Re: That mythical "core of good ideas"
- Subject: Re: That mythical "core of good ideas"
- From: Allen Flanigan <aflanigan@COMCAST.NET>
- Date: Fri, 1 Nov 2002 08:36:28 -0500
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
You are wrong. The language I used in my post about "skills and knowledge that all students will need to succeed" does not come from some progressive educators' little red book; it comes straight from the mouths of the politicians who are selling us this bill of goods.
So before you argue that "Standards-based education reform (SBER) as implemented in 49 states and the NCLB legislation is a reflection of and advocacy for the implementation of a traditional approach.", maybe you'd better check your facts. It may be argued that way in Kentucky, but I'm willing to bet that in your state as well, similar rationales ("these standards reflect the skills and knowledge students will need to be competitive in the 21st century economy" and similar paeans) have been spouted by supporters of the standards.
And, no, I'm not arguing "that SBER and traditionalism are wrong because they do not reflect progressive principles" (although you would obviously like to frame it that way to get back to your pet dichotomy). Look at my message. I'm arguing that the rationale we have been offered as to why Virginia's high stakes testing and accountability is needed is based on false assumptions (see my previous post below regarding the three legs of the stool). Feel free to contact the Virginia Board of Ed to give them your much more convincing arguments for high stakes testing and punishing students and schools; I'm just relating to you what they have told us regarding the "core of good ideas" or "simple, common sense concept" which lies behind this reform.
----- Original Message -----
From: George Cunningham
Sent: Friday, November 01, 2002 1:23 AM
Subject: Re: That mythical "core of good ideas"
Interesting post. I like it because it illustrates the dichotomy between traditionalism and progressive education that I occasionally annoy some of the members of this list with.
There are of course many differences between traditionalism and progressive education and some of these have changed over the years, which has been the focus of my discussions on this topic before. The most important difference is in how they define the purpose of education, the reason for schools. Traditionalists believe that the purpose of schools is to increase student "achievement" as measured by standardized tests. The content that they think is important is a traditional liberal arts curriculum that includes math, science, history, and literature among others. They believe that all students can and should learn this content.
Progressive educators believe that schools have a different purpose Instead of achievement, they should promote "learning," which cannot be measured by standardized achievement tests. They also believe that students should learn those things that will be useful to them when they graduate. They therefore do not emphasize traditional liberal arts content.
Both groups want what is best for students, but they define this differently. It makes no sense to vilify the side with which you disagree. They are not evil or malevolent people with suspect motives, they just define the purpose of schools differently.
Standards-based education reform (SBER) as implemented in 49 states and the NCLB legislation is a reflection of and advocacy for the implementation of a traditional approach.
What you have done in our message is argue that SBER and traditionalism are wrong because they do not reflect progressive principles. The standards focus on traditional content rather than that which is practical as advocated by progressive educators and SBER defines school success in terms of academic achievement.
It is perfectly legitimate for you to advocate for the principles of progressive education and to think that traditionalism is a bad way to manage schools, but it is not convincing to say that SBER and traditionalism are wrong because they do not embrace progressive education principles. That is the point of traditionalism. It has a different set of beliefs than progressive education so of course it advocates different educational practices than does progressive education.
I realize that many are repelled by the operant conditioning of B.F. Skinner. He is a psychologist who was once among the most influential, but his influence has declined to almost nothing now. I think that most of his ideas about human behavior are wrong, but it seems rather pointless to label anything with which you disagree as being Skinnerian just because you don't like the practice and don't like him . Anyone with even a cursory understanding of Skinner's ideas will tell you that he rejected punishment and spent a lot of time explaining why it would not work. He would have been more than skeptical of SBER and would have predicted that punishing students with low performance would be ineffective in increasing academic performance. One of his most important principles was opposition to punishment. His entire theory of learning is built around the idea that that behavior could only be controlled by positive reinforcement. He sometimes talked about the use of negative reinforcement, but every course in introductory psychology emphasizes the difference between negative reinforcement and punishment.
University of Louisville
----- Original Message -----
From: Allen Flanigan
Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2002 7:06 PM
Subject: That mythical "core of good ideas"
Ah, yes, that mythical "core of good ideas". The way Virginia Board of Ed president Mark Christie explains it, high stakes testing and accountability is like a three legged stool (merde, there's an appropriate word): You got yer standards, you got yer tests, and you got yer consequences (punishments) for schools and students. Without all three of these legs, the stool of accountability can't stand, Christie insists.
But this stool is erected on three fallacious or unproven premises: First, that the standards truly articulate that which students need to succeed in life, or put another way, express the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities that one should have in order to be entitled to a high school diploma. When you match up the standards Virginia or any other state has published with skills and knowledge that a typical adult like you or me or your mail lady or your aromatherapist have, there is little correlation. Doc Howe was wise when he said that any uniform, universal standards of education should be "as vague as possible".
Second, that the tests are valid, meaningful, and reliable measures of students' preparation for success in life, and of schools' effectiveness in imparting such preparation to students. This second premise is demonstrably false because no single measuring instrument in the field of psychometrics can possibly be a sufficiently valid and reliable measure of two different things (school quality vs. student learning). It's like trying to use a spring scale to weigh a human hair and an 18 wheeler.
Third, we are back to the Skinnerian idea (as I mentioned before, Art) of "motivating" children and school personnel by threatening them with failure and "consequences". Where is the data that shows that such motivational techniques obtain anything beyond immediate compliance with rules? Punishment is a poor motivator for trying to get students to have an appreciation of and desire for learning day in and day out. It makes the learning process a drudgery, particularly when children get old enough (middle school age or older, perhaps) to realize they are being manipulated in a very base fashion, like lab rats.
So the three legged stool is really a magician's trick, a platform suspended in midair by political wishful thinking. Put weight on it and it is sure to plummet to earth.
But hey, it has a "core of good ideas in it", right, Art?
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