the creator of Khan Academy, a growing vault of education videos aimed to comprehensively cover a wide variety of traditional school courses and other topics as well.

I like Salman Khan’s videos – I think they can be a valuable tool. Just like all sorts of other educational media, talented teachers can utilize these assets wisely to help complement their teaching, and there are many different approaches that can be used to great success. Salman Khan does a very nice job of explaining difficult concepts. This happens to be a great strength of mine as well. And while my knack for explaining the concepts of calculus have been of tremendous value to me in my teaching, I must say that the “explaining” aspect of teaching is one small part of what we do, and that the best teachers (and this goes for just about every discipline, not just higher-level mathematics) do not simply stand in front of the class and feed knowledge into their skulls. This sort of approach to education is one of the flaws in our system, as too often teachers gravitate toward this conventional approach.

Here is the biggest problem with this approach (and thus with Paul’s vision of education): If your brand of teaching is simply explaining things to kids, then you’re not teaching them to think. You’re not teaching them to problem-solve. You’re teaching them to learn what you tell them, and to be able to reproduce something similar. What we need to do in education, however, and in particular in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, is to cultivate creative critical thinking skills. As former Secretary of Education Richard Riley said, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” This is always in my mind as I teach my math courses. I have to constantly remind myself to get out of the way of the students, to not jump in with a hint or answer too quickly, and to challenge them to ponder a concept before I explain it to them.

more

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/10/rand_paul_gets_schooled_libertarian_fantasies_dont_help_kids_learn_teachers_do/

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Reply Rand Paul gets schooled: Libertarian fantasies don’t help kids learn — teachers do (Original post)
n2doc Aug 2014 OP
Demeter Aug 2014 #1
phil89 Aug 2014 #2
Squinch Aug 2014 #3
phil89 Aug 2014 #4
Squinch Aug 2014 #5
BrotherIvan Aug 2014 #6
LWolf Aug 2014 #7

Response to n2doc (Original post)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 02:48 PM

1. Too often, modern educational theory is

 

"supporting" a child through whatever psychological, social, mental or physical deficits the teacher perceives....

such support can be useful if the student wants it, as long as Thinking is included, but when the "social worker" aspect overwhelms the thinking aspect, we don't have education; we have day care, or amateur (quack) therapy.

I see a teacher as serving as the tools for mountain climbing: ropes, pitons, etc. helping a person get a grasp on the mountain of material, and as the maps, compass, etc. getting some direction to pursue to reach the mountain top of mastery.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 03:13 PM

2. What's the "social worker" aspect?

 

Not sure what you're implying.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 03:14 PM

3. Huh? What does this mean?

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Response to Squinch (Reply #3)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 04:00 PM

4. I was asking for clarification of this sentence:

 

"Thinking is included, but when the "social worker" aspect overwhelms the thinking aspect, we don't have education; we have day care"

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Response to phil89 (Reply #4)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 04:05 PM

5. Sounds like someone is getting their drink on.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Sun Aug 10, 2014, 04:40 PM

6. Contrary to other posters, I agree there are too many social worker demands on teachers

Teachers, today are required to deal with much more than education. In some sense, they are raising children and are expected to do this by administration and parents. Whether it be that the parents are working multiple or demanding jobs, or they have too many children to handle (the older ones neglected while the babies take up the parent's time), or the parents are not qualified or mature enough to teach them, it is the teacher who must take up the slack. In some cases, they interact with the child much more than their parents.

If a teacher has a packed classroom full of children with behavior problems, learning disabilities, attention disorders, far behind grade level, ESL students, students struggling with terrible home lives, how on earth can we fault them for not getting stellar grades on tests? I have taught classes with all of those issues and sometimes getting through the day is a challenge.

We as a society are holding teachers responsible for children in every aspect while becoming more unrealistic about parenting as well. Parents are not supported or even educated on what is truly important in raising a child (hint: it's not buying them everything their heart's desire). They are taught that it is the teacher's fault if their children are not learning. And what has been broken is the supportive, symbiotic relationship that MUST exist between parents and teachers for a child to be a successful student.

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Response to Demeter (Reply #1)

Fri Aug 15, 2014, 10:54 PM

7. "theory" vs "reality"

What's the background for your perspective?

I see it as both, and more. Thinking? Damned straight. Thinking is at the top of my list of academic and intellectual skills to teach.

Social work? I wish it weren't needed, but it is. We've known it for a very long time. Learning doesn't happen in a bubble separate from safety, security, and health.

My students just last year:

2 who were sexually abused for an extended period of time before being removed from their environment, both severely damaged people, one not getting any counseling or therapy to help.

6 were homeless.

12 (documented) living with alcoholics and addicts.

9 documented cases of neglect; I showed up early every morning for those who needed to shower or do laundry because they couldn't do either where they slept.

One whose parent attempted suicide, another who found a beloved family member dead. The latter's family refused assistance to get him counseling because it would interfere with him getting his chores done.

Several with bizarre, dysfunctional dual home/parent situations in which parents battled, manipulated, bribed, and tried to use kids against each other. A few of those were bad enough that my adolescent students were chewing their lips until they were so chafed the skin around their mouth bled, wetting themselves, scratching themselves, cutting themselves, writing about running away, writing about suicide...

There were more. And these are all before we get to those on IEPs for cognitive disabilities. If you add them all up, about 50% of my student load was in crisis of some kind. It wasn't about my perception. So yes...social work. Academic and intellectual growth doesn't happen in those circumstances without it.

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