7 education myths

Seven Myths about Education, a “short, pungent e-book” by British schoolteacher Daisy Christodoulou, is a 
, writes E.D. Hirsch, Jr. on Core Knowledge Blog. Both the British and American educational systems “are being hindered by a slogan-monopoly of high-sounding ideas — brilliantly deconstructed in this book,” writes Hirsch.

The seven myths — not unions, low teacher quality or government dictates — are the real problem, Christodoulou argues.

. . . potentially effective teachers have been made ineffective because they are dutifully following the ideas instilled in them by their training institutes. These colleges of education have not only perpetuated wrong ideas about skills and knowledge, but in their scorn for “mere facts” have also deprived these potentially good teachers of the knowledge they need to be effective teachers of subject matter.

After training as a teacher, teaching for three years, attending numerous in-service training days and following educational policy closely, Christodoulou had no idea she “could be using hugely more effective methods” than those she’d been taught. “I would spend entire lessons quietly observing my pupils chatting away in groups about complete misconceptions and I would think that the problem in the lesson was that I had been too prescriptive,” she writes.

Her seven myths:

1 – Facts prevent understanding
2 – Teacher-led instruction is passive
3 – The 21st century fundamentally changes everything
4 – You can always just look it up
5 – We should teach transferable skills
6 – Projects and activities are the best way to learn
7 – Teaching knowledge is indoctrination

No Child Left Behind failed because “American educators, dutifully following the seven myths, regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge,” writes Hirsch. They wasted time on “strategies” for test taking.

Hirsch fears Common Core State Standards, which he supports, will fail too if teachers are “compelled to engage in the same superficial, content-indifferent activities, given new labels like ‘text complexity’ and ‘reading strategies’.”

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  1. We’re in the throes of frantically preparing for the 4H fair at my house, and I think she needs more nuance on #6. Projects are not the best way to learn academic material, but they’re a great way to learn certain ‘character traits’ like:
    Following Directions
    Time Management
    Doing Your Best
    Hard Work

    So… difficult individual projects may be a great way to instill middle class values. They’re just not a great way to learn history, grammar, or math…..

    • SuperSub says:

      Do projects teach character values or allow individuals to practice and reinforce them? The author didn’t say there wasn’t a place for projects in education…just that they’re not the tool that you can teach anything and everything with.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    It’s sad that E.D. Hirsch thinks Christodoulou has unusual credentials. Why? Because she’s actually taught?

    I disagree with her assertion that teachers “regard reading as a skill that could be employed without relevant knowledge” Teachers know that prior knowledge is important to reading, and its one of the reasons poor children do so badly in school; they lack the experiences of the middle and upper class kids.

    Rather, it was the curriculum developers who pushed this idea. Open Court anyone?

    • SuperSub says:

      I’ve worked with many teachers who’ve picked up that viewpoint through ed schools and in-service teacher development. Generally, these teachers are the types you could sell a bridge to… and they’re generally amongst the newer generations of teachers.

      • I went to a small-town school in the 50s-60s, and the 1-8 curriculum was very strong on actual knowledge (exception was 6th grade- new teacher with no knowledge of anything but music). Even then, most teachers would approve really weak books for assigned book reports. I have no problem with kids reading anything they like, on their own, but any assigned work should have some academic meat. Those of us who read “good” books learned more than kids who didn’t. The Matthew Effect is real and denying the importance of content (further) handicaps those who depend on schools for all of their content knowledge. BTW, the attitude that content isn’t important predates the current testing levels by many decades.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Hisrch listed three things that he thought IN COMBINATION made Christodoulou unusual. You mentioned the first one, Mike. The entire quote reads:

      Ms. Christodoulou has unusual credentials. She’s an experienced classroom teacher. She currently directs a non-profit educational foundation in London, and she is a scholar of impressive powers who has mastered the relevant research literature in educational history and cognitive psychology.

      • Mike in Texas says:

        I disagree with you, Mark. The fact she is a teacher should not be considered, in whole or as part, of an experts’ credentials.

        • SuperSub says:

          I think the important part of the quote is “experienced,” in other words, didn’t just serve her term and move onto greener pastures. There aren’t many individuals who have the combination of all three credentials.

          • That was my take-away, also. Both in my brother’s day (50s) and in my roommate’s (60s), none of the ed school faculty had taught in k-12 for more than a few years and there were many who had less than three years. Those were the ones who started their master’s/EdD right after graduation and only taught until they finished.

        • Mike in Texas says:

          Whoops, I left out the word “unusual” in that sentence.The fact she is a teacher should not be considered, in whole or as part, an unusual of an experts’ credentials.

  3. Florida resident says:

    The book by Robert Weissberg
    “Bad Students, not Bad Schools”,
    is very relevant to the United States, since it deals with US topics.
    I did not have a chance to read the book
    “Seven Myths about Education” yet.

    Most respectful greetings to Ms. Jacobs.

  4. This doesn’t sound like a particularly good book. “Teaching The Taboo” by William Ayers is probably a much better read.

  5. Actually, she’d only been a teacher for 3 years, which does not count as experienced. Unless I misunderstood her resume.