It's instructive to put constructivism in context. I put it smack dab in the middle of; Spiraling Curricula, Curricula Bloat, ** Constructivism **, Inclusion/Immersion, and Grade Level Placement. I'll call these the five horsemen of the apocalypse.
Horse #1, Spiraling Curricula (the Trojan horse), lays the natural hierarchy of a subject on its side, preferring to teach everything in a strand as a set of increasingly complex parallel universes that never need to be mastered. We spend, on average, 6 years on concepts that other countries dispense with in 3.
Once you install horse #1 you observe that, without mastery, every stovepipe in the spiral is easier to achieve success in (because you don't really measure it anymore). This leads to the evolution of horse #2, Curricula Bloat, where you get to fill your newly invented extra time with bloated concept development (2-3 times more concepts per year than is common in the TIMMS countries that surpass us).
Horses #3 and #4, Inclusion/Immersion and Grade Level Placement, differ in motivation but produce the same noxious result, an enormous range of student capabilities in a single classroom, with an attendant reduction in the number and type of teachers that address them. And finally with horses 1,2,4, and 5 teamed up you're ready for the lead horse, horse #3,Constructivism.
With an exquisitely complex spiral, delivering an overwhelming number of concepts to a highly diverse population grouped by virtue of their hat size, there is no other choice but to have the kids teach each other. Horse #3 is inevitable.
Every argument you hear for constructivist philosophy is no more than rationalization, devised to make palatable, the misbegotten notion that kids can teach themselves the things that mankind learned over thousands of years, driven by the need to address the maelstrom created by the four horsemen that accompany it. Once you figure out where it comes from you're better able to appreciate why it's so popular. Unfortunately, it's very hard to change the direction of the lead horse when the rest of the team is not cooperating and these horses all tend to be discussed in isolation, where they can be made to sound plausible. Together though, they are undeniably toxic.
And yes I know there are only four horsemen but I'm invoking my 21st century skills to invent my own literary reality.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
from Paul H: