> Scott, > > Just because students aren't doing well in math doesn't mean we need a new > standard curriculum. What is the main thing that has changed in the last 50 > years? Women have joined men in the work force (which is good, I believe). > The brightest women no longer go into teaching and they are not home raising > their children. In addition. we have one of the highest rates of > illigitamate births in the world. This has caused a huge social change > which is not going to be corrected by inventing a new curriculum. Most math > teachers do not have the education to impliment the Standards in any case. > > If teachers and administrators were forced to be educated, they would bring > there own standards into the classroom. Educating teachers is the first > standard that must be put in place although this alone will not solve the > problem!! > > I'm not totally against what the NCTM has accomplished. I listen to all > ideas and have picked up quite a few interesting teaching stategies both from > the Standards and from other teachers on this mailing list. I've been > particularly inspired to do more more group learning activities next year. > > Kent >
This post is amazingly similar in flavor, if not in content, to discussions in my student-teacher practicum: we can't do things differently because students, parents, veteran teachers, administrators, (and custodians, no doubt!) won't let us.
This line of argument has been used by conservatives for years in such diverse arenas as desegregation, health care reform, sex education, and the treatment of gays in the miltary; it's also common among certain left-wing educators (e.g., Michael Apple, Henry Giroux) who employ it with the added twist that until ALL social ills are remedied, no specific reform can be successful (and the implication, at least from Apple, is that a Marxist government would be the only way to implement wholesale social change successfully).
As a pragmatist, I find such reasoning specious, regardless of the concommitant political sentiment. It seems to me that the issue is: what can I do for MY students, MY colleagues, MY school, MY district, to make things better? How can I as a teacher, researcher, professor, supervisor, etc., contribute in concrete ways to the improvement of mathematics education. Since I have colleagues who are doing this with a great deal of innovation and success, I believe that I, too, can do so. Of course there are many obstacles. But as someone has wisely said, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Instead of waiting for perfect circumstances in which to anchor reform, it seems to me we need to approach education with an experimenter's zeal for finding out what might be successful, grounding our efforts in our awareness of what has and hasn't been efficacious in the past, armed with a flexible theory of how improvement might be obtained.
I don't mean to accuse anyone in particular of "foot-dragging," since it seems to me that we're all guilty of wanting to find our comfort zone and then stay in it, even when the evidence is overwhelming that we're being selfish and obstinate in doing so. It's certainly important to understand the obstacles to reform, but the argument that their existence makes reform too difficult doesn't hold water.