Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The False Learning

I have repeatedly blogged about the wholesale failure of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to address the needs of children and society. NCLB is little more than a thinly disguised national policy to destroy public school education that has succeeded.

The ubiquitously accepted and promoted meme that high-stress, high-stakes testing of memorized (and largely worthless) factoids is a pseudo-religion among the educated and uneducated alike. Chances are this policy will not change under Obama ensuring the intellectual collapse of our nation along side its economic bankruptcy.

A better policy would be to promote learning for learnings sake. This is not as altruistic a venture as might be assumed.

In a Telegraph article called, Learning by heart is 'pointless for Google generation' by Murray Wardrop, he summarizes the revaluation of meorization.
...for today's youngsters, tedious rote learning is pointless because such basic facts are only a mouse click away via Google, Wikipedia and online libraries, according to writer and businessman Don Tapscott.

Tapscott, author of the best-selling book Wikinomics and a champion of the "net generation", suggests a better approach would be to teach children to think creatively so they could learn to interpret and apply the knowledge available online.

The Canadian business executive said: "Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is.

"Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don't need to know all the dates.

"It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google."

Tapscott dismissed the idea that his approach is anti-learning, instead arguing that the ability to learn new things is more important than ever "in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed".

And he believes that the old-fashioned model of education still prevalent in today's schools, involving remembering facts 'off pat', was designed for the industrial age.

He said: "This might have been good for the mass production economy, but it doesn't deliver for the challenges of the digital economy, or for the 'net gen' mind.

"Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times. So for them memorising facts and figures is a waste of time."

Tapscott added the brains of today's youngsters work differently to their parents', and that multi tasking with digital devices, such as using the internet while listening to their MP3 players, can help them to develop critical thinking skills.

Ofsted has reported that pupils' knowledge and understanding of key historical facts is not good enough to enable them to "form overviews and demonstrate strong conceptual understanding".

Shadow Schools Secretary, Michael Gove, has recently attacked "the move away from fact-based learning", arguing that "knowledge, intellectual capital, is what makes educational progress possible".


Joe said...

I agree with Tapscott's comments on teaching to learn instead of teaching facts, in most cases.

I don't agree that NCLB was created to destroy the public schools, but a rough first attempt to find out why more money doesn't result in better outcomes.

The core issue to NCLB was to educate poor children, a big request to make of a old system already doing a lot of things.

Bit the system has changed before and it will change again, more computer based learning, larger classes and a more professional role for teachers. Summers off will be a thing of the past, as will state paid retirement at 55. The good news is that the teachers that meet the challenge will be part of breaking down the cycle if inequity that has lasted too long and allow the US to regain a position of strength in the global economy.

Can we do it, Yes We Can!

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