The recent Edtechtalk Brainstorm is still rattling in my head. A self-professed non-educator, Joe, listened to the show and cc’ed me in on a message he sent to my husband, John:
Ah, the disassembling of the educational bullsh** and actually demanding the students end up with facts in their heads, it was the Boston Massacre all over again.
Let them learn facts!!!!. You cannot understand context, unless you know facts. For example, it is a critical concept to understand that it took six years from the first shot to the Americans saying the hell with England and telling them to stuff it. Six years is a material portion of the context…
I think it is interesting that we the non-educators [John and Joe] have taken on the “educators” who promote mushiness and ether, and have argued for precision and facts.
Our job as teachers is to connect what we teach with the rest of the world. To make our curriculum relevant to the world.
The world is made up of facts: the numbers, the names, the locations, and the dates and the places, the verb endings…and yes even the adjective-noun agreements. To tell our students that having a vague general knowledge of these things will serve them well is, in my opinion, being negligent. The real world is a place where numbers matter, where dates matter, where the proper conjugation of verbs can make or break a conversation with a stranger.
Bud the Teacher has weighed in on this one. I will get over the fact (someday) that a commenter to his blog (Jim?) referred to my voice and opinion as that of the “cranky old man voice.” And because I am married to another one of those “cranky” voices, I will print here my husband’s response to Bud’s blog:
The argument devolved into an either/or conversation when in fact, the cranky old people were arguing that BOTH are essential – to know the date, i.e. the year in which the event occurred as the placeholder for the context. Each is equally important and knowing both leads to a keen and sharp understanding of history.
One of the real jobs of grade and high school teachers has been to teach young minds how to think. Part of thinking is knowing important information to support an argument or understand a context. Dates are a part of the exercise of thinking and understanding. Unfortunately, the response by too many teachers to this point reveals the major problem in pubic education, which is the tendency to teach to the middle. Too often, in public schools, teachers settle for “adequate” education. Whereas, excellence in education is thought impossible except perhaps for those corralled into “gifted and talented” programs.
If we are training youngsters to think critically and carefully in preparation for college then dates are as important as context. It is not unreasonable to hold kids to the highest of standards, which means understanding the context of course, but also the year in which the event happened. If you don’t agree with that, then we can echo the product of this type of pedagogy, “Whateverrrr”
I welcome your comments.