In Defense of Educators: The Problem of Idea Quality, Not "Teacher Quality" Belang van goed gestructureerde leerplannen e.d.
Curriculumvisie van E. D. Hirsch, Jr, in: . American Educator, Winter 2016-2017;
haaks op modieuze opvattingen zoals in ZILL-leerplanvisie kathondvla
Citaat vooraf: Within the American primary school, where curriculum is neither coherent nor cumulative, it is impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in Japan, where the elementary school content is coherent and cumulative.
But the most likely cause of disappointing results from the various US- reforms is that they have been primarily structural in character. They have not systematically grappled with the grade-by-grade specifics and coherence of the elementary school curriculum.
Educational success is defined by what students learnthe received curriculum. Not to focus on the particulars of the very thing itself has been an evasion that is not of the teachers' doing. The underlying theory of the reforms has been that schools are teaching skills that can be developed by any suitable content. That mistaken theory has allowed the problem of grade-by-grade content to be evaded. It was that fundamental mistake about skills that has allowed teachers to be blamed for fundamental failuresthe failures of guiding ideas, not of teachers.
Elementary school teachers are people who for the most part love children, who want to devote their lives to children's education, but many find themselves stymied and frustrated in the classroom. They apply the notions received in their training, and do what they are told to do by their administrators, under the ever-present threat of reading tests that do not actually test the content that is being taught.
Therefore, my counterthesis to the blame-the-teachers theme is blame the ideasand improve them. The "quality" of a teacher is not a permanent given. Within the American primary school, where curriculum is neither coherent nor cumulative, it is impossible for a superb teacher to be as effective as a merely average teacher is in Japan, where the elementary school content is coherent and cumulative. For one thing, the American teacher has to deal with big discrepancies in student academic preparation, while the Japanese teacher does not. In a system with a specific and coherent curriculum, the work of each teacher builds on the work of teachers who came before.
The three Cscooperation, coherence, and cumulativenessyield a bigger boost than the most brilliant efforts of teachers working individually against the odds within a topic-incoherent system. A more coherent system makes teachers better individually and hugely better collectively.American teachers (along with their students) are, in short, the tragic victims of inadequate theories. They are being blamed for intellectual failings that permeate the system within which they must work.
The real problem is idea quality, not teacher quality. The difficulty lies not with the inherent abilities of teachers but with the theories that have watered down their training and created an intellectually chaotic school environment based on developmentalism, individualism, and the skills delusion. The complaint that teachers do not know their subject matter would change almost overnight with a more specific curriculum and with less evasion about what the subject matter of the curriculum ought to be. Then teachers could prepare themselves more effectively, and teacher training could ensure that teacher candidates have mastered the content they will be responsible for teaching.A focus on technological solutions alone is also inadequate.
If I were a principal in a primary school, I'd spend my money on teachers, on their ongoing development, and on creating conditions in which the work of teachers in one grade supports the work of teachers in the next, and in which teachers would have time to consult and collaboratively plan. E. D. Hirsch, Jr., is a professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and the author of many articles and books, including the bestsellers Cultural Literacy and The Schools We Need. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation. Excerpted with permission from
E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing Our Children from Failed Educational Theories (link is external) (Harvard Education Press, 2016).*My defense of teachers does not extend to nonperforming ones. Children and the community come first. Most teachers agree. As American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has said: "If someone can't teach after being prepared and supported, he or she shouldn't be in our profession." (back to the article)For more about lesson study, see "Growing Together," in the Fall 2009 issue of American Educator.