C-59. Stone Age education

How many factors are in play with respect to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of education? Hundreds. Some of behavior (e.g., parental care, student effort, teacher competence), some of circumstance (e.g., geography), and some of circumstance due to behavior (e.g., financing, policies and their determination, curriculum). Some might be deemed purely circumstance (e.g., poverty, student health, single parent), but these too have behavioral history.

Too many factors to handle in any simple solution. Too many factors to yield to one or more decisions. So we tend to focus on the classroom for those conditions proximate to student achievement, with special emphasis on instructional practices and teachers qua instructors. Even this limited focus defies simple solution. Decisions to push this or that practice forward (e.g., student testing, teacher evaluation) are partially productive at best – not moving students forward all that far and not moving students forward evenly.

A perplexing quandary? An impossible problem? Or is this a prime example of our paddling about in the eddying pool below the escarpment (0: S-P, C-56)? Is this because we see the problem (pretty much the whole problem) as improved manufacture (0:Sp) of improved students by improved instruction? That is: improvements in both efficiency and effectiveness of learning … but little attention to knowing (IX, XI)?

Will improved instructional practices yield improved student practices – such as vocationally relevant skills, such as better citizens, such as better parents for the next generation, such as appreciative supporters of the fine arts, such as “critical thinkers,” such as innovators to make life better for everyone? Other tests than those of content comprehension apply.

Or should we be thinking about all this a different way (0:S-P)? Should we be harking back to the Vermont farmer (C-18) and considering whether we should start from here, midst this thicket of practices, or start anew from somewhere else?

All these practices – past, present or proposed – are solutions. But what of the solution to solving? How prepared are we, all the stakeholders here, to compose solutions (C-52)? With respect to our understanding of behavior these practices/solutions are stones. (App. XIII; C- 57): And it would not be mistaken to say that we are throwing them at each other – or, less threateningly, offering them up as attractive decision alternatives.)

Molecularly speaking, behavior IN, FOR and ABOUT education is Stone Age. Composing is not in the curriculum. Nor is behavior, fundamentally; so the way composing works is not made evident. Too many of the conditions, too much of the consequentiality, that contribute to a solution are unavailable to be employed (App. X, App. XIII). Those who would make a difference – i.e., produce consequences which make themselves of more consequence as agents – are not prepared to compose per se (I: Pbeh => Sbeh) nor practiced in making particular differences (e.g., I: Psit => Sbeh).

Elementary education as now practiced is profoundly dysfunctional when it comes to behavioral capability, to preparing children for productive problem solving. We actually invest heavily in language learning (two of the 3R’s), primarily reading, when the natural language itself is in the Stone Age … and helping to keep us there (C-55). And that same mind-binding, for that is what it is, extends all the way to educational policy making. Compositional productivity retreats there too before decision-making ardor.

We saw in App. IV (Education) that of the 3A’s (Adopt, Adapt and Adept) it is the composition-disposed Adept that gets short shrift – even when it comes to writing as one of the 3R’s. However, writing is but one mode of composition. Problem solving will require many others (e.g., making friends, establishing partnerships). In App. XI-XIII we also saw that the future for all of us, individually and collectively, depends on developing compositional capability – itself a product of cognitive and communicative capabilities: Ergo: 3C’s.

We will not, of course, be offering mathematical calculus in the elementary curriculum. But we should be offering a behavioral calculus (App. XIII) there – and not an elementary calculus of behavioral stones. We need to find a way to bring parents in on the feast. Perhaps a different kind of “homework,” a homework in which parents are encouraged to help – i.e., to become engaged? (It has long been known that teachers, as helpers [App. I], “learn” from the experience. Just as students serving as peer teachers, learn from the experience.)

(c) 2012 R.F. Carter