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Sunday, November 28, 2004



Ahh, my favorite baloney. I just come from a meeting to prepare for a class I'm teaching with others in the fall, to undergrad preservice teachers. Today the topic was "identity." The teachers' indentity, the students' identity. Nothing about content or instruction, or how to improve teaching and learning or knowledge. We're going to construct identities, learning, and all that. But not much about reading or phonics or math. Or anything.

I left dejected. But then I realized that once the semester begins, I can teach my sections my way.

Heh, heh.


Natcherly nothing about instruction, or anything like it. They don't know enough to talk about these things for a few minutes.

I have a colleague (who since left--that or go postal) who knew it was over when he passed the dept library and heard a whole bunch of teachers (led by one of our colleagues) singing "The Wheels on the Bus."

I say, if you want to bond, go to Bennigans and get hammered.

I mean, after that you have somethng to show for it--a bad hangover.

But what do you have after a few choruses of Wheels on the Bus? Nothing, that's what.


I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. As a teacher of 19 years, I have held tightly to a pendulum that swings without regard for research or common sense with one hand, while trying to TEACH fifth graders to read and write with the other. I feel that teachers in my school district unwittingly provide misguided administrators with the results they desire on standardized tests to support "balanced literacy" and "constructivist math" because they use direct instruction in secret. Teachers sit quietly on conference days and tolerate diatribes on the latest and greatest nonsense, and then quietly crawl back into their classrooms and do the right thing. The problem arises when teachers cannot openly communicate with each other about what and how they are teaching. There is no logical sequence, because the "thought police" might hear real discussion about what has been and should be taught to the kiddies. I am fortunate in that I work in a well-financed district where parents support their kids. I can't help but wonder how much more we could accomplish if we were led by administrators who were more concerned with educating children than forwarding their own baseless philosphies.

Thanks for the vent.


Thanks for reading my guff and thanks especially for YOUR contribution, Ackel. If you have any stories to tell (I mean, want to tell), I'd be happy to post them.

mr tall

Prof. Plum, that was a splendid takedown of the latest edufad. I have just one quibble: I think you're possibly even too sanguine about the constructivists' opinions of individual identity. Indeed, when you follow this general line of thinking, you easily end up in the postmodernist fever swamps of writers like Sherry Turkle who insist the self is an illusion, and that our identities are constructed and re-constructed according to the social environments we find ourselves participating in. This is even more chilling when coupled with the totalitarian-friendly premises of the rest of constructivism you've mentioned. Oh, and those happy-clappy group determinations of what's 'true' or what counts as knowledge? Pure Richard Rorty, isn't it? He's got a lot to answer for, i.e. in making what's ultimately a corrosive, nihilistic creed sound like loads of good safe fun.


Great post, Mr. Tall. The notion that we are nothing-waiting-to-be-constructed fits well with, and may be part of, an agenda (perennial) to create the "new man."

Thanks so much!!

mr tall

Thanks for the kind words, Professor, but what I've said is nothing new. C S Lewis laid out the essentials of this argument half a century ago in 'The Abolition of Man'. I read that little gem every year or two just to keep myself on balance.


Here's another one: false consciousness. See we can't know what is truly right because we are almost brainwashed by our notions of rightness. Workers work thinking it is good, but not realizing that it is bad and they are enriching an owner.

And teachers teach things to students, not realizing that things they teach might be bad, or at least not good, because they are falsely conscious of what they do. They cannot see it fully.

The only way to combat this, according the folks around me who believe it, is throw off all preconceived, preplanned ideas and just construct away. Whatever you construct will be better, as long as you're not false conscious of false consciousness.

Boy, do I love post-modernism.

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