Monday, October 3, 2011

Education Nation is Full of Narcissistic Fools

SO NBC, that bastion of level-headedness, has this thing called Education Nation. I did not watch the two segments.  After reading the following list, I couldn't do it.  I feel somewhat sick already and didn't want to push it.

The Innovative Educator thought this was all peachy-keen and listed out some of the talking points that resonated in its empty head.

Apparently, no one listens to the students and that's bad.  Of course, most of us do but that's not the Reformer Way of Describing Teachers so we obviously don't do that and obviously The Students Are Always Right When They Complain.

" In their discussion, young people provided insight into their own experiences with education and what they think needs to be done to ensure that every student receives a world-class education."  Because we all know that students are the Font of Wisdom and teachers are morons.  Quick note: Sleeping through class does not make you an expert on education.

But let's let their words speak for them ...
I have to critically think in college, but your tests don't teach me that.
They're not supposed to teach you that. They're supposed to help form and guide your learning and measure it, give that college some idea of what you can do.
We learn in different ways at different rates.
SO? Even though you really aren't all that different from your peers.  It's funny how I easily I can predict what each student will be able to achieve and what time frame it will take to do it.  Amazingly, the whole class is within a short time of each other.

I can't learn from you if you are not willing to connect with me.
Bullshit. Teachers can connect but it's a two-way street and you're not playing. If you can't learn without the touchy-feely crap then you'll never learn from Salman Kahn, a computer, an online program, a disinterested presenter or any teacher who is even slightly less than your ideal of perfection.  That's a damn shame.
Teaching by the book is not teaching. It's just talking.
Minor point. Teaching by the book is accepting that someone smarter than I and with more time and help from his graduate students, has put together a pretty damn good calculus book.  Why would I change it radically?
Caring about each student is more important than teaching the class.
Bullshit. Caring about you is not the reason I get paid nor the reason you're in that class.  Teaching is a profession and one that I enjoy but I am not your parent, your priest or your counselor. I am the teacher.
This is my job.
Every young person has a dream. Your job is to help bring us closer to our dreams.
Nope.  My job is to teach math the best I can. See all that stuff to the right? Your job is to see to your dreams. You're the only one who can force you to put in the effort to reach your dreams.  This is an internal incentive.  External forces don't work here.
We need more than teachers. We need life coaches.
Really? "Life coach"? When did teachers take the place of your parents? Do you really want me to (A) know about all of your off-campus shenanigans and problems and (B) are you willing to let me solve them? Did it ever occur to you that I might not have an answer for why your religion is retarded or why your mother is drug-addicted? I might not be the best person to counsel you on what to do with your life. How can I possibly know what you want? You can't even tell me what you'll be doing next summer, forget what you'll spend your life doing.

Or do you want someone's shoulder to cry on and pat you condescendingly on the head? If you want my advice as a Certified Life Coach: stop being a navel-gazing narcissist and grow up. The world really doesn't give a damn about your "life coaching".
The community should become more involved in schools.
Meh.  If there's anything less appealing, it's having a whole bunch of people around who are convinced that they know everything because they went to school.  You don't second-guess any other professionals in your life, why the eagerness to second-guess teachers?
Even if you don't want to be a teacher, you can offer a student an apprenticeship.
I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
Us youth love all the new technologies that come out. When you acknowledge this and use technology in your teaching it makes learning much more interesting.
I love them, too. Now get out your iPads and load up the Kindle version of the textbook and get to work. If you can't connect to the school's network, then set up a wi-fi hotspot off your iPhone, go to, find the answer to the first part of the question and incorporate it into the Excel spreadsheet to further analyze the problem, dump the results to Powerpoint, send it to your portable printer or convert it to one of the four acceptable electronic formats.  Then, don't send it to my email account but rather submit it to the class Moodle in the proper forum.  You know how to do that, right? By the end of the week, I'll want you to be able to explain all this and apply your knowledge to something completely different, so you need to get cracking.
You should be trained not just in teaching but also in counseling.
Really?  Cool. That'll get me an additional $50k per year, and I get to send the rest of the class away for the period while we talk. Feel better now?  Made much improvement in math while you sorted out your ego?
Tell me something good that I'm doing so that I can keep growing in that.
You're a big boy, now.  If you don't know your strengths, my telling you over and over isn't going to help. I give praise when it's deserved and to encourage students.  I don't give out gold stars because that's demeaning. You need to do something difficult. You need to fail, and then pick yourself back up, fail and finally succeed.  YOU need to tell YOURSELF what's good. You're not supposed to be dancing to my tune on that.
When you can feel like a family member it helps so much.
Not it doesn't.  I'm not your parent. Our relationship is on a friendly, but professional level.
We appreciate when you connect with us in our worlds such as the teacher who provided us with extra help using Xbox and Skype
I'd appreciate it if you paid attention in class and made the most of the limited time we had. Since we only have those 60 minutes and there are quite a few equally needy souls in the room, how about we dispense with the games and focus on the math you signed up to take?  My understanding was this was pre-calculus. I know a whole lot more than you do about what you'll need in the workplace ... XBox, not withstanding.
Our teachers have too many students to enable them to connect with us in they way we need them to.
Grow up.  Seek out the teachers.  The good ones will be there. Just wait until you get to college and have the privilege of sitting with 400 of your closest friends in a lecture hall listening to a TA with a heavy foreign accent. Nobody is connecting until you show up at Office Hours and ask an intelligent question.
Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.
Those things should never have left. Don't blame me for the morons in the community who made that decision. HOWEVER, student interest should never drive their education decisions ... they have no idea what they'll need and waste the limited time they have on things that are easy and un-challenging rather than on things they will later wish they'd done.
Education leaders, teachers, funders, and policy makers need to start listening to student voice in all areas including teacher evaluations.
Nope. Until you have some experience, your "opinion" is worthless and people will blow you off.  When you have that experience, you'll find we already do listen.
You need to use tools in the classroom that we use in the real world like Facebook, email, and other tools we use to connect and communicate.
You need to put away your childish toys and realize that gossip and passing notes is something we did when we were young, too, and that Facebook and twitter are simply the new version of that. There's a reason why older folks don't communicate as often - they communicate BETTER.  Quality will someday replace quantity.  In the meantime, continue sending 300+ texts a day .... I'm sure someone is reading and thinking deeply about them.  At some point, though, the two of you sitting on each end of the couch texting each other might consider putting the phone down and "talking".
You need to love a student before you can teach a student.
Awesomely silly.   and false.
We do tests to make teachers look good and the school look good, but we know they don't help us to learn what's important to us.
I don't like those tests either.  If I had my choice, you'd have four tests per semester and an end-of-course exam. Five scores. That's it. No homework grade, no participation grade, no effort grade, no attendance ... nothing but "Do you know what you're doing"?

I'm glad we had this talk.


  1. I love that I'm not the only one who thinks this! Thank you!

  2. "'I have to critically think in college, but your tests don't teach me that.'

    They're not supposed to teach you that. They're supposed to help form and guide your learning and measure it, give that college some idea of what you can do."

    I think it would've been very helpful had my high school teachers made their tests more like the exams I took in college. My high school tests were all rote memorization & regurgitation. Memorize the algorithm, then plug-n-chug on the test. My college exams, by contrast, required application, and yes, "critical thinking". It took a big adjustment my freshman year of college to make that switch and my GPA took a hit because of that.

    There's no reason why my high school math & science teachers couldn't have made their tests less rote plug-n-chug and more application & critical thinking. The Singapore Math books that we are using in our homeschool do that. It would just take a change in mindset from teachers like you.

  3. It seems you are against the use of technology in teaching.

    In which case, I recommend you stop using your photocopier, and all of those books that came off of a printing press.

    At some point, you have to recognize that some technologies impact how and what we teach, and to be completely ignorant of how they work is to be failing in your duty as an educator. It doesn't mean that you have to use them (plenty of excellent instruction happens without either a photocopier or books) but to not have a clue (and clearly you do not) how these technologies are useful in education is pretty close-minded.

  4. Well, David, it seems that like the rest of this new crop of students you can't read for content.

    I am very pro-technology IF the technology is useful. I do not use technology as an end in itself, I don't toss in Excel just because the computers have it installed and I don't just thrust the students onto WolframAlpha simply because it exists.

    These are tools, tools that the students are woefully ignorant of. This generation of "Digital Natives" is wedded to Facebook and Twitter and hasn't got a clue about any kind of productivity software. That's what I have a problem with and that's why I wrote the opinion. The students want the glitzen-bullshit but none of the actual work and very little of the real technology.

    As for the Crimson Wife: TESTS don't teach diddly-squat and my tests are like college tests in that I ask for some very high-level thinking ... after I ask for some basic, low-level thinking. I insist that students be capable of rote memorization of facts so that they CAN turn around and think critically using those facts. A content-light, touchy-feely, "connect at an emotional level" curriculum is exactly why so many students are having such a tough time in college ... they don't KNOW anything.

    You don't have to take my word for it, you could ask the professors, as I have.

  5. I think I love you.

    It's interesting that the teachers who tell it like it is and don't take this kind of crap are usually math and science teachers.

    -Former inner city high school science teacher

  6. I love your technology bit. I'm teach technology classes in middle school and CS in high school. In MS, I'm constantly amazed by kids who don't know the difference between Word and a browser. Really. I hope I'm helping them with that because I want them to be able to follow that series of instructions you gave without even being asked to.

  7. I frankly am shocked that you didn't get one "you're being disrespectful to students" comment like I did when I posted my own response to the Innovative Educator:

    Some of what was in that EN forum was worth reading and listening to, but some of it was way out of touch. I think you really did a great job skewering it.

    This was a great post and made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

  8. This is a great post and nails many issues with the student-teacher relationship. However, there is one thing that bothers me:

    "Bring the electives that we are actually interested in back to school. Things like drama, art, cooking, music.

    Those things should never have left. Don't blame me for the morons in the community who made that decision. HOWEVER, student interest should never drive their education decisions ... they have no idea what they'll need and waste the limited time they have on things that are easy and un-challenging rather than on things they will later wish they'd done."

    I don't agree that student interest should never drive their education decisions. What if the student wants to be an actor? An artist? A musician? It's true that you still need to know math, reading, and writing, but that shouldn't discourage you from taking classes in something else that you might want to do more seriously later, if they are available.