Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » FAST FOOD, “FAST” EDUCATION

    Filed at 3:39 pm under by dcobranchi

    FAST FOOD, “FAST” EDUCATION The thesis behind this Phi Kappa Delta paper is that the current “accountability” reforms value the breadth of memorized facts versus the depth of knowledge gained. Maurice Holt argues that this is akin to “fast food” and that education reform needs to “slow down.”

    In the context of education, the form of schooling espoused under the banner of standards demonstrates the same deterministic thinking that governs the production of fast food. What is sought is a conception of educational practice that can be defined in terms of content and sequence and assessed in terms of agreed-upon ends capable of numerical expression. The engagement between teacher and learner should be as predictable as possible, and variation between one teacher and another can be offset by scripting the learning encounter and tightening the form of assessment. If the purpose of schooling is to deliver the knowledge and skills that business needs, this approach cuts costs, standardizes resources, and reduces teacher training to a school-based process. Above all, the efficacy of the operation can be measured and the results used to control it and its functionaries — the teachers.

    But if schools exist to equip students with the capacity to address the unpredictable problems of adulthood and to establish themselves in a world of growing complexity, then crucial disadvantages emerge. Classroom practice becomes a boring routine, teachers feel de-skilled, and, though what is learned is measurable, its educative value is diminished. The “fast school” offers a static conception of education that has more in common with training. And how can this kind of practice be improved? Since it derives from an impoverished view of theory, distinct from practice, only practice itself can guide improvement. Hence the emphasis on defining “best practices” or “what works,” based on the dubious assumption that practice is context-free. But can it ever be?

    Holt expands on the metaphor (perhaps a bit too far), but, in the end, basically comes down to a position that sounds a lot like homeschooling.

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