Saturday, October 27, 2007

From Russia, With Love...

Reinventing the Wheel of Education
by Natalie Kramer

When I hear educators talk about striving to reach a 70 percent achievement rate in standards that would be considered modest compared with those imposed on (and met by!) nearly all of my peers, I cannot help but see such efforts as naive, albeit well-intentioned, attempts to reinvent the wheel.

When I was growing up in Leningrad, there were two pedagogical institutes where future teachers received their training in how to teach. They learned, for example, that multiplication tables up to eight take second graders until April to master, if they practice four times a week for fifteen minutes and get three homework assignments on them a week. These teachers-to-be also learned that teaching multiplication tables by rote only is boring and that combining rote memorizations with interesting applications brings better results. Future teachers were also taught in which proportion to combine rote memorization with applications and how the optimal proportion changes with the age of the students.

Sounds scientific? It is; teaching is every bit as complex as practicing medicine or law. Only in America (and in Canada, perhaps), is a teacher's job perceived as a constant act of inspirational invention. The constant adaptation to local and individual "needs" is little more than an excuse for not having an infrastructure supplying uniformly trained and competent teachers. Throughtout history, teachers have been taught to teach in a systematic and organized way. Their skills are viewed as those of professionals, not of stand-up comedians or babysitters.

Want to read the whole thing? "Reinventing the wheel of education" by Natalie Kramer, can be found HERE.

You'll find links to many articles of interest at illinoisloop. org-- a visit to this webiste is highly recommended.

1 comment:

Exo said...

I must say: she is right. I wish I sent my son to French school... Instead, he goes to public school and then i teach him at home using methods of "russian school".
I was educated in Ukraine - but it was no different than in Leningrad, Russia. Same curriculum, same standards, same methods. And we were taught well with no regards to how experienced the teacher was, or what the SES of a student was...
And I wish I were taught in ed school HOW to teach each topic in biology to best results and not just design the activities.