Educational Readings June 21st

By Allan Alach

When spiders unite they can tie down a lion. Ethiopian proverb.

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at

 This week’s homework!

Fighting For Our Classrooms, and For the Human Beings Inside Them

‘It seems as if the same battle is being fought in every aspect of American society. On one side are the forces of egalitarianism, economic opportunity and self-determination. On the other is a well-funded and entrenched elite bent on hijacking our media, our political process and our institutions for their selfish ends. Sadly, the classrooms of this country haven’t been spared.’

Ring any bells for you?

 What’s the most ‘natural’ way to learn? It might surprise you.

Here is a counterintuitive piece on what we consider the “natural” way to learn, from cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.

 To THUNK or not to THUNK…

There’s life beyond protests in Turkey and to prove that here’s a good thunk from Tony Gurr.

It Makes Me Wonder Why All the Amateurs Have Come to Education

US educational activist ( Shaun Johnson reflecting on the seemingly endless numbers of amateur experts on education, especially politicians and economists! Right on Shaun.

Are College and Career Skills Really the Same?

This US article examines the rhetoric that common core standards are necessary to prepare children for employment and tertiary studies. The connection to national standards rhetoric in New Zealand is very obvious.

‘The second concern is justifying the Common Core on the highly dubious notion that college and career skills are the same. On its face, the idea is absurd. After all, do chefs, policemen, welders, hotel managers, professional baseball players and health technicians all require college skills for their careers? Do college students all require learning occupational skills in a wide array of careers? In making the “same skills” claim, proponents are really saying that college skills are necessary for all careers and not that large numbers of career skills are necessary for college.’

Telling Time with a Broken Clock: The trouble with standardized testing

Very comprehensive article by Canadian teacher Joe Bower.

‘Ask any parents what their long-term concerns and goals are for their children, and seldom will you hear about test scores and world rankings. Their concerns are compelling, existential and heartfelt. Parents want their kids to be happy, hard-working, motivated, responsible, honest, empathetic, intelligent, collaborative, creative and courageous.’

Bill Gates Discovers Money Cannot Buy Teachers

Surprise, surprise. Another neoliberal dream goes up in smoke.

‘Ultimately, there are three ways to get people to do something you want them to do. One is to force them, by making the consequences for not complying onerous or unacceptable. The second is to lure them, by offering some sort of bribe or incentive. The third is to get them excited about your ideas, whereupon they may engage with enthusiasm. In my experience, real change in education only comes with the third of these methods, because the first two inspire more resistance than cooperation.’

Will New Tests Measure Any Valuable Skills?

‘After more than ten years of national education policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the words accountability and assessment have become synonymous at many public schools with high-stakes testing. The two government programs have attached consequences and rewards to standardized test scores, leading many educators to believe they have to teach to the test. But, as the well-known argument goes, teaching prescribed math and reading content doesn’t help students build the skills like creativity, problem-solving and adaptability they need to adapt in the world outside of school.’

What Would Socrates Say? (via Bruce Hammonds)

The concept of inquiry learning goes back a very long way to the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. One of his reporting sayings was “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.” I can think of many politicians who would do well to adopt the same self belief. This quote highlights the relevance of Socrate’s philosophy to the 21st century educational environment, without a standardised test in sight.

‘Socrates believed that we learn best by asking essential questions and testing tentative answers against reason and fact in a continual and virtuous circle of honest debate. We need to approach the contemporary knowledge explosion and the technologies propelling this new enlightenment in just that manner. Otherwise, the great knowledge and communication tsunami of the 21st century may drown us in a sea of trivia instead of lifting us up on a rising tide of possibility and promise.’


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