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 thinking skills.
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 eliminate poverty.
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.
Category: Additional Topics
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
May 23, 2013
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