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« Project Follow Through, the Knaves, Rascals, and Eaters of Broken Meats | Main | Reading Recovery I. Anatomy of Folly »

Tuesday, November 02, 2004



Wonderful paper. Unfortunately, Haberman describes a method of career survival (and it's inherent evils) that permeates All American systems and institutions. The very nature of institutionalism reflects self perpetuation. Thus, intitutions, be they governmental (at any level),academic, or at any others, intinctively defend themselves. Why? Because positions within the institution represent jobs, individual economic survival, the prosperity of the individual outweighs the ANY moral imperative to society. Thus, education reflects the very core of "The American Way". People want jobs. They do not want to lose them. The consequences are too great. People respond to the monthly mortgage payment far more than to perfectly creditable thinkers, writers, and academics, proposing obvious solutions to societal problems. Solutions that, in the long term, guarantee success and a better nation. John Q Citizen does not share these concerns, as he faces economic survivability. If he cant pay for the food on his table,or the ren, or the car payment, he cannot even begin to seriously think about education. It is not his fault; it is the nature the American system.


sorry about the spelling......


I taught 2nd in CA and my team of teachers loved the standards. None of this "eew, standards, yuck" that we've got here in TX. I haven't checked out the TX ones...maybe they're not as common-sensical...but it seemed to me that if you weren't teaching the CA Math standards, something was wrong. My only issue is that the report card had each and every stinkin' standard delineated; and then, by each standard, we had a 3-symbol system (no grades) for marking a child's level of success at mastering said standard. It induced nausea in teachers and several parents said it made good kindling for their fireplaces, so difficult were the reports to decode.

Stuart Buck

Professor --

Do you have an email address?



I've read the Haberman piece (, and the increasing amount of PC-speak (such as "diverse urban children in poverty") kept nagging at me.

About 60% of the way through, 6 pages or so past the header "Current Factors Affecting the Teacher Shortage", I found this:

"Knowing what and how to teach only becomes relevant after the teacher has connected and established a positive relationship with the students."

This follows a list of complaints listed by quitting teachers, of which it appears to me that three are valid:

“These kids will never learn standard English.”
“My mother didn’t raise me to listen to ‘m.f.’ all day.”
“These kids are just not willing or able to follow the simplest directions.”

One could just as easily attribute this to the PC acceptance of "Ebonics", refusal to correct unacceptable language, and the tolerance of chaotic classrooms as normal by the rest of the system; this is part and parcel of the miseducation the author purports to address.

Later, the author states "Ultimately it is the high level of conceptual work that star teachers serving diverse children in urban poverty perform which drives my commitment to the need for greater teacher maturity. If we perceive of teaching as essentially a mindless set of jejune tasks (e.g. the 19th century school- marm teaching the abc’s and giving directions) then the levels of cognition or development reached by the practitioners would be of little importance."

Somehow I don't think that Professor Plum would agree. When the basics of phonics and arithmetic might be teachable by computers using animated characters, webcams (to determine where the student's eyes are focused) and voice recognition, I'm doubtful that huge amounts of original thinking are required for many basic teaching tasks.


You are ONE astute reader, E-P! I think Haberman is dead right about the way the bureaucracy operates. But if teaching is communication and if the most effective and efficient communication is logically clear (wording, examples, sequence), then THAT part at least is not a big deal. I mean, if teachers in elementary schools could teach the BASIC subjects/skills with the simple but logically proficient routines (This sound is mmm. Say it with me....What sound?) half the problems would be gone in poor districts. Kids would be able to read, think, write, and do math and science.


While reading is a prerequisite to doing science, I'm doubtful that things are as simple as "Kids would be able to ... do ... science." Science requires skeptical thinking that is foreign to a great many people. How many even know what a null hypothesis is? I've met a great many otherwise-sophisticated people (including engineers) who were into astrology or creationism and either did not believe in the scientific process or simply could not follow the reasoning required.

Instilling scientific thinking requires that the student banish (or at least set aside) magical thinking. Finding teachers able to lead children away from the cognitive shortcuts which become mistakes is not going to be as easy as teaching phonics.

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