But if we’re interested in preparing kids to be active participants in a democracy, we must focus not only on what they know but on what they’re inclined to do. And the desire to participate depends on the opportunity afforded them while they’re young. In plain language, the way children learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions. And not by memorizing the names of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
It’s odd, therefore, as educator Shelley Berman once observed, that “we teach reading, writing, and math by having students do them, but we teach democracy by lecture.” In fact, it’s not only odd – it’s counterproductive. Factual knowledge may or may not be necessary for meaningful citizenship, but it surely isn’t sufficient.
School leaders need slow software before going on buying sprees of teaching and learning software peddled by companies. Impulsive shopping-see opening paragraph above-hits school leaders as it does the typical consumer surfing Amazon or similar sites. This impulse buying is the way that fads get started (hype transforms fads into “innovations”).
Of course, district officials who spend the money do not need software to slow their decisions down for a week that Icebox proposes. Instead of slow software, they can use some old-fashioned, analog ways of decision-making that bring teachers into the decision cycle at the very beginning with teachers volunteering to try out the new software (and devices) in lessons, administrators collecting data, and analysis of data by mix of a teachers and administrators. And I do not mean token representation on committees already geared to decide on software and devices. With actual groups of teachers using software (and devices) with students, then a more deliberate, considered, and informed decision can be made on which software (or devices) should get licensed for district. Of course, this suggestion means that those who make decisions have to take time to collaborate with those who are the objects of those decisions before any district money can be spent. And time is a scarce resource especially for teachers. Not to be squandered, but there are tech-savvy teachers who would relish such an opportunity.
My hunch is that there are cadres of teachers who do want to be involved in classroom use of software before they are bought and would appreciate the chance to chime in with their experiences using the software in lessons. Teacher validation of an innovation aimed at teaching and learning can not be sold or bought without teachers using the software in lessons.
As Thompson points out it is a struggle to restrain impulsivity when buying stuff because “[o]ffered the choice, we nearly always opt for convenience.” That applies to district leaders buying software for teachers to use in their lessons. And faddishness is the last thing that schools need when budgets are tight and entrenchment is in the air.
A Fad Dissolver period declared at the onset of a classroom trial that runs three-to-six months to determine how valid and useful the software is could halt the impulse buying that so characterizes districts wanting to show how tech savvy they are and avoid the common practice of storing in drawers and closets unused software and devices.
We believe that the schools must serve as the principal medium for developing in youth the attitudes and skills of social, political and cultural criticism. No. That is not emphatic enough. Try this: in the early 1960’s, an interviewer was trying to get Ernest Hemingway to identify the characteristics required for a person to be a ‘great writer’. As the interviewer offered a list of various possibilities, Hemmingway disparaged each in sequence. Finally, frustrated, the interviewer asked, ‘Isn’t then any one essential ingredient that you can identify?’ Hemingway replied, ‘Yes, there is. In order to be a great writer a person must have a built-in, shockproof crap detector.’
It seems to us that, in his response, Hemingway identified an essential survival strategy and the essential function of the schools in today’s world. One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of ‘crap’. Our intellectual history is a chronicle of the anguish and suffering of men who tried to help their contemporaries see that some part of their fondest beliefs were misconceptions, faulty assumptions, superstitions and even outright lies. The mileposts along the road of our intellectual development signal those points at which some person developed a new perspective, a new meaning, or a new metaphor. We have in mind a new education that would set out to cultivate just such people – experts at ‘crap detecting’.
We are talking about the schools cultivating in the young that most ‘subversive’ intellectual instrument – the anthropological perspective. This perspective allows one to be part of his own culture and, at the same time, to be out of it. One views the activities of his own group as would an anthropologist, observing its tribal rivals its fears, its conceits, its ethnocentrism. In this way, one is able to recognize when reality begins to drift too far away from the grasp of the tribe.
Through their training, scientists are equipped with what Sagan calls a “baloney detection kit” – a set of cognitive tools and techniques that fortify the mind against penetration by falsehoods:
> The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method.
But the kit, Sagan argues, isn’t merely a tool of science – rather, it contains invaluable tools of healthy skepticism that apply just as elegantly, and just as necessarily, to everyday life. By adopting the kit, we can all shield ourselves against clueless guile and deliberate manipulation. Sagan shares nine of these tools:
Like many a science communicator after him, Sagan was very much concerned with the influence of superstitious religious beliefs. He also foresaw a time in the near future much like our own. Elsewhere in The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan writes of “America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time…. when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few.” The loss of control over media and education renders people “unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true.”
Lots of people say to me that they’d like to change things at their school but they can’t afford better furniture or they can’t add this or that. But the best way to start change is to subtract.
As we walked and talked we tore down poster after poster, the rules for walking down a corridor — ”follow the silver line, no talking, don’t touch anything” — the rules for not making noise in the library, the rules for the cafeteria. We didn’t need new rules, we needed many fewer rules. Eventually we rebuilt and refurnished the entire school in an open space, multiage marvel, but a decade before that process began with subtraction.
I’ve watched teachers subtract their desks, increasing their student classroom space by as much as 10%. Principals subtract homework over holidays and vacations. Departments subtract specified reading lists. Librarians subtract circulation desks and security systems. Coaches subtract cuts. Schools subtract most playground rules, hall passes, honor rolls, attendance awards, 95% of suspensions.
Ed-tech relies on amnesia.
Ed-tech is a confidence game. That’s why it’s so full of marketers and grifters and thugs. (The same goes for “tech” at large.)
Source: HEWN, No. 297
Despite scant evidence in support of the psychopedagogies of mindsets, mindfulness, wellness, and grit, the ed-tech industry (press) markets these as solutions to racial and gender inequality (among other things), as the psychotechnologies of personalization are now increasingly intertwined not just with surveillance and with behavioral data analytics, but with genomics as well. “Why Progressives Should Embrace the Genetics of Education,” a NYT op-ed piece argued in July, perhaps forgetting that education’s progressives (including Montessori) have been down this path before.
“Does It Make More Sense to Invest in School Security or SEL?” Edsurge asked its readers this summer. Those are the choices – surveillance or surveillance.
What an utter failure of imagination.
Tech workers and designers who reference “growth mindset” (especially in pieces on inclusion), know that it has a lot of baggage in some communities.
Public education is looking too much like the autism industry.
Rewards ARE COERCIVE. They ARE MANIPULATIVE. They ARE CONTROLLING.
Giving contingent rewards is not compassionate, kind, or a loving action. Kids understand this fact, and they fight against it. So when a child accuses me of manipulating them, they are right.
I have been through my approach before. I will refer you here and here to learn what I recommend regarding PBIS and here for behavior management in general. Overall, what I wholeheartedly believe is that we need to stop using external motivation as a way of getting kids to engage. We are depriving them of learning for themselves how to act and behave because they want to be good and because they like how they feel when they do the right thing. We are teaching them that, at least in school, their primary motivation to complete work should be to receive a reward from teachers and other adults. We teach them to distrust their intrinsic motivations and desires. We are robbing them of the ability to develop their socioemotional sense of self on their terms.
Dr. Hunsaker is a behavioral neuroscientist and special education teacher. I’ve shared his work before. Some of my favorites:
- Defining Reinforcement and Punishment for Educators – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- PBIS is Broken: How Do We Fix It? – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- We Need to Re-Evaluate School-Wide PBIS – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- We Need to Approach Behavioral Management Differently – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- We Can Prevent Behavior/Emotional Disorders by Teaching Communication Skills – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Moving Beyond Planned Ignore and Proximity Prase: Strategies to Address Challenging Behaviors – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Kids Think: Behaviorism Will Fail Until It Accepts This Fact – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Most of What We Call Autism-Behaviors Really Are Not Unique to Autism – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Behavioral management in my classroom – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Students Do Not Deserve Your Sarcasm – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Behavioral Management – Why Haven’t They Done That Yet?
- Opinion | Science Confirms It: People Are Not Pets – The New York Times
- Rewards Are Still Bad News 25 Years Later – Alfie Kohn
- It’s Not About Behavior – Alfie Kohn
- The Overselling of Gratitude – Alfie Kohn
- The Risks of Rewards – Alfie Kohn
- Explaining the Why of Your Ed-tech Choices – Ryan Boren
- Mindset Marketing, Behaviorism, and Deficit Ideology – Ryan Boren
- Persuasion and Operant Conditioning: The Influence of B. F. Skinner in Big Tech and Ed-tech – Ryan Boren
“So, there is a lot of concern that the legislature is basically using recapture to fuel the growth of charter schools without having to put any more dollars into it. Which in essence means our property tax dollars are going to these charter schools.”