Consummate dilettantism!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Demise of Education

If you want to know precisely why and how modern educational doctrine has become so rotten, look no further than the words of its advocates. This astonishingly vapid 12-page "scholarly" study from Educational Researcher, with its meticulously-detailed bibliography and citations, contains absolutely no meaningful content. There is no presentation of rigorous or statistically analyzed evidence, much less any evidence at all; the author makes a claim based almost solely on intuition. It is thoroughly unpersuasive and indeed downright frightening. Here are some particularly interesting bits:

A first step in learning to listen, as Delpit also points out, is to
stop talking, to stop insisting that we know the answers, and to
stop asserting them. Alcoff (1995) contends, “the effect of the
practice of speaking for others is often, though not always . . . a
reinscription . . . of hierarchies” (p. 250). To break this cycle of reinscription, educators and educational researchers need to learn “to speak by listening” (Freire, 1998, p. 104). Some of what we hear from students offers inspiring evidence that we should ask more.
From century-old constructivist approaches to education we must retain the notion that students need to be authors of their
own understanding and assessors of their own learning. With
critical pedagogy we must share a commitment to redistributing
power not only within the classroom, between teacher and students,
but in society at large. Keeping in mind postmodern feminist
critiques of the workings and re-workings of power
, we must be willing to take small steps toward changing oppressive practices, but we must also continually question our motives and practices in taking these steps. Like the few educational researchers who have included student voices in arguments for how to reform education, we need to include student perspectives in larger conversations about educational policy and practice. Like critics positioned outside the classroom, we need to find ways of illuminating what is happening and what could be happening within classrooms that the wider public can hear and take seriously. And finally, we must include students’, as well as adults’, frames of reference in conversations about educational policy and practice; we must take seriously their frames of reference and the assertions made within them as one among several impetuses toward change.
If, as Heilbrun (1988) contends, “Power is the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action and the right to have one’s part matter” (p. 18), then students are currently without power in a system that claims to serve them.
A first step in learning to listen, as Delpit also points out, is to stop talking, to stop insisting that we know the answers, and to stop asserting them.
A first step in learning to teach our children is to cut the crap, insist that we actually instruct them, and abandon nonsensical nonsense like this.

1 comment:

  1. Good blog! Well done!

    I thought you might like to have a look at my website

    It has more than 60 freely downloadable PDFs on Critical Pedagogy, Critical Theory, Critical Practice etc.

    There are also several downloadable bibliographies and glossaries (since much of the literature is, as you know, seen as impenetrable) as well as useful links. It is aimed at beginners level but there are papers there at the level of doctorate. The URL is:,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/

    My only request is that visitors to the site leave comments in the “Contact” page so that I can gauge its effectiveness and make ongoing improvements.

    Again, Well done!