Saturday, September 7, 2013

Commentary On Teachers' Critique Of CSCOPE

"Voices Empower" posted a "Must Read" article regarding CSCOPE and Common Core. The article voices the concerns of both teachers and students in regards to the controversial curricula. 

The teacher in the article expresses concern over the role of "facilitator" over that of "teacher".

CSCOPE and Common Core are meant to nationalize standards of what and how your kids are taught, not by your wishes but by those of the government and the social engineers. They seem to prefer a person to be more sensitive and obedient to the whims of cultural fads than to diehard values and morals.

Now, the "facilitator" role for an instructor/teacher is important. But at grade levels prior to Junior Year in High School, it should be a back-burner role, not a primary one.

The "facilitator role" stems from two pedagogy that do not work for students at levels beneath HS Upperclassmen. That role is for the Adult Learning Model and the Critical Thinking Model. CTM uses more Socratic Method to facilitate learning and is mostly a segue to ALM. They are designed to have the student take responsibility for their own education and its direction. To work, they require students to understand and master the basics. From there they can "think outside the box". The problem is, they don't know what the box is.

One complaint bounced around concerning Millennials is they were not taught how to think critically. The elements of deep philosophical pondering were not instilled. That remains to be seen as every generation has had its "deep thinkers" as well as its "non-thinkers".

That concern drove some education theorists to push critical thinking down towards elementary students. They want "out of the box thinking" to occur by never introducing students to "the box" in the first place. In doing so, they ignore important stages within Bloom's Taxonomy.

What is "Bloom's Taxonomy"? This rock-star theorist, Bloom, came up with a great chart that explains how people learn from the most fundamental to the most advanced stages of any subject or task. Later, some other really smart people revised the taxonomy, making it easier to understand and, thankfully, more pragmatic and utilitarian.

The goal is to push a student to a mastery/creator level. However, each has to start at the fundamental level of introduction and learning basic definitions. "This is a box...". "This is a cubical box. It has six faces of equal area. It has 12 edges of  equal length. It's volume is calculated by multiplying the three equal dimensions, or 'cubing' to an exponential power of 3. That gives you a maximum capacity the box can hold. Anything else will not fit in the box". This establishes the box and delineates the "outside the box" mastery and creative level stuff. It also defines the fundamentals that make up the foundation of the subject.

The problem with "ignoring the box" or not concentrating on the fundamentals is that it leaves students not knowing where they stand. It's great that a 3rd grader comprehends iambic pentameter versus free verse. However, if they cannot spell "cat" or cannot read a page of "Dick and Jane", then they won't be able to do any form of thinking on any of Shakespeare's sonnets much less compare them to any of e.e. Cummings's works.

Take this into the scientific realm. Kids won't be able to ponder theoretical physics if they cannot understand the base definitions of gravity or inertia. Even attempting to prove them wrong or flawed requires knowledge of them in the first place.

In attempting to teach "critical thinking" to kids, this "there is no box or spoon" approach denies them the ability to think critically.

Genius Jacob Barnett said in one speech "At some point you have to stop learning and start thinking." He didn't say not to learn. Jacob referred to pausing that "learning" of the fundamentals in order to think critically and analytically. Even with this "revolutionary" concept (that has been around longer than Jacob), he does not abandon learning the basics and fundamentals. Jacob means that you learn them, then move past them after you learned them. They were never meant to be an ending point. However, they are a necessary starting point that current theoretical pedagogy are trying to ignore.

That goes back to the purposes of elementary education. The main purpose is to teach those fundamentals so that the students are capable of employing critical thinking once they move into the higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.

Let's look at issues with how math is taught today. Kids are taught the concepts behind multiplication. They are taught that it is adding equal sets together or "counting by 7s". Watch a kid taught by this method struggle with figuring out 6x7. Compare that to a kid who was first taught to memorize times tables, then taught the concept after mastering those fundamentals. The kid won't have to think "what is 6x7... well, 21 + 7 is 28, so 28 + 7 is 34, so the sixth one must be 41". (Notice the wrong answer from miscounting on the fingers). However, they can get partial credit for explaining how they added the sets, counting the individual elements to get that wrong answer. It takes them 10 minutes. The kid who committed the times tables to memory had the answer in seconds and is ready to work on long division.

That is the problem with employing CTM and ALM too early. That is what CSCOPE and Common Core seek to do. In other words, they are set up to leave the students feeling smart, but really ignorant and uneducated.