robertogreco + thomashardy   1

what Thomas Hardy taught me | Fredrik deBoer
"Never mind that the idea of salvation through technology is the hoariest old cliche in the history of education, stretching back to the fear among the educated classes that the invention of the printing press would render education obsolete. Never mind that the radio was sure to change teaching forever, or that the television was too, or that the VCR was, as was the personal computer. Never mind that I still hear people talking about what the internet will surely do for the schools of the future, despite the fact that we had the internet in our classroom when I was in junior high school 21 years ago, the school of the past. Never mind that one of the most easily predicted outcomes in educational research is that a highly-touted educational technology will result in no meaningful difference in learning gains. Nope: it’s the same old shit. We’re better and smarter than those other guys who told you that they were better and smarter than the guys who came before them. Our jargon is newer and better. Gamify the cloud with synergistic flipped classrooms that take an active learning approach to emergent technologies and the internet of things. Our app has flavor crystals. Rinse and repeat, now and for forever.

A piece like this makes you realize the real tragedy of this (profitable, and thus perpetual) fantasy of remaking education is that its progenitors are guilty of precisely what they accuse others of: a complete failure to think of education outside of a narrow, restrictive framework. Mead refers to the educational vision on offer here as utilitarian, and I suppose it’s that. But I would argue that the current orthodoxy about education — which, make no mistake, all these proud free thinkers clearly share — is fundamentally mechanistic. That is, it presumes that there is a basic correspondence between particular inputs to a student’s learning and straightforward and clearly-defined outputs in a student’s outcomes. So you teach a student division, and they’ve learned division, and nothing more; you teach a kid to code (in a language that will be obsolete by the time they reach even undergraduate education) and they learn to code (a skill that will be largely automated by the time they reach middle age) and that’s why you bother to do it. And you don’t teach them to read poetry or to dance a waltz because you can’t get a job troubleshooting Geico’s android app with those skills. Everything is a simple and uncomplicated matter of what you put in and what you put out, and the value and importance of what you get out depends entirely on what’s taken seriously by the staff at Wired magazine."

"In a very real way that was the moment when I contemplated the world outside of my own subjectivity in a genuine and mature way. And like so many other important ideas, its consequences continue to spool out in my mind for years to come. It multiplied complexity; it introduced patterns of thinking and difficult questions that I had never thought to consider before. It deepened my mind in more ways than I can express. And yet the value of this insight, in any conventional educational assessment you can name — and I say that as an expert — would be nil. This understanding, which has been central to my development as an adult intelligence, would not factor into any assessment of my academic aptitude. We do not have instruments that measure this kind of learning and we never will.

Now: I don’t and can’t represent myself as anyone’s definition of a human success. And I’m not interested in making this about the rigor or quality of my research or my field. But I can say that, by the typical benchmarks of educational success, I have performed well. I graduated from high school, finished a bachelor’s degree, and went on to two graduate degrees. I’ve performed very well on standardized tests, both state-run assessments of educational progress and entrance exams like the SAT and GRE. I’ve been published in major newspapers and magazines. I’ve written a major policy position paper for a respected think tank. I’ve been published in peer reviewed journals. If you want to get neoliberal about it, I’ve gotten jobs and earned something like the median income. Again, this is not about representing myself as some sort of great success story, but rather just to establish that I have had the kind of academic outcomes that policy makers, members of the media, and parents say they want.

Yet on the level of thinking of our Silicon Valley overlords, aspects of my cognitive abilities that are absolutely central to my educational success are taken to have literally no value at all. In educational research, perhaps the greatest danger lies in thinking “that which I cannot measure is not real.” The disruption fetishists have amplified this danger, now evincing the attitude “teaching that cannot be said to lead to the immediate acquisition of rote, mechanical skills has no value.” But absolutely every aspect of my educational journey — as a student, as a teacher, and as a researcher — demonstrates the folly of this approach to learning."

"The point is not that the humanities, or the liberal arts, or the deeper concepts and values of civilization, or whatever only have value because of how they support more narrowly-remunerative skills. The point is that these deeper values and these monetizable skills exist in relationships so deeply intertwined that they are permanently inextricable from one another. And the utter folly of disregarding those traditional aspects of education that can’t be immediately tied to skills you list on your profile is one we and our children will pay for, for generations. I have no doubt that we will come in time to learn again the absolute necessity of learning that goes beyond the rote skills we currently perceive to be important, that someday people will learn to again see the utter necessity of humanistic thinking. But such understanding will only come after we have allowed deluded privateers to wring every last dollar out of our educational system as they strip it of all learning that has a function other than training more efficient little capitalists.

Albert Einstein was obsessed with music. Would he have been a better physicist, or a worse one, had he spent the time he devoted to music and the other arts on what we now call “STEM subjects”? It’s an absurd, pointless, unanswerable question. What matters is that Einstein was a full-fledged human being, and enjoyed an education that permitted him to be that, and that took the creation of such full-fledged human beings as its central mission. And if we only have the courage to devote ourselves to that project, too, the rest will sort itself out in time."

[See also: ]
freddiedeboer  humanities  altschool  education  pedagogy  teaching  learning  howwelearn  measurement  2016  automation  complexity  economics  politics  rebeccamead  edtech  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  labor  capitalism  neoliberalism  whywelearn  thomashardy  alberteinstein  stem  interdisciplinary  silos  rotelearning  rote  disruption 
march 2016 by robertogreco

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