"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, October 8, 2018

"What Kinds of Human Beings Do We Wish to Produce?"

October 9, 2018: Study Session/Board Meeting at the District Office

1. Study Session (4pm): Social Emotional Learning
2. Board Meeting (6pm): Includes an agreement with Orem City for the School Resource Officers.  (pp.79-87)

All meetings are open to the public.  Public comment is available at every Board Meeting.


The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be 'what knowledge is of the most worth?' but 'what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?' The possibilities virtually defy our imagination. --John Goodlad

The most controversial issues of the twenty-first century will pertain to the ends and means of modifying human behavior and who shall determine them. The first educational question will not be 'what knowledge is of the most worth?' but 'what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce?' The possibilities virtually defy our imagination. - John Goodlad

There are so many buzzwords in education these days: 21st Century Learning, Social-emotional Learning (SEL), GRIT, the 4-C's (or the 6-C's), Response to Intervention, Critical Thinking, STEM, Project-based learning, Guide-on-the-side, Engineering Design Model, Workforce, etc. etc. etc.  It's hard to keep up with them all or even understand what they all mean.

Social Emotional Learning or SEL first really made its appearance (from my perspective) in the Federal re-authorization of No Child Left Behind, called ESSA.  In additional to academic measures, the Feds want us to use "non-cognitive" measures to assess how well schools are doing.  It came to prominence with a focus on GRIT, and a TED talk by a professor who wrote a book on the subject.  Now SEL is everywhere.  The idea is that kids should learn, not just academics, but the skills and dispositions to be successful in the workforce (aka the 21st Century because human nature magically shifted in 2001, I guess).  So, the purpose of schools has shifted from basic academics to creating a comprehensive person.  The only problem is whose vision of that "correct human being" is being implemented?  And is that really what we want from public education?  Who should determine what kind of human being your child should become?  Who is the "we" in 'what kinds of human beings do we wish to produce'?  (Does the word produce come across as a bit creepy to anyone else?)

On one hand, I can appreciate and understand that we want kids to be well-rounded, kind-hearted, honest, and sympathetic.  On the other, what is the purpose of public schools?  Well that goes back to the age-old debate.  Everyone thinks of it as something different, and way back when, our district mission statement included "democracy" as the purpose of schools.  I disagree.  I think for public schools, the purpose should be academic excellence.  Everything else, should be left to the individual child and his/her family. That's not to say that teachers don't teach, especially by example, kindness and honesty.  They do.  But that's just part of being a good human being, right?  When we focus on dispositions, we necessarily remove our focus from reading, writing, and [a]rithmetic. Supposedly, we are doing both academics (what we are calling the Right Side of the Pyramid) as well as SEL (the Left Side of the Pyramid).  Our goal should be to educate, not to tell you what the purpose of that education is supposed to be.

The other problem I see, is who decides what the appropriate dispositions are for our children to possess?  And what are those definitions?  I've found, too often, sadly, that when someone uses a word that sounds good, their meaning may be completely different from my own.

In Alpine, we are focused on the 6 C's (4 of which are borrowed from the 21st Century Learning 4 C's).  They are: Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Character, Citizenship.  All sound great.  But what of the child who is introverted and Collaboration means lots of group-work projects?  She might do very well academically IF she's allowed to work alone, but in a group?  Not so much.  She is learning that she must go along with the group, and the knowledge she gains isn't as important as the "collaboration" with others.  It also puts young children in a very difficult position if they disagree with how something is going or what is being said.  Citizenship: what kinds of student advocacy do you want your child engaged in?  What if those citizenship perspectives differ from those of your family?  And Critical Thinking (also known as Higher-order thinking) has at least one definition in education that I would whole-heartedly disagree with.

...a student attains 'higher order thinking' when he no longer believes in right or wrong". "A large part of what we call good teaching is a teacher´s ability to obtain affective [emotional] objectives by challenging the student's fixed beliefs. ...a large part of what we call teaching is that the teacher should be able to use education to reorganize a child's thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. --Benjamin Bloom

In short, it's wrong to be rewarding personality types instead of the knowledge that every child is capable of acquiring.  It's also wrong to possibly, modify a child's thoughts, attitudes and feelings, not through reason and the discovery of truth but by using emotional objectives to challenge their 'fixed beliefs', those beliefs instilled in them by their families.

If you agree with this shift, then you will be pleased.  If not, you may want to speak up about this dilution of academics with dispositions.


Take a quick look at the agreement (https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1b8lY2ExcO10gchOSZ2hxb1U_whvH2_M2)  I have the following concerns.

1. Restorative Justice:  Restorative Justice, as I understand it, is where the person who is at fault is asked to "restore" what they broke in some way.  In some instances, this makes sense.  If you spray paint graffiti, it makes sense to have you repaint whatever you vandalized.  However, if you physically assaulted someone, the victim of your assault may be traumatized by further interaction.  In this case, Restorative Justice isn't a good idea.  AND, it may not be the best idea as a first recourse in even situations like graffiti.  It is interesting to note that the Parkland Shooter fell through the cracks due to restorative justice.

Excerpt from this article:

Schools also began replacing more traditional methods of discipline with student-led mentoring programs ... as well as “restorative justice” programs, a Breakfast Club-like fantasy where, instead of punishment, the bully or the violent offender engages in talk therapy and group discussions with the kid he or she has been harassing to seek reconciliation.
That sounds like great fun for the victim.
2. Reading Miranda Rights for those 14 and up without requiring a parent to be present.  I don't know about you, but if my kid is in the kind of trouble where he or she is being read their Miranda Rights, I think I should be present.  Also, what about children who have mental disabilities that, while chronologically 14 years old, mentally are much younger?  Shouldn't their parents be present?

3. Student Privacy.  FERPA is the Federal School Data Privacy Act from 1974 that is all but worthless.  Anything that occurs at school is subject to FERPA, whether health-related or juvenile-justice related.  That means these records can be shared with anyone for "an educational purpose" without parental knowledge or consent. 

I would be curious to know your thoughts on these issues.

1 comment:

  1. You make a great point on how personalities can easily be at conflict with learning goals or objectives. Learning styles/ personalities was adressed in Year 2 of the Apollo/21st summer training sessions. It was made clear that that students personalities and how they prefer to learn need to be thought about, but I think teachers in general have a hard time customizing lessons to learning styles. It almost becomes impossible with large classroom sizes. I had to have groups actually grade each other at the end of a lab or project to create a sense of ownership and accountability. They knew this going in. But I also think good collaboration comes with practice. Speaking to your example , I hate to think we would ever grade solely on any "C". Even my sheets of group grading had multiple areas of grading so kids knew it wasnt just about 1 part. Anyway...ASD class sizes are just to enormous to effictively do so much. It really is the hidden and largest crux that no one wants to tackle. Its infuriating. Honestly I wish the first month of teaching had Zero outcomes...except for the teacher really getting know the personality, motivators, learning styles etc of each student. In E.S. I also wish Middle school had team teaching and students wernt shifted around so much. Team teachers like History and Literature/English. Math and Science. Im diverging...its late here. Sorry for my ramblings...I know I have better thoughts or more helpful thought...theyre eluding me.