The Most Important Things Schools Don’t Do – A challenge to Australia’s Educatio MinisterThe Most Important Things Schools Don’t Do – A challenge to Australia’s Education Minister

PLEASE SEND THIS ON TO YOUR STATE MINISTER. TREEHORN DOES NOT HAVE READY ACCESS TO THEM OR THEIR DEPARTMENTS.
Treehorn Express
A CHALLENGE TO STATE MINISTERS
This week, the collective wisdom of Australia’s education system gathers to consider what can be done to ensure that Australia has the world’s best  system of schooling.  It’s a tough  task considering the direction in which we seem to be going and the unseemly mess we are in.  All those with the title of Minister and their advisers will discuss school funding, the depletion in PISA scores and various issues that have been raised through pre-meeting correspondence. 
The Treehorn Express and its faithful readers maintain a genuine concern for the standard of schooling in Australian, New Zealand and the US and anywhere else that shares a love for school kids and a passion for helping them to learn how to learn. The standard and type of schooling in the western world, controlled by measurement freaks,  is a big worry. Australia is the most test-crazed country in the world  It allows little time for teachers to teach. 
We are supposed t be here for kids, not institutions and measurement manufactories. 
Below, fellow advocate for kids, Marion Brady reckons that the aim of schooling is : MAXIMIZE LEARNERS’ ABILITY TO  MAKE SENSE. Same aim, different expression. All experienced educators are on the same wavelength.
With Brady’s comments in mind, Treehorn would like to challenge each minister to read his article below and leave the meeting 1. Still using NAPLAN; 2. Still having unequal funding for private and public schools and 3. Failing to instigate a serious, wide and open discussion on the best ways to care for Australian kids in a schooling environment, during our children’s  natural search for excellence over 13 years or so of schooling.
If they are fair dinkum Aussie educators, we can expect 1. the end of NAPLAN;  2. Gonski- funding or better; 3. plans for an intense, extensive public discussion.
We don’t want Prime Minister Pauline having to tolerate a bigger  mess than her previous female PM left .  No kind of misogyny intended.
It’s a short article – one of his best – and it deserves to be carefully read with an open mind and pleasant thoughts about school children.  Treehorn has added a short comment at times and highlighted some statements,. You’ll be able to tell.
The original is located in the Washington Post ….
Washington Post, “The Answer Sheet” blog by Valerie Strauss
Posted December 9, 2016:
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The most important thing schools don’t do
By Marion Brady
Prepare the young for  tertiary education and careers; promote democratic citizenship; keep Australia  economically competitive; master the core subjects; transmit societal values; instil a love of learning—those are six of about 30 aims for schooling I’ve found in academic journal articles.  Treehorn can add:  ‘care for the mental health and learning attitude of young people.’ That’s seven.
On my list, one aim is paramount: “Maximize learner ability to make sense.”Not only does it enable
every other legitimate aim of educating, it gives schooling its proper focus—maximizing human 
potential. 
No one needs to be taught how to make sense—to think. We’re born equipped to do it. The challenge is to do it better, to radically improve what are sometimes called “higher order” thinking skills, particularly those involved in tracing complex causal sequences and anticipating possible unintended consequences of well-intended policies and actions. We know how to build nuclear power generating plants, but not how to dispose of the waste they create. We know how to produce enough food to feed the world, but not how to distribute it equitably.We know how to start wars, but not how to end them or avoid them altogether. We know how to warm the planet, but not how to navigate the political complexities that stand in the way of adopting measures to stop the process.We know how to frack the aquafers and empty each nation’s underground water tanks and despoil the landscape and oceans, but not how to replace it all. 
Unfortunately, schools—the institutions modern societies have created to help the young maximize their ability to think—have never been able to present well-thought-out strategies for actually improving sense-making. Beyond the primary and elementary levels, the emphasis has instead been on delivering the content of subjects considered “core”—math, science, language arts, and social studies. As those subjects are traditionally taught and tested, “thinking” is primarily a matter of recalling information delivered and, to a lesser extent, applying that information in abstract ways.
Recalling and applying are, of course, thinking skills, but what makes us fully human, and what gives humanness so much potential, is our ability to infer, hypothesize, generalize, categorize, relate, compare, contrast, correlate, describe, abstract, extrapolate, predict, sequence, integrate, synthesize, interpret, translate, empathize, value, envision, imagine, intuit.
That’s 24 thought processes, most of them more complex than recalling and applying. Add to them other thought processes of which I’m not aware. Add the extremely powerful role emotions [like fear of failing NAPLAN]and the place of play in shaping thought. Add the fact that the actual process of sense-making integrates the processes systemically to create a whole greater than the sum of parts. Considering these complexities, the human potential being wasted by teaching to machine-scored tests that can’t evaluate the quality of sense should be obvious.
The failure of traditional schooling to significantly improve thinking skills stems primarily from its emphasis on delivering “pre-processed” information. The contents of textbooks, teacher talk, reference materials, the internet, and so on, are products of the thinking of others, leaving learners with nothing to do except try to store information in memory long enough to pass a test. That’s about as interesting and intellectually stimulating as memorizing completed crossword puzzles.  That’s NAPLAN 
Traditional schooling’s emphasis on recalling exacts a heavy price – boredom, discipline problems, reliance on extrinsic motivators, the rapid disappearance from memory of information once taught, decades of flat academic performance.
That list of problems having its roots in the neglect of all other sense-making processes could be extended.
Thinking skills can be significantly improved by coaching that focuses learner attention directly on immediate, “unprocessed” reality, on primary sources from past realities, and on imagined probable, possible, and preferred future realities. Learning teams can investigate their school’s energy efficiency, compare attitudes toward authority of early  settlers in Australia as manifested in the records they kept, analyze waste disposal procedures in their neighborhoods, predict likely consequences of Australia’s  inevitable cultural change from the western [US dominated] economic culture to those requirements of the Asian  [China dominated] economic galaxy. Those kinds of activities engage because they respect and make active use of the ability to think.*
The complexity of the sense learners make when they’re intellectually engaged in real-world work makes it clear that quality of thought can’t be evaluated by commercially produced standardized tests. Do two “good” hypotheses equal four “fair” or seven “poor” hypotheses? What’s the difference between “good” and “fair”?  Does a kid’s inference show insight or startling insight? Is a learner’s description of an event beautifully succinct or merely sketchy?  Computers can’t answer these questions.
There’s no getting around the inherent complexity of original thought, and no getting around traditional schooling’s failure to stimulate and nurture it.
Today’s reformers dream of low-cost schools where technology does the telling and  technology does the testing, That’s NAPLAN….plain dumb.
“Civilization,” said H.G. Wells, “is a race between education and catastrophe.” Perpetuating the misguided education policies put in place by politicians at the urging of wealthy but educationally clueless campaign contributors doesn’t just invite societal catastrophe, it assures it.
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The links below access free explanatory materials and ready-to-use secondary-level courses of study illustrating instructional activities that routinely require learners to engage in a full range of cognitive processes.
At all times, the caution issued by John Settledge when he toured Australia, needs serious heed : “ When the affective is secure, the cognitive is inevitable.”
Other than the fact that learners’ exercise of those processes produces thought too complex to be evaluated by standardized, machine-scored tests, the activities themselves fit within traditional bureaucratic boundaries and expectations.
Thinking about thinking: http://www.marionbrady.com/CIR .asp
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Phil Cullen
41 Cominan Avenue
Banora Point 2486
07b55246443
0407 865999
Refer: “Who’s Who in Australia.”
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