Friday, May 06, 2011

The Nature of Education Debates

Some bloggers are debating what sort of pegagogy and curriculum should be used in schools that serve poor inner-city children.

Whenever this sort of debate arises, I think there may be some miscommunication going on, and that what both sides want to see in the classroom may not be all that different. Here's how each side is interpreting the other side's position:

What “Progressives” Say:

“I want the best education for all children, just like what rich children receive at Sidwell Friends or Phillips Exeter. Instead of focusing so much on math and reading, I want schools to teach the love of learning, critical thinking, and democratic values.”
What Traditionalists Hear:
"I don't care if kids are illiterate, lack basic math skills, and are at high risk of dropping out -- as long as teachers have the chance to live out their lifelong ‘Dead Poets’ Society’ fantasy, the kids will probably be fine.”
What Traditionalists Say:
“Poor children are being ill-served by the schools today – many of them drop out and those who remain often are years behind in basic academic skills. In order for them to function in modern society, they may often need extra time and attention (such as KIPP provides) in order to catch up on essential math and reading skills.”
What “Progressives” Hear:

"I want poor kids to be taught by modern day Gradgrinds, who make them spend all day doing rote memorization and multiple choice worksheets in math and reading. Kids should never be taught any other subject at all.”



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