Saturday, September 15, 2012

Experts in Education

... don't seem to have any experience in education. Occasionally, we'll get that rare person running professional development ... an actual teacher who has had recent experience at our level ... but mostly it's another "Bright Ideas come from Industry" kind of person or it's someone who was an elementary teacher twenty years ago who left the classroom to get a PhD in education and never looked back.

Education Experts
  • are people who start foundations with profits from the computer industry (Bill Gates), 
  • who taught a single summer course at a small private school in Massachusetts (Alfie Kohn), 
  • who made a ton of money as a fund manager and made a few videos for his nieces (Salman Khan),
  • who had a daughter with special needs (Bill Daggett) and now spends his time being on boards and shilling his research results. "We have found what the most-improving schools are doing ... but it'll cost you."
  • who take a six-week prep course and are ready to "Save the Kids" from their drab, wretched lives as long as the saving doesn't infringe on their chance to get a "Real Job" (TFA-ers)
from NYCEducator
In fact, it seems that the one criteria common to all of these "Modern Wonders of the Education World" is that they've never been teachers. The second commonality is that they can't agree on the advice they give and spend most of the time contradicting the other expert.
  • More tech, more tech, more tech vs. Less Tech, more Literacy
  • "More Homework" "Less homework" "No homework"
  • Back to Basics; Raise the Standards; Teach All Students the Same thing.
  • Homogenize and Differentiate vs. Tracking and Splitting out the exceptional kids.

Why do these experts get pushed to the fore? I think it's because they made money, or on the case of TFAs had parents that made enough money to send them to IVY-league schools. To make money, you have to be a bit of an inconsiderate asshole with a tremendous ego streak and a certainty that your actions are always right. This works in industry ... just ask Donald Trump.

Interesting side note: Microsoft's first big success, DOS, was essentially stolen from its original programmer ... Bill paid a tiny fraction of what it was worth and immediately turned around and sold it to IBM at a huge markup.

So now what? I guess I'll just keep plugging along, teaching the kids and doing my job.

I'm happy to hear of the success they're having in college (gots lots of stories the other night at open house). I'm a little bummed when kid after kid comes to me and says how much they wish they were in my class again, how the other teacher is "so awful" and doesn't teach right and I have to help them realize that everyone teaches in a different way and that they need to adjust to a different style, "Different is not bad, it's just different." It's tiring to endure the "experts" who tell me, in not so many words, "You Suck. You don't Know What Works."

Bah.  I've got to get back to work.


  1. Bravo and amen, brother. Welcome to the island of Lilliput.

  2. I feel the need to spread this far and wide!