kitchen table math, the sequel: in today's email

Monday, July 13, 2009

in today's email

For Immediate Release
July 13, 2009 Contact: Celia Lose 202/745-2176 (until 7/15) close@aft.org
AFT’s Weingarten Calls for School Reform To Be Done ‘With Us, Not to Us’
Major Educational Address Calls for Collaboration and Innovation

subject line: AFT's Weingarten Calls for School Reform To Be Done "With Us, Not to Us'


Strange.

I feel exactly the same way.

5 comments:

Allison said...

Can't wait for their reform to be like that of GM!

Independent George said...

It's like accounting industry reform after Enron - written by the Big 4.

Paul B said...

I remain skeptical of any reform from the 'top'. At the risk of hijacking this thread based on a one liner post, here's why.

I'll define two kinds of value; intrinsic and extrinsic. Consumers buy things on a value decision based on the combination of these values. For example, getting to work every day has some intrinsic value to you. Doing it in style, has some extrinsic value. Extrinsic value is the cost incurred to get beyond basic function and it is very personal and impossible to measure directly.

In competitive car markets, producers all have the same intrinsic costs (what it takes to make the wheels move and have the scenery change). The only way they can assess the extrinsic requirements is through their relative success against their competition. So if Government Motors sees Ford having success with pink cars adorned with purple racing stripes, it's full steam ahead on that new paint shop. Producers infer extrinsic value by spying on the competition.

Monopolies have no competition which means they can't measure extrinsic value. If you can't measure something you don't do it. Monopolies don't do extrinsic value! Monopolies will ALWAYS skew towards offerings that only include intrinsic value, like water seeking it's lowest point. They bottom out there because going lower means they aren't even meeting your intrinsic requirements (so you shift to bicycles). At the same time there is no value proposition (to them) in going beyond this point because if they meet the intrinsic level, you're a guaranteed buyer.

For public education, design from the top squeezes out alternatives. With the alternatives gone you can't measure the extrinsic value. Curricula slides into an intrinsic value proposition and consumers have no way to get extrinsic value without opting out.

Don't think this is already happening? My old report cards had eight or nine subjects on them. Today you have just 4 and these really come down to 2 (ELA and Math) that command the vast majority of attention.

I don't attribute this to any sort of evil cabal in the education establishment. I just think that the establishment lives in a bubble. The bubble happens to be a monopoly and they are performing exactly to optimal specifications for such environments. Unfortunately this is not how the world at large works.

For me, reform at the top implies optimization of the monopoly and that is like throwing a marble in a bowl. It will wobble around for a while but it will end up in the bottom.

Catherine Johnson said...

Monopolies have no competition which means they can't measure extrinsic value. If you can't measure something you don't do it. Monopolies don't do extrinsic value! Monopolies will ALWAYS skew towards offerings that only include intrinsic value, like water seeking it's lowest point.

It might be the opposite here.

For us, the 'basics' are just about invisibled. It's all about 21st century skills, Writing Workshop, Project Lead the Way, videoconferences facilitated by our Teaching Learning Facilitator with Liberty Science Museum...

Extrinsic value as defined by the edu-world is pretty much the whole show these days.

Paul B said...

The things you mention aren't extrinsic value in my book. Value is determined by customers and measured by producers.

I'd argue that your examples are of the system optimizing around ITS intrinsic values; the things IT feels are important to base functionality. Competition ruthlessly eliminates this sort of self indulgence.

From their perspective though, here is what I think happens; with unlimited money everything begins to look like it adds to base function. The dividing line between their intrinsic and extrinsic value slides to the ex side. More and more fluff becomes critical to operations. Money greases the line.

Remember, they're not measuring your perceptions at all.

Any recipe will make a delicious cake if you don't have to taste it.