Interesting side effect of becoming one of those teachers that writes/reads about teaching: it gets contentious. I didn't do anything, but from my spot on the sidelines the last couple days have been interesting. First item of business is a new battle in the War on Khan Academy. A long, but very informative summary of the front lines appeared today, "Can't we all just get along?":
The pity was that critiques by knowledgeable teachers and pedagogy experts resulting in modifications to KA instructional materials is surely the way to take something that has value and make it even more valuable. But that tended to get lost in the MTT2K-parody sarcasm and the barrage of name calling that followed.
I have not yet achieved the kind of voice the teachers in the middle of this have, so I'm not going to dive in. If you are a teacher, I would encourage you to look into this incident as it has value. There are flaws with traditional teaching, there are flaws with a 100% learn from videos method. My personal opinion of Khan Academy is that it's a good supplement for fortifying mechanics but will never be able to give kids all the intangibles that they get from school. Watching Khan videos in silence is not school.
Second interesting thing, the Texas Republican Party issued their official stance on a bunch of things for the 2012 Election. I hate politics, but there are a couple of interesting statements in the section on Educating Our Children.
There are admirable things:
Controversial Theories - We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind.
Sounds good, but probably intended as a way for parents who are strict creationist/global-warming-is-a-myth to protect their children from evil liberal teachers.
Things that contradict those admirable things:
Knowledge-Based Education - We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
So much for standards based grading. This flies in the face of the more traditional things like Bloom's Taxonomy too, something many districts base their whole lesson planning philosophy around.
And things that would significantly reduce the population of my school and many others within my district:
Educational Entitlement - We encourage legislation that prohibits enrollments in free public schools of non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States.
Papers please! I thought Texas was better than Arizona?
The overall irony is there are other items in there demanding an end to government control over schools, which kind of nullifies a political party trying to fix schools via legislation. Luckily, most of this is just hand-waving prior to an election and will be quickly forgotten. To be fair it'd probably be worth comparing this to the stance of the Texas Democratic Party, but most people in Texas like to pretend they don't exist.
I write this in the spirit of "The More You Know..." so don't kill me.