As a teacher of economics, editorials on education interest me on two levels. One, the debate about learning strategies and how that dictates teachers’ approach in the classroom. Two, education is obviously important as an investment both in social welfare and potential production.
Cynthia Tucker’s article, Improving education begins with better teachers, is an unfortunately shallow critique of the direction education policies are taking.
Educating all of our children, including those from poor and dysfunctional homes, is clearly in the national interest. In a globally competitive market, and with nations like China and India emphasizing high-quality education, we simply cannot afford not to educate everybody.
And it does no good to point fingers at parents — some of them busy trying to make ends meet, some of them functionally illiterate, some of them simply irresponsible. No child chooses to be born into a home without the obvious advantages.
I’ve heard from too many public schoolteachers who blame their students’ poor performance on their parents’ failures. That suggests to me those teachers don’t have much faith in their students’ ability to learn or in their own ability to teach them.
My own experience is not only from US schools, but would suggest that teachers’ attitudes are often a reflection of management and administration. Teachers often–very often–find themselves in a work environment where the ideals they embraced in their education studies are ignored in favor of high scores and keeping parents happy.
Despite the strides made in learning science, and the obvious advantages of active learning and critical discussion, classrooms are often still a reminder of old ideals, rote learning and unquestioned acceptance of the facts.
Why does it happen? Yes, sometimes because a teacher does not really accept the research and they revert to the methods of their own teachers. Just as often, it happens because administration demands obedience and results at the cost of an interactive environment.
What to be done? For one, quit appointing MBA’s to manage schools. Yes, schools are in many ways a business, but–to borrow the metaphor–management should be schooled in the proper methods of production, and learning production is complex enough to require great devotion of study on its own.
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