In a comment on yesterday’s post, Ira Socol brought up a really important point. Schools, he says, tend to make a “demand for standardization too early.” And when they do, it
teaches the majority of kids that learning (of this kind) is unattainably difficult, that answers are “magic” things without process or tools, and that the only path to survival is to try to memorize enough crap to survive.
Why on earth would a school (or a teacher or parent or anyone) intentionally send such a message?
Well, I don’t think it’s necessarily intentional; in fact, I think it’s almost always unintentional. Teachers tend to “teach as they were taught,” and school leaders tend to “manage as they were managed,” and parents tend to expect that school will be “pretty much like it was when I was a kid.” As Cathy Davidson points out in this recent DML Central post, the factory-model school was designed to prepare workers for factory jobs, and factory jobs in the early days of industrialization were all about standardized responses. In Frederick Winslow Taylor’s world,
For every job, there was the “one best way” (his famous catchphrase), determined by the supervisor, and then everyone was judged by how close they came to that one best way (“soldiers,” he called them) or how far they fell from the mark (“malingerers”).
So there’s only room for one real expert, the supervisor. Everyone else must either follow the “one right way” or become a supervisor and make changes. Where the legacy of the factory model is strong, is it surprising that teachers crave “curricula in a box” or scripts? Or that school leaders can be dismissive, or even suspicious, of “malingerers” who dare to propose alternatives to the “one right way?”
And where that’s the paradigm, the thought processes of students really don’t matter, do they? What matters, for everyone in the system, is doing things the “one best way” so that you can be a “soldier,” not a “malingerer.” If it’s easier and quicker to get to the “one best way” by imitating expert behavior rather than developing real expertise, why not take that easier, quicker route?
(I don’t want to talk about the implications for what educators call “cheating.” Really, I don’t. At least not today.)
quid respondētis, amīcī? What other factors have contributed to the confusion of expertise and “one best way performance,” of standards and standardization?