Sunday, August 31, 2008

Crushing the Serendipity of Youth

Jean-Claude Bradley, a Drexel University Professor has written a blog post called Happy Accidents: A Must-Read for Open Scientists. Happy Accidents is a book written by Morton Meyers who argues that...
The dominant convention of all scientific writing is to present discoveries as rationally driven and to let the facts speak for themselves. This humble ideal has succeeded in making scientists look as if they never make errors, that they straightforwardly answer every question they investigate. It banishes any hint of blunders and surprises along the way. Consequently, not only the general public but the scientific community itself is unaware of the vast role of serendipity in medical research.

This idea of uninterrupted, contiguous progress pervades teaching as well. The idea that a teacher sets a goal for the entire class, that every student can reach that goal through the magic of high expectations, and that all students will never deviate from the linear learning trajectory of memorizing facts, absorbing the conceptual framework, and expressing absolute 'right' answers is ubiquitous and exclusive in official discussions of education.

Secondly, the evaluation of teachers is devoid of any discussion that teachers who recognize gifted or troubled children and suspend the traditional curriculum requirements to address the needs of these children instead of the needs of the government will be evaluated professionally as educators instead of test prep coaches.

As scientists wake up to the idea of open discussions about their profession, one can only hope that open discussions about education begin to enter the public discourse. The government suppression of free and open debates about the wisdom of exclusive test driven school curriculum is long overdue.

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