Thursday, May 19, 2005
HOW COME WE KNOW THINGS SCHOOLS DON’T KNOW?
I’ve been pondering some of the iffy decisions Nebraska schools have been making lately:
-- the push toward block scheduling and year-round schooling, as if spending more time doing the same things with kids is going to make them any smarter
-- the lust for technology instead of simpler, more cost-effective curriculum and instructional methods
-- the drive to spend more money instead of figuring out where to cut spending
-- the emphasis on the process of learning instead of the content
-- the R- and X-rated sex ed
-- expecting the public to believe that by meeting the state’s “high” standards, the schools are doing an excellent job, when we all know those “standards” are targeted toward the lowest common denominator
-- the censorship of Christmas, Easter, and any mention of God
-- the elevation of equity over excellence, and equal outcomes instead of equal opportunity
-- fostering “creative chaotic confusion” in the classroom instead of authority for the teacher, and order and clear rules for behavior for the students
-- and the attempts to kill off three things that are precious to my heart, and most other taxpaying and parental hearts: small country schools, classic kiddie lit, and memorization, drill and repetition of the math facts in the early grades until those skills are really automatic for the kids.
With just a few clicks of my mouse, I can refute each and every one of these “school deforms.” How come educators never seem to know the OTHER side of the story, when it comes to where they want to spend our money next?
Why is that schools so often do the OPPOSITE of what the evidence suggests is best? I was perplexed.
Then, this morning, a Go Big Ed reader asked for background information on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and boom! I got it. THAT’S why educators keep doing the counter-intuitive things: they are following the line of thinking that goes with standards-based education.
They have bought in to the Hegelian dialectic on which Bloom’s Taxonomy is based – that there is no such thing as right and wrong, only compromise and consensus. It’s the old story: Snow is white, but sometimes snow on the side of the road looks pretty black, so actually, snow is black.
One’s opinions and feelings trump knowledge and facts, in other words.
It’s regurgitated Marxist philosophy, that we need to throw out the old, and design our own “new” that labels anybody who thinks any differently than the party line as a nut case or intolerant, and therefore intimidates anyone who might otherwise critique what’s Politically Correct. How convenient for the powers that be.
Here’s how you can tell: in Bloom’s Taxonomy, knowledge and comprehension are at the bottom of the scale. They’re devalued. All systems of thought that are highly subjective – and thus open to manipulation and brainwashing – are at the top of the scale.
Therefore, a student with a broad knowledge base is no good, and a student with strong convictions is no good. Why? Because you can’t manage, control, tweak or “transform” a student like that. Soooooo . . . you have to convince teachers that knowledge and comprehension, and convictions and beliefs taught in the students’ homes, are no good.
You do that with standards-based education and Bloom’s Taxonomy. That’s what’s behind the endless workshops and inservices on this stuff. Brainwash the teachers to think it’s cool, and you’ve won the entire generation of upcoming students, who want so badly to get good grades from their teachers.
I don’t think the impact is reflected just yet, because it didn’t become popular in schools until the Goals 2000 years really kicked in, in the 1990s. I believe the changeover from objective thinking to subjective thinking in our schools is in full flower now, though. Very soon, the only students with truly classical, traditional, content-based educations will be those in private schools and homeschools.
I’ve also been reading a lot about the traditional style of education, the “trivium” – grammar in the early grades, logic in the middle grades, and rhetoric in high school. That’s what I want for kids, of course.
But Bloom’s Taxonomy has yanked our schools away from that tried-and-true approach to teaching kids how to think and use what they’ve learned. Instead, they are being taught to submit themselves to carefully engineered and “facilitated” discussions to drive them to a pre-planned consensus on what is true and how to feel about it. Ewwww!
It’s ‘way past time we returned to the trivium – and drop-kicked Bloom’s Taxonomy over the highest mountain and into the deepest sea.
Here’s my explainer from my CD-ROM of educational advice, available from my bookstore, www.DailySusan.com:
CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION #20
Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking
Q. There’s a poster in my child’s classroom labeled “Bloom’s Taxonomy.” What is that all about?
Not taxidermy and not school taxes. “Taxonomy” is a method of describing and classifying things. Usually, it refers to biology. You know: kingdom, phylum. . . .
But “Bloom’s Taxonomy” is a term for a six-step classification system for thinking, developed by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom of the University of Chicago. Some observers feel his work has been a highly destructive influence on content-based, knowledge-focused K-12 education.
Why? Because in Bloom’s paradigm for learning, facts form the least-important level:
Bloom’s 1964 book, “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Affective Domain,” was about process management and behavioral psychology. Bloom theorized that intended behaviors among students could be produced by targeting the “input,” or their curriculum, toward the desired outcome – what the students would know and be able to do, and what attitudes and beliefs they would have. The goal: to make everybody the same, and functioning in a group, rather than as individuals.
It was a lot like programming a computer: you pack into a child the material you want him or her to learn, and then you measure the output. Never mind that the child’s knowledge base is greatly reduced, as long as the child shows “mastery” of those few items and skills you programmed.
Teachers trained in the “Taxonomy” practice the dialectic . . . thesis + antithesis = synthesis. It’s highly subjective: nothing is true and stands alone; everything has a mix of truth and error. This is what passes now for “critical thinking” and “higher order thinking skills” in our schools.
Bloom’s ideas revolutionized the education establishment toward focusing schools on the “affective” side of life – socialization of youth, shaping their ability to work in groups, challenging their fixed beliefs, and reforming their opinions, values, beliefs and emotions.
The mixing of cognitive and affective goals has had a huge impact on everything from assessment to curriculum development.
Homework: Chapter, “Benjamin Bloom: Godfather of OBE,” in Samuel L. Blumenfeld’s book, “The Whole Language / OBE Fraud,” or a rather chilling explanation of how the Taxonomy is like communist brainwashing on http://www.crossroad.to/Books/BraveNewSchools/3-NewThinking.htm
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