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Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 4:33amSanction this postReply
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I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that in his opinion this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools. He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computer use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy.



Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces. It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that.

Then what do you make of the fact that you canít go to school in Sweden until you are 7 years old? ...  The entire Swedish school sequence isnít 12 years, eitherĖitís nine. Less schooling, not more.

Who was it that decided to force your attention onto Japan instead of Sweden? Japan with its long school year and state compulsion ...  Who decided you should know about Japan and not Hong Kong, an Asian neighbour with a short school year that outperforms Japan across the board in math and science?

The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought? by John Taylor Gatto
 




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Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 6:20amSanction this postReply
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John Taylor Gatto is brilliant.  The worst part of this horror is its forced funding through confiscatory taxation so onerous that they can take your house if you do not pay, regardless of whether you have the money or not.  As bad as income tax is, at least you don't have to pay unless you earn the income.



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Tuesday, March 3, 2009 - 7:31pmSanction this postReply
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The schooling system is a natural attractor for sociopaths.  You can get away with murder as a tenured schoolteacher. 

What is taught by compusory schooling is that your natural interests as a slave-student conflict with education.  If you like to learn, then you just haven't been there long enough.

As both a former public school student and a former teacher - both public and private Montessori - I, along with a small army of like-minded evangelists, went to schools in the late '70's and '80's to promote computer use in education.  For the most part, both the private - including especially Montessori - and public schools treated us like lepers. 

Even most of those schools whose administration wanted computers used them very ineffectively.  Usually the computers were relegated to the "computer lab," instead of being integrated into curriculum, and when they were integrated into curriculum, they were used on an idiot level of simple workbooks or the use of canned software to generate printed papers or the equivalent. 

A few courageous teachers did use the computers effectively and often went the additional mile of promoting them and offering to demonstrate what they had done and train other teachers as well, usually for free on their own time.  They typically got zero takers, no matter how improved their students' test scores were.  MIT's Seymour Papert demonstrated for the world to see how letting the kids create software enhanced their fundamental thinking skills enormously, but the world wasn't interested.  At least, not the educational world.

Then, when computers suddenly became fashionable, all that had been learned painfully by the pioneers was forgotten.  The kids are not using the computers to learn how to think - at least not in the typical classroom.  They're just running the canned wordprocessors - MicroSloth Word, etc. - to generate non-computer output, or PowerPoint presentations at best. 

They should be creating simulations of the classroom subject matter in Second Life, building avatars of Thomas Jefferson, recreating the Battle of Gettesburg, designing mathematical models of shuttle flights in Mathematica, building personal databases that incorporate everything they learn, as a permanent reference they can carry through their life... The tests should never be on how much they can personally cram into their biological computer, but on how quickly, accurately, and wisely they can access and integrate information on any subject from the world information universe.

Fortunately, most of them in the U.S. have computers at home.




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Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - 7:55amSanction this postReply
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My daughter started using computers at the age of two. She's got two old iMacs, one running Mac OS 9 and one running Mac OS X. She's now three and switches between the two interfaces with ease, launching video clips, games and edutainment software as easily as she turns the pages of a book.

Interestingly, one of her favourite programs is eToys, which she's still not able to use unassisted. But it's only a matter of time before she's able to create her own objects and simulations, and then the next logical step is to transition into object oriented programming, if she's interested.

I used eToys as the primary medium for an educational course I developed last year for South Africa's Shuttleworth Foundation. While the spirit of this course was inspired by John Gatto and like-minded thinkers such as Seymour Papert, it was an uphill battle to protect that spirit against the demands of curriculum-oriented educators. In the end we lost the battle, but not without making a great start to a completely different way of leading young minds to discover great ideas for themselves.

If you're not familiar with eToys, take a look at:

http://www.squeakland.org/

The educational material I developed can be found at the project site:

http://www.kusasa.org/






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Wednesday, March 4, 2009 - 7:15pmSanction this postReply
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Then, when computers suddenly became fashionable, all that had been learned painfully by the pioneers was forgotten.  The kids are not using the computers to learn how to think - at least not in the typical classroom.  They're just running the canned wordprocessors - MicroSloth Word, etc. - to generate non-computer output, or PowerPoint presentations at best. 
I have a class in sociology theory and one of the litanies was about how the machine processed capitalist world forces all information into digitalized programs.

So, I brought up EDWARD TUFTE and the fact that Visio -- standard with the MS-Office Suite Professional -- and an old program on its own in addition to the fascist flowcharts does provide you with tools for clouds and fishbones and other ways to interpret and present information.  ...  No takers ...




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Sunday, March 8, 2009 - 6:06pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Barrry - I'll take a look.  I note that LEGO has what appears to be a marvelous line of educational, LOGO driven robotics kits.  I know a woman who is a genius several times over who went wild as a kid over their stuff. You'd think that the Montessori people would jump at this stuff, but no.



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