Saturday, March 31, 2007

Schools R Us

It's Saturday and one should be doing other stuff but I stumbled over a post of Roger Schank's and when I stopped falling about laughing all the noisy babble by the self-appointed critics of Oz schooling more or less fell into the category he outlines here: Trying to get people’s arms around the real problem in education is not that easy. The reason is you. You all went to school so you are quite sure that what is taught in school is what should be taught in school -- only we should teach it better. Australia currently suffers from a bunch of old folk who want to reproduce their experience of schooling across the country's schools. I'm not going to link to them... it will only encourage them to write more inanities. I often think that much of the history of education can be captured by the notion of well intentioned old folk making idiotic decisions on behalf of the young. The basis of all of their commentary are the results of international tests. They always justify their pet fads on the basis of the performance of Oz kids with the performance of other kids via these international tests. To me, the first question to ask is what do these tests tell us? I know what is being claimed for them but what do they actually tell us. No one wants to go there. It is all too easy to simply cite the evidence. For my part, these tests need to be tested. What do they actually achieve other than indicate to us who is good at taking tests. If this was a serious educational goal then why do we need to inflict so many of them on children. To accept that this kind of testing is actually doing something to improve the capacity of the young to deal with the complexities of living on this planet requires considerable quantities of mind altering substances. To suggest that countries who achieve highly on these tests are somehow better than countries that don't is laughable. And what is being promoted as the solution to improve scores? Schank has a view that resonates with the back to school as I knew it noisies in Oz: This country needs to come to grips with the fact that the high school curriculum reflects a notion of how nineteenth century scholars thought about how to produce more scholars like themselves. There may be a place for a few folk like this, but entire age cohorts? If you, like me or my daughter, think that the emperor has been wandering around naked for the past half century of so then you'll enjoy more of Schank's scribblings.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Reassembling the social

I must confess to having neglected the Dear Bruno for far too long. The book has been out a while but I had been too busy patrolling the diameter of my ever shrinking life (thanks Arti) to pay it sufficient attention. I am, for those who don't know of my interest in what is generally called actor-network theory, something of a devotee of Latour's scribblings. The man has a wonderful sense of humour, fun and a delightful capacity to puncture much of the pomposity that passes as social science (I did put on a string of garlic when I typed those last two words). "Be prepared to cast off agency, structure, psyche, time, and space along with along with every other philosophical and anthropological category, no matter how deeply rooted in common sense they may appear to be" pp. 24-25.