I want to thank y’all for reading my guff and for adding your comments. Glad to know you.
Professor Plum is by nature a quiet fellow, except when teaching. Then he hitches up his pants (in case they require hitching) and begins a classroom routine that appears to give uniform satisfaction—at once entertaining, edifying, and aerobic.
[What, by the way, is this third-person motif? We guess it feels less self-centered than saying “I” over and over. Still, it’s irritating, and so we’ll desist, or knock it off.]
My students think I’m somewhat odd--I actually care that they learn how to teach, and I talk fast and loud. I say, “I may be unusual, young hearts, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
A Winnie the Pooh Moment. Sharing and Caring
I’m often asked, “Who the hey are you, Professor Plum?” [In fact, no one asks, but I thought I’d tell, anyway. Again, this self-referential stuff is embarrassing, but we’ve come too far to weasel out.]
I did graduate work in sociology at Washington University--where around 1969 we had a school for autistic children. The next 25 years I was at a large university in New England (actually, I went home after work) developing curricula for children with disabilities. One freezing night in April, 1990, as I trudged to the parking garage with snow accumulating on the north slope of my face, I realized I’d better go south before I got Bell’s Palsy. Besides, I always wanted a cuisine rich in hog by-product. So, I signed on at a school of education at a medium sized university south of the line drawn by the comedy team of Mason and Dixon, who always ended the show with “A little song. A little dance. A little seltzer down your pants.” [Actually, that was from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Still funny. Seltzer down your pants. Ha Ha. Who does THAT?]
Everyone was nice to me—and I was nice back. [Harmony.] One of my new colleagues—a young woman who taught the computer course--said, "You know, Plum, they teach whole language and only whole language here." [Instigator!] I asked, “What’s the alternative? Half language? Three-sixteenths language? Sounds squalid to me.”
I then read about wl. Its “theory” of reading and its methods of instruction seemed way past the expiration date. Definitely the fruit of minds gone bad. THEORY of reading?! Who needs a theory? You can SEE reading! Theory of brushing your teeth? Theory of taking out the trash?
But I was a newcomer. I suspended judgment. I looked for data.
At a gathering of ed school professors (I believe we were tucking into a bucket of pork rinds at the time)--I asked my whole language colleagues if I could see their research. Apparently this was rude. One of them expanded like a disgruntled adder and made frightening noises with her cheeks—the ones attached to her face. She said she had 20 years experience teaching whole language and was an expert. [ONE year experience 20 times.]
Then I did something really perverted--at a teleconference. All the ed schools in the state were watching big shots from the department of public instruction tell us that new teachers would no longer be evaluated by their principal but by a portfolio read by two consultants. I thought, “How come? Talk about expensive! Ho, boy. Another useless ‘innovation.’”
Well, this was a “conference,” so I figured I’d do a bit of conferring. I had a cold and my voice came out like the little girl’s in Exorcist. Pea soupy, if you catch my drift.
I asked, “Do you have any data showing that portfolio assessment results in better judgments of teacher quality than the judgment of a principal and mentor who see a new teacher all year?”
The images on the screen began to cough and look at each other. [Actually, I believe they looked first, then coughed.] I heard whispering on the screen and all around me. The colleagues were restless. Then the screen images offered a detailed and informative answer.
“Ahem ahem oh yes yes yes oh indeed yes, and so forth.”
The wheels came off pretty quick after that, and we were told the show was over. Afterwards, four or five of my collards accosted me and said, “That was inappropriate” and “You were not respectful.” I replied, “Nice hat,” or something equally charming.
That was my first lesson in the politics and intellectual dishonesty in education. Forced consensus. Shut up and go along. After stupification, the underlying power relations become invisible. Indeed, desirable. Ed perfessers come to like Big Brother. He takes care of them. Defends them from the wolves who are onto the game.
Over the next few years I read the websites and syllabi from hundreds of ed schools. I reviewed the literature in whole language, constructivism, “authentic assessments,” learning styles, and multiple intelligences—and other “pedagogies” that struck my cynical nature as weird beyond belief. I even tried to figure out what “brain based learning” was—because, I reasoned, “What OTHER organ WOULD be involved? Before brain-based learning was there BUTTOCKS based learning? Sure they ARE similar. Two hemispheres. A nearby segment of spine. A division down the middle. An apparatus for speaking your mind. But usually you can tell which is which. Just look for a hat!”
Then my graduate assistant and I began working on our own. We suggested to all the elementary schools in the county that they could raise reading achievement for all kids if they used better curricula—in fact, Reading Mastery, starting in kindergarten, and Corrective Reading for kids at least one year behind, starting in grade three. Within two years, 20 out of 23 schools did just that, and got those results.
And THAT, for the time being, was the end of whole language and Reading Recovery. [More on Reading Recovery another time.] As they say, He who laughs last is the last one to laugh. [Which makes perfect sense when you think about it.]
Only consider at what price you sell your free will...
At least, do not sell it for a trifle.
Epictetus 50 B.C.-30 A.D. Discourses]
Excellent!! Designing Effective Mathematics Instruction (3rd Edition) by Marcy Stein, et al. K-6. You never have to prepare a lesson. Scripted—but lots of places to add your own enhancements. At Amazon. Couldn't get the url to fit. Expensive but worth every dime.
Great resources (I think) for teaching history and social studies.
Next topic. Project Follow Through—the most well-kept secret in education. Experimental research on over 100,000 kids, for 25 years, shows what works best and what doesn’t work at all. How many teachers or ed students or parents ever heard of Follow Through? Why has the ed establishment NOT embraced the methods shown to be the best and instead promoted the worst?
Oh, Dear Reader
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
[Hamlet, I, V]
Thanks for reading.