The unbearable arrogance of just about everyone

I can’t help it, sometimes it all just gets too much.

I’ve managed to be exceptionally polite of late, I’ve even avoided whining on about the pointless and inevitable failure of new ‘education is content’ providers like LessonBrites (online instructional video marketplace… puhlease), WiZiQ (find the best teachers… why?) or Tutororm (be honest, it’s tech guides) – who are all being outsmarted by Universities anyway… education isn’t about content, it’s about certification ;)

Ooops, failed to avoid it now.

But heck, why not let it all come out at once, and what in particular has pushed me over the edge is this Future of Teaching nonsense. Nothing to do with Will (who, notably, doesn’t exactly endorse the ‘findings’!) or the fact that nobody invited me (sniff ;), just to do with this kinda stuff:

At one point we were put into small groups and asked to come up with a job description and an ideal candidate for a “learning agent” 10 years down the road. The result was pretty interesting. None of the job descriptions were for traditional teachers. Few of the candidates’ qualifications emphasized schooling or even classroom experience. Instead, the group identified candidates that had a wide variety of life experiences and attributes, most centered on the ability to facilitate or connect, and an understanding of social technologies and deep collaboration. [Weblogg-ed]

Is suppose it’s inevitable that a room packed with futurists, bureaucrats and people who’ve done well out of social technologies would come up with this kind of definition, and if you’re going to call your seminar “The Future of Learning Agents” then this is the kind of guff that you’re going to expect.

WTF future of teaching

But holy macaroni batman, “there are 1,300 teacher preparation programs that are preparing teachers for schools that none of us think should exist” [again, not Will]… are you for real.

Interestingly enough I’ve belonged to three broad professions so far, teaching, journalism and web-design/dev… all of which no end of the unqualified and unexperienced won’t hesitate to have an opinion on. Just because you’ve been taught, doesn’t mean you can teach… because you read newspapers doesn’t mean you can pick up a pen (or a blog!) and become a journalist and because you spend every day on the web, that you can design successful environments and experiences. I’ve learned the hard way.

And this feels like more of the same.

Where was Stephen in this discussion I wonder, or Terry Anderson or Chris Bigum and the many brilliant educators and teacher trainers at Deakin or any other respected education faculty. Anybody from edublogs or eduspaces there… I doubt it.

And how many teachers at the chalkface heard how their qualifications and experience as teachers was pretty useless really, how many people stood up and said ‘this is nonsense’ (apparently consensus was only lacking around the real pressure points???) and how many of the attendees work day in day out with FT teaching loads in government schools… or have done?

I am sick and tired of people who really know very little about education and teaching mouthing off about it.

Would you get this with dentistry, or aviation, or engineering? I doubt it. And while you quite rightly find people expressing opinions about, say, the health service… would you get them defining the ‘doctor of the future’? Hmmm… I think not.

And besides, the point I’d really like to make is that teaching is not simply facilitating, educational qualifications and experience in education are invaluable (not replaceable by ‘broader life experience’). There is no substitute for classroom time and to be quite frank, in 90%+ of teaching and learning contexts it doesn’t really matter whether you can send an email or not

Come on y’all, call a fig a fig, a trough a trough, a spade a spade and silly guff, silly guff.

24 replies on “The unbearable arrogance of just about everyone”

  1. Hi James,

    Nothing like a bit of passion in a post. Lots of good links I need to look into and ideas to ponder upon.

    I was thinking about you and edublogs the other day. Do you see any value integrating more social networking apps. into your edu blogs products or are these apps. part of the issues you have raised in your post?

    cheers Martin

  2. Good to let off steam ;)

    Yep, social networking… groups and more all on the way, will be good to get your thoughts on them when we roll out.

  3. James,
    I hear you. I had a similar rant (this WAS a rant, right?) in April of 2006 – – then I stewed about it for a month and returned with – all about those not in classrooms pontificating about what is wrong with classrooms and how to fix them.

    You are absolutely right to put on the brakes and call the validity of the whole conversation into question. Thanks for all you do! – Mark

  4. I think your view is completely justifiable. To say that teacher education courses are pointless and that no element should remain in the future is to deny that any pedagogy from the past is applicable. This would include formative assessment, assessment for learning, active learning, the “new basics” stuff being done in Queensland and now the world over, productive pedagogies… I could go on with the edu jargon.

    Innovation does not happen in large swipes and does not mean throwing out everything we know about teaching and learning. it means iterative building on what we know has value today.

    (My rant now over ;-)

  5. While I completely agree with your sentiment, the whole “you’re not xyz, so you can’t judge xyz’s” argument isn’t all that convincing.

    I still think you’re right, of course, and in my opinion the reason why is that people who haven’t done something don’t necessarily know what they’re losing when they change something. To cite one example from the changes in German schools after the 60s (grossly oversimplifying): Rote-learning was discouraged, which was a good change, IMHO. However, just throwing it out without a replacement isn’t good enough, it neglects the purpose of rote-learning. I think this is typical of what people come up when they lack experience: They only see the bad sides, not the benefits. Nowadays, new, hopefully better and less boring, methods have been brought forward, that deliver what rote-learning used to deliver.

  6. Yeh, that’s just the ‘annoyed’ version of me, of course I think there are great non educators who have had brilliant contributions to make to education… but the web just seems to bring out many who haven’t… or are in solely for a buck.

    I know a bit about the value of rote learning too, being a challeged classical guitar player!

  7. Whoa! Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. Kind of ironic to make blanket statements about supposed blanket statements, eh?

    Actually, there were classroom teachers in the room. Heads of charter schools. People not long removed. And while I may not have done a good job in terms of fleshing out the conversation, no one, not one, said that teachers were going to be less important in the future. But yep, we did think the roles were going to be different. The skills different in some way. That the best teachers are leaners, not delivery people. That teachers and students will co-create. Collaborate. That it will be more project based, more individualized. That we need to prepare teachers for a different environment, one that extends beyond the four walls. That there are going to be more roles for teachers, not just classroom workers. Do you disagree with that, really? Do you look at the teachers using edublogs well and see the same pedagogies you saw when you were in school? And do you really see schools that are preparing future teachers for, um, the future? I’ve visited a number of classrooms in those programs here in the States. They’re not.

    And Ewan, where on earth do you pull out the “no element should remain in the future” part? Dang. That’s reading what you want to read, not what was there.

    Not sure what your rant is really about, but I have to defend that discussion. Call me ineffective at describing the context, but don’t call those people arrogant. Agree with it or not, those people had deep concerns about what the future of education here in the states looks like and the kids that will travel through it.

    Oh, and by the way, you’re buying lunch next week now. ;-)

  8. See the lengths I have to go to to get you to leave a comment ;)

    Obviously this taps into a long running annoyance I’ve had with people going on about teachers mattering less, and people being able to just learn on there own (there are lots of people not in education, usually self-taught ones who really do think that) and I was only responding to the what I read… obviously a fuller picture allows me to make far fewer sweeping generalizations (darn!)

    Having said that though, I do like Tom’s addendum:

    “Update… Just to make this a little more concrete: I know a number of people who were hired to be exactly the kind of “learning agents” described at this workshop. Most of them quit after a year or two. Talking to them about what their job was actually like might be a better use of one’s time than independently re-implementing their former job description.”

  9. Wouldn’t it be time better spent discussing the student of the future rather than the teacher? In the US, the average capabilities of students have fallen off dramatically over the past 25 years. If this continues, it really won’t matter who the teacher is — they won’t really be able to do much with students anyway.

    Better to discuss those things which are going to affect students, especially in earlier grades, to become interested in learning. Reshaping the role of teacher is a part of this, but not near the large part so many are going on about.

    It’s about the students… not the teachers.

    Rant on, James!

  10. James, you have had the unfortunate experience of being in a number of professions that everyone and there mother thinks you can do with a little enthusiasm and elbow grease.

    All we need to write stories is a bunch of bloggers, ta heck with journalists is the answer to the poor economic model of modern journalism. Now, on to education…

    Schools are not changing enough, doing enough, etc so rather than figuring how we might have gone astray from principles of sound pedagogy or discussing how to improve on them in a technological environment, we question who is teaching them. What they are being taught is what I think gets us in a bad place under the “how they are being taught” category. The content is driven not by what is developmentally appropriate, but what we want as an end product (higher test scores, back to basics, high school exit exams), and because of that perversity, we chase after that goal with a bunch of drilling and killing.

    Of course these folks hate the system, they’re sending their kids to Waldorf schools if that graphic is any example!

  11. Hi James,

    I can understand the vitriol. Surely, teachers are tired of non-teachers telling them how to teach.

    @ Will, the post tweaked me too. To be honest, I wasn’t affected by the message – but I was so bothered by the messengers that I Googled the participants. I don’t doubt that there were teachers present (you were there…), but it seemed that they were the minority based on the names I saw. Also of note: there was no student representation.

    What I read on the photographed graphic organizers was compelling. It’s frustrating because these changes can’t happen in today’s schools and it has VERY little to do with the teachers (or students.) Public education is being held hostage by policies created by people outside of teaching.

    My teaching program didn’t prepare me for the technologies of today, but it did give me a solid foundation of pedagogy. It celebrated many of the virtues that Will evangelizes. Unfortunately, the current climate does not support this vision, it supports test prep. It’s disparaging.

  12. I see a lot of BS and whining in the post as well as comments. One thing I would agree on is that education is about certification.
    This is how the world works and hence the education:
    To get a job you need a degree (or certification) for which you need to pass exam(s) for which you need to learn (whatever). To learn, you will now do whatever you can: get tutoring, buy books, blah, blah, blah. Rest is all crap.
    So teachers or non-teachers, if you think you know better, then you probably don’t at all.

  13. Matt,
    I would say that I know better. Certainly better than a room full of suits and politicos who have not taught a child to read. I don’t know it all, but when someone posts something that says the key skills a “learning facilitator” needs to be taught are how to foster collaboration, excuse me if I ask how does that qualify someone to teach a child to read. That’s not whining, it’s called asked a pointed question.

    See Matt, I’m not saying it’s all good, I just think identifying teacher training programs as the problems is like blaming mother’s milk for the axe murderer being a bad seed. People have mistaken correlation for causation. Last I remember, I spent at least half my class sessions in Elementary Education doing jigsaws, small group work, and other methods of collaborative work with my peers. This was done in the expectation that I would do this in my classroom when I got out. My program taught me collaboration, so if I’m running my class another way, it’s not because of my teacher prep program, just like the axe murderer may have been breast fed, but he became an axe murderer because of other inputs in his life experience, not because of mother’s milk.

  14. hey James and Will, come to Deakin for coffee in my studio during that free lunch.
    cheers Ade

  15. Holy snappers, refreshing to hear the dorky banter you guys get up to. I have to run a short PD on reporting on “ICT for creating” using the VELS. It got avoided like the plague last reporting season. It is cluster wide and I have nuts and bolts of what it is going to be about and I am going to try and incorporate blowing bubbles into some part of the session. It’s a metaphor, and hey who doesn’t like bubbles. Any ideas on the future of ICT that I should be telling the poor old buggers about, all ready got some good ideas of this discussion?

  16. So, “Obviously this taps into a long running annoyance I’ve had with people going on about teachers mattering less, and people being able to just learn on there own” but you kvetch about the lack of a contribution from Stephen Downes? Schizophrenia much? :)

  17. Given that Stephen’s fingers are so heavily on the scale towards one of the things you are annoyed about– namely that teachers matter less and less– and there’s not much balanced about it.

    But I would have liked to see him and any number of others there as well. Fortunately the conversations that matter– the ones that have impact– are already happening all around us. The dog and pony shows where serious folks sit down to have serious thoughts on serious issues have high visibility and negligible effect.

  18. I started blogging through the site and just recently came over to edublogs for my classroom blog. I enjoyed listening to your talk with Alice Mercer. It is difficult to get validation as a teacher, thanks for your work in education

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