Friday, November 6, 2015

Joel Westheimer's talk on citizenship and education

I had the pleasure of skipping hockey tonight to listen to Joel Westheimer talk about citizenship and education. Here is some of what I learned:

  • Students may rarely see teachers being human because they see them so often just in their classroom teaching. Students rarely get to see teachers engage with other adults and agree and disagree in a way that model citizenship.
  • In the last few decades, we have seen a narrowing of the curriculum to literacy and numeracy. We have moved away from broad goals of schooling to very narrow academic goals that can be measured on bubble tests.
  • Imagine you were visiting a school in a totalitarian nation governed by a single-party dictatorship. Would the educational experiences be markedly different from the ones experienced by children in your local school?
  • Should anything be different from schools in a totalitarian dictatorship and a school in a democracy?
  • What responsibility do schools have to be democratic so that children can grow up to be adults who are democratic?
  • Having standards is not the same as standardization
  • Census testing is an unnecessary burden. Sample testing tells what we need to know and more efficiently. 
  • There is no teacher who belongs to the group of teachers who don't care about whether children learn how to read, write or do arithmetic. Most teachers want more than the basics for every child they teach. The back to basics movement is a straw man argument that needlessly attacks teachers.
  • The Alberta Teachers' Association's A Great School for All is impressive. 
  • We don't remember teachers who successfully made their classroom more uniform or standardized with other teachers.
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) may be an unintended consequence to standardization of curriculum and assessment in schools. 
  • There is a disturbing trend among teachers' professional learning communities. Standardization is trumping quality.
  • Teacher's "subjective" grades are a better predictor of students' successes in post-secondary than the "objective scores" from standardized tests and the SAT.
  • Opt out movement from standardized testing in the United States is picking up remarkable steam.
  • Economists don't know much about the economy and yet they speak about education like they know what they are talking about.
  • Less of life is about individual accomplishments and more about collective teamwork.
  • In the workplace, people who work together are called collaborative. In school, students who help each other out are called cheaters.

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