Counting On Diplomas But Do Diplomas Really Count?

13 06 2007

Something you’ve been thinking about?

Then you’ll want to read these policy briefs and the collection of other special stuff up in EDUCATION WEEK’s “Diplomas Count 2007” during its open access period this month.

Here are a few that caught my eye; maybe we can pool our reading and get through them all, then discuss? 🙂

Life After High School
We should take the Education Gospel—a view that schooling focused on preparing students for the world of work can solve society’s problems—very seriously, writes W. Norton Grubb.

‘Soft Skills’ in Big Demand
Interest in teaching students habits of mind for success in life is on the rise.

What Kind of Math Matters?
Some experts say the push for higher-level coursework isn’t a good fit with the skills used in the workplace.

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8 responses

13 06 2007
JJ

Ahem. I would like to point out that the soft skills piece is exactly what I was explaining to Young Son the other day before dance class, about eye contact and visible, active receptivity and responses rather than mere stillness and passive acceptance, so the teacher KNOWS he is engaged and they make something together.
What I most want to point out though, is how naturally conducive home education is, to every essential skill and attitude highlighted in this piece (and the learning methods recommended to help students acquire them.) Small scale and personal, check. Combining rather than segmenting subjects, check. Embedding many skills within real-life reflecting projects, check. Citizenship, ethics and living up to mutual responsibility in collaboration with others, check.
And of course, where can you find more “critical friends” than in homeschooling circles?? CHECK! 👿 😉

13 06 2007
JJ

And to come at it from the opposite direction, homeschooling needs these same kind of “round systems thinkers” to succeed, not just in educating our kids but in educating the public, to preserve both our differences and our common ground, to protect our privacy and freedom at the same time we exercise and enjoy it all to the fullest.
In short we need to learn and to be systems thinkers rather than fine-print parsers and hall monitors who don’t get the Deep Magic behind the silly rules, correcting everyone in sight and calling that a job well-done.

13 06 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

I’ve just skimmed the “What Kind of Math Matters?” section, but kept thinking the same thought. They say that Math ‘exposes students to the problem-solving that they will need in the workforce’, but Math is just taught as a bunch of pre-packaged solutions. You have to read between the lines to get to the real, creative problem solving.

If Math education were more about solving problems up front we might make Math more interesting and actually teach ‘problem solving’. I know this seems like my mantra, but any particular Math skill is expendable as long as someone has learned how to think carefully.

I worry a little about the push for ‘applied’ courses because if they are presented in the usual here’s-a-cookbook way, those skills will soon be irrelevant. Problem solving needs to be central to the presentation.

This is one of the things I love about unschooling: kids find problems and solve them. The problems-solving aspect is inevitable.

13 06 2007
JJ

What’s wrong with our present Education Gospel:

. . . most high schools have not taken the steps necessary to incorporate “higher-order learning.” Whatever else this term means, it requires shifting to more conceptual or constructivist or “balanced” instruction, and high school teaching has been especially resistant to such change.

Furthermore, the accountability movement (both state efforts and the federal No Child Left Behind Act) has taken schools in precisely the wrong direction. Desperate to meet “standards” in English and math, many schools and districts have adopted scripted and semiscripted curricula, providing routine remediation without any chance of enhancing the higher-order capacities advocated by the Education Gospel.

These curricula violate every precept for motivation and engagement in learning, and their exclusive emphasis on the three R’s means that other subjects necessary for life after high school—science and civics, history and art—are neglected.

As now interpreted, accountability can only undermine the ability of high schools to prepare students for anything other than routine test-taking.

13 06 2007
JJ

To Rolfe: yes! It is the thinking behind the math that matters, and whether the mind doing it is actively engaged with it as a real problem or just sort of passively enduring it as a prescribed set of exercises (to tie it back to the soft skills piece too.)
Surely math like reading, can be broken into mechanical functions and little subroutines for teaching and learning and testing and technically called the same thing, but that tends to suck the lifeblood right out of what “reading” or “math problem-solving” is when done properly and fully in real life. Form AND function count, and engagement.
Engagement got me thinking about marriage. 🙂
It occurred to me that it’s like the difference between being in love and committed forever by that love, and a sham marriage to obtain some status like citizenship or “doctor’s wife” or a fatter bank account, where you can do all the steps according to the law and the fine print but you can’t make it “real” because that was never what really “counted” about a marriage in the first place. The spelled out conventions and formalities are literally “form” standing in for the real meaning of the thing itself — just the outward-showing shorthand designating what supposedly is going on inside the human heads and hearts engaged in the formality.

13 06 2007
JJ

Which hmmm, would make most diplomas not matter even when they reflect “rigorous” curriculum ike higher math courses, right?
In the end a student has to supply the real learning, or not, no matter how many grades and standards are dutifully attained toward how many technically demanding credentials . . .and the most coveted, legitimately earned diploma can’t tell the world a darn thing about the resulting state of mind, which is really what we wanted to guarantee was worthy in the first place.

14 06 2007
“Tarting Up and Dumbing Down” - More Thinking About Meaning « Cocking A Snook!

[…] public story, are successful professionals using those “soft” people skills from the Diplomas Count report, rather than quadratic equations and fetal pig […]

14 06 2007
JJ

I just remembered this too, about those “soft” virtues and attitudes schools think kids need —

“Schooling as Sincere Ignorance and Conscientious Stupidity”

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