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Cary Hawkins

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Is Education Reform Really Possible?

In watching several talks on education reform here in the United States, I began to wonder, is this reform actually possible? I ask this because currently in order to enact any reform one must be a certified teacher, attempting to reform a failed system, but in order to do so one must be a product of this failed education system. So I am curious to hear other takes on this issue. Keep in mind I am not a teacher, merely a philosophy student who finds the circular issue of reform coming from within an already failed system troublesome.

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    May 15 2013: There are lots of reforms in education taking place every day. This has been true for many decades. New people enter the profession, new people become leaders, new research and training becomes available, and experiments that worked in some cases are replicated in others.

    People who enter teaching went to k12 schools of different quality in which there were striking differences in the pedagogy and effectiveness from one teacher to the next and then to universities where they also experienced many different styles of instruction. People also come to teach in schools who have worked in different kinds of organizations in which people learn together, try things and succeed, and try things and fail. We move through many models of learning in our lives.

    Further teachers typically go through certification programs in which they learn and practice different styles of teaching and receive training after they are in the classroom as well as feedback from those who supervise or evaluate them.

    So I know education reform can, and does happen, every day through inventive educators and those they influence.
    • May 16 2013: Fritzie,
      I would argue utterly against the notion that reform is constantly taking place within the american education system. In order for that to happen there would have to be a revolution of sorts. And my issue isnt necessarily with individual schools, the system as a whole I am referring to. Take for instance, can you name more than one secondary education school that teaches philosophy? Instead of looking to develop a system where the student is considered as more of a peer whom is learning but able to develop their own ideas, we teach regurgitation of knowledge. Does this truly count as education? I would argue not only is it not education it is exactly what I am pointing to as inherently wrong in the system and why its failing. Certifications are nothing more than the regurgitation of knowledge.
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        May 16 2013: I believe you if you tell me that you have taught regurgitation of knowledge or that that was your experience as a student at at school. However that is not what I saw in my three kids' secondary educations (public or private) nor in the classrooms I have visited (of which there have been many). So at the very least your claim of what "we do" is not a very universal "we."

        I definitely know secondary schools- public and private- that have taught philosophy, both as self-standing courses and as part of literature and social studies courses. But even if no schools did, that would not be valid evidence that reform is not taking place. It would only mean philosophy specifically was not in the curriculum.

        Meanwhile Michael in his new thread is a high school student studying philosophy and could use some help with understanding Heidigger and Nietszche, if you have a moment: http://www.ted.com/conversations/18403/philosophy_need_help_understa.html
        • May 16 2013: what do you think standardized tests are and what do you think multiple choice tests accomplish? Students in America are judged through standardization, a standard many of histories greatest minds wouldnt measure up to. there isnt one universal definition of whats smart, but thats exactly what the Department of Education is saying. Multiple choice tests speak
          numbers about the current attitude toward critical thinking. How does multiple choice, which is highly present in American schools, reflect critical thinking in any way. Not to mention that standard everyone is judged by is being lowered all the time because our society is to weak to fail people. The truth is that once unions and government got involved it was never about education it was about politics
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        May 16 2013: Keith, you ask two different questions.

        Multiple choice tests have little place in classroom instruction, as they typically do not reveal what students are thinking. In that sense, one cannot see what students understand and one cannot from them distinguish conceptual problems from simple carelessness. I don't know of any teacher who gives them, though I would guess that some teachers throw a few such questions into classroom exams. Multiple choice mostly appears on the annual tests states often require and that teachers hate giving, but at least they tend to be only once a year.

        Second question is what standardized tests are. Tests are called standardized if different students are all asked the same questions so that one can compare how different students seem to compare in terms of being able to apply some body of material. The word 'standardized" does not tell us what sort of questions are on the test.

        So, for example, the standardized tests in my state involved lots of open ended questions. For example, every 8th grader in the state was asked to design an experiment to show how light or music affects the growth of plants and to specify what would be measured and how and what variables would be controlled and how.

        By asking 8th grade students such a standard question, which is to say asking them all that same question, the state hoped to get some summary information about how kids in different districts seemed to be coming along on designing experiments.

        There are standardized tests that are multiple choice, or at least partly multiple choice. But the term "standardized test" only means the same questions are asked of a lot of people.

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