Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Gumby Syllogism

So many education proposals seem to rest on this logic: “It would be great if everyone knew x. Therefore we must make everyone learn x.” If kids were Gumby figurines, whom we could just twist into whatever poses we wanted them to assume, this syllogism might make perfect sense. But kids actually have minds of their own, and individual personalities and predispositions, and emotions, and desires, including the desire for control over their own lives. In other words, they are human beings, and can’t be counted on—any more than adults could be counted on—to go willingly along with someone else’s plan to “improve” them.

When I wrote, about E.D. Hirsch, that “it’s as if he’s completely excluded psychology from learning theory,” that’s what I was getting at. (Not to mention the other age-old obstacles to implementing grand schemes, such as human error, inefficiency, corruption, and susceptibility to snake-oil salesmen.)

When people start wishing away the fact that kids have minds of their own, or seeing it as an obstacle to education, something has gone very wrong.


Karen W said...

And also: "It would be great if schools did x. Therefore we must make every school do x."

With x being raise teacher pay, implement teacher leadership programs, move to competency based education, open charters, adopt PBIS etc.

Some people are also wishing away the fact that communities have their own ideas, priorities, and values about public education and seeing local control as an obstacle too.

Chris said...

Karen -- I agree. Maybe people will become more sensitive to the way kids are treated in school, now that they themselves are treated in a very similar fashion by education reformers.