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Big bad education bureaucracy does big bad things

In response to some big new push for testing schoolchildren, Mark Palko writes:

The announcement of a new curriculum is invariably followed by a round of hearty round of self congratulations and talk of “keeping standards high” as if adding a slide to a PowerPoint automatically made students better informed. It doesn’t work that way. Adding a topic to the list simply means that students will be exposed to it, not that they will understand or master or retain it.

Well put. In my own teaching, I often am tempted to believe that just putting a topic in a homework problem is enough to ensure that students will learn it. But it doesn’t work that way. Even if they manage to somehow struggle through and solve the problem (and many don’t, or they rely on their friends’ solutions), they won’t learn much if they don’t see the connection with everything else they know.

I’m reminded of the time, several years ago, that I learned that photocopying an article and filing it was not the same as reading it!

7 Comments

  1. dab says:

    “I’m reminded of the time, several years ago, that I learned that photocopying an article and filing it was not the same as reading it!”

    Sure. But if I download the PDF onto a mobile device, I’m good, right?

  2. Rahul says:

    At least scrupulously downloading the citation file paid me rich dividends. I could pad my references lists for proposals with gratuitous references without actually even having raid said papers. :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think the purpose of education ought to be to get kids to “master & understand & retain” knowledge.

    We are processors not database. Educate for character & skill.

  4. One of Arne's suburban moms says:

    Kids have to be college and career ready – how can they get a job if there are not standards and the kids aren’t tested and re-tested to make sure they reach those standards? But then what do I know? I’m just a white, suburban mother who kids and school aren’t as great as I thought.

    • David says:

      I don’t see how ‘testing and re-testing’ will make sure kids will reach standards. Education might help, tho. Let’s not forget that a test cuts both ways: what child has learned (to regurgitate in a test environment…completely artificial and remote from the world of work), what curriculum has imparted, what teacher/school system has been able to deliver. The child is a part of…maybe a victim of a system that will not always serve an educational interest.

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