The More Things Change, Dept.

The Education and Human Resources Dept (EHR) of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been granting millions of dollars to beef up math education in the US. In the early 90’s they gave grants to entities to create math programs/textbooks that parents have been protesting for years:  Everyday Math; Investigations in Number, Data and Space, Connected Math Program,  Core-Plus Math (an integrated math program for high school) and other educational atrocities.

They continue pumping money into the education machine–universities and school districts–to ensure that the latest fads/trends in education (STEM) stay true to the educational party line which ultimately gets implemented in your children’s schools.

Their latest gift is $2.8 million to the University of Houston’s education school  The grant covers new courses in the ed school as part of a masters program whose title tells much of the story:  “Enhancing STEM Teacher Leadership Through Equity and Advocacy Development in Houston”

I just about stopped reading when I read the title but like a passer-by on a busy highway who says he will not look at the bloody accident on the shoulder, I looked.

Here are the highlights from the accident:

The courses (and of course coaching—what program would be complete without coaches that help teachers to stop teaching and start facilitating) include topics such as:

  • Culturally responsive teaching and addressing learning disparities in STEM education.
  • The roles of technology and inquiry-based instruction in STEM education
  • Engineering design

As long as we’re paused at the site of the bloody accident, let’s take a closer look. The first bullet doesn’t go into a lot of detail but I wondered if they were going to take the view that math is all about “white privilege” and should be taught differently.  Meaning, from what I’ve read of such arguments, that it be watered down or discarded entirely.

Technology is always a big one. One must use technology at all costs; if you aren’t using technology in education then you are not doing it right, apparently.  iPads, online textbooks, writing in text-based sentences rather than reports—the list goes on.  Inquiry-based instruction simply goes without saying. Since we put our students through the “read my mind and tell me what I’m trying to get you to say/discover” exercise, why not the same for our ed school students—fair is fair!

Engineering design sounds great but I’m willing to bet it has as much to do with engineering as the so-called “coding” programs schools are saying students must learn.  These coding programs are mostly pre-packaged, pre-coded software that allow you to draw pictures and engage in other amusing activities. I imagine the engineering design is similar to Project Lead the Way; not much math, not much engineering, but a lot of “maker-space” and “project-based learning” items that teach little about science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong about all of this.





5 thoughts on “The More Things Change, Dept.

  1. I saw something on the TV the other day that talked about “Girls in STEM” and showed a hands-on display where kids could make various sand mountains while a system would project line contours on the sand. The kids could see how the contours changed as they moved the sand. How about going to Google maps, turning on “terrain”, and zooming in on a ski area to see why the trails are shown in green, blue, and black? Have them count the contour lines for a trail length to estimate the slope needed for each color. These facilitators have absolutely NO CLUE even for engagement.

    Engagement is always nice, but what they had was at a trivial level. Worse, these pedagogues think that engagement will drive everything. I’ve seen this at all levels, even for students who love and are good at specific areas. I call it the passion trap – if you don’t do well, then, I guess you just don’t have enough passion and grit. It’s all natural, apparently, and any form of direct teaching and pushing is bad. To promote grit, they go out of their way to make learning more difficult. Yeah, that’s it. Just put them in a room with an internet connection and tell them to go for it. Go ahead and watch direct teaching videos, but just don’t ask them to do it for you so they can answer your questions in real time.

    It’s all really quite incredible. Meanwhile, traditional high school AP Calculus track math teachers keep quiet and create real STEM prepared students. For all other teachers trying to create STEM students, they are left struggling to just promote ‘T’, put all of the onus on the students, and are thrilled if they get to a vo’T’ech school. That’s what engagement-driven learning is all about – hacking your way to a vocational degree – never to a true STEM degree that requires at least differential equations.


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