Archive for the ‘EDU 6989’ Category

These two articles highlight current issues in education.  The first article is a summary of several articles about advances in education technology and its effect on education.  The second article is an observation of a classroom that I did at a local high school and a comparison of their curriculum with what Jeannie Oakes and Martin Lipton (2007) suggest in their book Teaching to Change the World.  

EDu 6989- Final Issues

EDU 6989- Final Observations

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Dennis Evans in his book Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Teaching and Educational Practice includes two opposing articles about whether schools should have accommodations for students with special needs.  The article for accommodations, by Maryann Byrnes, outlines the obligation that schools have to provide for the needs of exceptional students under IDEA and other legislation, arguing that individuals should be given every means necessary to perform their very best in school.  Accommodations are similar to allowing individuals to wear glasses on their drive tests.  Why would you withhold a program from exceptional students that will help them succeed in their education?   Accommodations allow exceptional and 504 students to succeed where a lack of accommodations only sets them up for failure.  The article against accommodations, by James Kauffman, Kathleen McGee, and Michelle Brigham, argues that special education programs were introduced into schools with the original intent of allowing students to overcome obstacles so that they could perform normally or at the level of other students their age.  The push toward full inclusion has only resulted in an attitude in special education from students and parents where it is expected that the expectations for exceptional students will be lower than their peers regardless of whether or not they can perform at their level.  Accommodations don’t help students prepare for the expectations in life outside of high school and so do them a disservice.

While I’m not sure that I agree that there should be no or few accommodations for exceptional students, I do think that the authors of the article against accommodations have a point about the necessity of helping exceptional students perform at the level of their peers.  Special Education is a service to individuals who find it difficult to perform at grade level expectations.  The disabilities of exceptional students make it hard for those students to compete with their peers in certain areas, especially when those exceptional students are asked to make a way for themselves after high school.  Exceptional students who are capable of doing work at the level of their peers should be encouraged to continue joining the learning community at that level and with those expectations.  There are many exceptions to this where it is clear that the student needs to have the curriculum changed so that they can be successful in school.  However, shouldn’t the natural tendency of special education programs be to encourage students to perform at the level of their peers?  Are we doing students a disservice if we allow them to work less hard for a sense of achievement if the next step is for them to face the world after high school where the expectations are not bendable to their needs?

References:

Evans, Dennis ed. (2008).  Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Teaching and Educational Practice.  Boston,

MA: McGraw Hill.

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Character education programs in schools seek to educate students about morality and about proper conduct in today’s society.  Proponents of these programs argue that students need a perspective about what attitudes and actions will make them most successful in society.  Deterrents argue that character programs are ineffective and that morality doesn’t necessarily bring about success and happiness.

Dennis Evans in his book Taking Sides includes an essay for the effectiveness of character education programs and an essay arguing against it.   Tom Lickona, Eric Schaps, and Catherine Lewis as the proponents for character education programs argue that there are values or virtues held by society that are pivotally important to the creation of good citizens.  Character education programs lay the groundwork for responsible individuals, caring communities, and moral leadership in the community.  Students should be required to learn about society’s values and expectations so that they can be successful and virtuous individuals in society.  The ultimate aim of teaching individuals morality is to inspire self-motivation to virtue so that tomorrow’s society will be filled with responsible, moral, and virtuous citizens to the betterment of the community.

Kevin Cornwall as the deterrent to character education programs argues against the effectiveness of moral conditioning.  Morality building programs, he argues, are based on the idea that if you drill morality and your perspective of proper conduct into students’ minds for the duration of their education, then they will whole-heartedly embrace morality and civic concepts of virtue.  The inherent flaw in this line of reasoning can be seen in the fact that most students don’t know why good behavior benefits them.  They are told by parents and teachers how to act but aren’t allowed to reason out what effect their actions will have on their wellbeing.  In addition, Cornwall argues that moral conduct does not necessarily bring about the best outcome for the individual.  Students are liable with character education programs to get out of school only to abandon any perception they had of morality once they realize they can be successful by other means.  A more effective attempt to instill successful conduct in students would be a program where students are allowed to define their own sense of morality by weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each choice, attitude, or action.

At the center of this argument lies a disagreement over ideology.  Those in favor of character building program believe that morality and good citizenship have been handed down over the centuries by the theologians and philosophers who have gone before us.  Their perspective of virtue and the state of humanity, they reason, is essential to effective, caring, benevolent societies made up of motivated moral individuals.  Those who fight against character building programs come from the perspective that believes that the majority perspective of society up until now has been mostly flawed, with a  foundation of conservative ideology that comes from a religious perspective.  At the center of this issue is a battle waging over the remnants of Christianity that still remain in society.  Christians in the public school system from the beginning have argued that biblical principles should be included in curriculum because of their undeniable truth and applicability to the world.  The effectiveness of morality and moral conduct in society is now being questioned by liberals who seek to redefine perceptions of right and wrong.  This issue is an example of the larger conflict between conservatives and liberals taking place in today’s society and in America’s schools.  Conservatives are desperately trying to hold onto values and virtues praised and taught by previous generations while liberals are desperately trying to throw off the shackles of yesterday’s conservative religious ideology.

References:

Evans, Dennis ed. (2008).  Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Teaching and Educational Practice.  Boston,

MA: McGraw Hill.

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In Teaching to Change the World, Jeannie Oakes and Martin Lipton praise the rise of the multicultural perspective during the 1970s that questioned the dominant beliefs and educational theories of the day.  They devote several pages to describing the virtues of an educational system that challenges the majority perspective in the name of social justice and works to include everyone in educational practice that helps students construct knowledge from a firm foundation of social critique and meaningful context.  They also criticize the conservative movement over the past few decades to pursue standards of excellence.  This recent movement to increase the ability of students and to raise expectations, they argue, has divided students into higher and lower performing students and has fallen short of the broader goal of having a challenging curriculum for all students.  Multiculturalism and the pursuit of social justice has also been abandoned in the pursuit of a more challenging academic curriculum.

The problem with the Multicultural perspective is that it seeks to undo social constructs and belief systems in the pursuit of new standards and beliefs that meet the goals of the concepts of social justice.  Social Justice is defined by adherents to Multiculturalism, who use the broader banner to work towards their own perspective of morality and social values.  Any other belief system that forced itself upon the curriculum of America’s schools would be seen as attack to principles of Liberty and would been seen as taking away the right of students to make their own decisions about society and justice.  Doesn’t a curriculum that seeks to improve the performance of individuals make more sense as the perspective of a public service institution?  Shouldn’t the ability of individuals to be a constructive part of tomorrow’s society as working individuals be the focus of education?  Why is it that one perspective about how the world should change be accepted as the national or state standard for education?  Again, any other perspective trying to force their beliefs on America’s students would be seen as an attack on the principles of American freedom.  A more productive school curriculum is focused on providing students with the tools necessary to be successful in their future fields and in tomorrow’s society.

References:

Oakes, J., Lipton, M. (2007).  Teaching to Change the World.  Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

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