Any veteran teacher can remember the fads that began in the 1960s. Each promised to reform education. Each lasted 3-5 years. And each failed.
Educational Television: airplanes circled over the state to beam down “Continental Classroom” and other televised programs. Forty years later, we beam the programs from satellite and they still don’t work.
Educational Objectives: developed by Benjamin Bloom, they could clarify exactly what we wanted students to achieve. Veteran teachers already knew.
Programmed instruction: read a lesson and if you could answer the question correctly, go to next page. Also called “drill and practice,” it was “drill and kill” to any student interest.
Open Classrooms: No one today seems to remember why we built many schools in the early 1970s without classroom walls. We retrofitted the walls a decade later.
Individualized Instruction: each student learned different lessons at their own pace. It worked teachers to death and students as a group progressed slowly without the rich context of common classwork. Today, it survives only in Individualized Instruction Plans (IEPs) for special education students.
Phase-elective Courses: an exciting short period of high interest and variable short courses for high school students. It died because back-to-basics despised the smorgasbord curriculum and imposed a bland uniform curriculum.
Work Experience Programs: for a short time while high school graduation requirements only took three and half years to finish, seniors could leave school to sample a job.
Time-on-Task: the students’ day was partitioned with a stop watch and students had better be on a learning task. No more frivolous field trips.
Every-Teacher-a-Reading-Teacher: as if there were no specialized skills to teaching reading, we all had to incorporate it in math and science, etc. In Kansas, all teachers had to go back and complete a course to be a reading teacher.
Every-Teacher-a-Special Ed-Teacher: as if there was no deep specialization needed to teach special students. In Kansas, all teachers had to go back and complete a course in special education.
Mastery Teaching: over-and-over again until everyone gets an A or B. The KSDE sent out teams to teach mastery teaching and at least one major high school still uses it today. Talk about grade inflation!
Madeline Hunter 7-Step Lesson Plans: From “establishing set” to “closure,” Oklahoma evaluated all teachers on this cookbook for teaching. The fad died when Dr. Hunter died.
Cooperative Learning: no more lectures. Assign lessons to student groups for a common grade. The good students did all the work and the lazy ones got the same grade, and it practiced them in cheating.
Outcomes-Based Education: measures a student’s learning and modifies teaching for a better result. Sounds good but doesn’t work in practice; students vary in talent and outcomes are not the same. And each school defined outcomes differently.
Standards Movement: So states standardized outcomes. Ignoring that students come from different backgrounds with different skills and are heading to different lives and careers, teachers have been forced to standardize their coursework into teach-to-the-test monotony.
Virtual, On-line, and Distance Education: Appearing hi-tech, virtual education uses expensive and inefficient media to pull students from the rich context of classrooms. Only a few bright students can learn with independent electronic correspondences courses, but this is purveyed for problem kids in alternative schools and for those left behind by No Child Left Behind. On-screen education didn’t work when broadcast by plane in the 1960s and transmitting from satellite/internet today won’t change that.
Education schools lack credibility because they lack a “paradigm”–a knowledge base that does not change every few years. Unlike the sciences where knowledge is stable and builds, education flits from fad to fad. Critics are right to disregard education schools that change curricula every half decade.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives in Emporia, KS.