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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

David Brook's "Teaching The Elephant"

We take a quick break from my riveting satire of the educational system to discuss a column by David Brooks.

Mr. Brooks has been reading a lot of books including "The Happiness Hypothesis" and "Blink." Now I will admit that I have not read these books and am familiar with them only from accounts in the media.

For the most part I accept that there is a split between the concious and subconcious. It is this split that subliminal advertising attempts to exploits. However, studies have not shown any significant change in concious behavior caused by subconcious stimuli. I also believe that you can train the mind like any muscle. Even though the heart is not conciously controlled by us we can condition it to be more effective.

My problem with Mr. Brooks' column comes from the example that he chooses to use. It was obviously chosen to attack the "gods" of education and their assumption that creativity, freedom of thought, and novel approaches to problem solving were a part of academic rigor. Apparently if we drill middle-class skills into the impoverished (black) students of our urban centers then they will be smarter. If we can only get them to sit up straight and and nod their heads in agreement, then achievement scores will go up.

The problem with many schools that teach urban youth is that they are too concerned with teaching the affectations of education or going back to basics. Mr. Brooks wants the schools to drive the elephant instead of teaching the students to control it themselves. Every student requires different environments in order to best condition their minds. A school should do its best to provide as many of those environments as possible. A faculty with a wide variety of teaching styles is ideal for a successful school. Students should sample many styles and find the ones that work for them, and adapt to the ones that don't.

Too much time is spent on teaching working-class students how to behave, follow the rules, and act docile. If they would only act more like us then everything would be fine.


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Anonymous said...

Mr. Brooks seems to have boiled down the problem with "urban education" to just a few, easily controllable variables. Good for him! Maybe he can solve the problems with the Middle East by just having them over for dinner next Rosh Hashana. Or Ramadan. Or both. Or neither. Or Christmas.

I'm sure that the people at Pixar would get a chuckle out of the "straight rows" and "nod" suggestions. They've prospered with such rigidity.