1. Great article! Reminds me of another area where we do something solely for the reason that our parents did it the same way.

    When I was a kid the question my parents asked me (and other parents asked their kids too) was:

    “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

    They would give us examples of professions. “Would you rather be a doctor, or a lawyer, a policeman, a bus driver, a pilot, a fireman, an athlete?”

    The list could be quite long.

    Then we went to school. We talked more about different professions. Our parents came one day to school and told us what they do for living. We discovered what else can we do when we grow up. We can be a teacher, an astronaut, a scientist, a paleontologist, an archeologist, a politician, etc.

    The same question that I had been asked 30 years ago, adults ask children today. And again, they provide them with a list of professions, from which the kids can choose.

    All nice, all well-meant, and all outdated. It’s 2014 and we talk with our children about their future jobs like we are still in the eighties.

    Undeniably, the fact that we had such conversations with our children 30, 50 or 100 years ago and that we have them now is a good thing. But, as with many recurring activities in life, we seldom question the method we repeatedly use.

    We do something the way we do it, simply because it’s always been done this way. Our parents, their parents, the parents of our grandparents, they all asked exactly the same question and provided their kids with exactly the same limited choice.

    We fail to recognize that the majority of kids hate this question and, what’s even more important, by asking it we are almost certain to limit our kids’ choices and kill their creativity. But, who cares? Our parents asked us this question, their parents asked them, so we blindly repeat it too.

    There are several angles, upon which we can and should try to improve. I expand on them in my post here: http://bit.ly/1rVoxHS

  2. Lisa jones

    I find I am teaching fewer “cookbook” labs and instead focusing on the process of inquiry, where students have more flexibility to conduct experiments that are more original. if the entire lab and results can be “googled” , I try to stay away.

  3. Hello George. Most teachers would agree that there is simply too much on their plates. Part of the rationale for flipped learning is that it expands the boundaries of time and space for learning. Content and information that can be “Googled” in fractions of a second needs to go. More attention is being given to a skilled-based curriculum. So, I guess further discussion would be centered on identifying essential skills for all learners. Standardization scares me. However, learning how to learn, particularly with digital resources and social network has become an essential skill. The visible sharing of learning is becoming an essential skill. It’s difficult to predict the necessary “future ready” skills that our learners will require, but we can certainly have conversations such as these, and identify trends to help make informed decisions. How do you learn? Thanks again for the time and platform. Bob

  4. I’ve been an English teacher, and I worry that we spend too much time teaching literary terminology that will only be helpful to English majors. I’ve been a History teacher, and I worry that we teach too many names and events at the expense of exploring themes and examining the present. I’ve never taught Math, but I wonder about Calculus’s position atop the path to college at the expense of Statistics, the use of which increasingly drives the most transformational real-world work across a great many disciplines. I’ve never taught Science, but I worry again about the amount of terminology; I worry as well about siloing between the scientific disciplines disrupting the development of coherent, cohesive scientific thinking.

    Presently, I’m a technology administrator, and I worry that until we improve dramatically the digital literacy of our teachers, technology will continue to be taught in the abstract beside the traditional curriculum (consuming the most time) rather than being integrated practically into the learning and assessment that drive the curriculum.

    As others here have noted, there’s plenty of time to be saved in dramatically cutting back on rote memorization of Google-able facts. There must be lots more to be saved in abandoning the drill-and-kill, factory model of education in favor of more personalization, allowing students to progress once they’ve demonstrated competency/mastery rather than holding them to the pace of “the class.”

  5. Janet

    Yes – nostalgia needs to stay out of sound educational decisions. I saw a headline the other day for an article that talked of what might be lost with taking cursive instruction out of the curriculum, but honestly – I don’t think we can possibly have enough evidence of any specific loss of skill, and it does not take into account other, new skills that arrive in their places.

    I can see why letting go of some things can be hard, especially if we have seen how this affected our generation… but like anything, we need to change for what is for the ultimate good for our students. “Schools should not teach something solely for the reason that we learned it as kids.” < — indeed. I continually think of what our English literature "canon" has included for too long for fear of change. Can we exchange Walter Dean Myers or Sherman Alexie for Mark Twain? Why yes, yes we can. Mark Twain will still be there and what we DO with the changed material has always been more important than the material itself, no?

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  7. What about Grammar? Grammar lessons, specifically. Why do students have to know what parts of speech are called? I was never “taught” grammar, and yet I read a TON. I think I’ve got it. If I’d like to write better, I’ll read more sophisticated work. I don’t know. I just keep wondering. Thanks for helping us think, George!

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