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Exposing the 'critical thinking skills' myth...,
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This review is from: Why Don't Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom (Hardcover)Ever since New Labour came to power in 1997, professional educators and administrators have been assiduously promoting radical changes designed to renew the progressive agenda which was thoroughly discredited in the 1980s and 1990s. They've dressed up tired old ideas with new slogans: our children are now supposed to be learning '21st century skills' and 'learning to learn'. Instead of child-centred learning, we now have 'personalised learning'--in their fantasy world, these people really seem to believe that teachers have the time to design lessons which match each child's 'learning style'. High school teachers often have to teach over 200 pupils--one can only wonder what fantasy world our educators (and New Labour) live in.
Of course, our progressive educators make it sound very convincing, citing numerous studies conducted at the Institute of Education and other prestigous institutions. However, educators live in a hermetically-sealed world, where other serious disciplines are generally ignored. Dan Willingham, a distinguished American cognitive scientist, exposes the fraudulent nature of progressive mythology. Children cannot learn all-purpose 'critical thinking skills'--why anyone supposed they could is a complete mystery. If you want to master any serious academic discipline, there aren't any shortcuts: you really do need to know a lot. The web won't help you--if you don't know a lot about a subject already, the information you find won't mean much to you.
This book is superbly written. Willingham makes his points with well-chosen examples. It is written at the level of the educated lay reader--it's a good introduction to a complex subject, and it deals with learning at a level that parents and teachers will be able to understand. If you have any interest at all in education, buy this book--it will open your eyes.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Nov 2009 11:30:30 GMT
Sam C says:
This review is marred by the bizarre belief that bureaucratic and poorly-informed interference in schools (and universities) is solely a hobby of New Labour. The current (not for long?) administration's education policies are a direct continuation of Conservative education policy under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and part of the worldwide rise of neoliberal politics in every field, not just education, since the late '70s.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2009 18:11:23 GMT
T. Burkard says:
Of course, New Labour didn't invent child-centred education--that dubious distinction belongs to Jean Jacques Rousseau. However, until 1997, progressive thinking was on the defensive in Britain, more so than anywhere else in the English-speaking world. Although officials and educators managed to neuter the reforms instituted under Thatcher and Major, command-and-control mechanisms were put in place which enabled ambitious educationalists to start running 'personalised learning' and other atrocities. And, ironically, Tony Blair is no fan of progressive education--he chose London Oratory for Euan, a school that was then run by John MacIntosh, who maintained the highest intellectual standards. He even employed Andrew Adonis to head his policy unit, and Andrew is unquestionably on the side of the angels. Blair's support in the synthetic phonics battle proved crucial. But his failure to establish effective cabinet government meant that he was too weak to oppose his officials who are mostly true believers in 'neoliberal politics'. Since Blair left, the creepie-crawlies have really started streaming out from under cover. Perhaps it's not altogether fair to blame New Labour, but they have actively colluded in the Every Child Matters and the Children's Plan, both measures designed to cement progressive doctrine in place. Like most politicians, Ed Balls probably doesn't give a damn one way or the other, but he sure knows what side his bread is buttered on. Michael Gove and Nick Gibb, on the other hand, and the first Tory education shadows I have met who really do care passionately about defending what's left of our cultural and intellectual heritage.
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Jun 2010 20:56:25 BDT
I don't want to defend what happened later, as it certainly did drift into the usual porridge of educational progressives, but I have to point out that from 1997-2001 (i.e. when Blunkett was education secretary) schools were pushed away from "child-centred education" and towards interactive whole class teaching.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Aug 2010 15:45:37 BDT
T. Burkard says:
I taught in a Norwich comprehensive between 1996 and 1999, and if there was any 'push' towards interactive whole-class teaching during that time, it sure passed us by. This said, no one stopped me from teaching this way. I think we greatly over-estimate the ability of politicians to affect what goes on in the classroom.
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