- Parent Category: Education
- Category: Educational Theory
- Created on Thursday, 23 August 2012 09:04
- Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 09:14
- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 09:04
- Written by Brian G. Kasperitis
- Hits: 643
I recall, without being able to locate its origin precisely in time, a major wave of effort on behalf of students described as “the gifted”. Somebody wrote a poem once entitled, “How Are the Gifted Sifted?” I can recall a method of instruction called ‘tracking’ for example. How nice it was for the “Gifted” who were smart enough to be placed in Track One, whereas the ‘stupid’ kids were commonly put into Track Four! I have not heard much about tracking recently; however, “Gifted and Talented” programs continue to strive within schools today.
Presently, there continues to be all sorts of arguments about grouping in our schools. These discussions seem to never be settled, but they are livelier than most educational discussions, largely because a few non-educators got into them. For example, one of the most outspoken of these educational amateurs was a professional submarine builder by the name of Hyman Rickover, a naval officer with a sharp tongue, a skilled pen, and an enlarged ego, who saw the gifted student as a national asset to be developed by Federally-supported programs. His objectives were described by one wag as a policy of “save the best and shoot the rest.”
Eventually, the interest in the gifted subsided and became lost in a national wave of concern over “the environmentally disadvantaged.” This was a pervasive movement in the 60’s that still persists today, although it has been considerably slowed in recent years by political forces.
While these major themes were being played, there have been all sorts of subsidiary sounds from various sections of our national orchestra of education; an organization which plays surprisingly well considering the fact that it either has no conductor at all or so many as to produce the effect of having none. For example, when I began working on my undergraduate studies in elementary education, “creativity” was the issue at hand. Tests of creativity as well as ways of promoting it in schools attracted the attention of educators. Even today, I continue to be compensated to create professional development seminars regarding this issue. However, years ago, as a teacher, I was creating lessons on creativity without knowing anything about it. But, since no one else knew anything about it either, it was easy to be creative! Presently, creativity has unfortunately taken a backseat, due to pressures put on teachers who must hurdle prominent obstacles such as standardized tests. However, there are still major foundations in the United States who are spending money and time finding ways to promote creativity among us. It’s a shame that things such as creativity must be lowered on our list of priorities. Doing this, to me, resembles that of one taking a pill, which makes you feel better although you actually stay sick.
Now that I have mentioned creativity and the standardize testing concept within the same breath, I’d like us to also realize as we move on to acknowledge that creativity as a theme was later followed by “the inquiring mind” concept, which was launched as an attack on rote learning. Educators here sought ways of teaching that would make students think, rather than having them parrot the teacher or the textbook.
My favorite story about developing the inquiring mind involves the teacher who attempted to test a student by giving him the following question in a science class:
“There is a very tall tower of unknown height, and the only instrument you have to measure it is a barometer. Explain the procedure you would use.”
The student’s first response was, “I’d put the barometer on the ground next to the tower, measure the height of the barometer, and measure the length of the shadow cast by the tower. With this information, and by a simple calculation of proportions, I could determine mathematically the height of the tower.
“Wrong!” The teacher responded. “This is science class, not a math class. But, I’ll give you another chance.”
After deep thought, the student replied, “I’d take the barometer to the top of the tower, tie a string on it, and lower it down to the ground. Then, I’d measure the string, which would represent how tall the tower is.”
“Wrong again!” replied the teacher with some pique. “But I’ll let you try again.”
Under obvious mental stress, the student thought long and hard, “I’d take the darn barometer to the top of the tower and throw it out! Using the second hand on my watch, I’d time the length of its fall. Knowing the rate of acceleration of a falling object, I’d be able to calculate the height of the tower by applying that information to the length of time between the moment of dropping it and the moment of impact.”
The teacher was annoyed. “What are you, a wise guy?” The teacher asked. “I’ll give you one last chance, and if you don’t get the answer right this time, then you fail!” The teacher concluded.
After considerable hesitation, the student blurted out, “I’d go into the basement of the tower and find the janitor, and I’d say to him, “Hey mister, if you can tell me how tall this tower is, I’ll give you a barometer!”
Well, so much for the fate of the inquiring minds concept in our schools! That method had been supplanted in more recent years by the “discovery method” of teaching. Later, other movements with which we are familiar with are labeled as the individualization of learning, the spiral curriculum, independent study, team teaching, teaching across the curriculum, interdisciplinary study and research, the project method, and so many more that if this lecture is ever going to get to the subject that I initially intended, I’d better stop now.
The excursions and alarms of education are not mentioned here for the sole purpose of making fun of them. Actually, many of them contain solid ideas of importance in the reform of our schools. But, it is useful also to realize that there has been a faddish element in some efforts to improve education, and when something new-like comes along, we want to be sure that it has something more to offer than merely a slogan. I am inclined to think that lots of what we discuss today does, but believe also that much educational foolishness will also continue to be committed in its name. Education in general will be better off if those of us, who have the job of planning changes within it, and carrying those changes out, have some humility about the past sins in the name of educational change. Nevertheless, it is our duty now, to further our own edification by taking classes, attending workshops and professional development sessions as we learn from each other and too pass on the necessary knowledge to our future generations.
Brian Kasperitis began working as a professional musician at an early age. By the age of 18, he was on tour with personalities like Chubby Checker. Brian’s formal education includes an AA degree as an instrumentalist, BS in Music Education, BS in Elementary Education and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. Today, Brian is a part-time college professor & workshop presenter. His fifteen years of experience in the classroom and as a band teacher also includes teaching online courses for the University of Phoenix Graduate School of Education. After being voted “Outstanding Young Man in America,” for two consecutive years, Brian was appointed “Artist in Residency” to the Texas Commission on the Arts by George W. Bush.
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