January 25, 2011

It is this freedom of the teacher to decide and, indeed, the freedom of the children to decide, that is most horrifying to the bureaucrats who stand at the head of current education systems. They are worried about how to verify that the teachers are really doing their job properly, how to enforce accountability and maintain quality control. They prefer the kind of curriculum that will lay down, from day to day, from hour to hour, what the teacher should be doing, so that they can keep tabs on it. Of course, every teacher knows this is an illusion. It’s not an effective method of insuring quality. It is only a way to cover ass. Everybody can say, “I did my bit, I did my lesson plan today, I wrote it down in the book.” Nobody can be accused of not doing the job. But this really doesn’t work. What the bureaucrat can verify and measure for quality has nothing to do with getting educational results–those teachers who do good work, who get good results, do it by exercising judgment and doing things in a personal way, often undercover, sometimes even without acknowledging to themselves that they are violating the rules of the system. Of course one must grant that some people employed as teachers do not do a good job. But forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”– it only hobbles the good ones.

Sound familiar? That twenty year-old passage could have been ripped from today’s headlines!

Papert. S. (1990, July). Perestroika and Epistemological Politics. Speech presented at the World Conference on Computers in Education. Sydney, Australia.

Comments

4 Responses to “January 25, 2011”
  1. What an excellent excerpt!

  2. Dennis Dill says:

    Totally true…but will they listen?

  3. karen c says:

    Most teachers I know are so busy filling out mandatory forms that they lack sufficient time to actually TEACH. They are then threatened with firing when students receive low grades on EOGs. What a crock. What a waste of time.

    It’s no wonder they are leaving the public school system in droves and running for Magnets, Christian, Orthodox and Friends [Quaker] Schools to teach at instead!

  4. “Of course one must grant that some people employed as teachers do not do a good job. But forcing everyone to teach by the rules does not improve the “bad teachers”– it only hobbles the good ones.”

    Brilliant. I agree. This truth is born from the same logic that we as free citizens must maintain our right to defend ourselves with firearms. Will there be accidents? Yes. But, disarming law abiding citizens won’t keep guns from criminals – it will merely make good people more vulnerable to the bad.