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Education’s Failing Grade

In 2016, Minneapolis scholar Katherine Kersten reported that public schools were the most dangerous places in St. Paul, MN. The use of obscene language, overturning of furniture and trash cans, and fistfights had become common in grade schools, she noted, and even worse behaviors—including physical attacks on teachers, death-threats, and multi-student riots—were occurring in high schools.

When I read Kersten’s report, my mind flashed back to my visit to Singapore in the late 1980s, not because my experience had anything in common with what Kersten described, but because it was so dramatically different!Read More

 

What Constitutes Teaching Thinking?

Bored Students 123RFAfter publishing my recent essay titled “Whatever Became of Critical Thinking?” I received a very appropriate question from a reader: “What approaches can teachers use to get their students to think critically?” Following are the most basic ones:

To begin with, critical thinking should focus on the particular subject being taught (history, literature, biology, etc.)—more specifically, on the challenges to understanding that characteristically arise in that subject.… Read More

 

Whatever Happened to Critical Thinking?

Back of Head with LightbulbWhen Arthur was in the first grade, the teacher directed the class to “think.” “Now, class,” she said, “I know this problem is a little harder than the ones we’ve been doing, but I’m going to give you a few extra minutes to think about it. Now start thinking.”

It was not the first time Arthur had heard the word used. He’d heard it many times at home, but never quite this way.… Read More

 

The Real Problem In American Education

Teacher LecturingFor decades whenever American students have tested poorly in comparison with their peers in other developed countries, public outrage has caused educators to pursue educational reform. When a reform plan is announced, optimism is high, but it usually lasts only until the next international comparison proves equally or more disappointing.

The reason this pathetic cycle has continued is that educational leaders have ignored the possibility that the reform process itself is preventing meaningful change.… Read More

 

The Elephant in the Classroom

Elephant, 16548871_sFor well over a century, the phrase “elephant in the room” has been used to denote a situation that is too obvious to ignore but is nevertheless ignored. In the classroom, the “elephant” is bureaucracy, and its effect on the process of teaching and learning has been deleterious.

Up until the mid-20th century, education was focused on teachers and students. Non-teachers such as janitors, office staff, and administrators were hired to perform supportive tasks so that teachers could dedicate themselves more fully to the learning process.… Read More

 

Critical Thinking and Common Core

Common Core (Apples)The designers of Common Core claim that critical thinking is an important part of the program. As someone who has been involved in the Critical Thinking Movement for well over forty years, I seriously doubt that claim for several reasons.

First, the authors of Common Core’s statement on critical thinking seem not to understand critical thinking. The statement says:

The Common Core asks students to read stories and literature, as well as more complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies.… Read More

 

Humor and Learning

Bored Students 123RFWhy do many teachers have the attitude that learning is such serious business that any hint of humor undermines it? I discovered a partial answer some years ago in a restaurant outside Wellesley, Massachusetts. It may have been an old library—it certainly looked like one, with bookcases lining the walls and dividing the aisles.

While waiting for my meal, I reached over and pulled an old book off the shelf.… Read More

 

Educators Still Don’t Get It

educatorsIn a 2013 interview with the NY Times, Laszlo Bock, senior operations VP at Google, reported that the company now bases its hiring on candidates’ thinking ability rather than their academic credentials.  The reason? Company research revealed that college Grade Point Averages (GPAs) and test scores are “worthless” and that in some cases people who have never attended college outperform graduates.

Similar reports made headlines in the 1980s.… Read More

 

The Role of Attitude in Learning

Photo, Kids Saying Thank YouThe role of attitude is often ignored in discussions of educational achievement. One reason is that the usual definition of attitude—a “disposition” or “feeling”—is too vague to be helpful. A better definition is a belief expressed indirectly through tone of voice, mannerism, or behavior.

Like other beliefs, attitudes can be reasonable or foolish. Unlike other beliefs, they are seldom put into words and therefore must be inferred.… Read More

 

What’s Really Wrong with Education

Kids in ClassroomIt was recently revealed that the “Common Core” curriculum crams partisan political ideas into children’s minds. For example, a grade school grammar exercise has students write, “[The president] makes sure the country’s laws are fair,” “Government officials’ commands must be obeyed,” and ”An individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well-being.”

Though troubling, this offense is merely a symptom of a much greater problem—the persistent fallacy that students cannot be taught how to think and must therefore be told what to think.… Read More