kitchen table math, the sequel: 5/18/14 - 5/25/14

Saturday, May 24, 2014


I need a good critique of Bloom's Taxonomy -- and, oddly, I'm not finding one. Neither Daniel Willingham nor E.D. Hirsch so much as mentions Bloom.

I find people like Tom Loveless pointing out that knowledge is the essential prerequisite of "deeper learning," but I'm pretty sure Loveless is fighting the last war.

In the new war, nobody's denying that students must acquire knowledge.

Instead, acquisition of knowledge is the taken-for-granted. Has to happen, but it's nothing to get excited about. 

In my district, administrators are now using Bloom's Taxonomy to justify flipped classrooms. Because "Knowledge" and "Understanding" are the lowest intellectual skills, they can be acquired at home (or on the bus) via 7-minute lectures on YouTube. Precious class time is thus preserved for  Application, Analysis, and Evaluation.

For anyone who thinks knowledge and understanding are the highest skills, not the lowest, Salman Khan's rationale for the flipped classroom is the problem now.

Friday, May 23, 2014

More fun with passive voice, part 2

Just discovered Pullum's paper buried in my Great Unread:
Abstract Writing advisers have been condemning the English passive since the early 20th century. I provide an informal but comprehensive syntactic description of passive clauses in English, and then exhibit numerous published examples of incompetent criticism in which critics reveal that they cannot tell passives from actives. Some seem to confuse the grammatical concept with a rhetorical one involving inadequate attribution of agency or responsibility, but not all examples are thus explained. The specific stylistic charges leveled against the passive are entirely baseless. The evidence demonstrates an extraordinary level of grammatical ignorance among educated English language critics.

Fear and Loathing of the English Passive | Geoffrey K. Pullum

More fun with passive voice

Katie and I have just finished 5 chapters of exercises for Ed's European history textbook!


A great weight has lifted from our shoulders, soon to be replaced by Great Weight Number 2: finish another 5 chapters before Katie leaves in July.

I've just this moment revised the section on passive voice after our editor cut the line saying all good writers use it. We'll get pushback on that, she says.

(We handled the possibility of pushback by dropping the claim about good writers & doubling down on the assertion that passive voice is essential to cohesion.)

While I was Googling p.v., I found this:
All good writers use the passive voice. Orwell actually uses it while criticizing it: In bad prose, "the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active," he writes. He could have recast that sentence, but his focus was on the (alleged) stylistic sin; that was the logical subject, even if that required a passive verb.

The authors of usage guides shamelessly doctor the evidence on passive by offering examples that range from unlikely to fantastic: Strunk and White's is, "My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me." But there's more to vividness than active verbs. "Someone killed my parakeet" has an active verb. "My parakeet was hacked to bits with a machete" doesn't.

What we get wrong about passive voice by Jan Freeman
And, my favorites (which I'm sure I've posted before):