28 mars 2012

"Passive listening" (Critical Guide, E.D. Hirsch Jr)

A progressivist phrase caricaturing "traditional" education, which makes children sit silently in rows in "factory-model schools," passively listening to what the teacher has to say, then merely memorizing facts through "rote learning," and finally "regurgitating" the facts verbatim. If this picture really did characterize whole-class instruction, progressivists would be right to reject it. 

   But observations of "whole-class instruction" (which see) in the United States and elsewhere provide a very different, far-from-passive picture of what children are actually doing and learning in whole-class instruction. The caricature is another example of the way a valid point gets carried too-far through simplistic slogans, causing teachers to become polarized and to reject sensible practices. The implication is that whole-class instruction makes the teacher boss instead of friendly coach, leads children to become docile and unable to think for themselves. Progressivists claim that this docility is just what traditionalists want to achieve, whereas progressive methods will produce independent-minded, active students who think for themselves. 

   To the extent that more "active" methods like "discovery learning" provide children with less factual knowledge on which to base independent judgments, the claim to produce independent-mindedness seems doubtful. 

Antipathy to subject-matter content  

"banking theory of schooling" 
"culturally-biased curriculum" 
"outcomes-based education" 
"research has shown"

Return to the main page : 

This was an excerpt from Hirsch's great book on education :
The Schools We Need 
 and Why We Don't Have Them.
Recension by Richard Askey :  

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