Date: Jan 26, 2013 2:17 AM
Author: GS Chandy
Subject: Re: Why all high school courses should be elective
Responding to Jerry Becker's post dt. Jan 25, 2013 12:42 AM (http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?threadID=2430804), I read with keen interest Marion Brady's view on this suggestion, as quoted by Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post article.
I still have my mind open on the issue (while agreeing with Marion Brady that there certainly should be a WHOLE LOT MORE that should be elective in the high school curriculum than is currently the case). [I'd guess that Brady is more or less correct in his opinion - but I would want that opinion to be confirmed through *EFFECTIVE* discussion by the community of stakeholders in high-school education: such discussion would happen as a default if the 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) approach were to be used in the design process: information about the OPMS is available at the attachments to my post at http://mathforum.org/kb/thread.jspa?threadID=2419536 ].
I was. however, piqued by the dismissive views of some of our Math-teach participants in respect of Marion Brady's thoughts on education (in some previous threads) - and I therefore went to his site http://www.marionbrady.com/ , from where I downloaded and studied his "Connections: Investigating Reality" (and I have carefully looked at several of his other works that are available there).
I find that Brady's ideas on education are most valuable indeed. They are well worth careful study; and, subsequently, implementation in educational systems. I believe that much of the dispute in regard to the 'Common Core' (CCSS) and etc would more or less automatically resolve themselves through understanding and use of Brady's ideas.
The 'Brady educational system' is, in a few respects, somewhat different from the systems that would develop through application of the 'One Page Management System' (OPMS) to the issue of education - but the differences are, in fact, only in some relatively unimportant details. These probably arise because of the difference in the way he arrives at his ideas on education.
Jerry Becker posted Jan 25, 2013 12:42 AM
> From The Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss in The
> Washington Post, Tuesday, January 22, 2013. See
> Why all high school courses should be elective
> The rise of the Common Core State Standards has
> fueled a long national debate about what courses
> students should be required to take and when.
> Here's an unconventional look on the subject,
> from Marion Brady, a classroom teacher for years
> who has written history and world culture
> textbooks (Prentice-Hall), professional books,
> numerous nationally distributed columns (many
> are available here), and courses of study. His
> 2011 book, "What's Worth Learning," asks and
> answers this question: What knowledge is
> absolutely essential for every learner? His
> course of study for secondary-level students,
> called Connections: Investigating Reality, is
> free for downloading here [see
> ].. Brady's website is
> http://www.marionbrady.com/ .
> By Marion Brady
> Both my late mother's and my father's right foot
> tended to be heavy when in contact with car
> accelerators. Their brothers and sisters shared
> the tendency, suggesting some sort of genetic
> propensity - which I, unfortunately, seem to have
> The last time it got me in trouble I was given a
> choice. I could either have the evidence of my
> bad behavior recorded on the back of my driver's
> license, or I could spend four hours on a
> Saturday morning in a highway safety class.
> Looking ahead, I chose the latter.
> The class started at 8 a.m. and continued until
> noon, with one 15-minute break. To his credit,
> the instructor did his best to liven up his
> presentation, mixing humor, props, videos, and
> body language. Notwithstanding all that, it was
> four of the longest hours of my adult life.
> Now, when I visit classes (mostly at the high
> school level) in an effort to keep in touch with
> reality as it manifests itself in American
> education, it's a rare experience that doesn't
> trigger two vivid memories-one of my sitting in
> that Saturday morning class trying to pay
> attention, the other of a scene in the film,
> "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," when the camera pans
> slowly across the faces of students as the
> teacher "covers the material" in a history class.
> I'd like to be able to say that student boredom
> and mental disengagement are the exception rather
> than the rule in America's classrooms, but
> decades of firsthand observation, student
> surveys, research on attention span, statistics
> on truancy and drop-outs, and the near-universal
> problem of classroom discipline tell me they're
> not. A recent Gallup poll of a half-million
> students in 37 states says that the longer kids
> stay in school, the less engaged they become.
> That's the reverse of what ought to be happening.
> It's impossible to quantify the problem with
> precision, but if educational efficiency is
> indicated not by standardized test scores but by
> adult recall and use of what was once taught, I'd
> estimate the high school average when I graduated
> in the 1940s at no more than about 15%,
> decreasing slowly until about 1990, then more
> rapidly when the current standards and testing
> fad kicked in. Now, I'd put average institutional
> efficiency as something less than 10%.
> Very few of us could pass the subject matter
> tests we once took, or would agree that being
> unable to do so significantly handicaps us. How
> can we ignore the implications of that fact?
> I don't blame teachers. What we have is a
> fundamental system problem, and it can't be
> solved by following the advice of business
> leaders and politicians and merely doing longer,
> harder, and with greater precision, what we've
> always done.
> In a November 12, 2012 "The Answer Sheet" blog, I
> suggested addressing the problem with project
> learning, but project learning with a
> twist-moving beyond textbook and lecture
> abstractions and putting school subjects to
> meaningful, real-world work. The school and its
> site model the larger world in every important
> respect. If teachers treated it as a hands-on
> laboratory and had kids use math, science,
> language arts, and social studies to describe,
> analyze, and improve the school, disengagement
> would either end completely or be radically
> reduced. The core subjects would be better
> taught, and learners would take with them a
> comprehensive sense-making template they'd use
> for the rest of their lives.
> I have another, more unorthodox proposal for
> attacking the problem of disengagement. Most
> readers will consider it unthinkable, and some
> will write me off as a danger to the republic,
> but decades of working with kids tell me it would
> eventually trigger a performance explosion.
> That proposal: Make every required course at the
> high school level elective. And if, say, five or
> more students submit a request for a class not
> offered, work with them to design and offer it.
> Take seriously the contention usually attributed
> to Albert Einstein that, "Everybody is a genius.
> But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a
> tree, it will live its whole life believing it is
> I stand against this idea expressed by Marc
> Tucker in a January 15 Answer Sheet blog post:
> "There is no substitute for spelling out what we
> think students everywhere should know and be able
> to do."
> I don't reject the notion that there are ideas so
> important every kid should understand them. The
> titles of two of my books-"What's Worth
> Teaching?" and "What's Worth Learning?"-make
> clear what I think kids need to know. I'm
> convinced, for example, that a thorough
> understanding of the sense-making process
> radically improves student performance in every
> field of study.
> Not far behind in importance I put an
> understanding of the unexamined societal
> assumptions that shape our thoughts, actions, and
> identities. At a less abstract level I have kids
> look at the familiar until it becomes "strange
> enough to see," raising their awareness of how
> built environments manipulate them in subtle,
> freedom-depriving ways, and I help them develop a
> skill obviously lacking at the highest levels of
> American policymaking-the ability to imagine
> unintended consequences of well-intended actions
> (just to start a list of matters the Common Core
> State Standards ignore).
> Yes, I have strong feelings about what kids
> should learn, which is why I'd put them in charge
> of their own educations. Experience assures me
> they'll get where they need to go, and do so more
> efficiently than will otherwise be possible.
> Experience also tells me that won't happen as
> long as they're fenced in by a random mix of
> courses required because they've always been
> required, by courses based on elitist conceits,
> by courses shaped by unexamined assumptions. The
> core's boundaries are far too narrow to
> accommodate the collective genius of adolescents.
> Kids bring to the curriculum vast
> differences-differences in gender, maturity,
> personality, interests, hopes, dreams, abilities,
> life experiences, situation, family, peers,
> language, ethnicity, social class, culture,
> probable and possible futures, and certain
> indefinable qualities, all combined in dynamic,
> continuously evolving ways so complex they lie
> beyond ordinary understanding.
> Today's reformers seem unable or unwilling to
> grasp the instructional implications of those
> differences and that complexity. They treat kids
> as a given, undifferentiated except by grade
> level, with the core curriculum the lone
> operative variable. Just standardize and
> fine-tune the core, they insist, and all will be
> That's magical thinking, and it's dumping genius on
> the street.
> Don't tell me I'm naïve, that high school kids
> can't be trusted with that much responsibility,
> or that they're too dumb to know what to do with
> it. Would it take them awhile to get used to
> unaccustomed autonomy? Sure. Would they suspect
> that the respect being shown them was faked and
> test it out? Of course. Would they at first opt
> for what they thought was Easy Street? You can
> count on it.
> Eventually, however, their natural curiosity and
> the desire to make better sense of experience
> would get the better of them, and they'd discover
> that Easy Street connected directly to all other
> streets, and that following it was taking them
> places they had no intention of going, or even
> knew existed.
> I know this because I've been there with them.
> SIDEBAR ILLUSTRATION: By Sarah L. Voisin / The
> Washington Post.
> Jerry P. Becker
> Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
> Southern Illinois University
> 625 Wham Drive
> Mail Code 4610
> Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
> Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
> (618) 457-8903 [H]
> Fax: (618) 453-4244
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