brain atrophy

Posted by Debby on 15th February and posted in Educational Politics

i’m fairly certain public education leads to brain atrophy. emphasis on the checking right box instead of relevant problem solving skills.
February 15, 2010 at 12:19pm

TC: and let me tell you, fighting to teach in a different way is quite a challenge. The resistance comes from the students as well as my teaching peers.
February 15, 2010 at 12:27pm

FR: Who needs to learn problem solving skills, that’s what college is for right? Makes it easier to turn the rest of Americans into mindless automatons for menial labor and our multitudes of fast food joints.
February 15, 2010 at 12:28pm

DW: Unfortunately they try to drive on the roads with us and shop in stores next to us. Makes for some interesting and often frustrating challenges
February 15, 2010 at 12:43pm


DK: seriously…

this morning’s educational rant brought to you courtesy of my children (and others who live here) that want steve & i to micromanage every step of every task. i asked him if we were just awesome thinkers or if there was a missing piece in there somewhere that the other inhabitants of this casa aren’t getting. at some point in our lives, we both developed the ability to approach problems with reason, creativity, and determination that has carried over to almost everything we do. the major goal in our parenting is to pass that skill on to our children.

it occurred to me that they are approaching a task (ex: clean up around the outside of the house) as a check the box sort of thing. they expect a specific set of instructions (sweep here, pick up those sticks, stack that wood, throw away trash) and fail to generalize to the larger problem solving skills that are needed to successfully accomplish the goal.

frank… you’ll get this… they are confused by “undefined parameters” but instead of engaging the brain to figure out what to do, they freeze up until the next instruction is given.

Mind you, we have a home where higher level thinking is encouraged, cultivated, modeled, etc… but it really feels like we are swimming against the current of where they spend the majority of their day almost every day of the week. they get it here, but are overwhelmed by influences outside of our control that encourages, and even celebrates, students who check off the right boxes.
February 15, 2010 at 12:47pm

KH: Atrophy? Try brain death, and stress to go with it.
February 15, 2010 at 12:49pm

LG: Debby I couldn’t agree more and am glad to know that it isn’t just here in my home or just my kid that wants/needs a simple task broken down the a long list of specific instructions. Some as simple as clean your room, where he simply rearranges the mess into piles out of the general walking area. I used to think he was being lazy, however, I do believe he is so conditioned at school to being given the task, the method, the mile stones and the goal he must reach instead of being taught how to develope the process himself is partly to blame, partly he is a lazy teenager…lol…however I have begun to stop myself from being so intent on the outcome and am trying to teach him how to figure out the process of gettin from A to Z… I have found a good tool is to give him a task and how I want it to look or be when he is finished and making him write a plan…even on simple things like cleaning up the yard…lol… Oh well I have added my rant to yours…have a good day…
February 15, 2010 at 1:03pm

KH: Ok, easily explained. At this age, time spent figuring out the minimum that can be done to get the parent off their back is considered time well spent. If they haven’t been told exactly what is necessary to be considered “finished”, instead of using the imagination, they will spend the time: 1) goofing off 2) pestering the parent for specific instructions or 3) do what they have been told to do–no more. It has nothing to do with ability to understand or produce. They are not freezing up, they are plotting on how to get out of it. Even if it takes 2 ot 3 times as long to frustrate us into signing off on a job, they consider it a victory, and then will have the nerve to be upset over all the “wasted” time.
February 15, 2010 at 1:14pm

DK: i would mostly agree with you kim… but not all of the participants are children, and i see it in my college classes also. i really do think this is a generalized issue that goes beyond “let’s get the parents off our backs” to a long term conditioning issue. information is easy to get (who reads books anymore?). we think in twitter soundbites and ask kids to make an educated guess from a, b, c, or d. getting done fast is better than getting it done right because there’s not much quality control anyhow. teachers spend a good portion of their day (out of necessity) on crowd control and classroom management so who has time to engage the brain? that requires quiet time, slack time, daydreaming time… all of which there is no time for in our uber-efficient, highly productive society.

but i digress… i have a very important report to work on that no one will actually read, but it checks off a box that indicates that we have done our due diligence when the powers-that-be look to see that we have all of our ducks in a row. that’s all that matters anyhow, right?
February 15, 2010 at 1:27pm

KH: Touche.
February 15, 2010 at 1:28pm

HP: And by “checking the right box,” do you mean my right or your right?

Thanks folks, I’ll be here all week.

Seriously, I agree with all of this, in particular the final point about how teachers are held accountable much more for the ancillary, non-educational portions of their job than for anything that happens in the teaching/learning process, so they are perfectly positioned to unintentionally perpetuate the dumbing-down of America.
February 15, 2010 at 2:02pm

CM: You need to read “Catching Up or Leading the Way,” by Yong Zhao. It looks at how standardized testing and test-based accountability are destructive to creativity and innovation, and why just as we start trying to emulate China, Japan, and South Korea, those countries are abandoning their highly centralized, test-based systems because they havefigured out that scoring highest on international tests doesn’t develop creative and innovative workers. For all its faults, the US system does produce more creative output than any other country in the world, and all those other countries are trying to emulate what we’re busy trying to destroy.
February 15, 2010 at 3:10pm

CM: You can see a video of Dr. Zhao presenting at http://www.tvw.org/media/mediaplayer.cfm?EvId=2009110082&bhcp=1. Skip ahead to 31:20 to hear his part of the video.
February 15, 2010 at 3:13pm

IW: This conversation raises deeper issues than just schools. Investors have forgotten the idea of long term investment. Eliminate scheduled maintenance and it is pretty cheap to own a car (or any other assett). For a little while…
February 15, 2010 at 3:46pm

MS: Agreed!
February 15, 2010 at 7:25pm

TM: What else would we expect from a government bureaucracy exacerbated by unions?
February 15, 2010 at 8:34pm

SB: tell me about it…
February 15, 2010 at 9:38pm

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