kitchen table math, the sequel: Hirsch on Labaree (& Mathews)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hirsch on Labaree (& Mathews)

Hirsch, E. D. (Eric Donald) 1928- "Comments"
Brookings Papers on Education Policy - 2004, pp. 112-125
Brookings Institution Press


Comment by E. D. Hirsch Jr.

David F. Labaree's historical analysis of progressivism belongs in the tradition of Larry Cuban, Arthur Zilversmit, and, most recently, Ellen Condliffe Lagemann. That tradition readily concedes that romantic progressivism has permeated education schools to the point of intellectual monopoly, but, according to these historians of education, romantic progressivism has never taken over the public schools as a method of teaching. As proof of this they [End Page 112] show that a considerable amount of whole class instruction is still going on, that students' seats are still arranged in rows, and that students are still asked to complete exercises in workbooks. I am inclined to concede this point, as I think all education historians probably should, given the believable observational reports, most recently from Jay Matthews. I have always assumed that this claim of progressive apologetics was probably right in a narrow sense.

At the same time, I have long thought that this narrow point is almost completely irrelevant to the most important historical influence of progressivism, which is less its influence on pedagogy than its influence in diluting and fragmenting the elementary curriculum to a truly harmful and indefensible degree.

I agree to some extent with Hirsch's first observation (there's not much in the way of "real" constructivism happening inside U.S. classrooms), disagree with his second (constructivism's real damage was done to curriculum, not pedagogy).

Really existing constructivism means spiraling, not teaching to mastery, and a steadily widening gap between kids who can survive this system thanks to fast learning curves, good reading habits and tutors, and kids who can't.

It's bad for curriculum, and it's bad for pedagogy, too.

I would like it to go away.

fyi: "really existing socialism," also here

really existing constructivism

That's what we've got.

spilt religion - Hirsch on progressive education & Romanticism
David Labaree on the 2 factions
Labaree on constructivism
Hirsch on Labaree

Hirsch, E.D., "Romancing the Child," Education Next, 1 (Spring 2001).
Labaree, David F., "Progressivism, Schools, and Schools of Education: An American Romance," Paedagogica Historica (Gent), 41 (Feb. 2005), 275–89. (pdf file)


Barry Garelick said...

Existing constructivism also means "problem based learning" such as in programs like IMP, CMP and Core Plus. It also manifests itself in programs like EM that give students a "menu" of "student invented" algorithms since constructivists view problem solving as idiosyncratic to the student and does not lend itself to b) learning is idiosyncratic and so a common instructional format or strategies are ineffective. (Kirschner, Sweller, Clark; 2006)

I think we can agree that we've seen classes conducted according to the belief that "large amounts of guidance may produce very good performance during practice, but too much guidance may impair
later performance. Coaching students about correct responses
inmath, for example,may impair their ability later to retrieve
correct responses from memory on their own." (Bernstein, Penner, Clarke-Stewart, Roy, &
Wickens, 2003).

Let's not fall prey to the "there is no pure constructivism, so there is no problem" motif. Mathews is dead wrong on this. Sorry.

Catherine Johnson said...

"no real constructivism" is the reason continually offered for yet more constructivism that will ALSO not be real constructivism because real constructivism does not exist in the real world


it's simple!

Catherine Johnson said...

I found a fantastic Doug Carnine paper on the subject of "idiosyncratic learning" over at NYC HOLD - will post!