Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Educate to Innovate" HUH??

I have no idea what "Educate to Innovate" means. Probably because it is dealing with the education of only one side of my brain, not both.

This program is like so many others in the past that foster better math and science education, Doomed to fail because it is single focused and not holistic. Where is the literacy aspect, the language arts, the humanities.

A main by-product of "Educate to Innovate" is STEM. An acronym for 'science, technology, engineering, and mathematics' . This is a math and science initiative from the US Dept of Ed. We have had too many unsuccessful math and science initiatives or programs since Sputnik. I'm not sure how STEM will be any different. I'm thinking that the absence of Language Arts may be a clue to the failure of these math and science initiatives. If the student isn't literate, how is that student going to read and understand those huge words derived from Greek and Latin. We need more than a sprinkling of the humanities in these initiatives.

An inability to be literate may be a hindrance. I remember a number of years ago when Stuyvesant High School sent a number of its graduates to Harvard and MIT only to have those universities complain about the lack of literacy skills in those students who excelled in science. I know much of the problem in some math classes is the skill learned in a humanities class that helped solve a word problem. A basic understanding of word parts will provide access to those monster words in the sciences that come the ancient Greeks. We need a more holistic approach to education not more of this isolated approach that does not work.

A project based lesson, a holistic approach might consider the significance of the bicycle. If the scholars were to have a project based lesson on let's say studying the bicycle, they would discover that they would need to include experts in the areas of math, physics, business, history, music, art, physical education, Language Arts to cover all of the facets of the two wheeled wonder to understand its importance in the history of Man. The way we educate today and the way we have for the past couple of centuries is one subject at a time, without considering how they interact. Think out of the box. Doing things as we always have will only give us the same results: disappointment and failure. I'd like to see an emphasis on technology and how students produce webpages, blogs, twitters and more using the technology as producers and not just as consumers. I would like to see a more holistic educational philosophy pursued not more of the same.

What does "Educate to Innovate" mean anyway?

Education was designed by our founders to be a local matter. The presence of the federal government in education began with Plessy vs Ferguson. That case was followed by another important court case, Brown vs Board of Education, Topeka that allowed the feds into our schools and continue the rapid progress of the feds wresting school policy from local control through events like Sputnik, "The Nation at Risk," e-rate, NCLB, and now "Race to the Top" and "Educate to Innovate" & STEM. President Bush the first, instituted the Governor's Educational conferences with Gov Clinton presiding over that first one in 1988, followed by two more under President Clinton. In those summits, (educators were conspicuously absent) the feds seemed to dictate and attach policy and pedagogical edicts to money received from the federal government.

The current program "Race to the Top" has admirable goals but has too many strings attached and too much involvement by the feds. The control of schools was a local matter. The governor of each state was in charge of the education direction of each state, not the federal government. We know how the founding fathers would have reacted. We have read about it in history books and have seen it reproduced in many movies, my favorite is 1776. The feds will use their own rubric to determine which states get the money and which don't, "States’ applications to secure one of the federal grants will be scored on the basis of more than 30 selection criteria, involving such education improvement priorities as school turnaround, teacher and principal effectiveness, and encouragement of high-quality charter schools. For instance, regarding charter schools, states will be scored, in part, on the extent to which they have a law that does not prohibit charters or inhibit an increase in the number of high-performing charters." In other words the feds are dictating how the states will run their local educational program. So if a state scores high on the fed scale, the feds will be running the educational department of that state. "The Race to the Top selection criteria appear to be spurring some policy changes at the state level. " This was not what the founding fathers wanted or wrote. "...the extent to which legislatures will embrace such plans remains to be seen."

The absence of any humanities in this latest educational initiative does not bode well for the success of this initiative just as the obvious absence of the humanities in former initiatives never produced the desired results. Trying to decipher the title of this program, "Educate to Innovate," makes the absence of the humanities obvious and cries out for the inclusion of the humanities as reading and writing skills are necessary to make math and science education reform work and to make sense out of program's title.

What does "Educate to Innovate" mean?

"At a White House event, Mr. Obama praised the educators assembled to receive awards for their excellence in teaching math and science. In the end, the work that you do, and the difference that you make, are what all these reforms are all about." Just math and science? I think CyberEnglish could be a candidate for STEM since it is technology based and requires some math and engineering skills to be successful as well as learning some very basic and complex writing and reading skills as well as the root words to help in science and math classes.

A further dilemma arises as the involvement of business in this initiative and funds programs that will create workers, which is fine, but it forgets the larger picture of the human as a whole. We have already made this mistake of isolating instruction to create workers who could only do one thing. We only need to look at Detroit and the auto industry to see what a disaster that kind of education became. Yes, we need to be innovative, but what is innovative about this new program STEM that ignores the humanities. I'm worried about these partnerships and what they are really trying to do. We need more than workers, we need educated citizens, that was the purpose of education in this country from the get go according to Thomas Jefferson.

Does "Educate to Innovate" mean "Innovative Education" or "Use Innovation to Educate" or "Education practice must be Innovative"?

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