kitchen table math, the sequel: Google is not a curriculum

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Google is not a curriculum

...But a closer look through the lens of the Common Core standards reveals another challenge to ramping up the quality of high school reading.

[Carrie Heath] Phillips [of CCSSO] says high schools should be pushing students to read long, challenging, college-level texts.

But for their class presentation, Morales and his partner visited a Wikipedia page and a couple of websites. The bulk of the information came from Morales’s recollection of prior reading.

Christopher Meile, the philosophy teacher, is a dedicated and engaging 10-year veteran, but he’s skeptical about using more rigorous texts.

Even if he assigned readings from Plato, says Meile, students “don’t really follow it unless you break it down into a lot of little pieces and say this is exactly what [the author] is talking about.”

That’s precisely what Phillips doesn’t want to hear.
Education Week
New Literacy Standards Could Challenge Even Passionate Readers
By Benjamin Herold, Philadelphia Public School Notebook/NewsWorks
That is precisely what I don't want to hear, either.

Christopher-Meile-the-philosophy-teacher is right: if you're going to have high school students read Socrates, you're going to have to break it down into a lot of little pieces and say this is exactly what [the author] is talking about.

So why isn't he doing that?

and see:
global shmobal
'Technology and Islamophobia in France'

17 comments:

Catherine Johnson said...

wholeism

Content must not be "broken down" into "little pieces."

That idea lies at the core of so much of this stuff.

That was what the WNET staffer said about the horrors of Core Knowledge schools: students have to memorize "one little thing" and then memorize "another little thing."

cranberry said...

I'm very concerned about this: “Being able to make meaning, interpret, [understand]
how one text relates to other texts and ideas—
that is what our students are not able to do very well,” Moje says.

She appreciates the Common Core’s intentions
but is concerned that teachers won’t be given
enough supports to effectively implement the
new standards.
“We cannot simply say that kids need to read
more,” she says. “We can’t just dump high-level
texts, things [students] are reading in graduate
school, into high schools.”


So, when should students develop their reading skills? In remedial classes
in college? If they make it that far?


Professor Mark Bauerlein, of _The Dumbest Generation_,
has a radical proposal:

From now on, my syllabus will require no research papers,
no analytical tasks, no thesis, no argument, no conclusion.
No critical thinking and no higher-order thinking skills. Instead, the semester will run up 14 two-page summaries
(plus the homework exercises). When we read
portions of Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, Divine
Comedy, and Hamlet, as we will next semester,
the topic will be specific: “Summarize Canto V
of Inferno,” ”Summarize Act I of Hamlet,”
“Summarize the Siren Episode,” . . .


No “why” questions and no interpretation
needed. Just render the gist clearly and
summarily.

Why scale the tasks downward? Because in my experience,
students have a hard time with it, and if they can’t summarize well,
they can’t interpret, analyze, or just plain describe well, either.
Added to that, in most workplaces (as far as I am aware), summary
will be the most common writing task they will be obligated to complete.



http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/all-summary-no-critical-thinking/45297

The discussion is interesting.

Jean said...

I think I'm lost. Why would it be bad to break a text down into pieces and figure out what it's saying? I do that all the time with my kids when we read something complicated (or sometimes not so complex--last night it was a chapter from a Jeeves story). That's what I do in my head, or on paper, when I'm reading something difficult by myself.

Isn't that what you're *supposed* to do when you read a difficult book?

Anonymous said...

The ability to summarize is a necessary skill that is NOT being taught.

When asked to write a book report, my 12-year-old daughter writes 9-10 pages of plot details, when the book report instructions clearly state that she is to summarize the plot in one paragraph. She is simply incapable of doing this without my intervention. I have to let her write out the nine or ten pages and then I sit down with her to help her boil it down to a handful of sentences.

I do not undertand why the teachers are not teaching this.

Catherine Johnson said...

Jean - You'd probably love Hirsch's book (if you haven't read it already). I'm thinking of The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them in particular.

Hirsch traces progressive education back to the Romantics, who believed it was wrong to 'dissect' or break apart or analyze nature. Nature is a whole and should be appreciated and apprehended as a whole.

Once you see things that way, you realize that 'wholeism' is pervasive in education schools & the education establishment: whole child, whole language, interdisciplinary, 'thematic' etc, etc, etc.

Horace Mann objected to phonics because it was a form of analysis or dissection; it broke the word down into its component parts.

The public education world deeply and instinctively opposes analysis in the sense of breaking things down ... which of course is an irony when you consider the preoccupation with "critical thinking."

Catherine Johnson said...

Summary is quite difficult, I think, and is pretty much the basis of nonfiction writing ... have to find that great line... something about "A writer will turn over a library of books to write one new book" --- something like that.

It's true.

A huge amount of what you write, as a nonfiction writer, is summary (summary & synthesis & analysis).

Catherine Johnson said...

cranberry - thanks so much for the link!

Added to that, in most workplaces (as far as I am aware), summary will be the most common writing task they will be obligated to complete.

I think that's right -----

Summary is an incredibly important form.

Catherine Johnson said...

wow!

That is fantastic! (The Bauerlein essay)

I've only glanced at it, but I agree with him, and it's the conclusion I've arrived at this semester: my students need to write summaries.

(I fon't have the authority to change the focus of the course.)

I've been having them write summaries of all the stories we're reading, which I think is helpful....(I need SOME way to measure results, which is a whole other story), but I need to have them summarize nonfiction texts, too.

That will probably happen next fall.

Still trying to pull together 'real' text reconstruction exercises.

Jean said...

Thanks, Catherine. I guess I hadn't made those connections about romantics and wholism. My problem is that I've been a classical homeschooler for 7 years now and have read relatively few mainstream educational books. Well, I read Alfie Kohn. I make my kids summarize all the time, only we call it narration.

I've read the Hirsch book, and agreed with a good deal of it. Bit it was a couple of years ago, so if he talked about wholism, I've forgotten it.

Molly said...

One of the most useful exercises I made my daughter do when we were homeschooling (5th and 6th grades) was to read a paragraph or short magazine article and then rewrite it using half as many words. Once she had finished, she then had repeat the process, again with half as many words. We would repeat until she had a single sentence summarizing the original reading. It was a great exercise in both distilling down what she had read and in learning to write very concisely and to the point.

I'm pretty sure that I got this idea from KTM, and as far was teaching writing, it was one of the most useful things we did.

Allison said...

You can't teach what you don't know.

Anonymous said...

This is mking me realize what a great high school education I had in the '60's. We wrote many papers for history classes and economics, and they were all exercises in reading a lot on the topic and then bringing those facts and ideas together into a summary (often a 15-page summary, but still, a summary). Very little analysis (other than what has to go on when you are merging materials from different sources), almost no hypothesizing. But then when I got to college, all that summarizing was a great platform for the more analytical work you do at that leveol.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've read the Hirsch book, and agreed with a good deal of it. Bit it was a couple of years ago, so if he talked about wholism

I **think** the passage about Romanticism is in that book.

It really jumped out at me. I've been calling myself 'an Enlightenment baby' ever since.

Hirsch says America was "born in the Enlightenment and bred in the Romantic era.' I think all of us have both Enlightenment and Romantic ideas -- at least, I certainly do.

This jibes with my argument to Ed lo these many years: our job isn't to persuade people that direct instruction, which includes breaking down content into manageable, sequential chunks, is better, but to **activate** that idea inside their minds.

Everyone already has this idea, and to greater and lesser degrees everyone already believes it's true.

And, by the same token, all or most of us harbor Romantic ideas of education and learning as well. My worst moment here on the blog happened the day I wrote that gifted students can take care of themselves! Those weren't the words, exactly, but that was the idea.

The idea that nature unfolds naturally....isn't foreign to any of us.

Catherine Johnson said...

You see Romanticism in SOOOOO much of the language, not least the use of the word "growth" to mean "achievement" or "progress."

ALL students are now spoken of as "growing" when in fact they are learning content taught at school.

Catherine Johnson said...

We wrote many papers for history classes and economics, and they were all exercises in reading a lot on the topic and then bringing those facts and ideas together into a summary (often a 15-page summary, but still, a summary).

Exactly.

I'll get Barak Rosenshine's new article posted soon....but what I gleaned from him was that learning involves.... oh gosh. I'm forgetting his term now. Has to do with 'processing': in order to learn, you need to process and 'elaborate' the material you're learning: you need to make it your own, in a sense.

I think that's what writing about what you're read does.

You were being asked to a) read a lot AND b) write about what you'd read, which caused you to 'elaborate' on your reading inside your mind.

Catherine Johnson said...

read a paragraph or short magazine article and then rewrite it using half as many words. Once she had finished, she then had repeat the process, again with half as many words.

YES!

That came from ktm.

Gotta do a re-post.

momof4 said...

Great comments. My kids are 5-15 years out of college and attended big-reputation DC suburban schools, but I had to teach them to outline and summarize and I did most of the correction of their writing during ES-MS. Even then (and I'm sure it's worse now)the pervasive ideas in ELA included "balanced literacy" (luckily, my kids learned to read before public school), journaling, story-writing, little correction of written work, little grammar instruction, no composition instruction and "it doesn't matter what kids read as long as they read." Sorry; it does matter. The content, vocabulary and grammatical complexity of reading material(ELA and the disciplines) should increase every year, so that kids arrive in HS ready to read adult-level material.