Still relevant after all these years, Dept.

The “Still relevant” part of the title refers to a book I wrote called “Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn”. The first part of the book is a collection of columns I wrote for a blog called Edspresso that described my experience in a math methods course I was taking in ed school at night, when I was on my way to becoming credentialed.

I was looking through one of the old posts and found this one particularly beguiling:

In the afterglow of celebration and in between semesters I am getting ready for my next class: Human Development and Learning.  I am a bit concerned about one aspect of the course as described in the syllabus:

“The course examines the processes and theories that provide a basis for understanding the learning process.  Particular attention is given to constructivist theories and practices of learning, the role of symbolic competence as a mediator of learning, understanding, and knowing, and the facilitation of critical thinking and problem solving.”

OK, it may be another long haul, but I am happy to say that my stint in ed school so far has taught me superior vomiting suppression skills. The issue of constructivism is a perplexing one.  For example, Jay Mathews, the Washington Post reporter who writes the “Class Struggle” column, addressed this in his book of the same name.  Calling John Dewey a “squishy brained dreamer,” he states, “I have yet to observe a teacher who is not putting considerable emphasis on specific information and skills…If you know of a study that shows that Dewey’s principles are actually practiced in any serious way in many American classrooms, I would like to see it, because it conflicts with what I have found.”

I find this post of interest because nothing much has changed. Ed schools still teach that constructivism is still “the way” to go in classrooms. And Jay Mathews continues to believe that such practices don’t exist anywhere and that the “math wars” are just two groups of “smart people” calling each other names. (As he once told me in an email).

So I am taking this opportunity to shamelessly promote this book because it is as timely and relevant as ever. The second part of the book is a collection of letters written under the name “Huck Finn” which were serialized on the “Out in Left Field” blog. They chronicle my experiences as a student teacher, and then as a sub, when I went out into the real world of teaching.

I am hoping that this book will become required reading in ed schools, but it hasn’t happened yet. So until that occurs, please order your copy today.


2 thoughts on “Still relevant after all these years, Dept.

  1. One of the best lessons in the futility of genuinely constructivist educational methods is a true believer persuading her (overt sexism intended) audience by convincing them of its effectiveness by using genuinely constructivist pedagogy. Beyond the ineffectiveness, there is often quiet but respectful derision. The only way these educational leaders are effective is to give a good effective lecture on the topic.


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