Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review June 21, 2001 / 30 Sivan, 5761

Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Either they're dishonest or clueless

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHEN there's evidence that a traditional form of teaching works well, California educrats are swift to act. Alas, acting means writing a letter that takes umbrage at the notion that traditional pedagogy can work.

Last month, the San Francisco libertarian think-tank Pacific Research Institute released a survey that blasted California State University, which trains more than half of California's teachers, for cleaving to "student-centered" instruction. (Harvard education professor Jeanne Chall described the "student-centered" philosophy as fearing that direct teaching "may inhibit the learner, diminishing curiosity and deflating creativity.") The institute cited research that found "teacher-centered" instruction -- where the teacher uses lesson plans, drills and lectures -- to be more effective, especially for poor kids. The institute also found that CSU education schools are knee-deep in the student-centered muck.

The survey was not peer-reviewed. One researcher cited in the survey complained to a CSU dean that PRI selectively (if accurately) reported pro-teacher-centered findings, but not contrary information.

CSU fired off a letter that attacked PRI's "simple 'either/or' characterizations" such as "student-centered" versus "teacher-centered." Then, defying logic, it endorsed "a highly student-centered approach." "It was such education double-speak," noted Lance Izumi, co-author of the survey, that he felt vindicated.

CSU's Paul Spence told me that it is not "helpful" for the institute to put things in such "black-and-white" terms. CSU Dean Paul Shaker called the terms "a false dichotomy." He likened the division to the rancorous reading wars that pitted phonics' fans against boosters of whole language -- that is, who advocate teaching reading by instructing children to look at words in context. Instead of quarreling, he said, smart educators went for "balance."

Nice rhetoric -- if you don't know that "whole language" advocates gave lip service to phonics, but refused to teach it systematically, as is necessary. They dismissed it as "drill and kill." Today, a CSU reading text argues that phonics "trains students to be passive and obedient."

Where phonics prevailed, faddists convinced educators to include their less-successful methods as a salute to "balance."

Of course, even professors who believe in whole language have a right to teach. Those of us who believe in academic freedom would not want to see CSU try to get rid of teachers because their ideas are no longer in vogue.

The problem is: Bad, trendy pedagogy appears to be in vogue at CSU, and no official wants to recognize it. Campus mission statements and frameworks extol "constructivist" approaches, "cooperative learning" and "a learner-centered perspective," while deans denounce "either/or."

They tell me education isn't about "either/or." Wrong. Either a child graduates from fifth grade, or he doesn't. Either you send your child to public school or private school. Either Gov. Gray Davis is going to have a chat with CSU, or he'll rely on prayer to improve how teachers are taught.

You see, when CSU is presented with good arguments for teacher-centered learning, the deans don't want to hear them. They don't see success, they only see choices they don't want to make.


Comment JWR contributor Debra J. Saunders's column by clicking here.


Up


06/18/01: Freedom is a puff of smoke
06/15/01: In praise of going heavy: Yes, you can take it all
06/13/01: McVeigh: 'Unbowed' maybe, but dead for sure
06/11/01: Gumby strikes back
06/08/01: Los Angeles' last white mayor?
06/07/01: Kids will be kids, media will be media
06/04/01: Draw a line in the sand
05/30/01: Just don't call him a moderate
05/29/01: Operation: Beat up on civil rights
05/24/01: Of puppies, kittens and huge credit-card debts
05/22/01: Bush needs an energy tinkerbell
05/18/01: Divided we stand, united they fall
05/16/01: Big Bench backs might over right
05/15/01: Close SUV loophole
05/11/01: Kill the test, welcome failure
05/09/01: DA mayor's disappointing legacy
05/07/01: If it ain't broken ...
05/03/01: They shoot civilians, don't they?
04/30/01: Executions are not for prime time
04/12/01: White House and the green myth
04/10/01: The perjurer as celeb
04/04/01: Bush bashers don't know squat
04/02/01: Drugging our oldsters
03/30/01: Robert Lee Massie exercises his death wish
03/28/01: Cheney's nuclear reactor
03/26/01: Where California and Mexico meet
03/16/01: Boy's sentence was no accident
03/14/01: Soft money, hard reform
03/12/01: Banks, big credit lines and consumer bankruptcy
03/09/01: Free speech dies in Berkeley
03/02/01: When rats have rights
02/28/01: Move a frog, go to jail?
02/26/01: They knew they'd get away with it
02/20/01: How Dems define tax fairness
02/16/01: The jackpot casino Carmel tribe?
02/14/01: You can fight school success
02/12/01: Hannibal -- with guts this time
02/08/01: A family of jailbirds
02/05/01: Reality's most demeaning TV moments
02/01/01: Justice for the non-Rich
01/26/01: Hail to the chiefs of D.C. opinion
01/24/01: A day of mud and monuments
01/22/01: Diversity, division, de-lovely D.C.
01/19/01: Parties agree: Give back the money
01/17/01: Get tough with the oil companies, or forget pumping more Alaskan crude
01/15/01: Mineta better pray that no attending confirmation senator has ever driven to San Jose during rush hour
01/12/01: Europeans should look in the mirror
01/10/01: Dems' reasons for dissin' Dubya's picks
01/08/01: Jerry, curb your guru
01/03/01: A foe of Hitler and friend of Keating
12/28/00: Nice people think nice thoughts
12/26/00: The Clinton years: Epilogue
12/21/00: 'Tis the season to free nonviolent drug offenders 12/18/00: A golden opportunity is squandered
12/15/00: You can take the 24 years, good son
12/13/00: Court of law vs. court of public opinion
12/08/00: A salvo in the war on the war on drugs
12/06/00: Don't cry, Butterfly: Big trees make great decks
12/04/00: Florida: Don't do as Romans did
11/30/00: Special City's hotel parking ticket
11/27/00: No means yes, yes means more than yes
11/22/00: The bench, the ballot and fairness
11/20/00: Mendocino, how green is your ballot?

© 2000, Creators Syndicate