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Topic: [math-learn] Martin Bickman On The Needless War Between Traditionalists And

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Richard Hake

Posts: 1,251
From: Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Registered: 12/4/04
[math-learn] Martin Bickman On The Needless War Between Traditionalists And

Posted: Aug 29, 2012 5:45 PM
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Some subscribers to Math-Learn might be interested in a recent
discussion-list post "Martin Bickman On The Needless War Between
Traditionalists And Progressives" [Hake (2012)]. The abstract reads:

ABSTRACT: University of Colorado English Professor Martin Bickman, at
his website <> states (paraphrasing): "While my
book 'Minding American Education' [Bickman (2003)], see
<>, won a national academic award, I soon
discovered that meaningful educational change happens primarily at
the local levels, working student to student and teacher to teacher."

Bickman drew from his book in a piece in the "Los Angeles Times"
which he had meaningfully titled "The Needless War Between
Traditionalists And Progressives And How To End It," but which was
changed by an editor to the snappy but senseless "Won't You Come Home
John Dewey?" [Bickman (2004) at <> - scroll to
the APPENDIX]. Therein Bickman wrote [paraphrased for brevity;
bracketed by lines "bbbbb. . . . ."):

One of the reasons this continuing conflict between traditionalists
and progressives is so heartbreaking is that, around the turn of the
last century, John Dewey was able to create resolutions both in a
philosophic and practical sense. He looked out on an educational
landscape torn between similar apparently competing philosophies:

(a) that centered on the notion of "child-study" and the person of G.
Stanley Hall <>, with a Rousseau-like
sentimentality about nature and children, more concerned with what it
saw as health and wholeness than with intellectual growth; and

(b) that centered on high academic achievement as defined and
organized by curricula and textbooks, led by William Torrey Harris
<>, more concerned with the standard curriculum -
arithmetic, geography, history, grammar and literature - the "five
windows of the soul," as Harris called them - that rescued the young
mind from its immediate narrowness.

Instead of enlisting on one side or the other, Dewey in a crucial
1902 article, "The Child and the Curriculum" at

To access the complete 19 kB post please click on <>.

Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
Links to Articles: <>
Links to SDI Labs: <>
Academia: <>
Blog: <>
Twitter <>
GooglePlus: <>

"Education must be conceived as a continuing reconstruction of
experience; that the process and the goal of education are one and
the same thing.. . . .[[page 434]]. . . . [It does not mean, as it is
often misunderstood,] that we have no choice save either to leave the
child to his own unguided spontaneity or to inspire direction upon
him from without. But [it recognizes] that no such thing as. . . . .
insertion of truth from without is possible. All depends upon the
activity which the mind itself undergoes in responding to what is
presented from without.. . . . [[page 357]]. . .. "
- John Dewey (1974) - as quoted by Ansbacher (2000)

". . . .there are several ways to distinguish those who advocate a
concept-driven reform curriculum from those who remain defenders of a
skills-oriented traditional curriculum. . . . . .They represent
different value systems. I believe that rational, reflective
discussion and exploration of these issues can bring the two sides
closer together. . . . . . . I am told that California schools
educate one-seventh of the students in this country. There is too
much at stake to continue the fighting, to take a chance on
sacrificing the mathematical education of our children by not
reaching some agreement on what that education should be."
- Judith Sowder (1998)

"An exclusive focus on basics leaves students without the
understandings that enable them to use effectively. A focus on
'process' without attention to skills deprives students of the tools
they need for fluid, competent performance. The extremes are
untenable. So, why have so many people taken extreme positions, and
why are things as polarized as they are? More important, what might
be done about it?. . . . . . . I remain convinced that there is a
large middle ground. . . . . . .One way to reclaim the middle ground,
suggested by Phil Daro (2007), is to define it clearly-to specify a
set of propositions that will call for some degree of compromise from
reformers and traditionalists alike. That middle ground would be
broadly encompassing, containing propositions that most people would
find reasonable (or at least livable). The short-term goal . . .
must be to capture the middle ground for the majority. Efforts must
be made publicly to identify the extremists for what they are and to
marginalize them. The math wars have casualties-our children, who do
not receive the kind of robust mathematics education they should."
-Alan Schoenfeld (2004)

REFERENCES [URL's shortened by <> and accessed on 29
August 2012.]
Ansbacher, T. 2000. "An Interview with John Dewey on Science
Education," Phys. Teach. 38(4): 224-227, April; online to subscribers
at <>. A thoughtful and well-researched
treatment showing the consonance of Dewey's educational ideas with
the thinking of most current science-education researchers (as quoted
straight from Dewey's own writings, not from the accounts of
sometimes confused Dewey interpreters).

Daro, P. 2007. "Math wars peace treaty," online at <>.

Dewey, J. 1974. "John Dewey, On Education: Selected Writings," edited
and with an introduction by Reginald D. Archambault. University of
Chicago Press, publisher's information at <>. information at <>, note the
searchable "Look Inside" feature.

Hake, R.R. 2012. "Martin Bickman On The Needless War Between
Traditionalists And Progressives," online on the OPEN AERA-L archives
at <>. Post of 29 Aug 2012 10:41:56-0700 to
AERA-L and Net-Gold. The abstract and link to the complete post are
being transmitted to several discussion list and are also on my blog
"HakesEdStuff" at <> with a provision for

Schoenfeld, A. 2004. "The Math Wars," Educational Policy 18(1),
253-286; online as a 164 kB pdf at <>.

Sowder, J.T. 1998. "What are the 'Math Wars' in California All About?
Reasons and Perspectives," Phi Beta Kappa Invited Lecture; online as
a 98 kB pdf at <>, thanks to Professor Bowen
Brawner of Tarleton State University.

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