Monday, April 19, 2021

Educational Overhaul Part 1 - Introduction


I have thoughts on education. I have these thoughts because I have been in the educational world for a majority of my life. Besides going to school myself, I have been a math teacher for 19 years, being a math department head at two different schools for some of that time. After a short stint as an instructional coach, I have been a disciplinary dean for the last 2 and a half years. Across this educational career, I have taught in both public and private schools in three different states. I am not, by any means, saying that my time in education has made me an expert, but it has left me with some thoughts on the issues facing education, and possible solutions to those problems. 


I have noticed, when reading old books, especially books on philosophy, thought processes, theology, educational theory, political ideologies, etc... I have noticed that many of these older authors don't attempt to proof text every little thing they say.  There aren't a ton of quotes from previous authors, there aren't numerous references to statistics, double-blind studies aren't being cited, and scientific research doesn't always lie at the heart of these books. Many are simply saying, 'this is what I think.' without saying those exact words. They relay their ideas in a matter-of-fact sort of way, leaving the reader to either take it or leave it. 

In recent years, it has seemed to me that every single work that I read will lean into an attempt to prove their point. This is often done through the use of all of those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The resulting books are filled with stats, graphs, illustrations, citations, footnotes, and a lengthy bibliography. When writing a scholarly work, this can be an essential element, and I don't have any problem with this at all, but I have found that it can be burdensome when seeking to relay a point myself. There are times when I would simply like to tell someone what I think... this is what I am going to attempt to do in this multi-post endeavor. 

With each post I will, as succinctly as possible, attempt to relay one particular point or thought concerning our crumbling educational situation in this country. Whether I am offering a solution to a problem or simply attempting to describe the real issue with a problem, I am in no way considering any of these posts to fall into the realm of a scholarly work. All I will do is tell you what I think. 

This does not mean that I don't have any reasons for what I will be telling you. Some of those reasons will naturally fall in place in the process of the explanations, but reasons that require extensive citations will only be referenced in passing, not explicitly. I will be doing this primarily to keep the flow of the posts somewhat consistent and to not burden myself with tons of cross-referenced footnotes. I may attempt to collect questions at different intervals and then compile some answers with any needed quotes and graphs and studies, as the need arises. 

One particular resource, that you will find interspersed throughout all of these posts will be the Bible. Whether it is directly quoted, referenced, or indirectly alluded to, the Word of God (the Bible) will play a key role in all of my educational thoughts. 

I am a Bible Believing Christian. For me, this is not a cultural element or a religious bias; it is a perspective of the world. The heavens (extended space) and the earth (our planet) were created by God. This is the one and only God, who has chosen to reveal himself, not just through nature, but through the Spirit-inspired text of the Holy Scriptures. These Scriptures have been preserved through God's providential grace and the Bible that I have before me is without error and without flaw, not only in its overall depiction of God, the world, mankind and history, but also in its detailed teachings on how we ought to live, what our roles are to be, what are our purposes, and where is our hope. 

Jesus Christ is that same God in flesh: 100% God and 100% Man. This Triune God (Father, Son, and Spirit) has worked a great salvation for fallen man, that ought not to be ignored. Understanding this salvation - mankind's absolute sinfulness, God's unconditional grace, Christ's effective sacrifice for sins, the Father's regenerative work in our hearts, and the Spirit's continued presence in those who have been recipients of God's grace - all play a key role in understanding how educating young humans ought to work and where it went wrong. 


To wrap up my introduction, I would like to ever-so-briefly describe my motivation for writing on this topic. The roots of what I will share find their depths in a love for math - specifically Geometry. I know that some who will read this, will shut down at the very mention of Geometry, but please understand that Geometry is simply the backdrop for the issues that I am bringing up. (I promise, I won't make you answer any questions on postulates or theorems.)

I can still remember Geometry from when I was in high school. I would've taken it during the 1987-1988 school year as a sophomore. My teacher's name was Mrs. Howard and as a direct result of me not paying attention in class, being called out by Mrs. Howard, me blaming the "not paying attention" on not being able to see the board clearly... I ended up getting glasses, because, as it turned out, I actually couldn't see the board as clearly as I ought to. 

I remember the majority of topics that I studied in Geometry, partially because I still have a copy of that particular Geometry book. I have it sitting in my office. It is clear, succinct, accurate, and does something important - it outlines high school level Geometry... AND ... One of my favorite parts of Geometry was the proofs.

Stay with me now. 

I had a whole paragraph typed out on why I liked proofs, why I still like proofs, and why I think they are an important concept that any student leaning into any of the sciences - mathematical, medical, or even computer sciences - ought to study. I was prepared to wax eloquent on this topic... but that isn't really my point. 

My point is... they've vanished. 

Whether you liked proofs or not - Whether you thought they were important or not - And whether or not you even care about mathematics... Proofs were a key player in the mathematical lineup... and they are just gone. And proofs aren't the only casualty I've noticed. There are other key components that have gone missing. Are they showing up again in college math? I hope so, but if that is the case, what got bumped from those curriculums? 

You might be thinking, "Yeah, but Matt, things have replaced that." Like what? Transformations? (An entire topic that is currently being introduced to kindergarteners and is only challenging because it is so simple that high school student's minds can't compute that it is actually in a high school class.) And if you think that even for a moment... 

Ok. Pause. 

I'm derailing. 

My point is that - in my humble opinion - the amount of material being covered, the selection of topics still being covered, and the depth of the remaining coverage are inadequate, to say the least. To be more specific - Math has lost its guts, and not just math, but all of education. And the thing is, it may have lost its guts when it lost its author. (More on that later.)

Preview: In the next post I will be sharing my thoughts on some basics of education.

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