I want to confirm the premise of this report with a first hand account. In 1993 I was teaching science in Bellingham, Washington. We were selected by Steve Jobs to demonstrate the Apple eMate in a classroom setting (It used the Newton OS, now scrapped). CNN filmed our efforts. It was one of the best experiences of my teaching career. We would take the eMate to a salmon stream and run water parameters: pH, conductivity, dissolved solids.etc. If the students made a mistake, they saw it as an anomaly on the screen, and immediately retested. They could beam their data via infrared across to the other student testing on the other side of the stream. I was not the evil teacher enforcing discipline in front of a classroom, but a friend. If a water spider came by, we could shift to a lesson on surface tension. Many kids in school suffer from ADD and ADHD. Those used to be assets in a society that constantly needed to multi-task. In a slave society where students must sit at one boring task, it becomes a learning disability. David Tucker was the primary teacher in charge. I was reviewing some of the day’s events to him, and explaining how it promoted critical thinking. He said, “Get used to it, we don’t want critical thinkers, we want skilled technicians.” I guess that is why he got the grant in the first place. James Corbett and Gavin Marshall are entirely correct about the assault on our education. Hey, frogs, wake up!
Everyone watching and commenting on this Eye-Opener need to think of how he/she was educated. I assume most of us here in this forum consider ourselves to be critical and imaginative thinkers. I also assume that most of us are alumni of the American public school system. I think we have managed to come through with our critical thinking skills intact. In my case I would say that my public school education was a very valuable gift that continues to provide benefits to me. I have a similarly positive view of my children’s public education. In general, I think that the public schools in this country (or at least in upstate New York) do a very good job.
Like Simon, I am also a former school teacher (math and science). During my teaching career I worked very hard to get my students to think critically. The way I like to express it is to “think in complete thoughts”. To follow through to the implications of one’s initial ideas. Getting anyone to do this, young or old, is a challenge. That teachers often do not succeed is not necessarily a failure of the system, but a general weakness in human nature.
Unfortunately, education has always been subject to fads. The current emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and the increasing calls for so-called “teacher accountability” turn my stomach. The former trend encourages, indeed requires bad teaching – that is teaching for the test and rote memorization. The latter is no more than a poorly disguised attempt at union-busting.
It is my firm belief that the public school system in this country is pretty good, but it is under assault by so-called reformers whose real agenda is to divert public resources to private use.
Another good book on this matter is “Seperating School and State” by Sheldon Richman.
If all of us spend 12 years in the government schools, and some of even go on for MBA’s, or PHD’s, or JD’s or any other advanced degree, but yet, we come out, and can’t decide how much to set aside for retirement, or where children should go for school, or what medicines to take to cure one’s ills, and etc, etc, etc. I can’t think of a more damning indictment of the educational system in this country.