Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Education is All In Your Mind"

Today's New York Times has published my letter in response to Richard Nisbett's January 8th New York Times Op-Ed piece.

Beyond the concerns I expressed there, I have a broader worry about the effects of Nisbett's Op-Ed on classroom education. Specifically, I worry that his theory--that fostering positive student attitudes is more effective than teacher training and curriculum content--will only further entrench current practices.

Already, too many educators think it's all about how students perceive themselves, how comfortable they feel in the classroom, and whether they relate what they're learning to their futures, and that actual academic content matters little. You can bet that, in these circles especially, Richard Nisbett's piece will get loads of coverage.

Refreshingly, today's New York Times has an Op-Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof that touts the importance of good teachers. Kristof cites a Department of Education study, published this month, that shows, in his words, "no correlation between teacher certification and teacher effectiveness."

But Kristof, like Nisbett, makes no mention of curriculum content, and, in fact, goes on to suggest that teachers' academic training matters little: "Particularly in lower grades, it also doesn’t seem to matter if a teacher has a graduate degree or went to a better college or had higher SATs."

When will a major newspaper run a piece that exposes the impoverished content of today's Reform Math programs, and raises the possibility that both what your teacher knows, and what you learn, makes a difference?


Cheryl van Tilburg said...

Great letter, Leftie. Thanks for writing it -- and congrats on getting it published!

Mrs. C said...

You go, Lefty!

That was my attempt at Reform English. :]

PS Thanks for the word problem explanation in the previous post. GUESS what we've been having difficulty with lately??

Catherine Johnson said...


lefty said...

Thanks, guys, for you kind comments here, and for your ideas on word problems. I've been thinking about all your posts and how to apply your advice--and wish I had time for more than a general "group thanks"!