I had always assumed E.D. Hirsch's account explained it: constructivists are the philosophical descendants of Romantics, and Romantics believed that nature is a whole and should not be dissected, analyzed, broken down into component parts, etc. Wholeism, in other words. Romantics extended this belief to teaching and learning.
Constructivists are Romantics, and Romantics are Whole-ists, so: whole child, whole language, whole math, histogeomegraph....
The romantic poet William Wordsworth said, “We murder to dissect”; the progressivist says that phonemics and place value should not be dissected in isolation from their natural use, nor imposed before the child is naturally ready. Instead of explicit, analytical instruction, the romantic wants implicit, natural instruction through projects and discovery. This explains the romantic preference for “integrated learning” and “developmental appropriateness.” Education that places subject matter in its natural setting and presents it in a natural way is superior to the artificial analysis and abstractions of language. Hands-on learning is superior to verbal learning. Real-world applications of mathematics provide a truer understanding of math than empty mastery of formal relationships.Reading Matthew Hunter's article on constructivism in British schools, though, I saw the constructivist antipathy to phonics in a new light:
The much publicised debate over "phonics" versus "whole word" methods sounds arcane, but it is really quite simple. "Phonics" involves teaching pupils to match individual letters to sounds, so that they can combine these sounds to make words. The teaching of phonics requires an orderly, teacher-led classroom, and in its technical approach is often characterised as boring and off-putting for young children.I'm slightly embarrassed to say that I had never thought of this.
For that reason, "whole-word" methods have been promoted for the last half-century as a more child-centred alternative. Instead of didactically instilling an understanding of which letters make which sounds, whole-word teaching encourages pupils to "discover" how to read by first matching words with meanings, then slowly building an understanding of letter-sounds. This method promises that pupils, to a large degree, will teach themselves. As one whole-word apostle claimed, it will lead to the "withering away of the teacher".
The most important distinction between the two methods is that one works, and one does not. This has not stopped generations of "progressive educators" from eschewing the teaching of phonics, not because of any perceived ineffectiveness but because its didactic methods are repugnant to their ideology. As a result of these teachers indulging their romantic ideals, 11-year olds arrive at secondary school unable to read and write.
Child-Centered Learning Has Let My Pupils Down
MATTHEW HUNTER| June 2012
During the Summer School Institute at Morningside Academy, Kent Johnson talked about the difference between training and education. Most of what he was teaching us was how to train students, not how to educate them. Training comes before education.
from my notes:
[The] test for training [is]: “I’m teaching them something I know & they don't know. I want them to be as smart as I am.”That's training, and for Kent training is (generally) not about discovery, while education may be.
For some time now, I've been frustrated that schools aren't giving students the practice they need.
But now, reading Hunter in the wake of attending the Institute, I think it's probably more accurate to say students aren't getting the training they need.
The reason they aren't getting the training they need is likely to be the fact that the concept of training seems almost intrinsically to require, or at a minimum suggest, an "orderly, teacher-led classroom" and a "technical approach."
balanced literacy - the video
histogeomegraph: preventing the tragedy of content isolation