I’ve just finished teaching my latest crop of ed school students, and I’ve been puzzling over two trends in education. These trends aren’t exactly new, but, for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me until now the degree to which they’re in hopeless contradiction. Think irresistible force hitting immovable object. The one: most instructors spend most of their time being guides on the side rather than sages on stages. The other: most students no longer get through most of the assigned readings.
I had a funny moment last night… I had the TV on in the background while I was dealing with the dogs, fixing their food bowls & the like, also cooking spinach because spinach is my new Health Plan …
Point is, I wasn’t paying attention to the television.
And I happened to catch a line.
Alex Trebek was interviewing the contestants, and I heard one saying (this is close to a direct quote): “. . . so I assign a lot of projects. They do a lot of independent learning. I guide from the side.”
That was the contestant’s wrap-up.
I guide from the side.
And that was it, back to the game. No particular reaction from Alex, who, I think it’s fair to say, did not look enthusiastic. Then again, he didn’t look unenthusiastic, necessarily, either.
Two thoughts popped into my head at the exact same moment, then ping-ponged back and forth, vying for dominance. (Maybe spinach will fix that.)
My first thought: Common Core doesn’t seem to have put much of a dent in constructivism. Not that it was supposed to, really, but CC did have instructivist elements. Plus a friend of mine, who teaches in the city, tells me kids there are now being taught phonics, so I was thinking there’d been some progress.
But maybe not.
Maybe it’s constructivism that’s on the rise.
I’ve always found it telling that no one ever calls himself, or herself, a constructivist. Yet here was a young teacher announcing, on national television, that he’s a guide on the side. He didn’t sound defensive.
Anyway, that was my first thought.
Constructivism, still here.
Possibly more here.
My second thought: You’re on Jeopardy, bub.
Jeopardy, for pete’s sake !
There is no constructivist path to victory on Jeopardy.
I don’t get it.
The contestant ended up losing pretty badly, which–I won’t lie–I enjoyed, but not before giving me a scare when he pulled into 2nd place after correctly answering a couple of big-ticket questions while his two opponents flubbed theirs.
But in the end he closed out the game with $500.
Compared to the winner, who had $13,601.
Bonus points: I read a journal article on neoliberalism the other day, which pointed out that no one ever calls himself a neoliberal, either. Hah! I guess not. Of course, maybe I’ll turn on Jeopardy tomorrow and hear a contestant telling Alex he’s always been a big fan of the Phillips curve, ever since he was a little kid.
It was the opening sentence of an Opinion piece in last week’s Philadelphia Inquirer that first caught my eye:
Ask students what year Columbus sailed the ocean blue and they’ll likely respond with “1492!”
I’m guessing that most students these days have no idea when Columbus sailed over here. After all, as yesterday’s Washington Post reports, two-thirds of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is, and 22% “haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it.”