Unprocessed Education

In San Francisco at the end of April, I had the opportunity to hear James Paul Gee speak a couple of times about learning and new media literacy. Gee has done a lot of great work in the field of video games and learning and new media literacies, but what struck me the most was a topic that he kept coming back to; the problems with processed food. He drew parallels more than once between the nation’s consumption of processed foods leading to illness and death and the nation’s educational problems. My ears perked up as soon as he began talking about the dangers of processed foods, since with the last year I’ve read a couple of Michael Pollan’s books, and subsequently purged almost all of the processed foods from my fridge and pantry. Gee’s words really stuck with me over the last couple of weeks, and I finally realized why. What we have right now in the United States is Processed Education, and it’s killing learning. {…}

Standardized Testing and the Idealistic Teacher

Well, the Michelle Rhee memo scandal (if you haven’t read this bombshell by John Merrow, you should), has added gasoline to the conflagration that is our national debate over standardized testing. Proponents say that standardized, high stakes testing is critical to holding teachers accountable and making sure students are learning. Opponents argue about the ineffectiveness of standardized tests for these purposes, and the toll they take on the teaching and learning process (as well as the teachers and learners). I read the John Merrow post right before bed last night (thanks Diane Ravitch for the tweet), and laid in bed thinking about it. Thinking about my own experience as a teacher. Thinking about my role now as a teacher educator. Thinking about that question that I get asked every single term by one or more of my preservice teachers; how do I get kids ready for the standardized test and still stay true to my educational principles? You wouldn’t think, at first glance, that those two goals would be at odds, but tragically, they often are. I generally reply to this question, not with a direct answer, but with my own experience, and with a question of my own. {…}