MY EDUCATION BLOG
I worked for years as a teacher and retired in June 2006. I started this blog in preparation for my opus I wanted to rock the foundations of education. At the time I said "No chance of rocking", and the opus having mostly been completed for half a year has just taken up cloudspace. I have paid back and evaluated. Thank you education for the salaries and meagre retirement. Thanks to the children most of whom will give me the memories education should give. The careerists and profiteers will gain the karma their exploitation merits.
2009 Go to Archive
|Why teachers don't change?|
As usual teachers are criticised, let's examine this one. So what happens with change in schools? At the school level, along comes someone from outside giving a staff development talk telling teachers they should do ABC, and then the teachers are left to do it. At interview teachers are asked what is their special interest, and how have they implemented it, and this is a key factor in whether the teacher is employed as the ability to teach the subject is assumed. Everyone develops their own niche, some out of genuine interest, most out of career as staff development is a good route away from the chalkface.
How does this affect the rest of the teachers? For the majority who are just interested in doing their jobs, they are looking to do just that. They know there is a lot wrong with education in schools, but they don't make the decisions - the politicians and the policy makers are the front end of decision-making implementing the paradigm. Along comes a new teacher who has a good idea about education, and all they say is short-term disruption. If they embrace the idea then it requires development time to implement it, and if they don't implement it they are accused of reacting badly to change. As usual whatever the teacher chooses to do they are in trouble.
And then there is management of change, this just does not happen. Management reacts to their own bosses - basically the government. Directives come down from the ministry. The better managements in the better schools ignore these directives for as long as possible, but it also affects their jobs so eventually government change is implemented. But this government direction is political, they react to what is electorally more damaging. At present they are reacting to public pressure concerning bullying. But this response is not thought out, it is not designed to improve education - it is designed to maintain politicians' jobs. And who suffers? The usual - the alliance of parents, teachers and students. The teachers suffer because they are being told to carry out political directives or implement "innovative" change which they know won't work or which they have seen before. They also resist because they know it is not being properly introduced with any concerns for effective implementation. And of course the students suffer. Change is not brought in effectively, they are told to make changes that they don't see the benefit of, and they watch as the real issues are not dealt with. So students become a prime resistive force to educational change.
Except in the current case of Web 2.0. This one the students like, and because the students like it there are serious knee-jerk reactions to implement web 2.0 as engagement is a serious problem. But engagement is a serious problem because of the system itself not being relevant and not providing the students with what they need. And why is that? Because the paradigm is not interested in having all students educated.
But all of this ignores the real pressures on education - business vying for control of the market. Schools spend a tremendous amount of money. The government cash cow of misdirected taxes is a bottomless pit of business profits, and government expenditure is liked as it is consistent and not dependent on the market. Publishers love schools to such an extent that they have climbed into bed with the exam boards to alter curricula so that the books have to be rewritten - and resold. The exam boards love the schools because of the amount of revenue they generate for the regular examinations. Stationery supplies are also a phenomenal expense and therefore a great source of profit. These businesses love schools, and are extremely resistant to change - far more than teachers. Only they have power to prevent change. So publishing companies and stationery suppliers are now in a business battle with the computer companies for control of the school market. One laptop one child is not for the benefit of the children but for the sales of Microsoft, Apple, Google, cloud, whatever. Computer investment in education research is on the increase, not for the purpose of improving education but for the purpose of increasing computer profits.
As I have previously blogged I am convinced that the future of education lies in a wifi classroom with a teacher-assessed quality portfolio. This implies the removal of textbooks and examinations, and therefore there are powerful alliances against this. Mind you there are powerful companies in favour of it. Whilst these prevalent powers fight it out, educational theory and justification takes a backseat.
These businesses are too powerful but at the same time let's do something about assigning the true blame away from teachers. At best teachers can tinker, at worst their careerism jumps on whichever business initiative gives them an easy life. Vocation needs to stand up in alliance with the parents and students to make education better. The Finnish government also stood up for education, and it has produced benefits. Why isn't their model followed?
|Tags - CP attack change management profits Finland|
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This blog entry was written as an introduction to the subgroup of "Quality Portfolio" on the new Matriellez group site. It is also on my edublog - Educating Naturally.
QP grew out of a need to develop process or qualities in education but has far wider reaching implication. What is this need? Our curriculum is dominated by a curriculum with exam-oriented content. The basic goal of the current system is to achieve passes in an exam by the use of memory, and although after these exams the students have qualifications, or not as in most cases, what they actually learn is forgotten and wasted. That is because the focus is on the exams and the remembering of facts to pass the exam. What is important to learn is the process that leads to solving problems but this is difficult to test.
But it is far less difficult to assess. Every teacher knows which students' processes are positive, but that is not evidenced anywhere when the student leaves the school. And what does industry want? Processes. Look at the research into critical thinking. Checkout the Microsoft competences, Microsoft has also produced a paper on critical thinking. The RSA has their own version of these competences in their Opening Minds project. Whilst business is unwilling to pay for educating their own staff in these types of competences, the words I have used for competences are process or quality, they are willing to pressurise schools to produce students with these competences - and they are willing to apply pressure where there is no solution and attempt to squeeze unsuited classrooms with outmoded restrictions such as exams into providing these competences.
Remove the restriction of exams and allow teachers to use their professional expertise to assess, and you have a Quality Portfolio that assesses these processes, qualities or competences. Students leave the school with this and take it to the employer or higher education where relevant qualities can be judged.
But apart from improving the quality of the curriculum this portfolio does one very important thing, it requires the student to engage with the teacher. At present the able student wants to pass the exam. If they have the ability to read a textbook and pass an exam, then there is no need for interacting with the teacher. Most students who want to pass the exam know that the teacher is the best source for doing so, and will engage with the teacher. Unfortunately because of the exams and exams being memory-testing, they only engage just prior to the exam and the rest of the time they just keep their notes up-to-date mostly ready for cramming for the exam. Whilst project work helps a little, this approach to education takes significant control away from the teacher, and in my view contributes significantly to ill-discipline in schools.
What about the majority of students? They are intended to fail the exams. Once they realise this, they opt out and disrupt classrooms damaging the chances of others. But what if they were taught about processes that would help them in a job - autonomy, independence, critical thinking etc. Then their education would become relevant to the world of work. And what if they were assessed by their teachers on their ability to carry out these processes? Then what the teacher says would matter to the employer. Then it would feed back that the employer is taking note of what is happening in school, and it has become relevant to the student. They would have to try to learn process. And what if the teacher assessed behaviour in this Quality Portfolio? Now at the moment if a teacher complains about a student the employer would ignore it - they know what hellholes schools are, they judge the candidates for themselves at interview. But with a quality portfolio attempting to address the needs of a real practical education concerned with process, the employer would look at the behaviour grade and use it as a measure of the candidate. This behaviour grade might be included in words like engagement or motivation, it wouldn't matter - if the employer trusts the system then they will glean the information. At the moment most employers take the exam grades as the best of a bad situation, and hope through personal assessment in interview that they can see whether the student is good or not.
The Corporate Paradigm demands the exam system because of its creation of an elite who pass and a compliant workforce, but if the exams were removed and a QP was produced that was relevant to them they would be quite happy to change. Of course the publishers, stationery manufacturers and exam boards would not be!! And they have a very powerful influence on education policy.
|Tags - QP groups article|
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|Wifi Classroom of Autonomous Mastery|
This blog entry was written as an introduction to the subgroup of "Wifi Classroom of Autonomous Mastery" on the new Matriellez group site. It is also on my edublog - Educating Naturally.
It is important to place computers in the context of education as wherever else they are used. They are tools. Initially they were developed as calculators, then they became information processors, and now they are used for communication. And in many ways with this communication they have made writing obsolete. It is these aspects of using the computer as a tool which needs to be reflected in teaching. But using the computer should be understood in the same way as learning how to use any tool.
Unfortunately quite simply we don't know how to use the computer as a tool, and in many ways through this ignorance in society we become the slave of the computer. How often are we told that the computer wants it this way, and we agree and obey. But what this actually means is that the operator or the programmer has not designed the software interface to be responsive enough to how the human would like to interact. When teaching computing I always stressed this, but of course it is not true that business wants this - that teaching was just a con. It is easier to force people to fit in with the computer than it is to design software properly.
We have become used to fitting in with the computer and thinking that the computer is far more than the tool it is. This is a problem education should address, but first of all has to get its act together and properly fund the use of the computer as a tool in schools. Education needs to recognise that computing needs proper support if it is going to be relied. Even at Microsoft's School of the Future the support was not properly funded and the portal became a major source of failure within the school.
However as a tool the computer can be used for great educational benefit, and it is this I want to focus on. However I would like to consider the use of the computer as a tool first. There is now virtually immediate access to information via the internet. Certainly at school level this amount of free information can be a great advantage, but do we use it sufficiently? I would contend no. What is the major direction of our school curriculum? Examinations. What is the main mental attribute that we test in exams? Recall, our exams are basically a test of memory. Why do we need memory when we have the internet and a proliferation of databases etc. It is completely outmoded to be testing our memories as a means of measuring intelligence - even if it ever was a good measure. We should embrace this change in information gathering, and move from books to computers. I will consider this further later.
The other important tool which has become a recent change is the use of computer as a means of communication. The technologies with regards to this are continually changing, but for education to be current accepting that the computer is the main communication device should be reflected in the classroom. Whilst there is a need to teach writing, this skill might now be considered the second communication skill. There will always be a need to take written notes where technology is not available - we cannot ever assume there will be global technology available. That is unless we become one world where wealthy countries accept that the money they have accumulated belongs to the poorest people as well. Pipedream!
Is there any reason that exams cannot be written in a computer?
Is there any reason that the internet cannot be used in writing exams?
To address the issue of the capabilities of the computer as a tool in communication completely eschews some of the current education practices as outmoded. Examinations particularly become less and less viable. Apart from the appalling social consequences of our inadequate examination system they also become less and less a means of measuring what are useful human attributes. And this brings me to an important consequence of recognising computers for the tools that they are:-
WE SHOULD BE EDUCATING FOR HUMAN POTENTIAL AND THIS IS PRIMARILY WHAT A COMPUTER CANNOT DO.
Can a computer be creative? Does the computer have the ability of critical thinking? Can the computer be independent? Does it have insight or intuition?
And this brings me to autonomous mastery. I first came across these terms in a talk on motivation by Dan Pink. There are his talks available from TED and RSA, but I liked the RSAnimate best. Watch or download (download link below clip on 4shared site).
One significant factor about Dan Pink is that he is not educating for schools but he is trying to advise business, and he discusses motivation. Summarising he sees money as motivation for mechanical tasks, but he sees purpose, autonomy and mastery as motivations for other tasks.
This dichotomy is an important niche for education because I also interpret that business is seeking employees who possess purpose, autonomy and mastery. And these three a computer cannot provide.
How does this apply to schools? What if a classroom was wifi? Then the breadth of educational ideas the students could be exposed to is phenomenal, akin to the world of work. If within this wifi classroom students could be encouraged to develop a project-based approach to learning where they direct their own learning through the internet, how much would this show autonomy and purpose? And with the teacher's help would they not be in a position to develop mastery?
Is this far-fetched? Maybe. But what about the approach in Finland? Firstly Finland is considered #1 by the OECD, checkout this blog article and maybe follow the links?
"In a Finnish classroom, it is rare to see a teacher standing at the front of a classroom lecturing students for 50 minutes. Instead, students are likely to determine their own weekly targets with their teachers in specific subject areas and choose the tasks they will work on at their own pace. In a typical classroom, students are likely to be walking around, rotating through workshops or gathering information, asking questions of their teacher, and working with other students in small groups. They may be completing independent or group projects or writing articles for their own magazine. The cultivation of independence and active learning allows students to develop metacognitive skills that help them to frame, tackle, and solve problems; evaluate and improve their own work; and guide their learning processes in productive ways."
This is a PR paper produced by the Finland education ministry on their approach to learning.
Whilst in Finland they don't go as far as I suggest, the successful work there clearly indicates that a wifi classroom of autonomous mastery is not that far-fetched.
If worked through properly such a classroom would provide an education that deals with the motivation and engagement issues that are currently a problem in our classrooms. When integrated with the other 3 aspects that Matriellez puts forward the system does appear to have merit.
|Tags - WCAM groups article|
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This blog entry was written as an introduction to the subgroup of "Natural Development" on the new Matriellez group site. It is also on my edublog - Educating Naturally.
Natural development, for me, is the most important aspect of education change but is the one that is least likely to be considered. For many people including myself there is an important step that one goes through in a maturing process, and that is when people ask you to unlearn what you know. In this maturing process people are rejecting the academic education they have received in order to understand more about life. Many such people are seeking spiritual understanding or awareness through a deeper understanding of religion or spiritual approaches such as Eckhart Tolle, and many more. And what are they asking us to unlearn? Minds full of memorised contents, arrogance because we passed exams at school, methods of thinking that lead to conformity, and many more. And what are they asking us to accept? Insight, intuition, creativity, critical thinking, and so on.
But wait. Aren't these the processes that people concerned with education change want? Isn't it want Dan Pink suggests business wants?
Now these processes are what mature people might suggest are processes of self-realisation, and this is what I am suggesting is natural development.
But this natural development takes on a wider understanding because it is asking that self-realisation be considered in line with nature ie being ecological. It is asking that we be taught self-realisation and respect for nature, to learn to understand the position of man within nature. Now many of us including myself cannot know exactly what that means but as teachers we can accept this principle of self-realisation within a natural context. As a curriculum we could respect that principle, but of course the corporations don't. They put profits before people and lay waste to the environment. Their only acceptance of caring for the ecology is when they persuade or apply pressure to the government to pay for ecological damage out of the taxes. Look at the way BP is wheedling out of paying for the damage they have caused in the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of us pay for our sins, corporations don't.
But this is not only asking for a natural principle, it is asking for natural development. What is that? One might describe it as self-realisation for the appropriate age or level of development. And this might be a guiding principle but of what practical use is it? But there are some guides that are generally accepted. Piaget's stages of development are accepted. What about Froebel? He is accepted, especially in Finland. But what works against this? Desire for academic success introduced at too early an age. Finland starts primary school at 7. Other western system will fasttrack students where they can, but are academic successes self-realised people? Often far from it. It is not enough to have the factual knowledge but it is important to have an awareness of having knowledge and applying it with respect for nature.
What do we know of mind? If we look at our current education mind is a vehicle that is to be filled with factual content, and as proof of intelligence we reproduce those facts in exams. But isn't mind more than this? Intuition, insight etc? I have used the word processes to describe these. Do we educate to bring out these processes? Far from it. Wouldn't such processes be part of what is thought of as self-realisation.
Do you meditate? If meditation is all that it is cracked up to be, why aren't you? Because you were never taught to do it, and perhaps when you have wanted to do it you didn't have the discipline. But what if meditation was developed from an early age? What of meditation was used to calm students before every class? Wouldn't that help? Even if it was only used to make the students silent at the beginning of the lesson. How much would meditation help develop the mind, help develop self-realisation?
We waste our minds by filling them with useless facts that we could know at the push of button, a tap of the keyboard. But if we developed our selves - mind, body, and energy - in line with nature towards self-realisation, wouldn't that be a much more purposive model for education?
|Tags - ND groups article|
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|Substitution and Rearrangement of Formulae|
Substitution and Rearrangement of Formulae This is a maths blog!!? I have mentioned in an earlier blog the basic skills of WARC - Writing, Arithmetic, Reading and Computing, and one of the justifications for arithmetic was that many students completed new techniques at a higher level and were unable to consolidate their learning because they got their answers wrong. They got them wrong because of the arithmetic at the end where they often made careless mistakes because they were not comfortable with arithmetic.
This short blog takes that a little bit further. This discomfort stems from a change in approach to the teaching of algebra. Somewhere there grew a consensus of opinion that algebraic equations should stem from an understanding of balance. SMILE and others developed the practice of balancing an equation using weights so that there is a physical representation of an equation as a balance. This is very good as far as it goes.
This further arithmetic problem got exacerbated by an additional non-educational issue, algebra was discovered to be a major stumbling block to exam results so they changed the syllabus to reduce the amount of algebra. Now of course algebra is not a real life skill but the manipulation algebraically in substitution and rearrangement of formulae helps greatly when in physics or chemistry there is a stack of arithmetic after a number of substitutions in formulae etc. This throws many of the student and they think they have not understood the new technique. It is therefore a pre-requisite that students be capable of more difficult substitutions and to help this they could try rearrangement of formulae.
This won't happen because there is so much political pressure on exam results that teachers are unable to influence teaching to be education.
|Tags - QP maths exams|
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|21st Century Partnership|
There is a graphic, a little explanation, a host of skills, and an awful lot of work for teachers to implement it. Yes, you have guessed it, another business-inspired initiative for education. That is 21st century partnership. Just look at all the businesses sponsoring the initiative in this pdf summary with their graphic, here is their paper with explanation.
What is significant in such a document is the lack of consideration for implementation. It is hypocritical of business to say the least to be involved in education in this way. Does business ever consider the implementation of a new product without market research and a feasibility study or business plan. Yet here they are using their not so inconsiderable influence to affect education without offering any form of finance or feasibility. Yet another indication of the Corporate Paradigm and how it damages education.
Why damaging? With such a model comes expectation of implementation, but what is the purpose of the model? Business needs. Is it educational? Depends. If you accept the business model that education is to provide qualified people for business, then needs are filled. But what about self-realisation? What about the connections between self-realisation and many of the attributes discussed in p21? Educationalists know these connections, business cannot - look at their actions.
|Tags - CP p21|
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In the Quality Portfolio the essence of the approach is appropriate teacher assessment. This appropriateness depends on the assessing of competences, but it also depends on the lack of bias of the teacher. In this blog I discussed the pressures placed on the teacher to ensure students pass irrespective of ability. I asserted that teachers wanted to assess fairly but there were pressures on them. In truth I have not always seen this fairness. I remember a ludicrous situation in Botswana where the teachers got so involved in the inter-house sports that they brought their own students to the scorers and told them they were the winners.
In Thailand they have a system where every student must pass. If a student fails they have to repeat the test until they pass. In a busy system the teachers do not have the time to continually retest the students without any meaningful outcome so students can pass with minimal input. How much meaning does this have? In my local restaurant the manager, a friend, employs waitresses all of whom have degrees. Families have paid for their education at university but they cannot find work. I have two students who learn a little English with me, after starting I learned they both had degrees, one works in travel with a computer science degree and one has a food science degree and has no work.
Pressures are placed on teachers everywhere to provide exam success so what would happen to teacher assessment in this environment? In Finland it works, so well-trained teachers (part of the Finnish strategy) need not succumb to these pressures. Whilst the qualifications in Thailand carry little meaning, there is not the disruption in the classroom as the students don't fail!!
|Tags - QP competences|
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|Web 2.0, Communication, motivation or real innovation?|
Web 2.0 is fashionable but the issue to understand is why is it fashionable? It is fashionable because it is quick communication; it is communication of a sound-byte culture. Firstly let's examine the way in which some teachers have embraced it so much. There are teachers advocating PLN (Personal Learning Networks), #edchat - a twitter collaboration, and many blogs. But are these computer technologies special in themselves? No, they are successful because teachers are investing time in them. Of course they produce results because of the amount of time invested in them but what is the source of the results - the teachers and the time the teachers have invested. Teachers investing so much time want a return on that investment so they are promoting the use of such technologies in education.
All of this is understandable, and is not negative in itself, but it does need to be recognised for what it is. A group of teachers enjoy using the web 2.0 technologies, they enjoy talking about it, and they have become involved in it. So the next question is what benefits do these technologies offer? Motivationally they currently offer a great deal, because currently many students are using them socially. But let us consider one aspect of this student communication, it is separate from adults. It is their talk. They do not want adults involved in it, this separation is an aspect of modern-day western adolescence. What will happen when adults get involved? The adolescents will move on to another fad. Chasing fads in itself is not a good educational strategy.
Let us examine computers in schools historically, they have always been seen as a panacea. I have not found them hugely beneficial, primarily because of the limited funding. Schools have never paid for sufficient support staff, and early on computers were kept going by the teachers doubling as network support. However at the same time management have always pushed for increased computer involvement in schools I suspect because they are receiving pressure from their own bosses. Thus the computer teacher becomes invaluable, and for this reason teachers see computers as a career opportunity. Students in the early days liked computers because they could play games, and I can remember one unscrupulous teacher in a disruptive school who took on the computers so he would have easier classes because he would let them play games, his own computer ability was very limited. Slowly use of the computer became part of the curriculum, and I have explained how in one way I was involved. There is limited investment - usually just hardware, and teachers are expected to learn how to do it for themselves; you become unpopular if you ask for development time. Students enjoyed computer club, but it was not the learning of computers but games that they enjoyed.
Initially this popularity for computers was hoped to develop programmers, but this never took off because most students never developed sufficient interest in programming. In the UK this was also screwed up by finance. Someone decided initially to use BBC machines which had their own operating system. When students got jobs, the change of operating system caused confusion. Then someone else decided that Windows was too complicated, so in schools there was a simplified Windows which was not the same. Again when students got into business they were confused. I note Apple has a stranglehold on the US education market, not sure why. I ran an Apple network, it was fine yet software was more expensive- I was told to use Apple. I don't know why they weren't using Windows. Maybe now schools will use Linux as it is free but ..
Business studies was a fairly popular subject generally taken by girls who sought a job relevance. At one stage I was teaching computing on BBC's but was manoeuvred out of the computing by the head who had it in for me because I was the union rep and stood up against his bullying incompetence. This computing took off because the girls who liked business studies saw a relevance in the word-processing. It is important to note that it was the relevance which sold this. The teacher worked hard on building her department, but she got the finance I never got. But I wasn't going anywhere, and my decision-making concerning the computing was more to do with the way the head was threatening my being employed.
The computer has always been an important tool in my own organisation and planning since then. But with the inadequate financing in the schools I taught, it never became more than that. Students have always wanted to use computers but in my view that use always lost interest when teachers tried to channel it into educational use- personal use and educational use were in my view distinct in the mind of the student. So at present there is a balance to be struck between the motivational use of the computer and the restrictions that teachers have had to place on students who want to make their own use of computers.
And now we come to Web 2.0 - the communicating computer. Some teachers have loved the communication for their own reasons, and students likewise. The question is how do we change the way the students use computers to make their use educational? There is no point in claiming that simply because students are using facebook or twitter that they are learning, sadly there are some teachers who appear to be saying that. I remember the advent of chat, and some ex-students began to use it and even chatted with me. Difficult words they shortened, for convenience and because they couldn't spell them; sentence structure was lacking. It was different communication, not correct English. Examiners refused to accept patois as English unless spoken, the same with this language. When e-mail was more faddish colleges gave students email but it was communication and not education; presumably they got late notices from the library etc. Blogs might be of interest for a while, twitter likewise, #classproject might offer some short-term motivation, but these are all part of sound-byte culture and learning sound-bytes is not education. In the end improving communication tools will not improve education because education is about exploring the mind. After the mind has been explored and learning has occurred collaboration can improve that learning, if there is no attempt to explore the mind collaboration is at best sharing and more than likely copying the work of the most able. If there is no motivation to learn then learning will not occur no matter how many bells and whistles are sounding with the communication. Deep down teachers know this but their motivation is to make classrooms more tolerable - an understandable motivation. Educationalists have to stand up and say if you want competences change the system, remove the oppression of the paradigm with its exams, and begin quality education for self-realisation. Then there will be something to communicate in the blog, and students will actually write more than 140 characters.
|Tags - WCAM communication exams|
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In his blog, Richard Byrne is ranting about people knocking education, specifically Seth Godin.
It made me want to comment as my approach is not practical. Since retiring it has become clear to me that there is education in the classroom and education for policy-makers, and these are very distinct approaches. As a classroom teacher for 30 years I had to do the best for the students within the context of the classroom or the school. Changing my teaching did not mean arguments about alternative education, about how exams are designed to make kids fail, it was how I could best teach to get better results. Many of my arguments then were with management whose policies were often career-motivated for self-interest and gave little chance for the classroom teacher to educate. The approach of the management in the school was usually beyond me, let alone government strategy, the influence of business etc.
But now I am retired I can address the wider issues, issues that directly affect the teacher in the classroom but which the teacher cannot be involved in. The ambit of the teacher in the classroom is completely different to that of the education policy-maker. Basically the teacher is told to implement policy, that's where the pay cheque comes from - do the best for the kids within the framework of the school or get another job. Get them through their exams. Policy has nothing to do with it. This is why it is so unfair to continually lambast teachers as they don't have the control of what people accuse them of.
It is the policy-makers who insist on the exams - except Harvard! It is business who apply pressure that schools are not producing - they don't say how schools can produce. Business says students don't have skills and that they should have competences such p21, Microsoft or RSA, and then somehow magically schools are supposed to produce them whilst the majority of students see themselves as failures and disrupt. Or the better students are frustrated as they don't see the relevance of what is happening in school as business employment and exam success don't correlate. And then when teachers turn around and say let's teach for self-realisation pressure is applied to those teachers to tow the line.
There are two levels of educational argument, teachers who want help in improving classroom education, and educationalists who demand policy changes that will allow the classroom changes to be meaningful. Sadly teachers are not a part of the policy discussion as they are the troops, policy is not relevant to them. Seth Godin is on the money, and Richard Byrne's ranting is valid - they are just not in the same arena.
|Tags - CP, Teachers, Competences|
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In his RSAnimate talk on motivation, Dan Pink spoke to business of money as a motivator for mechanical work but claimed that three motivations - autonomy, mastery and purpose - as being motivators in other areas.
He further backed up this claim with studies carried out by the Federal Reserve bank amongst others. His major example of justification of this claim was Wikipedia but if you think about it there are many areas of mastery within business and elsewhere if you look.
What about the office manager? Many companies have these people, and they realise that these people are invaluable. The office manager knows the company inside out, in many ways part of the job description of an office manager is to "know the company inside out". One aspect of small-size businesses is to create a community within the company. Meeting after work in the bar or over lunch is not only about feeding the prevailing alcoholism but it is also about building up camaraderie within the company. The company needs to be more than a place of work to maintain the workforce, and part of this community is the office manager knowing the company inside out. Other aspects are office romance, the personal assistant whose role is to know the needs of the manager, a role of mastery that again far outweighs any job description - many such people are described as invaluable. And this is because they have taken a job and made it personal - out of a sense of commitment or some sense of small "love" - and become invaluable. Human beings do this, it is their nature to be of worth, to master their situation, and good organisations encourage such mastery. Such people tend to feel valued and grow a sense of loyalty within this role which they personalise and make their own, the job becomes more than the pay cheque; it is their mastery.
One can think of other jobs. The person in supplies or archives who knows the facility far more than would appear on the surface. There is organisation that a computer can do, it can record where items have been placed. But the supplies person who has been there for years can remember how boxes were moved when the man came to fix the leak, maybe the lost item is there. Such intimate knowledge is not the purview of the computer, they don't have the skills to remember this. The human being in the position takes value from their job, and adds much more than any job description can define. In their mastery they add value and therefore profit to companies, their job becomes a purpose in their lives giving their life meaning. Good companies take advantage of such people, their commitment is integrated into the fabric of the company, and managers realise that such people are worth far more than their salary. In some ways business already utilises notions of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
But corporations cannot. They are too big to be personal, and their lack of humanity creates the need for such considerations as Dan Pink. What happens to such motivations for corporations? This mastery becomes part of the individual's personal life - hobbies. And now computer games. Computer games feed the addictive mind and even describe themselves in terms of mastery, x has reached level 47 of Farmville. Other terminologies of such games describe the players in terms of social value, a value they can never have working for the impersonalised huge corporations that exploit society and the environment. There are other examples of fruitless mastery, crosswords, Sudoku, people who sit every day in front of quiz shows accumulating endless trivia of no use to anyone. These people master their own little niche, often unable to carve out a social niche for their talents.
So what are the attributes of these masteries? The people perceive some level of importance in their mastery but this measure is not financial. In the small companies the above-mentioned lynchpins feel they are important to their company within their domain, and often feel a personal loss if some suit cuts them for a company's financial advantage. Whilst this suit usually does not know what they are doing and is losing a small but important company asset, the individual is devastated having a purpose they have given themselves taken away. In all forms of mastery the people have been diligent and dedicated putting in much time and effort to develop their domain of importance. Often people perceive some importance in this, the King of the archives, the Queen of the office, and to a certain extent these perceptions are true - these people are important. But at the same time they are not often valued by the decision-makers who are willing to dismiss these people for political or financial reasons.
Now many of these attributes happen despite the company not because of them. The motivations develop personally rather than inspired by the company as the power-players in the company perceive these people as unimportant. For business tapping into this source of diligence and competence is a necessary human resource strategy but what of education? Education needs to see that our children also want to develop such mastery on the small level that they function at. Students want to achieve, and the fundamental measure of achievement in schools is taken away from the students as exams are only concerned with determining the elite. Somehow education needs to change the emphasis from these rare pieces of paper into some notion of mastery in the learning life of the individual student.
What about gangbangers? These immoral young people have reached a level of mastery within their mis-chosen field, they have achieved importance in their lives. And they have achieved this through hard work and effort, and probably a high level of skill in people management. What a waste for human potential apart from the social harm these people do. I remember one boy I taught, he was bright but academic work did not quite come easy to him. He was personable, and I tried to get him involved but he was always 10% short. In the end he gave up, and I saw him a couple of years later in the pub trying to sell me some dope - to no avail at that time I wasted my life on drink not dope.
Now crime is full of people who initially look for the easy way to wealth, but in terms of education the way is too hard for most and is only directed to a few. It is therefore easy to see why some will turn to crime. When your society measures itself by wealth alone, then such attractions will always be a problem. The first thing that needs to be instilled is a sense of morality. Now being moral is rarely rewarded in western society. Teachers' salaries have only become acceptable in recent years with the "danger money" added for the increasingly difficult containment role a school fulfils. Nurses' pay is low and doctors earn money in the private sector not in the public good. Society does not emphasise morality.
In business the corporations damage the environment, exploit the third world, and take advantage of their own workforce wherever possible or necessary. Why should students seek value in being moral? Yet without morality western society is crumbling, and young people are choosing the immoral road to wealth with few qualms. In this moral dearth mastery is also valued little in the majority of students who seek such mastery elsewhere often to the detriment of society - without personally having this moral underpinning.
Mastery can be achieved within a school context but it requires a removal of exams. How many times have students worked on projects and become immersed in them? But doing these projects introduces a conflict as they are not part of the exam syllabus. Especially with older students they do not have the time to immerse themselves in such projects and achieve mastery in them because of this conflict. Coursework helps but again there are exam limitations. Coursework occurs just before exams so there are major time constraints. Students are encouraged to pursue involvement in coursework but throughout there is a feeling from the student "Have I finished? Have I done enough to get the grade?" This is not mastery, and is very limiting. Now the Quality Portfolio would clearly enhance this mastery process. Firstly mastery would be one of the processes in the QP, and teachers would be seeking demonstrations of this mastery. This would not have to be academic brilliance but could just be a recognition of self-directed hardwork that leads the students to understand their small niche. Desire for and achievement of their mastery would be what would be valued educationally rather than whether the student understands an aspect of the exam syllabus. There is so much more potential for working with students to develop mastery if the restrictions of the exam syllabus are removed, and teachers are able to use their abilities to encourage and assess - providing a relationship that can develop the mastery from within. When you consider the examples of mastery that I quoted above - not Wikipedia, these are not necessarily people with academic success. They have found their niche and became masters in it, such mastery needs to be nurtured in school.
|Tags - QP mastery morality|
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|On Teacher Expectation|
In the UK there is very little respect for teachers, especially when you compare that respect with elsewhere in the world. It is undeserved as in my travels I have found UK teachers to be the best in the world. It is not however surprising as there has been a political campaign that has first promoted education as a political issue, and then converted that concern into an attack on teachers blaming them for the political manipulations that leave our schools as failure factories and dangerous containment facilities. Having only minimal control of what they deliver, teachers become defensive, turn to career as a means of self-worth, and lose their vocation - if they ever had any. And we send our children to these places!!
But I still maintain that UK teachers are the best in the world. I know little of teacher education except my own year at PGCE; in truth it gave me little preparation for the classroom. I therefore don't see teacher training as the source of these British qualities - I'm sounding like all the nationalists I don't like. The source is the battleground training; if teachers are able to teach in a UK classroom with all the political pressure that is placed on them - a pressure that often turns to parental pressure, then they can teach anywhere - and well.
However there has always been one teacher attribute that disturbs me, and it is especially important when considering the important role of teacher assessment in the quality portfolio. That is teacher expectation. This first came to my attention when I started teaching in Brixton in the 70s. Black parents were particularly angry because post-war they had moved to England after being touted for labouring jobs by the British government amongst others. They gave up living in the beautiful climates of the Caribbean to provide an education for their children. And when their kids were growing up, they were failing in the schools. What they hadn't realised was that most children were meant to fail, but their own children were failing more than their white counterparts.
Now there are many issues that have grown up around the descendants of these original post-war parents, and I don't propose going into that here, but these original parents were either aspiring working-class or middle-class parents. As such they would expect their children to be educationally successful, they expected the same success as the white middle-class. But instead their children were stuck in Inner City schools failing. The system was failing them in the same way it was failing the white working-class, but their own expectations were higher.
I don't know how the first British teachers in general treated the black students, but I can't imagine they were treated well. These black students started to attend Inner City schools which were designed schools for failure. One could imagine there would have been much fighting around the black students because of white working-class culture, maybe teachers blamed the black students for fighting. I remember my own upbringing in a middle-class white school. There was one black boy, he was a prop, and he was always fighting. I was afraid of him. In my own home my father used the words nigger and coon regularly, even when I later asked him not to - when I was working with black kids and even after I had lived with a black woman. So I was afraid of this boy but I was too ignorant and copied my father in school, I was too afraid to talk to the boy so I was lucky I never used those words to his face. I would hate to think how much racism that boy received, yet in my mind then he was at fault. That was at a grammar school. What must it have been like for black students in the Inner City schools in the 60s?
In such an Inner City environment what would the teacher expectations of the black students have been like?
By the time I started teaching in 1976 the problems were deeply entrenched and the teacher expectation of the school was low as was their expectation of the black students. Unfortunately by then expectation and reality matched as that generation of black students had all but given up, their motivation to fight the school issues was turning to the street as evidenced by the demonstrations in the early 80s.
Now the concern with expectation that I have relates to middle-class values. Now many middle-class people express liberal values but only so long as the issues don't affect them. Everybody has a right to education so long as the education of my child is not affected. If it is black children affecting their child then the people become racist - "all black people are the problem not the black children in the school disadvantaging the child"; that is if the child is not at fault. If it is white people then the problem is the working-class. These liberal approaches are not genuine caring approaches, but show a level of tolerance that is shallow if confronted. Many teachers come from this background, and have similar approaches. What happens when they are actually confronted with issues in the classroom? Their tolerance can drop at these times.
It is important that appropriate education is given to teachers to ensure objectivity when assessing. I think it is important that students be expected to work with teachers in the same way as they are expected to work with bosses. As it stands at the moment, teachers are treated like dirt by many students, and then expect teachers to be tolerant when grading them. "S/he doesn't like me!" is a common complaint after these students are continually rude. In my view in most cases teachers are objective despite the poor behaviour of students, personally I would agree with a situation where teachers could mark students down for perpetual rudeness. In a job if you are rude to the boss once you lose your job, teachers have to accept it day-in day-out. QP assessment would require students to be polite to teachers, a necessity if they are to learn from them.
|Tags - QP Assessment Expectation Middle-class|
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|Formative and Summative Assessment|
Is formative and summative a dilemma with regards to process? Suppose the process is creativity. Compare myself and Picasso when we are in class together. Now I was always a good student who tried to be as creative as possible but all I could do was numbers. Picasso picked his .... wasted his time and was rebellious, often disrupting the class. He made little effort but one day he came into school and painted a masterpiece.
Now the art teacher knew his stuff, and saw that Picasso had created a masterpiece. How does he assess him?
How does he assess Matriellez?
Now the student takes this formative and summative assessment to the employer as partof his Quality Portfolio. If the employer trusts the teacher then this aspect of the portfolio is informative. For Matriellez it is both formative - describing consistency, good effort behaviour and cooperation, and summative - he can't do art. For Picasso it shows summatively a person with excellent art skills and creativity, and formatively someone who didn't care. For me these would be valid quality portfolios that an employer could assess. By the way apart from the fact that I couldn't paint, this would not be an accurate report for me.
Yes I am happy with this. The disruptive student takes their sins with them, and the employer could make her judgement. In fact such information is available now. In most schools parents receive regular written reports from the teacher - usually once a term. Sometimes these have an impact if the parent is cooperative, but in truth even with cooperative parents the effect of the report is often short-lived. What if the student knew such a report were going to go with them to the employer? Would they try to improve?
In truth I have never understood why such a report does not go from the school to the employer. Everything gets sugar-coated, why? Instead they take exam results only, and perhaps the headteacher writes something; the headteacher doesn't know all the students and writes something based on what the teachers say. Headteachers have a vested interest in pretending that students in their school behave well and are cooperative, so many heads play down student problems. If the student knew that they were going to get a job reference which said "this student was continually troublesome and if he behaved the way he did in school would be unemployable", wouldn't that increase engagement with the teacher in school?
Unfortunately as it stands the employer is likely to ignore any report, because they are a member of a society which attacks teachers. They tend not to believe a teacher's judgement, "they've never worked - how do they know?" They also believe the student will change when they get into work - and this is true in most cases. Then they complain teachers never give them what they want, of course it is true that schools do not give employers what they want because there is no cooperation.
From outside corporations are attempting to create a change in education policy as cited before when business discusses competences - p21, Microsoft or RSA. They want to dictate but do not seek cooperation, schools are not seen as places for excellence they are seen as places where employers can get free staff training - and then complain when the quality of that training is not good enough. I remember at one school, at the time when they were under pressure from the Thatcher government in the late 80s, everybody jumped when industry was mentioned. A deputy head tended to work solely on this industry liaison, and to me it just appeared that what industry wanted could not be delivered yet we tried. The result was a compromise that didn't satisfy anyone.
If there is to be a partnership there needs to be a partnership of equals - a concept not generally considered in the dog-eat-dog world of business. Remove the pressure of exams, recognise that a Quality Portfolio is to the benefit of both teacher and employer, and begin to work on what would be appropriate in such a portfolio. Business should actually consider what a school can deliver, and not just what they want to save on training costs. Education on its part needs to stand up and say self-realisation and process is what we want to deliver, work out how to deliver it given current attitudes to schools, and demonstrate to business how this is of benefit to them. The balance of power between the corporations and the schools needs to shift, but of course it won't the corporate paradigm is too powerful and teachers are down-trodden.
|Tags - CP QP process formative summative business no cooperation|
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|Correlation with jobs|
Throughout I have discussed the corporate paradigm, and one significant contention I have made is that we have exams primarily because the business world wants the measure. If you ask any teacher if they want exams, at best they will say "Yes because it gives students entry into college and then access to jobs". More than likely teachers will say "they teach exams because they have to because students need jobs". In other words, if it wasn't imposed on them they would not want to teach to exams. In my own case I never wanted exams but went into teaching to give everyone equal opportunity, in the end the only way I could do that was through exam success. And I was dragged there by the students who were all geared to exams, even the majority who failed. I became a reasonably successful exam crammer.
So obviously business wants the exams. They can judge the qualifications, more qualification means better students, and they want the syllabus content. No business person is going to read this, but that last will raise hackles. For business much of what is done in schools is a complete waste of time, as they are not learning anything useful for the job. How ludicrous! Our education system is based on exams that neither teachers nor employers want, and most students fail. On top of that the content of the exam is meaningless so most students lack motivation to learn it, if it was useful they might try to learn even if they knew they would fail. So all business want is a measure of who is good so they can know to employ them. For higher paid jobs they play safe, Oxbridge, Harvard, MIT - and now Harvard are not setting exams!!! So students are in school from the age of 5 to 16, and longer, to get a piece of paper to say they have passed an exam in a subject that they won't use in the job. It is no wonder students aren't motivated. There needs to be an imperative to resolve this, and the teachers cannot provide this imperative - they are baking the cakes it is the politicians and policy-makers who are deciding that we bake cakes that no-one wants to eat!
What about subjects at university? Are they useful to jobs? Very rarely. I studied maths and people wanted mathematicians, but everything I studied at university was completely irrelevant. All that they ever wanted was to see B Sc (Hons) Maths on an application form. How ridiculous! I spent 3 years at university to get B Sc (Hons) and 1 year to get postgrad diploma in stats, and yet apart from occasionally using the stats in my first job the contents of the course never mattered - until I went back into teaching. When you look at these things coldly they make no sense. And this is what young people do, they see through what we are teaching and realise how pointless it is. As most of them cannot ever pass they give up and often cause disruption.
Now business is looking at competences such p21, Microsoft or RSA, this is a step forward and some educationalists are responding. It is important for educational policy-makers to embrace these new competences but to make the teaching of them practical. This can be done in only one way, rationalise that part of education which we need - what might be called basics, and begin to decide how best to teach processes or competences. Perhaps with the way computing companies are sponsoring education research, more could be done to use their research money to devise teaching programmes that will actually deliver competences.
Here is a PR video of how RSA competences are being taught in one school.
When I listen to this all I can hear is a false situation, typical of many compromises teachers are forced to make because of inappropriate policy; perhaps I can see this as a teacher more - or maybe I am just a cynic. It is recognised by the school that they want to teach the competences, it is recognised by RSA that competences are better, but they have to piggy-back these important processes on the back of an exam syllabus - in this case the National Curriculum. Having been in such experimental situations I could imagine the extra work these teachers are caused because they have to contort themselves into this RSA mould whilst teaching exams - whatever they believe in. All the teachers say it is better but of course they have to say this because their careers in that school will depend on it; it might be true but you can never be certain. Again, how ridiculous is this a way for implementing change, and yet no-one has any choice because of the paradigm and the limitations of the policy-makers.
And what is the latest US policy? More pressure on exam passes, so the UK will be the same soon. Is it any wonder education is in a mess? Rather than criticising teachers we should be thanking them for making some silk purses out of the sow's ear system they are working in.
|Tags - CP process competences jobs|
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|The Broad disgrace|
In an article I read a reference about the influence of Eli Broad on US education, and the more I looked into it the more angry it made me. His only saving grace is that he is a supposed philanthropist, but sadly the way he is using his philanthropy is his disgrace. He is yet one of many who have no experience of education but feel that they can say what is needed. And what does he say is needed businessmen as leaders to run schools. Is this philanthropy?
Let's examine this as a context. Let us assume he is speaking of successful businessmen, so what does that mean? It means that these people have run a company in profit. Let's consider what that means in terms of the recent economic crisis. The root of this crisis is unscrupulous people who have given out loans to people who can't afford to repay them, repackaged these loans into pompously-described packages, and sold these to a market who is quite willing to buy anything if there is a guaranteed profit. Then one day someone began questioning what was in these packages and the whole pack of cards crumbled. (Check John Bird and John Fortune's analysis(?) on this).Then to follow up this crumbling deck, these business people placed pressure on the governments to give out taxpayers' money to business, primarily finance institutions, to sure up these institutions. So they can do it again?
Are these the types of qualities that we want the next generation of students to have? Our children are already too influenced by the need to make a profit before caring. Is that what we want?
Eli Broad ran two Fortune 500 companies, does that qualify him to run a school? How does one make a profit in a state school? Eli Broad has two strategies as far as I can tell from the website. In his Broad Superintendent's academy he offers weekend training for business execs (military and others). After ten months these executives are then supposed to be capable of being school administrators. How does this compare with a full-time 3-year education degree or in my case full-time 3-year maths degree, one-year postgrad stats, one year PGCE, and 3-to-4 years part-time study to get an M Ed. Yet if I were in the US this exec with 10 months of weekends would be pushing me about. And what has earned him that privilege? The fact that he ran a company that by definition means he has no scruples - just a desire for profit.
There is also a Broad residency programme for teachers. It is spare-time professional development taking place over a period of two years, 8 quarterly training sessions, and then it appears that the Broad Foundation fasttracks these people into positions of authority within school districts. I am sure they get many applicants but what are the ethics of these applicants? Careerism, look at the tone of this Broad Academy promo video - is it for educationalists?
In a Wall Street Journal interview, Eli Broad blames the apathy of people for the state of education:-
"One of the biggest problems, he believes, is the apathy of American public when it comes to education. "Perception lags reality," he explains, "and their perception is what America used to be, not where we are now."".
By comparison with the way parents have allowed business to exploit the planet, create significant hunger in many parts of the world, consign vast numbers of our workforces to slave conditions in 3rd world factories as well as allowing business to create the world's current economic crisis, parental involvement in education has been excessive. Everyone believes they have a solution for education's problems. Whilst parental involvement needs to be encouraged, it is to work in partnership with teachers; the teachers are the education experts whilst the parents know their children. If a child has caused a teacher a problem the parent is called, and the parent should be advising the teacher how that child behaves, helping the teacher work out why the child has misbehaved and work out with the teacher the best remedial approach so that the child does not do it again. Instead such parent involvement usually includes criticism of the teacher, criticism of how the teacher conducts their lessons, and agreeing with their child when they say Johnny did this first - why isn't he being punished? It is meddlesome involvement. When a customer buys a product, do they go to the company and say "Your factory is unhygienic, your wages are too low, the workers cannot afford proper clothes, the workers' children are ill or dying". No, they buy it or not. In fact one of the prerequisites of business is that the people who are responsible for the global problems are not accessible to the general public for righteous criticism. They employ fronts - receptionists, secretaries, etc.
Here is a business approach to education. Johnny has been involved in several fights in a school. A letter is written to the parents telling them that they must enrol Johnny in a new school. The parent comes to the school, and the secretary says "Yes the Principal sent this letter. Can I see the Principal? Why? To discuss the letter. But that is what the Principal says, please enrol Johnny in another school. Can I see the Principal? No, I am sorry, he is in a meeting." When the business Principal returns from the golf course, the secretary advises him that the parent has visited, and the Principal thanks her.
Perhaps this is an exaggerated scenario, I don't know what is in Broad's training; but if it is a business strategy it cannot be caring. But anything approaching this does not have a place in education, no matter how many of us wish we didn't have to speak to some parents. He also is trying to attract the military into his academy …. I can't go there!! Maybe there would be some good genuine educationalists amongst them, maybe?
Broad presents himself as a philanthropist, but when you actually look at his approach to education I see little philanthropy - I see business imposing on education again. What is frightening in this disgrace is the amount of influence this approach has in US education. On the third page of their alumni is a substantive list of cabinet level alumni. There is a restricted online portal for "Broad" trainees to meet, have influence - Public School Broad network. Check the influence of foundations in this Barack Obama appointee - Thelma Melendez de Santa Ana, Nominee for Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Education - in a White House press release; I cannot possibly say how competent this lady is, but the whole process smacks of influence - Broad influence - the Corporate Paradigm. And Obama policy is a demand for more exam success. When you contrast this sphere of business influence with the competences ( p21, Microsoft or RSA) sphere, is it any wonder education is a headless chicken? And Bill Gates supports the Broad Foundation! If I applied this sort of consistency in the classroom, I would have 100% disruption - ah, that's what we do have in education policy.
Checkout this Broad report for much more detail, not surprising there are aware people complaining about this influence. One of the blogs, Follow the money, makes interesting reading. Corporate paradigm or what? "In the name of "philanthropy," a highly functioning network has now been established by the corporate forces with the purpose to increase the number of charter schools in the U.S." Check her main blog for further corporate involvement. And the British system even uses the Broad word for its own appropriation by business, academies.
And underlying all of this, why should a businessman's foundation be training school superintendents? What educational criteria are these? These superintendents are appointed by politicians, they are not appointed by educationalists or teachers - yet teachers get the blame.
Why not demand educationalists come up with a policy and stick to it?
|Tags - CP manipulation leadership?|
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Check this blog of a US teacher's view of failing.
|Tags - CP QP failure|
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|My CP Trap|
Yesterday I discovered some of the more insidious aspects of US corporate involvement. In some ways it was not a surprise but the Broad disgrace was deeply entrenched within the Obama administration and the brazen level at which the Broad foundation offered careerists jobs hit home. At the same time they openly offered a cabalistic road to success, the Broad masons, enforcing jobs for the Broads as a rqeuirement of training .
But in truth I don't know, and don't want to know, the level of corruption in the US, that is up to people like the perimeter primate and organisations like Class Size Matters. For working teachers the unions have to be the most effective organisation to deal with education issues, but if the American unions are anything like the UK unions they are politically split between the left, the Union careerists, and the general membership who are afraid of both and are looking for someone to fight their battles.
In the UK which I know better but now not well, last worked there in 1992, the corporate involvement is different. Funnily enough the time I was aware of this state manipulation backed by corporate finance was monetarism under Thatcher. In the 80s with the unbridled control their interests had then, there was a strong move to privatisation. I was working in "Hove Actually" at the time, a very right-wing area, and I was a thorn as union rep because I knew what was going on - something I don't know now. Nationally the Steiner schools were trying to get into the act. Now I am a supporter of Steiner education, but all I saw with this was good education practice of Steiner education being corrupted by the need to fit in with state regulation. In Brighton it failed, but there was significant green interest to give the possibility impetus. In my own school there was the pressure of grant-maintained status. As usual with such measures the immediate benefits hid a future of educational dearth. Fortunately even the right-wing teachers saw this had tremendous disadvantages for teaching, but the headteacher was a complete wimp and bowed to all kinds of parental pressure. I remember conducting a ballot of all staff - teaching and ancillary, and the vote was almost unanimous. There was a meeting with some governors, and when I reported the results to the governors the bursar announced that the vote had to be considered void as I was pressurising people during the vote. It turns out that I had made an inappropriate comment to the bursar but there was no coercion, this was a typical right-wing tactic - they were in the worng and sought any means of attack.
I am going to digress a little because I want this incident recorded somewhere. I was involved in teaching business arithmetic to a group of grade 5 CSE students who had gone on to the sixth form at my Brixton school - they had nowhere to go. Because of the bias this group (maybe 13 of them) was black with one white girl, and as it happened she was the brightest but lazy- I had taught her a number of years; this girl should not have been in this group if she had worked. Anyway I developed some new materials with this group based around the notion of using real data rather than the arbitrary data that is usually used for calculation simplicity. I chose data which was relevant to the class so I chose the CRE (Campaign for Racial Equality), housing and others. Let's consider the CRE data. There were a number of myths around the CRE, such as reporting people to the CRE will get them fired. I countered these myths by asking the students to look at the real data, and then write an essay for their conclusion. The level of work was far higher than normally expected for such students, and the HOD was happy.
A group of inspectors from City and Guild's visited the class to observe, perfectly reasonable, and I conducted the lesson as I normally did. They seemed perfectly happy with the level of work and the conduct of the lesson, and reported so to the HOD. Two weeks or so later a few far-left people I was working with - at that time I was not an active socialist and these types of Trotskyists had alienated me from taking the rightful socialist position (another story). They showed me a right-wing think-tank magazine connected to Roger Scruton as far as I remember, and in this the article described a political lesson in which the white girl was victimised - my lesson! I was furious and tirading, checked with the HOD who confirmed the inspectors were happy, but got nowhere. How unprofessional! That taught me about the tactics of these people. They might dress as if they are members of polite society, as if they are demure an honourable but these people are far from that. Power is misused for their own gains, and the pot calling the kettle black was standard; much like their arguments - full of hypocrisy and holes.
Back to the plot. UK grant-maintained schools are not so brazenly-funded by venture capital as is the US through Broad Bill Gates, Walton (Walmart) and others - for an understanding of Walton family check their influence. Grant-maintained schools have now become academies, and are all part of the privatisation of public education as described by Thatcher's monetarism. But some of the privatisation appears genial hiding behind special interest groups such as the church, Islam and others. If these groups are not active politically their effect is what the privatisation movement would want - and one purpose of that movement is to create a few bespoke schools (hopefully to become fee-paying) and not worry about the rest. How the venture capital manipulates it in the UK I don't know, I am sure there are people who do - please tell me and I will reference them, but in truth I am getting sucked into my political CP trap. And that is not my book.
It is necessary for me to get in perspective what I want to know about the Corporate Paradigm, and what I want to convey. Firstly it is useless trying to fight them confrontationally you just lose and alienate people who are sympathetic but know you will use. Energies need to be used more fruitfully. The CP is arrogant enough that if they are not confronted they leave you alone. They will attack organisations such as unions but individuals are not important enough. Organisers will say that the only way is to organise, I agree, but people are not ready and energy used in that organisation is often wasted. The world needs unions, and if I were working then I would have to be active in the union but now it is individuals that matter. An individual cannot do a lot, but many individuals doing a little produces a sea-change. It is important for individuals to recognise that they are working within a corporate paradigm, and to understand the level of influence that means. Whilst the Corporate Paradigm persists with exams education cannot change, but if enough people say it is time to end exams maybe it will happen. The door is open with the business concern for competences (p21, Microsoft or RSA), if enough people are aware of the paradigm and disseminate the correlation between exams and poor quality education then business might step back - after all they are not getting the quality candidates they need that is why business is seeking academies in the UK and charter schools in the US. It is in their interest to recognise the correlation between exams and poor education, and examples like Finland, and hopefully Galvin Park, point the way.
The essence of the CP trap is this. I am not organising, that is the trap and belongs with the job approach. The power I am seeking is individuals to help themselves but that help is not going to be meaningful unless they know the terrain - the terrain that is Corporate influence. Within the system union posturing is important but can be fruitless, recognising what is the terrain and working round it is best for the individual - they can do both. But policy-makers need to be held accountable - and not teachers. Teachers can only do a little, it is the policy that is the problem - policy that is controlled by the CP.
Find the way you are most comfortable with this reality, and do what you can.
With the CP in its place I can address the real purpose of the book - Natural Development. And maybe do some writing - not just blogging.
|Tags - CP ND perspective|
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This is a school heralded for its innovative learning - student-directed. I wanted to be able to present it as a good example but on examination it fell flat. Teachers now are so full of bullshit because they are under threat all the time, I cannot tell whether it is true or false. Of course they say all the right things, they are promoting their school and their careers depend on it.
Examine this document that is called the school engagement policy - download the pdf from this page. Have you looked at it, there are 12 pages. How many kids are going to read it? It reads nicely. I especially like students, teachers and parents on p5, and I like their use of rights and responsibilities. But in truth all this is a bunch of school rules, and levels of punishment including suspension. So what's new? Nice presentation, but what's new?
Then they have a PR video (to download) or watch:-
Did you watch it? Nice enough. Of course the teachers said all the right things, doesn't help me understand, and there's always helpful students for the cameras. The Principal looked like a careerist, a climber, sorry if he isn't. It is not clear how "the space" works. The students are in this space with a load of teachers. The space is not silent, and the kids could be working or not. In my recent schools I would never have accepted that level of noise and that level of commitment to their work from students, but I was working with better kids, maybe. For a state school they looked as if they were doing something. But how much? I am not able to judge, and am not prepared to commit to saying this is how it should be done. I have been praising Finland, I hope I am praising more than Galvin Park.
|Tags - QP good example Galvin Park|
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|Blink of an eye|
I have just read Blink, a readable book by Malcolm Gladwell. It is a book you read and pass on, or buy at a half-price back Khao Saan bookshop. It is not substantive but raises a number of issues in a clear anecdotal style. Not that his conclusions are shattering, far from it his approach appears cursory.
I am interested because it opens up another level of consciousness for education. Blink is about 1st impressions, how valid are they? He quotes experts whose first impressions saved millions, and other impressions whose bias causes tremendous issues, blacks shot by cops, chauvinist orchestra leaders guilty of not employing quality.
What the book clearly demonstrates is that there is a legitimate unconscious evaluation in the blink of an eye - rapid cognition. Does it qualify as a process? No. But it does qualify as a learning experience. Students need exposure to this rapid cognition, hopefully in themselves but if not in their peers.
There are two clear issues:-
Experts can demonstrate rapid cognition,
Use of rapid cognition can be enhanced by recognising its existence and changing the circumstances in which they arise. "If we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place then we can control rapid cognition." Examples are the art expert who gives instructions that he is to come upon new art as if by accident. Or police who design policy to avoid rapid cognition in times of stress as they often produce bias.
He sites examples where intellect or too much info interfere with these insights. This clearly has educational relevance. He quotes Schooler on p121 to this effect. He discusses heart doctors who have info overload and cannot conclude. A simple algorithm produced better results and has been adopted - somewhere. To my mind he does not go enough into the relevance of the information, and expert use of the algorithm could make better use both in terms of refinement and also in recognising when the algorithm should not be applied. The connection between expertise and successful rapid cognition needs to be cemented, and that might be started at school. There is a tool for the dangers of rapid cognition, mindfulness in discernment. If the mind is clear then discerning the legitimacy of the first impression can occur especially of meditation can be introduced to develop mindfulness - "There is only one way to listen and that is with the ears and the heart" Julie Landsman principal horn. Isn't listening with the heart mindfulness or is it just Thay's deep listening?
|Theme - ND Rapid Cognition Malcolm Gladwell|
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Rattled off another Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers, but I have to say like the other book it does not feel as if I have read something substantive. But it was interesting. He was examining successful people considering them to be the outliers, and trying to examine the fact ors that led to their success. For such a system man I was surprised at his conclusions.
The notion of outliers interests me from my statistical background, I think I called them extreme values. I vaguely remember the approach was to discard these values as they affect the size of the test statistic so much rendering the test itself useless. Something like you added one degree of freedom and thus widened the confidence interval. But basically the value was dismissed as some sort of freak value or experimental error, and effectively ignored.
However the outliers in Gladwell's book are essential to society and cannot be dismissed. He started with Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems, and the venture exploiter of education, Bill Gates, and other "outliers" who were essential to society. Here's the rub, he was not promoting their individuality but their diligence and determination combined with the opportunity they took. 10,000 hours leads to success, taking opportunities that turn up. But these are not genius, these are concerned with success.
This all reminds me of something I think I read as historic materialism, there was always a genius for the times. The book I read was concerning Adam Smith providing economic justification for colonial exploitation. There was a cluster of the historically richest people born in the 1830's because the climate was right for making big money. Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Steve Jobs and others were all born in 1955. They all worked 10,000 hours but took their opportunities when they happened. If Bill Gates was born in 1945 would we have heard of him? And he did discuss one outlier who was not a success, Chris Langan, and for me the author's true mettle showed in response to him. He claimed he had no practical intelligence. This might well be true but he was citing practical intelligence as the ability to play the game. Whilst there is a positive side in being practically intelligent to play the game, but is it also intelligent not to sell out? Is our intelligence only to be considered worthwhile if you profit from it?
Chris Langan had bad experiences with the education system, hardly surprising as he was too bright. They appeared not to be able to challenge him, his mother did not fill out forms so he wasn't able to continue a scholarship and became labelled with F's. He would turn up and pass tests without any study, but he did drive himself with his own learning. Here is his view of Harvard as a "glorified corporation with profit incentive" - right on the money. Gladwell's response, Langan has Harvard backwards because professors take a reduction in salary to work for academic truth.
Langan lives on a farm with his wife doing his studies. He describes some of his intuitive practices. "I found if I go to bed with a question on my mind, all I have to do is concentrate on the question before I go to sleep and I virtually always have the answer in the morning" [p130]. Sometimes he dreams the answers. "Other times I just feel the answer, and I start typing and the answer emerges on the page." Gladwell says no-one ever makes it on their own, but clearly this it is social success - Gladwell is not talking of awareness learning etc. Interesting question - is Langan happy? Has he ever meditated? I hope he is, it must have been hard with his ability to see the plonkers who are successful.
Terman monitored a number of bright kids from all classes. The C's were working-class and many didn't make it - clearly showing the status quo procreation of education. Gladwell sees them as not equipped for the world. Whilst this is true it is still more of an endictment of the system that bright working-class kids failed. Really education is the prevailing status quo gatekeeping their own position, a corollary of the corporate paradigm. The middle class gained some success, they might not be top dog but they and their kids are going to stay middle dog and have beneath them little working-class dogs.
He looked at interesting studies on comparative achievement showing that low-income children improved during the academic year on a par with rich kids, but over the Summer vac they had 0 improvement compared to 50 for rich kids. This apparently is a rationale for KIPP schools which are apparently successful because they use up the kids' time on work.
In Gladwell's favour he did describe meaningful work as having autonomy, complexity and a connection between effort and reward. None of these three apply in schools, by Gladwell's measure schoolwork is not meaningful! Can agree with him there.
|Theme - ND Outliers Malcolm Gladwell|
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I got hooked into delivering a mental seminar!! It would be my typical 1980's format - groups, pens and wallcharts. I am sure it could be done with updated technology - maybe Google wave, but that doesn't matter. Content matters and not technology - no need to play up to unmotivated students by pandering to technology fetish.
1) Icebreaker - pair off for 5 mins to learn why the other person is coming and then introduce them.
2) What do we learn through education? Curriculum quickly then hidden curriculum. Report back - build up main chart. Maybe need to draw out some attributes for 7) - desire for money, conformity, aloofness and arrogance.
3) What do we not learn? Report back, and make not learn chart. Maybe have overlap with some in hidden curriculum in 1)
4) Now consider society, what does society want from education? Professions. Draw a some correlation between what we learn and what we want.
5) Now consider workforce in general. Proportion of jobs, service sector, labour etc. Whole group discussion.
6) Bring together a whole view of education and society. How many professionals? How many service sector and workforce? Now draw a correlation between exam passes and professional, service sector and exam failures.
7) Now examine what we learn in the hidden curriculum with what is required for the most successful in business.
8) School and exam failures see themselves as failures but they have desire for money, hence they accept working in service sector and labour force.
9) Are our schools successful at what they do?
10) We waste 20 years becoming factory fodder instead of learning about ourselves for life.
11) Now use the chart from 2) and ask what computers can and cannot do. Discuss and report back.
12) Get some old exam papers and see how much could be done by computer. Discuss and report back.
13) Take chart from 3), and compare with this discussion. What the computer cannot do - these are processes or competences. Who would like them? Show RSA competences, P21, Bill Gates. Can these be assessed in exams?
Assessing people:- 14) How are people assessed in business? References, phone calls etc. Make a chart.
15) Now consider a teacher's training and experience and compare it with this chart. Discuss.
16) Exams have some form of objectivity, but how worthwhile is that objectivity when you compare with how many people suffer because of doing exams? And because of how much can be done by computers anyway? Teachers can assess so why aren't they assessing already ? Trust. But trust is needed to assess, and competences can then be assessed.
17) Quality portfolio. Ask them to draw up their own quality portfolio involving what they would like to see educated people having. Wouldn't that be better?
Who is this seminar for? Policy-makers. Business influence.
|Theme - WCAM CP QP Seminar|
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|Duped my working life|
I recently ended up in a pattern of discussion with a friend. The pattern happened the first time, and it became lacking in harmony a little. It happened again this time but without any bitterness. We ended up discussing the UK. Quite naturally because of my personal history I spoke of how black people were disadvantaged by the education system, and my friend spoke of how his white family were disadvantaged by the government favouring immigrants. I then wrote to him about divide-and-rule colonialism, and how we were meant to be in contention.
I also recently met another guy, he's a black American and asked me about the history of black people in the UK. With my recent consideration of the Corporate Paradigm my description of such a history changed. My account began as usual. UK blacks predominantly came over from the Caribbean after a post-war recruiting campaign to fill the jobs vacated by the dead youth in the war. These were aspiring people who suffered the indignities of racism - room for rent no blacks allowed, in order to educate their children. The kids went to Inner City schools, and by the time they were sitting exams they had failed because of racism in the schools. Whilst there was racism in the schools this is not the real explanation - this is the explanation given by the colonials that divide and rule. The real explanation is that no-one in Inner City schools were ever meant to pass. Black people came over in the belief that the system was based on opportunity and hard work, and had hoped that their children through hard work could become part of the success. But success is only meant for a few, and they did not want to include blacks in those few.
But by that time the paradigm had already sewn up education in the UK and had already made sure that only the rich became successful. Post-war in the UK there were three tiers of education, private, grammar and secondary. But educationalists argued that grammar schools were elite, and there was a move which created comprehensive education. Many of those proponents saw the creation of the comprehensive system as a success but in truth that was not true because there still remained two tiers private and comprehensive - in some cases three as some Tory boroughs maintained grammar schools.
Why did comprehensive schools come in? Some would argue grass roots pressure for what is right - education for all. But think about it in terms of the paradigm. How many successes were they getting through the two more successful tiers of private and grammar? And what is perhaps more important, with the grammar school more people without money were joining the ranks of the most successful. Whilst in some ways this does not matter for the Corporate Paradigm, these rich CEOs would obviously want their own children to be the next generation of CEOs. With the grammar schools this next generation had more competition so it suited the rich to have comprehensive education because they could pay for their children to go to Eton and Harrow.
So into this fait accompli of private and comprehensive education came the Afro-Caribbeans with their focus on educational success for their children. Of course they were going to be disappointed because the schools their kids were attending were all comprehensive, and comprehensive kids were meant to fail. I always used to argue that comprehensives were failing because they never had enough funds. Of course they never had enough funds they were meant to fail.
I intentionally started within the comprehensive system because I believed in education for all. Because I began working in Brixton, it became clear that the students who suffered most were the black kids. As I learnt more about their history I saw greater injustices because of the aspirations and drives of the black parents. For many of the white working-class in the school education had little meaning, they did not need educating into failure. They had already accepted that they were not going to be successful, and just wanted to leave school and work - sometimes called the protestant work ethic. Through my concern for the success of the black kids I had grown a reputation. I can remember many black kids working with me and not many whites but I cannot remember there being any forms of rejection. But who knows? Good white kids would never have told me. And of course those white kids had many more teachers to choose from. I do remember an A level group of two boys, one a Mauritian and one white. I remember the Mauritian telling me how his father gave him two dinner moneys, one for the bullies to take and one for him to buy his dinner - that seemed to work. I remember the white boy saying he was racist because his white friends had been attacked by blacks. I remember saying about the injustices to black people in general, and he agreed in theory. In practice he was going to stay racist as a reaction to how he and his friends had been treated. I told him I could see the sense in that but that I disagreed .... in theory. I continued working with black kids, and I am sure he continued being a racist.
And then there was the Hove school. It had recently been a grammar school turned into a comprehensive. It was a school riddled with elitist politics. Part of the catchment area was an area of rich parents, an area I called the Golden Triangle as there was a triangle of three roads that mainly formed the area. These were the parents of the ex-grammar school kids and they dominated the PTA. They interfered incessantly with the school causing serious educational harm. This particularly showed itself in the late 80s when the government proposed grant-maintained schools. The Golden Triangle saw this as a way of returning to the grammar school. They never had the numbers but they certainly caused enough disruption. However they were correct about the one thing that mattered to them. The kids of the Golden Triangle were getting a worse education than they would have had if the school had remained a grammar school. Why? They were meant to. These people were not rich enough to be in CEO circles so they didn't matter, these upper middle-class parents also failed within the Corporate Paradigm. Despite all the trouble they caused the school I am sorry for their suffering. In the end none of these personal issues mattered to the Corporate Paradigm, the transnationals, two tiers meant that the kids of CEOs became the next CEOs.
|Theme - CP private comprehensive|
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I had a history of making mistakes in teaching. The first one I remember was in my PGCE year, it was pathetic. I was working out the mean of ages and took the age of 12 years 4 months as 12.4, and started to total from there. This was only year 2 then (year 8), and one girl put her hand up to point it out. What was ridiculous was that my Teaching Practice supervisor was visiting me that day, and he had to tell me about the error. He was good about it, in that he said he felt he could tell me without disturbing me too much - I had a good relationship with him.
The next error I remember making was at an equally embarrassing time. It was my NQT year, and the inspector was visiting me now. I was doing an exam question, and I got hung up on it - going round in circles. I told them I had got it wrong. That year Strand Grammar had amalgamated with Dick Sheppard, and there were a small groups of boys in the class. The inspector simply said how sensible the girls were and how I had a good relationship with them, and how immature the boys were. I just remember being embarrassed with her. I would imagine now with Ofsted, being jobsworths and hatchet men I would have been a prime candidate for the push.
But my worst mistakes occurred when I was under personal stress, fortunately it had a beneficial result. I was stressed by a very damaging relationship. I was drinking heavily, and the relationship was bereft with problems making my drinking worse. I was struggling to make a mortgage and had to take on too much work. I took on part-time work at a Polytechnic. The maths level was little more than A level but I had to prepare all the course notes, and therein was the problem. I still remember my Monday nights. Monday was my preparation time for the week, and I made lecture notes for 3 or 4 lessons. I think I started in the afternoon, and regularly remember finishing after 8.30. Then I hurtled down the pub, had found late drinking, and would crawl home at 1.00 am or later. The stress induced more mistakes and it got to the stage with a group of electrical engineers where the students expected a mistake and were looking for them. The mistakes were careless and trivial rather than conceptual but it still disturbed them. And what was the beneficial outcome? The students did so well that the department thought I had colluded and carried out an investigation (unknown to me). Students' lecture notes were checked to see whether I had previewed the questions, and they then reported to me how well the students had done - and therefore me. I applied for a job there but didn't get a look-in, they were only interested in research grants. When I think of that year I think of the stress, and no matter how awful the teaching was after that I had a low benchmark. The problem was that I was not paid for the holidays so had to work extra long during term-time; from that point of view polytechnic terms were very short. But I had found my level - don't teach higher than A level.
In fact that was confirmed nearly 20 years later when again I was doing part-time work and agreed to do a further maths course. I enjoyed working with the students although they had to be cajoled a few times. But as the course went on I found myself more and more having to be one step ahead with the examples until finally the vectors beat me. I am sure I did much higher than this level of vector geometry at uni, but I never came to grips with it - and had to apologise to the students. It only affected their confidence in me - no effect on the results, but it was the end of the course.
As I got older mistakes would creep in even when the teaching was less stressful. In truth it never seemed to affect their confidence in me. I did introduce intentional mistakes to see if they were watching, but to be honest this only disguised rather than hid the fact that I made mistakes. It did allow me to stress the need for careful revision to check answers. Of course you can never tell whether individuals lacked confidence in you if the class in general worked with you. I believe that a caring attitude overcame any problems, except when the kids ran the school as in Bahrain where it was the luck of the draw rather than teaching competence that prevented you from falling under the adolescent knife in the back.
It came to me in meditation that I should write about mistakes, recognising the type of errors one makes and trying to compensate was an exam tactic I always tried to get the students to use.
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|Coping with sexuality|
This is risky to write about. OK I am out of the profession but some issues still leave you open to question when western media is promoting fears around paedophilia. Having started with the word risky I should state categorically I was never unprofessional, and all of this should be taken in that context.
I remember one teacher who slept with a sixth former - above the legal age of consent. He was a county athletics coach, and developed a close relationship with the athlete he was coaching. In normal circumstances such a relationship might well become sexual, but as the student happened to be in the same school it was unprofessional. The story has an amusing slant. When the father found out he went round to the teacher's house, threw the girl's clothes outside the house, and said "you sleep with her you look after her".
Of course it is not amusing and should never have happened. But once it came to light the teacher should have been sacked. I was a small part of the union machinery that defended him legitimately. For a long time this teacher had been unfairly hounded by the headmaster. He was an old school sports teacher who ragged the students and was generally liked by them. In the contemporaneous climate however ragging was not acceptable and brought him into conflict with parents who pampered their children. The headmaster liked to use his power to intimidate teachers, and this teacher was easy pickings. As you could imagine such a weak-willed teacher (sleeping with his athlete) did not have his act together being separated from his wife, and sorrowfully dwelling on a short-lived romance that had followed. He was not coping with his sexuality, and his inappropriate behaviour was an obvious consequence. Anyway this bully of a headmaster screwed things up. He was so incompetent he did not prepare the required paperwork to get this teacher legitimately dismissed, somehow the teacher survived during the required hearing, and was teaching again in the same school as the student. But in truth it did not affect the students, they appeared not to be bothered.
I also know of two cases where a teacher had a relationship with an ex-student, I consider this inappropriate. The first I know little about but this teacher was going out with a student who had just left the school. I do not know how much contact there was whilst she was still at school, but I have every reason to believe that their relationship only became sexual after she left school. Her parents were complicit in the relationship as the teacher regularly visited the girl at her home. When the girl was in the Upper Sixth this teacher was in his first year teaching - an age difference of 4 years. Outside of the teaching environment such an age difference at that age would be completely acceptable but it is not in teaching.
The second situation happened in Africa, and I am sad to say that relationships between teachers and students were far too common-place there. At one staff meeting an anonymous letter was read out from a class. It claimed that the class was being victimised by a teacher and that the girls were being inappropriately beaten. Use of the cane was policy in this school but what this teacher was doing was turning the school chairs round and making the girls sit spread-eagled and then beat them on the backside. It was not policy for African girls to be beaten on the backside because of all the sexual connotations associated with the African posterior. The letter said this was happening when one particular girl refused this teacher sexual favours. I can believe it.
In this environment my friend fell for an older student. He first taught this student in her final year and nothing happened. After the final year students went on a work placement - often as teacher assistants; it was on this work placement that the affair started - she was technically still in education. But she was 22. My friend was racked with guilt as it was still unprofessional, but she was mature. The affair ran its course, and no-one commented. By comparison with other sexual misdemeanours in the country, this was nothing.
Before starting the affair my friend broke up with a long-time girlfriend, and I consider he was sexually vulnerable. The sports teacher was sexually vulnerable as was the other teacher because of his age and inexperience. However in truth the majority of cases in the afore-mentioned African country were simply exploitative.
What is important to recognise is that adolescents are going through a natural stage of physical development with accompanying emotional and mental development. Such development should not be hidden. Students need to be encouraged to discuss this development so that there are no latent issues in adult life. A friend told me of an important example of this. He was gay and a counsellor, he was an activist within the union for gay rights. He told me of the number of suicides amongst adolescent gays who were unable to come to terms with their own sexuality within such a hostile heterosexual environment as a school. Although the gay students found him he was formally unable to admit that he was gay so that he could counsel such students. Here was a clear example where homophobia was killing students.
In the sexually-repressive UK culture teenagers were unable to discuss burning issues, suppressed them causing problems in later life. It cannot be ignored that for the majority of students at this age sexual awareness is the only issue that matters. I contend that it is necessary for their own image that young people are acknowledged concerning their sexuality. What regularly happens to young male teachers is that adolescent girls show off their developing sexuality, I don't properly understand why. They are not seeking favour or a sexual act, they just do it - maybe it is showing off to peers as well as a misplaced need for attention. This behaviour needs to be properly put in its place. There must be appropriate environments where these girls can discuss their feelings and be firmly advised that making sexual advances to teachers is completely inappropriate. But not in a way that negates their own self-image. At the same time these male teachers need to feel sufficiently secure that they can reject the girls' attentions without negating the teenagers' self-view. The paedophile-dominated sexual view that exists in schools now does not help any natural development. Because of the paedophile paranoia, there is not training or discussion amongst teachers concerning this issue; isn't that ridiculous when you know that sexual development is the most important development for adolescents?
At the same time in our schools we still have perpetuated the scenario where so many girls grow up with dreams of being wives either of personalities, jocks or professionals. They see themselves not in terms of who they are, but who their partner is. I always consider education in terms of equal opportunities and always felt saddened to see teenage girls focussing on their future partner rather than their academic ability. I always saw financial independence through academic success as a possible way of escaping the drudgery of a disrespectful marriage.
But I would love to see education for all children as providing proper respect for the home as a worthwhile career, the role of mother is worth educating for. Improving the priority for the home is an education tenet I have promoted, and, previously discussed, if society were to develop policies which increased the possibilities for our homes to improve, life would be so much better. Rather than women being drawn away from the home in a battle to make them the equals of men in business, women and men could be educated into seeing that the first priority is a home in which children are loved and cared for. And children are not then a problem for tired working people to have to face after a hard day in the office. Contemporary society talks of quality time with children but parents continue to work for the dollar so that at the end of the day they cannot give that quality time because of fatigue. It is one thing to pay lipservice to a concept and it is a second for society to consider the infrastructure that creates the problem. But of course our corporations benefit from the status quo - so no change there. Yet again we are back to a Corporate Paradigm which dehumanises society. Take decisions that move as much of your life out of the control of the corporations. Think small, buy local, live small.
|Theme - ND Sexuality|
|Trickery - Teacher of Nature|
For a long time I have been concerned about the apparent excessive liberality of the autonomous mastery approach I have proposed. In unschooling, children guide their own learning. I have questioned one unschooling parent who affirmed that the guidance was complete, and although I found her reasonable I cannot accept this.
First and foremost is the evidence of meditation. Through meditation one gets the closest to the Natural Mind that it is possible. In the depths of mind one can find stillness but as soon as we step out of meditation our minds tangle up with daily life, and very soon the hindrances lead to trickery. By this I mean that desires and temptations lead us away from the Natural Path. Sadly this is also natural but it is a part of nature that we need to work through. Meditation brings us back to the Natural Path, and this Path is the Autonomous Mastery we seek in our learning.
Can we say that our children are in touch with that Natural Path of Autonomous Mastery? Here is where I believe Natural Development comes in. I suggest that in the early years the Natural Path of learning is very clear. In the home the child learns from their parents, and the approval and disapproval of love is enough to keep the child to natural learning. Now unschooling extends this early year approach, and implicit within the self-guidance approach is an understanding that after the early years a child can guide their own learning - autonomous mastery. I have no doubts at all that a child in that unschooling environment has greater autonomous mastery than students in school, but at some stage mental trickery must enter the picture. At some stage we start to develop minds, and once there is a mind there is attachment to the desires and temptations that bring about the hindrances. In other words at some stage there develops trickery that can take the learning in the wrong direction. Now by comparison with the completely wrong direction the Corporate Paradigm takes our education system, this trickery might amount to little, but it is still there and needs to be recognised.
In the very young any such trickery is controlled by parental love but as children grow this control is appropriated by the child. At the outset approval is sufficient to prevent mental trickery controlling but at some stage as this trickery strengthens more powerful means are necessary to maintain control. Initially the child is controlled by the love and morality of the parents. As the children gain their own minds, these minds take on board this morality - the stronger the moral basis the easier the mind is able to follow the Natural Path. But always the trickster aspect of the mind wants to divert away from the moral course (and other courses) of the Natural Path. Parents are always there to maintain this control if the child is too weak to control their own trickster, but in the end growing-up means that control falls to the child as they near adulthood. Less and less parents provide this moral impetus, and more the child directs themselves.
How does this apply to the mental tricks that would be played in the process of autonomous mastery of education? Can there be misdirection in learning? I remember a student who got hooked into multiplication tables. Somehow it got started that he was writing out the multiplication tables. This would start with the usual 1-9, then he developed it further and further. 47x tables. I started by checking them and they were OK, but as he developed them it turns out he was writing gibberish - any numbers he felt like. I began pointing this out but rather than correct them he continued to write gibberish. The process fizzled out, but he did waste a great deal of his time. I always encouraged students to take on extra work, and made it a practice to have as much individualised work as possible for these students to take home. I used to like to use topic text books that schools tended to have accumulated, but it was always difficult to find such work. I remember a competition I got into at primary school where I was competing with a girl of 10 to see who could do the most mental arithmetic tests. The teacher marked and pursued the competition, it certainly mattered to me that I win - I am not sure how much it mattered to the girl. I am also not sure how much was learnt. A teacher is always there to attempt to keep the process on track. This is how I perceive autonomous mastery. If I tried coursework with younger children (year 7) it failed because they did not know how to direct themselves. As they grew older there was more chance of self-direction but that was always countered with decreasing motivation because of the exams. If the students had grown up in a system where they had been encouraged to rely on their own autonomy, then there would be greater chance at year 7 that such autonomy would produce fruitful results.
But for me always there as a guide would be the teacher whose purpose is to bring out the autonomous mastery fruitfully. In much the same way as parents provide the moral direction so the teacher provides the education direction. Suppose in maths you set a problem, and very early on the student makes a careless error. This can often mean that instead of the question converging to a correct solution the solution diverges. On numerous occasions especially in tests I would read pages of solutions where students had pursued this erroneous path. Now as part of my exam tips I would always say that an examiner is not going to include such bizarre numbers yet students would still go there. Now in real life such bizarre numbers might be more appropriate so the exam tip would not apply, but a good process of checking would. Here however is a simple example of where poor mental discipline led to an unproductive educational project. Whilst there is learning in making mistakes, for some people, including myself mistakes continue to occur. Does learning occur if the student continues to make the same errors repeatedly? Perhaps not, and guided intervention from the teacher would be helpful.
Natural development occurs when there is a balance between autonomous mastery and mental trickery, and the teacher can be the guide to help the student achieve that balance.
|Theme - ND WCAM trickery teacher balance|
|Important footnote to blinking|
In the blink of an eye, I discussed Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink". In his book he discussed rapid cognition assessments, some which were accurate and some erroneous. In the blog I suggested that the greatest faculty that impacted on this blink faculty was experience, but I want to take that further. The faculty that really guarantees accurate blinking is mindfulness. Mindfulness can be seen as detached awareness. One could imagine a process whereby there is an ability called mindfulness capable of instantly appreciating all that is happening around, awareness though all the senses without thought interfering. This is blinking awareness. However it is in the translation through thought and language that this blinking can become misguided. Where that thought has been guided by years of experience it is less likely to make an error of communication, for the young perhaps whose arrogance creates a mental layer of miscommunication there is a great opportunity for a transmitted error. Mindfulness can be brought to the forefront through meditation. In the very young mindfulness is present as the mind has not formed to create the mental blocks that miscommunicate. As we miseducate such blocks become more prevalent and as a result we unlearn the ability to blink - unlearn rapid cognition. With experience wisdom forms often without intention, and circumvents any blocks that might occur.
|Theme - mindfulness blinking consciousness|
I was put onto Sam Harris by a friend, and then found he had this TED talk:-
I was interested because the title of the talk is "Science can answer moral questions". Just looking at the title opens up positivity for me, but a greater fear of negativity - later founded. I would prefer a title of "Morality can answer scientific questions". A supposedly blind search for knowledge on the part of scientists leads to misdirection, primarily because such blindness gets misdirected by the need for funding. The Oppenheimer scenario whereby a group of scientists had their desire for knowledge misused by an unscrupulous government, and the result was a nuclear attack and devastation of Japanese people. Accompanied with the ongoing global threat if the US Hawks can do it once, are we next?
What about science's current misdirection - technogadgetry driven by the profit motive? How much of the current technology would fit into the category of sufficient? Are these gadgets sustainable? Is that even a question people ask enough? Is all the effort and finance that goes into developing the latest mobile phone of benefit ecologically? In a world of hunger and starvation, often politically engendered by the same transnationals who are creating the latest gadgets, should human intelligence be directed, or directing itself, into such unbeneficial pre-occupations?
With morality guiding science, both of these global threats would be tempered and perhaps managed.
As a Buddhist morality comes first for me. This morality provides good order in society, and with a moral order comes stability and peaceful co-existence. But with science first what do we get? Science has no direction, no control, and because of this power vacuum finance becomes the guide. Finance without direction becomes profit-oriented, and we have the situation in academia today where scientific experiment is only valid when it validates the results of the sponsoring transnational. How long did it take for cigarette warnings to be put in place legally because of the cigarette companies' profits? Science does not benefit society unless there is a moral underpinning - sila.
And then we have the philosophical questioning of academia. The mind jumps from one issue to another throwing up questions, it is completely destructive. Where is the sense of direction in Sam Harris' talk? He jumps from one issue to another without having an underlying integrity of approach. I am sure part of his populist appeal is the condemnation of Islam. He uses images of the burqa as if the whole of the female Islamic world wears such. He appeals to the intellectual audience by comparing women in burqas with his image of all pervading exploitation of sexual images of women in the West, presenting it as a spectrum with a correct position somewhere along the line. The very suggestion that there is a correct moral position in this spectrum is a chimera of scientific rectitude that belittles the fact that the only correct position is that of moral tolerance, and who are we to judge that every woman wearing the burqa is being intimidated into doing so. We never suggest that every woman who wears a bikini or who is paid money for posing nude in a magazine is intimidated. The image of Madonna is that she is strong, took control of her body, and exploited men because she is now wealthy and famous. In truth I understand that Madonna is a strong woman but how much of what she did was devoid of intimidation and exploitation? I will not judge, nor should Sam Harris judge Islam through the rose-coloured eyes of western intellectualism?
And the reason his judgement is lacking is because his faith is lacking, he has no direction. He is trying to judge Islam and other religions through scientific objectivity. Science and faith are the mutually exclusive sets which were created in the Reformation when knowledge which was both scientific and religious at the same time became separated by the sword of objectivity. As a result all that faith was not subject to rationality, and worse science was not subject to morality. Reunite science and faith under a moral umbrella, and then begin to eschew what is immoral practice in all religions. Do not eschew faith until there is a moral ascendancy. People like Sam Harris are dangerous intellectuals who want to undermine all with their questioning without any moral replacement. How many hours has he sat on a stool to know that his questioning position has the meditative seal of approval?
Let us bring both science and faith into order thorough moral correctness, a morality underpinned by the tools Nature gave us to understand - meditation and mindfulness. The questioning of people like Harris and Dawkins only lead to greater confusion, and the ability of transnationals to exploit as there is no moral force to react against their impositions.
However he does go on to say that there needs to be moral expertise? But he confuses this morality with culture. There might be a universal morality but it is difficult to say it overrides culture. What is required is that a culture needs to seek its own morality, and cultures can do this. To use the culture Sam Harris continually attacks, who has attained greater morality than the Sufis? Kahlil Gibran? Yes there are practices which I don't like - including the burqa but that is for Shariya to work out and for those societies to work it out through their Shariya. Do Buddhists say that priests should not wear dresses or wear collars back-to-front? Or drink alcohol in mass? These are decisions to be made by the religion under moral direction, and where is this moral expertise? That is the question. The question is not to take a moral position dominated by western values that it is more correct for a woman to appear naked on the internet than it is for a woman to be covered in a burqa. The question is to promote the importance of moral practices in all spheres of society. And here western academia does not have good standing, as good morality is repeatedly undermined by incessant questioning of the academic not for the search for knowledge but for the maintaining of their own academic power. Rather than attribute qualities of universal goodness thus decrying the practices of exploiters such as the transnationals, we reach no such definition, no such moral acceptance, and therefore do not condemn the finance that underpins modern western society. We, in the West, give up on morality because we benefit from immorality. We have no moral order, no sila, and Sam Harris contributes to this. Science needs to be given moral values, not apply science to appropriate values. And not use science as a vehicle to dominate cultures with dubious western morality.
|Theme - Sila Intellectualism|
|Blocked Part 1|
This is not angst but it is the way I have been - blocked. No blogging, the book has stopped - just not writing. I had an amazing writing rainy season - a lot of blogging and 40000 words on teaching. I went up to Bangkok where I am more likely to find interested people and nothing. Education didn't even come up in conversation, except once. And I spoke with a single-minded devotee who simply said "how can someone in Trat expect to influence education?"
Now his position was wrong in that writing is done because it is writing, yet I got blocked because deep down I must have hoped that what I write might reach something. I have long since consciously given up on being able to make a difference, this is not a rationale for doing something. It is a dangerous rationale that can only cause the pain of disillusionment, and that is why such a framework is encouraged within the home of corporate capitalism. Create the hope knowing that it must get knocked down by the grip they have, and then the disillusioned become good corporate slaves. Look at how many hippies have joined the game. Even the beginning of Grumpy Old Men says the same!!
I suppose I am not clear enough as to why I write, and it became clear today. I write because I have to. But there are two levels to this. The first is the need to express, I need to be able to write what I write, and put it out there even if it reaches nowhere. As an aside the world is now full of blogs. People get angry at work, they blog. People see what is wrong with the world, they blog. And then they fall in with the hype that the blogosphere causes change. Rubbish. Where is the result of all that knowledge? Nowhere, there is no action. And if there is no action there is only one winner, corporate capitalism. The blogosphere has become an extension of armchair socialism, the armchair blogosphere, a virtual revolution where virtually nothing happens.
Writing is a need to express, and I began writing long before the blogosphere. I was writing mostly for myself, and the stories are appearing on my site slowly - Wai zandtao. On retiring I started Matriellez - to expunge the stress that was the mess they call teaching. And I began blogging. This blogging would often start with meditation where something would come to me. Then I would sit and blog - putting meat on the bones of the insight. But even this has stopped, and that is not healthy because that is not giving the insight expression. Without realising over the last four years this has also become an important reason for writing - expressing the insight. And blocking this is dangerous as it is blocking insight.
The negativity I felt after the trip to Bangkok is important, and should fuel my education writing - especially the book (8/10/2010 - it hasn't - nor 1/11/2010). I have long since described capitalism as our system of dukkha, and there are many religious people who draw the connection of spirituality to human greed exemplified in capitalism. People complain about our education system as not doing enough, but few attribute education with equal blame. There is a riddle "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" This can be paraphrased "Which comes first, education or corporate capitalism?" There is no answer to the riddle but what is clear is that the process is one. Education creates corporate capitalism which creates education, or corporate capitalism creates education which creates corporate capitalism. What is most important to realise is that corporate capitalism and our current education system are indistinguishable, and whilst there are many people who go to work to return home and fight capitalism few perceive the need to fight the control the corporations have over education in the same way. What is worse is it is now encouraged. Many teachers are blindly following this need for web technology in education. Who can argue that it is necessary to teach children the skills of the web, but to replace real education by this skill teaching is a backward move. Education needs to use the web technologies to further advance self-realisation, not to turn the first 20 years of our children's lives into a different set of skill-learning (as opposed to the current memory-training that passes for exams and education).
This is why Mahachula has deeply unsettled me. First of all the administration has a reputation for not caring about education. Classes are cancelled at the last minute. Apparently teachers regularly travel from Bangkok to Wang Noi only to find classes have been cancelled. The content of the lessons is dubious. There is Dhamma teaching - no argument, but then they also teach core subjects. I believe this is primarily so that the monks can become teachers, but there appears an implicit acceptance that what is needed in education is more dhamma and this will correct the problems of education. Dhamma with the core subjects is enough? Whilst education in Thailand has not sunk as low as western education, the way society appears to be copying the worst aspects of western society it could soon sink that low. Is it enough to learn the dhamma and core subjects by rote, and for these monk-teachers to pass them on to their students accordingly - without question?
I am unsettled by the apparent acceptance by monks and other knowledgeable people that young people can suffer the indoctrination of 20 years of education, and somehow find their homes in monasteries by a haphazard rite of passage in early adulthood. For western monks this rite of passage can be quite disturbing. At the least it requires a complete rejection of established thinking, often resulting in travel to India, Thailand or Tibet. More often it is worse with some form of hitting bottom before they come out of the other side, and start a spiritual journey. And that is for those who do find their home in a monastery or elsewhere; what about those who don't quite make it? They simmer under the surface of western society in some deeply-unfulfilled position, only occasionally allowing their souls to shine through. For many their compassion is limited to the traps of family, and the financial burdens of western living means that their lives cannot be spiritually more fulfilling than family. For some family is enough but for others it is great dissatisfaction, and hence we have one more reason for so much dysfunctionality in western families.
All this is to explain my blocks. Why do people not see the depths of control in education? Why do spiritual people not see the journey starting at a young age? Such as when they are born. My first block is not to measure what I write by impact, and the second is to understand that I need to write about my insights to free the insights. Now to blocked part 2.
|Tags - Blocked Education|
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|Unlearning whimsy - a Good Teacher|
I have begun to see how much being employed as a teacher has affected my approach to teaching. For a long time I have realised just how much the school perverts the student-teacher relationship. It starts with money and politics. Because of these pressure is placed on the teacher not to make educational decisions. The rich parent complains and says they will withdraw students, the head converts that pressure downwards onto the teacher. Politics pressurises the teacher. Schools are failing by design but those who participate in the education don't know or believe this. So when the students are failing they look for a scapegoat - the teacher. The teacher usually panders to this pressure, and we have the scenario of students guiding the lessons via the parents or via political pressure. The problem with education is that the teacher is not in control of the teaching process.
I thought I would have moved away from this when I started the voluntary retirement teaching but this approach is so ingrained that these students bring this attitude with them. There is a feeling that they can decide what goes on. As a result they don't learn.
Learning is a discipline. There are times when you don't want to learn but you have to. If you don't go that extra mile and say you can't be bothered - or come up with some reason, then there is a level of learning you cannot reach. This has become so clear to me through meditation. Students need to accept this discipline and then the teacher needs to evaluate the student (through dialogue) to determine the best course of action. Whimsical learning is pointless, no progress is ever really made.
Spiritually teachers demand this discipline before they start. I have been involved in three "partial teaching" spiritual situations, and in all these cases there has been a disaster. In the first case someone was asking me about insight. He started by asking and then gradually applied more and more rules to what we could discuss that in the end there was no communication. I suspect he knew less about insight at the end, and we are not now friends.
Another friend asked about insight but he was not meditating. He was trying to intellectualise insight, I kept saying you couldn't. I clearly valued insight far above intellect, and he was satisfied with intellect. He felt disrespected by me because I didn't value his intellectual approach, and we are now not friends.
A third person saw me as a potential teacher. For a short while he stayed with me, and it became clear to me that he was not trying to learn he was trying to use learning as a means of coping with his emotional problems. For a while we were not friends, now we talk often mostly without meaning.
In all 3 cases there was no discipline, and without it there is no learning. Whether it is spiritual or otherwise, erratic motivation - whimsy - never produces real learning. Even the dreaded exams produce some discipline as the cramming prior to important exams requires a disciplined approach.
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|End of blog|
In the Zandtao blog I described how stress was still arising, and then described how a dream brought my involvement with education to an end - apart from the odd bit of tuition. Last year I spent the rainy season following education as the current messes inspired by the corporate paradigm continue to damage education. Meanwhile the teachers mostly oblivious to the forces going on around them fiddle as Rome burns. Considering the state of education now it is not acceptable for teachers to turn a blind eye to the criticisms and continue to play their career politics. Whilst education functions as indoctrinator for our existing system, teachers vie for position in schools, and what is worse spending much of their spare time seeking ways out of the classroom through internet games such as #edchat and so on. Meanwhile corporations through various so-called "foundations" manipulate the education landscape offering these escapees a future with money. Having identified my position in the book that is enough. Hours of clear thinking was spent to no avail. There is no interest in the truth, the teachers bury their heads and ignore the reality they support, and the politicians and administrators continue with their mutual back-scratching and corporate payoffs. I don't want to be an angry German on the beach, that is the end of the minimal stress education was causing.
I loved the classroom with some reservations and as a way of earning money the classroom was great. I met some lovely kids as well as some absolute bastards, and the same could be said of the teachers. I met many caring teachers but the career structure turned many into bastards. I have always defended my colleagues for the quality of the work they do, but the truth is they fail miserably to stand up for education. It is fashionable and professionally politic to defend the interests of students, but mostly this is fluff. The kids are ending up damaged by inappropriate education and the teachers turn their backs on this reality because of the difficulties in changing it.
I have completed a summative position - what remains to be written in the book is not necessary for understanding what is wrong with education, and if someone, a publisher or otherwise, wishes to give me a motivation for completing it don't hesitate to contact me. Education gave me a living and a retirement - not as much as I would have liked but that is more to do with recession and politics than it is to do with teaching. As I am not addicted to samsara, at least this part anyway, my retirement is now devoted to the Path, so that is the end of this blog and Matriellez.
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