Critical thinking... for adults
Perhaps it’s in the air, like the flu bug. But I’ve noticed a rash
of hacking statements of late, made by adults, that makes me wonder who
among our edu-cators and -crats need a refresher course in critical
Here’s one from Michael Powell in the New York Times,
rebutting Michael Bloomberg’s suggestion that we cut the number of
teachers in half and pay the remaining ones twice the salary:
In fact, studies show class size makes a substantial
difference in lower grades. Studies are more ambiguous about higher
grades. Prof. Aaron M. Pallas of Teachers College at Columbia University
says no academic study has explored the effects of doubling the size of
a public school classroom.
Is that a string of non-sequitors or what? Powell goes on
to tell stories about his sons and a friend who teaches in Brooklyn
Technical High School. But the subject of “studies” that do and don’t
show something — anything! — is dropped.
Here’s one from Tom Ash,
legislative director for the Buckeye [Ohio] Association of School
Administrators, speaking about international test results and what makes
some countries more successful:
It’s not just the number of facts you can regurgitate, it’s whether you have developed the ability to learn.”
Why does vomiting facts suggest an inability to learn? What if we
merely wrote the facts? Slowly spoke them? What is it about facts that
so bothers educators?
Finally, from Bridging Differences blogger Diane Ravitch, apropos, what else, poverty:
One of the central claims of the corporate-reform
movement is that poverty is not destiny and that a school staffed with
great teachers can eliminate poverty.
Perhaps there’s a typo somewhere in that sentence. Great teachers
eliminate poverty? I think even the coarsest of coarse leaders of the
“corporate-reform movement” (does she really mean corporate-reform
movement, which would seem to suggest an alliance with the Occupy Wall
Street campers?) would not claim that teachers of any stripe can
But the bigger question is, Have we reached such a low-point in the
use of language that such incomprehensible statements – if you stop to
ponder them for more than a Tweet second — have become part of the daily
dialogue in education reform? Newt Gingrich
looks pretty tame in comparison. But the problem is that issues like
class size, the importance of content (facts), and poverty deserve more
than lame and lazy rhetoric to support their causes. They need the
facts, pure and uncontaminated by ideology and partisanship.