Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Education - what children need - Part 3

I presented the argument that any discussion on the effectiveness of an education system needs to be in the context of what it means to be educated and what children need. To quote Case Hurley - 'Even if we looked at what we are doing, we would not know what to think because we have not defined what it means to be educated in a useful way'

So what do you think ?

Deborah Meier on Charles Murray –

Yes , she despises his work , it is very controversial, some call it scientific racism.

Imagine if the same research done on data from test scores was done here in Israel and it came to the conclusion that IQ was related to genes and people of color were of inferior quality. Sometimes a 'truth' like this is in a reality the biggest lie of them all. Check what Sir Ken Robinson says about IQ and kids.

Sir Ken Robinson expresses concern for the current day misuse of IQ tests in his book The Element:

Ironically, Alfred Binet, one of the creators of the IQ test, intended the test to serve precisely the opposite function. In fact, he originally designed it exclusively to identify children with special needs so they could get appropriate forms of schooling. He never intended it to identify degrees of intelligence or mental 'worth'. In fact, Binet noted that the scale he created 'does not permit the measure of intelligence, because intellectual qualities are not superposable, and therefore cannot be measured as linear surfaces are measured.

It is sadly ironic that Binet intended on his IQ test to be a tool used to find ways to properly include children with the opportunity to gain a better education; however, the IQ test, for the most part, has been used as a gatekeeper to exclude children from further education.

Before I read your answer to my question – is Ken Robinson only for gifted kids , I learned that your field is ' gifted children ' so the thought crossed my mind why would a leading educator like Deborah Meier be so against Charles Murray while you use his work to support your thesis. Deborah Meier spent a life time supporting kids and building schools for the underprivileged and believed in these kids potential and understood what they need. Your field is gifted children , the superior kids. Maybe because of this you identify with Murray's explanation why kid's are unsuccessful at school, it is because of their IQs. Now Deborah Meier is a romanticist as far as education goes and Charles Murray is not. Both agree that schools are failing our children, but for different reasons.

You list several lies about schools. The reason that pouring money into schools , improving the standard of teachers, integration of students, working on student self esteem does not improve achievement is not because of the innate qualities and intelligences of children but rather the whole educational philosophy which focuses on ' achievement and grades' , on teaching – all the talk now about merit pay based on test scores- rather on kids' learning . Learning for the vast majority of kids is of no interest and has no intrinsic value, suffer an alienation from a learning environment which is not relevant and focuses on ' drill 'n skill ?. So if the only benefit of schooling is a baby sitter for parents and a piece of paper at the end of the day , it is pretty obvious that getting a  graduation cerificate from high school does not contribute anything to being successful in life. By the way , this situation – where kids are alienated from the learning and the schools competitive arrangement put kids against each other , we are sure to have serious discipline problems.

So what do you think ?

You write – have a certain education for the half of the kids who are below average –something like vocational training , something for the average and of something special for gifted kids. So all that changes is that we have education for these kids and a different education for those kids. What about the education model – teacher focused transmitting information and the focus on achievement and test scores or kids actively participating in their learning and the focus on their learning ?

Charles Murray has made interesting observations and stimulated imho 2 interesting blogs by Deborah Meier + comments , and your interesting article.

To quote Deborah Meier

'So, thank you Charles Murray. It suggests that we can learn even from people whose work we often despise.'

And to quote a commenter -

'I admire the way you treat disagreements as gifts and a way to a better understanding.'

So what do all kids need?

'What all kids need is an engaging, stimulating curriculum on one hand and engaged, stimulating adults on the other.' We have to decide what skills and virtues ( for eg Deborah Meier's the 5 habits of the mind or Case Hurley's 6 virtues of the educated man ) they need to be independent and contributing individuals to society in the 21st century and then choose a curriculum that will promote these skills ,their curiosity and interest to discover. It is not what we teach but how they learn.

There is an interesting interview by writer Dan Pink the author of the WHOLE NEW MIND and Drive on the education required to give kids 21st centaury skills. He is asked in the interview – is this type of education for the brighter or more talented kids. He answered No. Having these skills is very much of what being ' HUMAN' is about.

So we should rethink ' education ' – more about kids learning than teaching and achievement and we will have more of a chance in helping all kids reach potentials and engage in serious intellectual thinking.


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