kitchen table math, the sequel: Terrific comments on Willingham's "Teachers Aren't Dumb"

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Terrific comments on Willingham's "Teachers Aren't Dumb"

As a parent whose children just graduated from elementary school, I whole heartedly agree. Some of my kids' teachers were wonderful writers, but a lot of them seemed to have a middling grasp of basic grammar. Once, a teacher corrected my son's proper use of "all together" as in "My family was all together" to read "My family was altogether." That was altogether unfortunate! No wonder the kids can't spell.


I could not agree with Mr. Willingham more. I would only add that there is a huge ideological hurdle to surmount that dwarfs the one requiring an overhaul of the teaching of the teachers. It is ideological. There is a mass of thought that children will learn to read when they are ready, instead of learning because they are given the tools and taught. There is a revolt against "drilling". It's true in math, science, and all the literary arts: reading, writing, spelling.

Many, many children today are labeled learning disabled when they are only curriculum disabled. There is no artist, athlete, farmer, architect, doctor or nurse that didn't have to practice, didn't have to memorize information so that it might be accessed instantaneously without thought when needed. But somehow asking teachers to cause children to practice and children to do so is perceived as destructive, uncreative. Even coders practice, fail and try again. It's called a learning curve


My daughter transferred to a university that has a fast-track program to certify STEM majors as teachers. In her 2nd day of her introduction to teaching class, the lecturer, a former geneticist, said "We don't believe in the scientific method." She said there are no truths. This is part of the discredited pedagogy they are pushing: that teachers are the "guide on the side" and are hardly even allowed to tell students things. Students are expected to come up with complex rules themselves.

As someone who has been teaching math and Computer Science at the college level for 20 years, this makes my skin crawl. Actually I wouldn't know how bad this method of teaching is unless they had already tried to practice it on my daughter. Perhaps there is some good way to do this, but how it ends up in the hands of young unskilled, poorly educated, teachers is that they don't tell the students anything and the students flounder, feel lost, get discouraged, and doubt themselves. It makes me crazy.

Teachers Aren't Dumb by Daniel Willingham 9/8/2015


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owen thomas said...

Once, a teacher corrected my son's proper use of "all together" as in "My family was all together" to read "My family was altogether."

--- classic. (ok, i'll admit it;
i promised to stop: it's after
midnight *somewhere*).

the blind leading the