Education Readings August 25th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Sir Ken Robinson’s education revolution

A refresher course for you about Sir Ken. Interesting little anecdote here – a Liverpool music teacher had two of the Beatles in his class yet failed to recognise their musical talents. That’s a lesson that shows how unreliable assessment and teacher judgement is, so why does the system persist in trying to prove otherwise?

‘Robinson believes that the current systems of mass education are outmoded, too standardised, and stifle true learning.

“My view of it is that in many respects they are modelled on principles of factory production, like, for example, we educate our kids in batches by age – all the three-year-olds, all the four-year-olds, shunting through the system. There’s no educational reason to do that – it’s an efficiency ideal.”’

http://bit.ly/2xdzIQN

When Schools Forgo Grades: An Experiment In Internal Motivation

‘Because grades are often required, and easy to understand, they have become the focus for many parents, teachers and students. The problem is that grades are often subjective, arbitrary and can be demotivating to students. They are also gatekeepers for advanced classes and college admissions, so grades can’t be ignored. This complicated dynamic means that grading policies are at the center of discussions around how to change teaching and learning.’

http://bit.ly/2is9ZAM

This is exactly how our society kills creativity, in a breathtaking short film.

“Do yourself a favor and take some time out of your daily grind to be charmed by this beautifully crafted animation into reflecting on the woeful values of our society.’

http://bit.ly/2vq3TSD

How To Engage In Pseudoscience With Real Data: A Criticism Of John Hattie’s Arguments In Visible Learning 

A long and technical article; however a skim read will give the gist of it, so henceforth you will treat Hattie’s pronouncements with a healthy dose of skepticism.

‘When taking the necessary in-depth look at Visible Learning with the eye of an expert, we find not a mighty castle but a fragile house of cards that quickly falls apart. This article offers a critical analysis of the methodology used by Hattie from the point of view of a statistician. We can spin stories from real data in an effort to communicate results to a wider audience, but these stories should not fall into the realm of fiction. We must therefore absolutely qualify Hattie’s methodology as pseudoscience.’

http://bit.ly/2v7HXk1

Kids Are Losing Playtime to Achievement. That’s a Problem.

‘The decline of play and rise of the overscheduled child has become a national concern. Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, says that kids learn from observation, practice, and support. Most of this is done through play. But what happens when we limit the time kids spend playing, and what does our obsession with “high achievement” say about our culture as a whole?’

http://bit.ly/2xualJH

Why no one wants to teach in New Zealand

‘Recent analysis also shows that teachers only tend to stay in the job for about five years. They often leave because they are burnt out by the demands of teaching, an increasingly narrow and prescriptive curriculum, and by policy initiatives that promise much, deliver very little, and are quickly replaced by some “new” policy that is equally ineffective and short term. No wonder it feels like ground zero out there for so many teachers.’

http://bit.ly/2wzwD07

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Three minutes to appreciate Finnish Schools

Michael Moore documentary clip on Finland’s school system.

http://bit.ly/2wGca9j

On the Wildness of Children: The Revolution Will Not Take Place in the Classroom

‘The truth is, we don’t know how to teach our children about nature because we ourselves were raised in the cinderblock world. We are, in the parlance of wildlife rehabilitators, unreleasable. I used to do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and the one thing we all knew was that a young animal kept too long in a cage would not be able to survive in the wild. Often, when you open the door to the cage, it will be afraid to go out; if it does go out, it won’t know what to do.  The world has become unfamiliar, an alien place. This is what we have done to our children.’

http://bit.ly/2vpHvc8

Noam Chomsky on the Dangers of Standardized Testing

‘The assessment itself is completely artificial. It’s not ranking teachers in accordance with their ability to help develop children who will reach their potential, explore their creative interests. Those things you’re not testing.. it’s a rank that’s mostly meaningless. And the very ranking itself is harmful. It’s turning us into individuals who devote our lives to achieving a rank. Not into doing things that are valuable and important.’

http://bit.ly/1waGc0j

Kids’ Creativity: Two Important Questions for Parents to Consider

‘Parents typically want to encourage their children’s creative expression. However, uncertainties and misconceptions about creativity abound. Here are two questions that merit thought and discussion—along with ideas so parents can foster kids’ creativity to the fullest.’

http://bit.ly/2vh1Ktb

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

An amoeba – a model for future change!

‘If we want to thrive, in what is being called the ‘Age of Creativity’, we need to see our organisations as living complex organisms able to create all sorts of wonderous things as we work in concert with each other. That’s more impressive than the simple amoeba. Schools as living communities – now that is a powerful metaphor.’

http://bit.ly/1hRC8eF

Educational change and leadership – bottom up!

‘The principal’s role is to ensure such gifts are affirmed and shared with other teachers. The principal’s role is to create the conditions for the expertise of teachers to be shared and to develop an overarching vision and agreed teaching beliefs for all to hold themselves accountable.’

http://bit.ly/1baSNPr

Beautiful minds – ‘in a world of their own’.

‘The capacity of the brain is infinite. Lucky for most of us so called ‘normal’ people our brains suppress, or filter out, most of the information coming our way but for the savants their brains take in everything in their particular sphere of interest without interference. It is as if they have no ‘delete’ button; their mind, like a ‘Google’ search, recalls everything! And as a result they miss out on capacities such as social and practical skills that we all take for granted.’

http://bit.ly/1AP1qD1

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Education Readings August 18th

By Allan Alach

Apologies for the absence of readings last week. I was hit by a double whammy – our internet connection went down for 48 hours, and then, as soon as that was restored, my computer decided to go on strike. In the end I had to erase the hard drive and reinstall everything. Being a wise person, I had good back ups so it was only an inconvenience rather than a disaster.

Do you have good backups in place, including some off site? Remember that there are two kinds of computers in the world – those that have had a major hard drive issue, and those that are going to have one… and once you’ve lost your data, that’s it.  Goodbye to all those precious photographs …

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Digital Natives Do Not Exist, Claims New Paper

But taken as a whole, digital natives might be a myth, argues a paper published in Teaching and Teacher Education. Students who grew up in the digital world are no better at information skills simply because they were born into such an era. The study also presents evidence that these supposed “digital natives” are no better at multitasking either. In fact, assuming that they do may harm their education.’

http://bit.ly/2v3oHPz

Fire pits and power tools good for preschoolers

‘While fire pits and real tools aren’t things you’d normally expect to find in an early childhood centre, new Australian research suggests that perhaps they should be.

Exposure to different “risks” within their preschool, including open flames hammers and saws, (yes, you read that correctly!) resulted in preschoolers developing more confidence, safety awareness and better risk assessment skills, according to a new study.

The findings, set to be published later this year, highlight the importance of risky play in a world where helicopter parenting is increasingly common.’

http://bit.ly/2w3igR7

Literate, Numerate or Curious?

‘Here’s an interesting question for your next workshop, faculty meeting, or maybe even a dinner party?

“Would you rather that your children were literate, numerate, or curious?” Pick one, and why?

For many, it’s a tough choice; for most, you want all three. But if you had to choose one, which one would it be? In case you’re wondering, yes this is a leading question, which I’ll get to in a moment. But I for one would want to start my response by first asking exactly what you mean by each of those three words.’

http://bit.ly/2uK7eAA

Talking about Creativity Is Fun, But How Do You Teach It?

‘Nothing in education engenders as many bumper sticker slogans as creativity. We want our kids to develop creative minds. But creativity is difficult to measure and so research in this area is scant, leaving us to our own devices. 

One common notion is that allowing students more freedom to express themselves fosters creativity. Along the same lines, many argue that strict educational systems dampen creativity.’

http://bit.ly/2wgGLds

I’ve got something to say by Gail Loane with Sally Muir

‘This book review encompasses just about everything that needs to be known about children’s writing and makes a mockery of the grotesque Wow! national standards-Hattie culture of today. As I go through the review, readers will come across small matters of difference between me and the authors; my preference being slightly less structure and even more emphasis on expressive writing. But if you based your writing programme on the tenets set out you would be doing famously.’

http://bit.ly/2uKbujk

The Squishiness of Writing Instruction

‘The problem with writing is that it’s squishy, probably squishier than anything else we teach. There is no solid metric for measuring how “good” a writer. Can you quantify how Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Chaucer, Kate Chopin, Carl Sagan, P.J.O’Rourke, Mark Twain, James Thurber, and S. E. Hinton stack up each other by measuring how “good” they are? Of course not– even the attempt would be absurd. Ditto for trying to give students a cold hard solid empirical writing rating.’

http://bit.ly/2wRAEKw

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Dear Justine Greening: your primary school reading reforms aren’t making the grade

‘How do you dress up the great Tory reading reforms as a stunning success if 29% aren’t at the expected level? Might there be a little bit of a problem that too much emphasis has been put on “decoding” and not enough on “meaning”? After all, the ultimate purpose of reading is to understand what it is you’re reading, isn’t it?’

http://bit.ly/2w2Q4hq

The idea you can put a number against a child’s ability is flawed and dangerous

Head teacher Alison Peacock sees the demise of levels as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how children are assessed nationally. But instead of simply replacing the old structure with a new one, she’d like to focus on enabling children to learn in a meaningful way so that assessment becomes “a tool for improvement rather than judgment”.The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous.’

http://bit.ly/2x60wRQ

Teaching and Purpose: A Response to Bill Gates and his Purpose Problem

‘I recently ran across Bill Gates’s blog. Gates ironically reflects on what it means to have purpose in one’s life.I say ironically, because many blame Bill Gates for the current push to replace teachers in our public schools with technology—calling it personalized or competency-based learning.Not only will teachers lose their profession and their purpose, a whole segment of society will be displaced—careers shattered.This will drastically affect how and what students learn. Even our youngest children will obtain their knowledge on machines.’

http://bit.ly/2w3fhIp

Schools Are Not A Business: Making Them Compete Is Insane

‘The real issue here is having schools compete for students. With this system in place, we will always see people abandoning schools in poor areas and heading for richer areas.

We need to abandon this idea that having schools compete somehow improves education. Looking at the international evidence, it simply doesn’t bear out in reality.

Schools and teachers should collaborate, learning from each other, and work to ensure that every local school is the school of choice.’

http://bit.ly/2wQW6PN

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Nigel Latta: The new ‘Haves and Have Nots’ – time for Moral Leadership in New Zealand

‘As we begin to focus on the upcoming elections Nigel Latta’s TV programme is timely. It is surely time to move away from on the personalities of leaders and to focus on the real issues facing our country. The programme was a serious attempt to get to the core of inequality in NZ and its consequences for us all.Once NZ had one of the highest home ownership figures in the world and we didn’t see examples of extreme wealth.’

http://bit.ly/1slX9hB

David Perkin’s Smart Schools

 Dreams are where the dilemma starts ’, Perkins writes – dreams about great schools. ‘We want our schools to deliver a great deal of knowledge and understanding to a great many people of differing talents with a great range of interests and a great variety of cultural and family backgrounds. Quite a challenge – and why aren’t we better at it.’ Some, he would say, is because ‘We don’t know enough. ’Perkins, though, thinks they’re wrong, ‘We know enough now to do a much better job’. The problem comes down to this, ‘we are not putting to work what we know.’ ‘We do not have a knowledge gap – we have a monumental use – of – knowledge gap’. Schools that use what we know he calls ‘smart schools’.

http://bit.ly/1ZGuzro

Education Readings August 4th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Why there’s no such thing as a gifted child

‘… the latest neuroscience and psychological research suggests most people, unless they are cognitively impaired, can reach standards of performance associated in school with the gifted and talented. However, they must be taught the right attitudes and approaches to their learning and develop the attributes of high performers – curiosity, persistence and hard work, for example – an approach Eyre calls “high performance learning”. Critically, they need the right support in developing those approaches at home as well as at school.’

http://bit.ly/2uXP9xf

Challenging the Status Quo in Mathematics

‘In short, building relationships between how to solve a problem and why it’s solved that way helps students use what they already know to solve new problems that they face. Students with a truly conceptual understanding can see how methods emerged from multiple interconnected ideas; their relationship to the solution goes deeper than rote drilling.’

http://bit.ly/2ulAs3B

Renowned Harvard Psychologist Says ADHD Is Largely A Fraud

‘Kagan’s analysis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) concludes that it is more of an invented condition rather than a serious illness. Moreover, he thinks that the pharmaceutical industries and psychiatrists have invented the disorder because of money-making reasons.’

http://bit.ly/2u5vJaV

Guess What? We’re All Born With Mathematical Abilities

‘And also their ability to engage in cardinal reasoning i.e. knowing that the number three — when you see it on a page or hear someone say “three” — that it means exactly three, which is really at the root of our ability to count. This cardinality, in particular, seems to be the most important skill that we can measure at a very young age and then predict whether kids are going to be succeeding in a much broader assessment of math achievement when they enter kindergarten.’

http://bit.ly/2vk8iKG

What Works For Getting Kids to Enjoy Reading?

‘So in fact, getting kids to read will not only improve their reading, it will make them like reading more. Getting children to like reading more in order to prompt more reading is not our only option. We can reverse it—get them reading more, and that will improve reading attitudes and reading self-concept. Well then, how do we prompt a child with negative or indifferent attitudes toward reading to pick up a book?’

http://bit.ly/2vr0err

Harry Potter’s world: keeping spaces for magic making in our schools

‘We need to ensure that the spaces for creative writing and creative learning are not squeezed out of formal education and that the inspiration of Harry Potter and friends can continue to provide the means for young (and not so young people) to become immersed in real/non-real, familiar/strange and magical worlds that can become the gateway to new forms of creating understanding, being and becoming.’

http://bit.ly/2ulxVGG

Digital curriculum completely misses the point

‘I was surprised by the release of the draft digital technologies curriculum content (DTCC) a few weeks ago. Actually, I should say blind-sided. It wasn’t that a digital focus was coming to our curriculum that shocked me (it is well overdue), but rather the rigidity and narrowness of the document. I believe the DTCC has completely missed the point of education, and the place and purpose of digital technologies.’

http://bit.ly/2fa3Urn

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

I Am Not A Hero Teacher

‘However, when the day is done, students often are reluctant to leave. They cluster about in the hall or linger in the classroom asking questions, voicing concerns, just relieved that there’s someone there they can talk to. And that’s reason enough for me to stay. The odds are stacked against me. Help isn’t coming from any corner of our society. But sometimes despite all of that, I’m actually able to get things done. Everyday it seems I help students understand something they never knew before. I’ve become accustomed to that look of wonder, the aha moment. And I helped it happen!’

http://bit.ly/2f9YoFn

How to Be a “Great Student” and Learn Absolutely Nothing At All

‘What happens when you take a child from her sandbox — where she has learned to get dirty, play, laugh, and see the world with wide, curious eyes —to lock her into a “regime of fear” where the new Gods are efficiency and optimization?

Will she still build sand castles?’

http://bit.ly/2uldPMO

How Data is Destroying Our Schools

‘There are teachers who will read this and think I am wrong.  They have heard the drum-beat of data-driven education since they first decided to become teachers, and they – like me, a few years back – still believe that the data is meant for them.

It isn’t.

Data is destroying education, and we need to stop it before it is too late.’

http://bit.ly/2w8bTZZ

Adora Svitak on developing creativity: We need ‘childish’ thinking

‘Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.She also notes that “childish” is often associated, dismissively, with irrational thinking – but says in some cases we can, and do, truly benefit from irrationality.’

http://bit.ly/2u1NdRm

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Education is about playing the whole game 

‘David Perkin’s point is that formal learning rarely gives students a chance to learn to ‘play a whole game’. All too often learning by teaching isolated ‘elements’ first or students are required to ‘learn about’ things because of distant future need. In both cases ( one resulting in a ‘piecemeal’ curriculum the other lacking personal relevance) students struggle to see the point of learning. Perkins contrasts this ‘mindlessness’ to learning a new game. Education , Perkins writes, ‘aims to help people learn what they cannot pick as they go along’ unlike, he say, learning ones first language.’

http://bit.ly/1PxqsZB

Guy Claxton – building learning power.

‘Claxton’s message was that by focusing on developing students ‘learning power’ ( NZs ‘key competencies’) teachers and their students will cope the standards without too much anxiety. As Claxton quoted, ‘Are we preparing our students for a life of tests or the tests of life?’We need , he said, ‘To provide our students with the emotional and cognitive resources to become the ‘confident, connected, life long learners’; the vision of the NZ Curriculum. To achieve this is all about powerful pedagogy.’

http://bit.ly/1G23Q2m

Education Readings July 28th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Clay in school

‘Primary-school children find clay a wonderfully tactile medium to tell their stories.

The manipulation of clay has a universal fascination for children. When given a tennis-ball sized piece of clay they immediately poke, squeeze, stretch, and roll it into a variety of forms. They add or pull out legs, arms, wings, and horns.  With pinched out lips, noses, scales, buttons and attached pellet eyes, hair and spikes, their clay models possess a directness and dynamism that only this process can provide.’

http://bit.ly/2tL4DFM

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

‘New research suggests that children as young as 3 already are beginning to recognize and follow important rules and patterns governing how letters in the English language fit together to make words.’

http://bit.ly/2tLfoYK

11 brutal truths about creativity that no one wants to talk about

‘Sorry to break it to you, but while creativity is awesome and important, it’s not the be-all and end-all.

If you’re going to do your best creative work — and isn’t that what we all want? — then it’s time to accept these 11 brutal truths about creativity.’

http://bit.ly/2uyYtr4

What Students Remember Most About Teachers

‘And as I looked at you, wearing all that worry and under all that strain, I said it’s about being there for your kids. Because at the end of the day, most students won’t remember what amazing lesson plans you’ve created. They won’t remember how organized your bulletin boards are. How straight and neat are the desk rows.

No, they’ll not remember that amazing decor you’ve designed.’

http://edut.to/2uyUScM

Standards: Why Realizing the Full Promise of Education Requires a Fresh Approach

Yong Zhao:

‘Furthermore, he believes that serving the best interest of all students requires a very different approach that starts with a paradigm shift in how we view education. Attempts to standardize individual student outcomes are an unhelpful, if not downright harmful, way to promote the development of human beings, he says. Instead, “we need to start with the individual child, instead of what others think [that child] should become.”’

http://bit.ly/2tEBvvL

So…What Exactly Should Curriculum Planning Look Like – for 2017/18? (Part 01)

Wisdom from Tony Gurr (read to the very end before you explode…).

‘I know, I know…most of us are still on holiday…but I am sure there are a few of us out there that are (already) experiencing anxiety about some of the tasks we have to complete when we get back to the factory floor. Especially, if a new textbook was selected just before the semester ended…

Do NOT worry…I am here to help you get over that anxiety and give you the PERFECT curriculum planning tool – shiriously!’

http://bit.ly/2uZfBav

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

How this small country school is turning a profit from the land

‘When a small Northland school was faced with the problem of what to do with their too-large grounds, a bunch of enterprising students came up with their own international award-winning solutions and everyone is now reaping the benefits.’

http://bit.ly/2v66bKX

A Stressed System – We Need To Act Now

‘We are existing in a stressed system.  Children are stressed and show this through behaviour, reluctance to try, opting out.  Teachers are stressed and find it difficult to keep up with what is going on and all of the expectations placed on them and Principals are stressed, spending more and more time on compliance and less time supporting the children, parents and teachers in their school.  I know that a system under stress while it can continue to function, gradually shows signs of this stress, and we are seeing these signs throughout our schools on a daily basis.’

http://bit.ly/2vZ1EpU

Students’ test scores tell us more about the community they live in than what they know

‘Research shows that the outcomes of standardized tests don’t reflect the quality of instruction, as they’re intended to. The results show that it’s possible to predict the percentages of students who will score proficient or above on some standardized tests. We can do this just by looking at some of the important characteristics of the community, rather than factors related to the schools themselves, like student-teacher ratios or teacher quality.’

http://bit.ly/2eMtt1H

Ofsted says non-stop testing is bad for kids. Too late, mate

‘The head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, has just declared that “a good inspection outcome will follow” only if schools are providing “a broad and rich curriculum”, and not just creating “exam scribes”. Excuse me while I scream and cram myself into the fridge to stop my blood boiling, because Ofsted is rather late off the mark with this idea. About 30 years too late.’

http://bit.ly/2v6xnt5

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Why schools don’t educate.

Notes taken from John Taylor Gatto’s acceptance speech as New York Teacher of the Year 1990

‘Compulsory schooling is an invention of the state and in the early days in the US school attendance was resisted and children learnt to read at home – today home schooling is on the increase and these students are testing higher than their schoolmates.Gatto doesn’t believe we will get rid of schools anytime soon but that if we’re going to change what is rapidly becoming a disaster of ignorance we need to realize what school do well even if it does not ‘educate’. He believes that it is impossible for education and schooling to be the same thing.’

http://bit.ly/2bWvrc6

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

‘Somehow, just because Hattie has amalgamated every piece of ‘school effectiveness’ research available ( mainly it seems from the USA) his findings, it seems, ought to be taken for read. The opposite ought to be the case – we need to be very wary of such so called ‘meta research.’. More worrying however is that the approaches he is peddling is pushing into the background the home grown innovative creative learning centred philosophy that was once an important element in many classrooms. Overseas experts always seem to know best – or those that return with their carpet bag full of snake oil.’

http://bit.ly/WeTrMo

Education for the student’s future or for our past?

‘A small country like New Zealand has a a great chance to develop a creative education system if it had the wit, the imagination and the intelligence to do so at the top. But to do this it would need to get rid of the constraints that currently diminish such a possibility. By tapping into ideas from such countries as Finland, by listening to creative teachers and schools , by inviting real educationists to visit , and most of all by having a real conversation with all communities about what they want for all their children, it could be done. There is plenty of wisdom to be tapped and it sure is not limited to those who skulk around the corridors of power.’

http://bit.ly/2uvCyRX

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter Three

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 3

Justice Concerns and Educational Malpractices

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Historically in Western thought justice along with fortitude, prudence and temperance has been considered one of the four cardinal virtues. Comte-Sponville considers it the only cardinal virtue “that is an absolute good in itself.” The other virtues can be considered good only in certain contexts; for where is the prudence in being so cautious as to not venture forth in the world for fear of calamity, in being courageous (fortitude) in a cause that is evil such as a suicide bomber who kills innocent people, or in temperance in being so ascetic with satisfying bodily desires–eating, drinking, making love so as to deny ourselves those simple pleasures?

The two components or types of justice are: justice as agreement and compliance with the law and justice as equity and fairness. I concur only with justice being a “good in itself” when it is concerned with fairness and equity (a difficult state to determine) but not when the justice of what we are dealing with is the law and the law is itself unjust in fairness and equity. Aristotle said “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” For ancient Greeks like Aristotle and Socrates whatever the law dictated was what was just, so much so that Socrates refused help to escape his sentence to death for impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. He believed that fulfilling the social contract, the law of the time in carrying out the death sentence was the only course of justice. Was justice really served by his legal execution, even if self-inflicted? I leave the answer to others as it is beyond the scope of this book to delve into all the justice concerns involved with Socrates death.

Ideally laws would satisfy and ensure equity and fairness concerns obtain. But it doesn’t take much to realize that many laws are not just in equity and fairness concerns. Mankind, as noble as Aristotle may have wished, can indeed be less than noble than animals in the application of laws. But we humans do judge, especially in regards to issues of educational practices.

Aristotle also said “The just, then is the lawful and fair, the unjust the unlawful and unfair.” True justice therefore consists of laws, rules, policies and practices that promote the most equity and highest degree of fairness. Aristotle’s definition serves well as a starting point in analyzing, and in judging whether an educational practice is just with the caveat that, as Comte-Sponville notes, “morality and justice come before legality, at least where the essentials are concerned. . . . And what is essential? Freedom for all, the dignity of the individual and the rights of others.”

Combining our justice concerns with the fundamental purposes of education as described above we can establish a guiding principle with which to judge educational practices and outcomes: An educational policy and/or practice is just when it promotes the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.

Furthermore we must keep in mind as Comte-Sponville notes that “justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number.” For example educational practices such as grading, the testing and selection criterion for entry to “magnet schools” or select public schools, or standardized tests like the ACT when mandated as compulsory by the state and whose results are used by post-secondary institutions to sort and separate and therefore reward and punish students either through selection or denial of admittance should be rejected as being unjust due to the inherent discriminatory nature of those practices even if they are valuable for efficiency in selection for various institutions.

Continuing with Comte-Sponville’s thoughts in his chapter on justice: “without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy. . . without justice, values would be nothing more than interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.” In other words there can be no promoting of the welfare of, the well-being of the student as outlined in our fundamental purpose of public education without the entirety of justice being considered. Without justice considerations public education quickly devolves into a “what’s best for me” scenario in a Spencerian atmosphere of dog eat dog rule of the jungle.

Although both types of justice, as law and as equity and fairness are important in this study of educational malpractices it is the latter that are more applicable and important. The blind and uncompromising application of the law, of educational directives of federal, state or local origin can be viewed as a corruption of justice. Aristotle states that “the equitable is just” while also stating that equitable justice is “but a correction of legal justice.” Or as Comte-Sponville makes clear “Let us say that equity, which is not different from justice but a form of it, is applied justice, living justice, concrete justice—true justice. . . Justice does not make just people, people make justice.”

So where does that leave us when educational practices are found to be conceptually error filled resulting in invalid outcomes that by definition are unjust, that end up discriminating against many students? Lamentably, the vast majority of educators choose expediency-legal justice over justice as equity and slough off justice as equity concerns. A brave few though have challenged the unjust malpractices of the status quo usually paying a heavy price in personal health, welfare in family and professional life. Those brave souls have followed a perhaps not well known American tradition, that of civil disobedience. Let us finish up our discussion of justice with the words of an American author and philosopher who knew well the deprivations (time spent in prison) of civil disobedience:

“The mass of men [and women] serves the state [education powers that be] thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, [bureaucrats, administrators and teachers], etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.”– Henry David Thoreau [my additions]

And one last thought from Mahatma Gandhi “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” Mahatma Gandhi.


For a complete discussion of Justice see Comte-Sponville’s “A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues” Chapter 6 Justice.

Education Readings July 21st

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Ivan Snook: Assessing teachers – a plea for caution

‘In recent discussion of teaching in New Zealand it has been assumed that the achievement of students and schools can be directly attributed to the work of teachers. In its most naïve form, the claim is made that “good teachers” (that is those whose students achieve good grades) should be singled out (and somehow rewarded) and those who do not should be identified (and somehow punished). The report points out how wrong-headed this proposal is since it takes no account of the nature of the students or the progress they may make over a period of time.’

http://bit.ly/2tEFI1Z

Lifelong teachers require slow-burn training

‘New modern learning environments, increasing diversity and the ever-changing world of technology demand new skills and knowledge from teachers. How should we prepare teachers in times like these?

Well that depends on the teachers we want.’

http://bit.ly/2tEQLrL

Learning vs Education

‘Life is always teaching us things, whether we notice it or not. It teaches us lessons by giving us experiences. We cannot not learn at all. For the education system, this is when the school system programs your mind by indoctrinating you with often, false ideas and beliefs, while the average person denies or even defends this.’

http://bit.ly/2uAVI9i

How to Design a School That Prioritizes Kindness and Caring

‘Abri Weissman, a senior who heads up the Making Character Count Committee, has seen a ripple effect of kindness spreading through the school, especially during the second semester. Without prompting, friends have told her stories about sweet gestures coming from classmates, none of which originated in her committee. She sees students from different grades opening up to each other, and being friendlier—a result, she believes, of the mix-it-up exercises. The morning music and enthusiastic greetings have had a positive effect, she added.’

http://bit.ly/2tgWZ1S

Brain-training games ‘do not boost cognition’

Debunking of yet another fad…

‘The past decade has seen a rise in popularity of brain-training games that claim to improve a range of mental skills. However, a recent study that measured brain activity, decision-making, and cognitive ability found that playing commercial brain games offered no benefits above those of playing online video games.’

http://bit.ly/2uB74uf

Factors Contributing to School Success by Disadvantaged Students

‘A new US study contributes to this by examining disadvantaged students’ own perceptions of what it takes to succeed at school. It found that strong peer relationships, caring supportive teachers, family and community support, and strong motivations all contribute significantly to school success by disadvantaged students.’

http://bit.ly/2gLL7mH

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Policies root of school failures

‘New Zealand’s education system is failing due to poor policy-making decisions based on skimpy scientific analysis, some of the country’s leading education experts say. A new report released by the Education Policy Response Group slams the Treasury’s agenda for education, saying it is fundamentally flawed.’

http://bit.ly/2u8EG1z

Difference Between Knowing and Understanding

‘Finding the difference between knowing and understanding can be difficult. It is hard to find a distinction between the two because they are both abstract processes of the mind and the brain. Being able to know their differences can lead us to a better awareness of ourselves, who we are, and what we want.’

http://bit.ly/2tExpTU

Educational doping: how our school system encourages fake achievement

Think of a place where doping is both prevalent and systemic in a public institution and you’re probably thinking sports in Russia or East Germany, right? I’m going to argue that such doping occurs right here in New Zealand – in our education system. I don’t, of course, mean that schools are secretly feeding students speed before exams.  Rather, it’s what happens when learners are helped to achieve assessment results that exceed their actual levels of capability.’

http://bit.ly/2toevoS

Digital Technologies and Research

‘While the potential of technology to support teaching and learning is well established, an understanding of how to integrate technology in ways that are pedagogically sound and enriching for both young people and educators is less certain.’

http://bit.ly/2u6BVfr

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Henry Pluckrose – creative educator

“‘Henry Pluckrose, who has just died at the age of 79, was one of the most inspiring teachers of his generation. He believed that children have intellectual, emotional and aesthetic capacities that few adults realise and too few schools exploit’. From Guardian Newspaper obituary. As a teacher ‘his classroom resembled an artist’s studio, buzzing with activity and creative energy. Arts in the broadest sense formed the basis of his curriculum; not just art and craft, but also drama, music , poetry and dance. He gave particular emphasis to direct personal experience, taking children to museums, art galleries, churches, historic buildings, woods, fields and parks.’”

http://bit.ly/17FbdHV

At last – a book by an inspirational teacher.

“’Welcome to the Aquarium’ is a compelling personal account of teaching full of wise advice on how to set up and maintain an effective and caring classroom. I can’t think of any recent book which talks about teaching through the eyes of a teacher. It is wonderful change from the dry academic books on education that are more commonly available; books that develop their ‘wisdom’ from a safe academic distance.”

http://bit.ly/2uHem00

Education Readings July 14th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Teachers Don’t Want All This Useless Data

‘One of the most frustrating things I’ve ever been forced to do as a teacher is to ignore my students and concentrate instead on the data.’

http://bit.ly/2u7mXZl

Is teacher burnout contagious?

‘Burnout among young teachers appears to be contagious, indicates a new study. It found a significant link between burnout among early-career teachers and exposure to both a school-wide culture of burnout and burnout among the young teachers’ closest circle of colleagues.’

http://bit.ly/2uPihF1

Making Cyberschool Creepier

Looking forward to the ‘digital curriculum’? Maybe you should read this.

‘Do you think that cyber-education is just kind of creepy, with students sitting alone in the glow of a computer screen, navigating hundreds of little standardized quizlets and activities, their every keystroke and answer compiled in an undying data file that will follow those students around forever. Do you find it hard to imagine how it could be worse? Well, a company called LCA Learning has found a way.’

http://bit.ly/2tHkT9h

Reading With Your Children: Proper Books Vs Tablets

‘Increasing screen use is a reality, but does it contribute to a loss of interest in reading, and does reading from a screen provide the same experience as the feel of reading on paper?

We looked at this in our research on shared reading. This has been a neglected topic even though it is clearly a common context for children when they read at home. It might be their regular homework reading of a book from school, or a parent reading them a favourite bedtime story.’

http://bit.ly/2ufWdp5

Being Busy Is Killing Our Ability to Think Creatively

This article is targeted at adults but is easily adapted to the classroom situation.

‘Little good comes from being distracted yet we seem incapable of focusing our attention. Among many qualities that suffer, recent research shows creativity takes a hit when you’re constantly busy. Being able to switch between focus and daydreaming is an important skill that’s reduced by insufferable business.’ 

http://bit.ly/2tcPDvk

Some unpopular thoughts on teacher evaluation

‘I’ve been working on teacher evaluation for most of my career as a teacher, administrator, and teacher educator; first being evaluated, then doing the evaluation as an assistant principal and subject area coordinator, then helping design a state-wide beginning teacher evaluation initiative. After nearly 40 years in education, all I can say is that the current system is the worst I’ve ever seen.’

http://bit.ly/2uaV0Qd

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Here’s Einstein’s Advice to His Son on How to Accelerate Learning

‘Geniuses might be distinguished by their ability to grasp incredible complexity, but that doesn’t mean if you somehow managed to corner one the greatest minds in history for a chat you’d be perplexed by what they had to say. According to Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman, the true hallmark of genius is the ability to explain things simply.’

http://bit.ly/2t2zzRw

Why ‘Unlearning’ Old Habits Is An Essential Step For Innovation

‘Teachers are increasingly being asked to embrace new ideas and styles of teaching, but schools don’t always give their educators time or the mental space to absorb and apply those concepts. That’s why the idea of “unlearning” was worth exploring for Beaver Country Day School, a private 6-12 school in Massachusetts, which serves as something of a lab for unlearning in practice.’

http://bit.ly/2ugAbDr

No classrooms, lessons or homework: New Zealand school where children are free to roam

‘Deep among the streams and Kauri trees of rural south Auckland, New Zealand’s newest and most alternative school is in session. The weather is fine so a bout of fishing is in order, followed by lunch cooked on an open fire. Homework and classes? Indefinitely dismissed.“We are called a school but we look nothing like any school out there,” says Joey Moncarz, co-founder and head teacher at Deep Green Bush School, which is in term two of its inaugural year.“We don’t do things like telling kids it is time to write or learn maths. When they are interested in doing it, they do it.”’

http://bit.ly/2t2haoe

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Messages about education.

What messages are students getting from their schooling?

‘I have been reading an article on the web about the pressures being placed on young children and their teachers in the United States to achieve expectations set by standardized tests. In the process teachers have had to narrow their curriculum to ensure their school does well when results are published.  Another article described a young student who has been held back twice and now is three years older than her classmates because she obviously hadn’t passed appropriate tests. This is what happens when politicians impose simplistic solutions to complex problems.What ‘messages’ about learning, and American culture, are being given by such an education?’

http://bit.ly/1KWBtml

On Knowing – Jerome Bruner 

“The themes Jerome Bruner covers in his book concern the process of knowing, how knowing is shaped and how it in turn gives form to language science, literature and art. The symbolism of the left hand is that of the dreamer – the right that of the practical doer.The areas of hunches and intuition, Bruner writes, has been all too often overwhelmed by an ‘imposed fetish of objectivity’…’The lock step of learning theory in this country has been broken, though it is still the standard village dance’. Today we still have those ( usually politicians) who wish to test for learning ignoring, according to Bruner, that ‘it is difficult to catch and record, no less understand, the swift flight of man’s mind operating at its best.’”

http://bit.ly/Vn6Str

Fundamentals in education 

‘If we are concerned with the education the full potential of all students then how we ‘see’ the mind, how we imagine we learn, is important. We are, hopefully, well past the ‘blank slate’ or the ‘filling the jug’ metaphors, long the basis of traditional ‘one size fits all’ schooling.’

http://bit.ly/13b5vRO