Re: Edutainment
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Re: Edutainment

June 05, 2011 06:41AM
Well, I have to say that Chaya Friedmann’s response to my little Jeremiad was very even-tempered.

Still, at the risk of belaboring my points I’m going to re-address some of them in light of her comments.

Your phrase "about teaching them and having them learn," is very vague.

“Teaching” and “learning” are broad terms, but I don’t think they’re vague. People will generally agree about when they see these things happening and when they don’t.

It is not a given (and certainly not research-based) that having students "learn facts and skills" is best achieved only by the traditional methods you imply when you write "teaching them and having them learn."

I wouldn’t expect that one can prove that learning is “best” achieved by one method or another. It would be like proving a negative; there’s always the possibility of a still-better method that hasn’t been tried, or that a method already tried was applied imperfectly.

And yet the methods in use for generations – frontal teaching, study, drill, examination, discipline – are intuited to conduce to the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Perhaps they don’t, and our intuitions are wrong. Disproving intuition is where Science lives, and we should be prepared to accept the counterintuitive (say, that grade-schoolers can learn just as much while spending much less time studying) when it has been scientifically proven. But we don’t assume the counterintuitive before it’s been proven; if we did, we’d have to find another name for it. And when I speak of scientific proof, I mean according to today’s accepted standards of evidence, the double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, which are like four-leaf clovers in the field of Education.

"Recognition" here implies of research and studies that have backed up this point.

Your references to research “back[ing things] up” are rather promiscuous. A statement containing “must be addressed” is inherently a statement of attitude, not subject to proof. Even were Shalom to say “must be addressed lest students arrive at school in trench coats concealing automatic weapons” his postulate would remain unprovable.

I didn't read this implication in Shalom's response. However, the world IS different and not just because of social networks etc., but for many reasons, not least among them because of social complexities such as diverse family structures that have an impact on children (students) and which educators must consider.

You’re correct; Shalom did not imply that. He implied rather that the changes in society shore up his contention about the need to address students’ social and emotional issues. I have spoken with many educators who have drawn the other conclusion, about the impossibility of traditional education, though, so in the end my argument was relevant to the overall subject of the post, but not to the quote that sparked it. My apologies, Shalom. While we’re here, though, let me say that I also question the contention that the greater prevalence of divorce and other social changes mandate changes in schooling.

"At the time," "an educational fad" ??

Yes, a fad. When millions of dollars and teacher hours are spent learning to apply the same unproven techniques, that’s a fad. And the anecdotes of success, and the Master’s theses and such don’t constitute proof. The educational value of MI, by-the-way, is something that I imagine is subject to proof, but that takes more rigor, time and money than many are willing to invest, and is a higher standard than many are willing to demand.

Which is not to say that there’s any problem with using the techniques. I imagine that much of what teachers do is seat-of-the-pants, based on a modicum of theory, some training by master practitioners, and their own experience and intuition. My problem is when you start speaking of fads as if they’re established facts rather than neat ideas, and especially when their pursuit comes at the expense of practices for which vastly more anecdotal evidence exists.

As to your thoughts on assessment and teacher training, I agree, but I wonder whether “increased success in education” is a worthwhile goal. One hopes that a teacher will continue to expand the range of students that he can effectively teach, but he won’t be covering all of high-school Algebra in a single lesson, no matter what techniques he masters; so he needs to consider carefully whether there’s more benefit in learning a new technique or in grading another set of homework assignments.

And to Harriet Whitman:

I am not an educator. I’ve done some teaching here-and-there over the years, possibly even for pay, but for our purposes I am definitely not an educator. Other than watching as my wife reared our eight children, I helped to found a pair of elementary schools some twenty years ago and have been an active board member ever since, serving for the past 7-or-so years as chairman. I don’t consider these bona fides in Education, but then I don’t think one needs any to weigh in.
Neither do I have smicha. I’m referred to as Rabbi only by the occasional fundraiser and seminary-girl Shabbos guests who have forgotten that there are adult males who aren’t rabbis. Oh, and Moshe Bernstein once gave me a field promotion when he called me up to the Torah.

I have no problem differentiating between one child and another, especially if their mothers have sewn name-tags into their clothing. Of course this seldom makes a difference in one’s ability to teach them; I just wanted to reassure you.
I suspect that the Dickensian institution you describe exists only in your fevered imagination – certainly it corresponds to nothing in my experience. The schools for which I have some responsibility are, by-the-way, public schools with no acceptance criteria.

These are not just opinions. Really? I’m thinking I should have just quoted your whole post as my response to Chaya Friedmann. Like I said, right after the lawyers…

Michael Berkowitz
Subject Author Posted


Shalom Z Berger May 24, 2011 06:18AM

Re: Edutainment

Shalom Z. Berger May 24, 2011 06:21AM

Re: Edutainment

Michael Berkowitz May 28, 2011 02:06PM

Re: Edutainment

Chaya Friedmann May 30, 2011 12:53AM

Re: Edutainment

Harriet Whitman May 30, 2011 12:54AM

Re: Edutainment

Michael Berkowitz June 05, 2011 06:41AM

Re: Edutainment

Harriet Whitman June 06, 2011 02:14AM

Re: Edutainment

Avi Billet June 14, 2011 01:01AM

Re: Edutainment

Chaya Friedmann June 14, 2011 12:23AM

Re: Edutainment

Avi Billet May 31, 2011 01:40PM

Re: Edutainment

Elly Lasson June 07, 2011 08:22AM


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