Friday, September 10, 2010

part 2

From the front page, we move to the editorial page of the T&T for September 10, 2010. Surely, this is opportune moment to say some nice things about the teachers and schools who have been denigrated and even abused for so long in these pages. No such luck.

What we get, instead, is another dyspeptic column byNorbert Cunnigham (whose grouchy old fart writing style closely remembles that of the person who worte the appallingly bad editorial of the return to school of Sept. 7.

It's fads. That's what  it is. Them there schools is all fads.

Well, yes, if you consider that tryiing a new idea out, seeing if it will work, and then discardiing it is a fad, then all of us are involved with fads all our lives. Check out newspapers and magazines. A current fad in the T&T every day is the list of celebrities most of us have never heard of who are having birthdays today. Another fad is lavishing praise on any organization sponosred by the rich. (AIMS springs to mind0. Remember tail fins on cars? Remember flare pants? Fads are a normal part of the process of experimenting and changing and growing up in general.).

When I was younger, I had a beard and long hair. Some people prefer moustaches that look like caterpillars with dietary problems crawling out of their nostrils.

If anything is a fad, it siurely Mr. Cuuningham's favourite project of standardized testing and public school ranking. Their is already scientific proof it is a bad idea. First, the US which has been using it on a wide scale for 25 years is still in the basement of educational success among developed countries.

Secondly, the approach to standarized testing and ranking in the US has been scientifically discredited on two grounds.  The first is that such tests do not test students, teachers, or schools. Secondly, while education has somewhat improved after the introduction of such testing, it was improving FASTER BEFORE such methods were introduced.

The caterpillers wiggle again as Mr. Cunningham goes on to present another attack on an area of education he knows nothing about. He accuses universities of encouraging fads. Well, so they do. And so they are supposed to do. A fad is a new approach to a problem. Universities are constantly looking for new approaches. That's part of their job. The same is true of engineers, doctors, chemists, business organizations and journalists (with the possible exception of Norbert Cunningham).

Some fads are dropped - for various reasons -moral, electronic, damage to sales, inconsistent results. Others show by experience they are desirable and are kept. That's called progress.

As well, humans cannot scientifically test everything. You can produce scientific statitistics on anything - including teaching. But if you don't know what teaching is about, those "scientific" statistics are worthless.

 Us humans do not understand things only by scientific testing. If we did, we could scientifically test religions to see which, if any, of them is right.  But we are humans. Out judgements are based on science, sometimes, but far more on values, greed, hatreds,envy, Weating a necktie, reading a novel, skipping certain parts of a newpaper.'... none of this is a scientific decision. Science deals with what can be measured and repeated without fail. It produces pedictable results. Life doesn't. That's why universities are divided into at least two faculties of study - science and arts.

I have taught in universities. I have many criticisms of them because I know them.

 I have never raised obese caterpillers in my nostrils. I know know nothing of the subject. So I do not write derogatory comments about those who do. Mr. Cunninghman's look very nice.

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