Sunday, March 28, 2010
Taylor Mali is a joke
I don't disagree with Seth Godin often. I think he gets most things bang on, but words can't express how disapointed I was when I saw Taylor Mali make Seth's Blog.
Let's take a look at Taylor Mali's little poem:
"I can make kids work harder" - Kids don't work, they learn. Making education metaphorical with business is precisely what has gotten us in the mess we are in today. Policy makers that are pedagogically further removed from the classroom than they are geographically are responsible for too much of what is wrong with school today.
"I can make a C- feel like a congressional medal of honor, and I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face." Of course you can, Taylor. This is true because grades can only ever be experienced by children as a reward or punishment. Do you really want to take credit for that? Extrinsically manipulating children to coerce them to learn with carrots and sticks is hardly something to brag about. You're a bully.
"How dare you waste my time!" That sounds awfully conditional, Taylor. You realize that kids don't need their teacher to be a judge-in-waiting that they must learn to keep their distance from, right? You realize that what they really need is a teacher who will unconditionally accept them for who they are, right? Right?
"I make kids sit through study hall for 40 minutes in absolute silence." Learning is a social exercise - it isn't often that we learn best in isolation - and in the real world collaboration is not cheating. Beyond that, what are they studying for? The state-mandated, high-stakes standardized test? Taylor, are you really proud of wasting 40 minutes of study time when your students could have been doing real learning?
"No you may not work in groups?" Why not, Taylor? How will children learn to collaborate if you arbitrarily decide they can't. And then when you do provide them with the privilege of working together, and they screw it up, you'll blame them because they don't know how to work together. Be honest, Taylor, the quiet classroom is more for you than it is for them. Cui bono?.
"No you may not ask me a question." Again, why not, Taylor? Are you their teacher who is there to guide them and coach them to better learning or are you just a supervisor? The more I listen to you, the more I believe it is the latter.
"No you may not go to the bathroom." Taylor, as an adult, when was the last time you had to even ask to go the bathroom? And as an adult, when was the last time you were told that you couldn't go? And, as an adult, if you were told 'no', what would be your reaction?
"You're bored and you don't really have to go to the bathroom." Taylor, I'll give you 3 guesses why they are bored. I'll give you a hint. It has something to do with that 40 minutes of solitary confinement you love so much.
"I make parents tremble in fear when I call home." I have no idea how this could possibly be a good thing. EVER. Shameful.
"To the biggest bully in the class, he said..." Was this boy speaking to you, Taylor?
"I make kids wonder." No Taylor, at best you make them want to wander. As in wander out of your classroom because you can't make someone do anything and make them like it.
"I make them apologize." Yes, you made them say the word 'sorry', but 'sorry' isn't a word. It's a feeling. I doubt you were ever able to make someone feel sorry... in a good way.
"I make the write, write, write. I make them read." If they could spot a comma splice or a Shakespeare quote from a block away, but they swear to God they'll never pick up a pen or book again, what have you accomplished? Where there's interest, achievement follows. Where there's disinterest, boredom and misbehavior sets in. Montaigne once wrote if students lack "appetite and affection" for learning, they become little more than "asses loaded with books."
"I make them spell..." Sounds like you make your kids sit down for a spell. It also sounds like the real choice you give kids is that we either let them use invented spelling or we don't let them write at all. Wow, how honorable of you.
We can't test our way to a better education, nor can we bully kids to better learning, while our fixation on quantity and control continue to do a massive disservice for our children.
I hope you see Taylor Mali as the joke he really is. And Seth, I hope you can see it too.