Friday, July 19, 2019
Teaching in America Essay -- Education Educating Essays
Teaching in America ABSTRACT: The term "teaching" is usually used in the Academy without a clear sense of what is meant, resulting in imprecise and ineffective teaching. The standard lines-that teaching is a matter of applying approved methods, that teaching is mostly a matter of teaching skills-as-means to some career or whatever-are reflective of failure in the Academy, measured in its "defect rate" of around 30 percent. The definition of teaching I sketch-skills adopted from a theoretical foundation, in turn based on a critique-is well founded in the scholarly tradition. Such a definition is, however, challenging to an Academy at the end of an ancien rÃ ©gime. It has been apparent for a couple decades that something is wrong with the way we teach in this country. Most of the attention is focused on "the grades", but higher education is no longer exempt from criticism. The most alarming reports are quite consistent: Between 27 percent and 35 percent of students entering the college and university system do not complete the program they enter. (1) That so many students should be admitted, then lost along the way, is an unacceptable "defect rate". General Interest There is a vast literary corpus on the subject of what is wrong with the teaching system. It ranges from alarming reports in the popular press to practical and anecdotal accounts, to what passes for scholarly reportage of research backed by significant public and private grants. The popular press is, per def., popular; it favors the tangible ("readin', writin' 'n' 'rithmetic"). Scholarly reportage is contradictory, e. g.: One report, in a teachers'-union publication, tells us that two-year-college students entering upper-division study are more likel... ...er published a very insightful essay on the irrelevance of current economic theory and the economists who produce it. The picture is complex, but the gist of it is, modern school-economics is so caught up in fanciful application of ever-more-recondite skills, that all sense of the larger world supposedly being modeled is lost. It turns out that Keynes and his successors were the last of that ilk to have their feet firmly planted in reality - as well as being generally better applied-mathematicians. As I read this essay, it seemed to me much the same could be said for the exponents of quantitative political science, quantitative sociology and so on: These folks owned their fields in the 1970s and 1980s; today they are little heard from, and what they present as "science" - as, e. g., in The Bell Curve of a couple years back - is rightly laughed at as sheer silliness.