education

SINS OF OMISSION

 

sins-of-omission

Conspiracy theories, covert operations, and the Deep State

by Brett I. Kier | 7 October 2016

Henry G. Frankfurt remarked in his book, “On Bullshit,” that: “Bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are.” It should also be said that the most ubiquitous enemies of truth – and most insidious lies – are sins of omission, which are far more corrosive to the pursuit of truth in that they are an attempt to create the impression that something never happened or simply does not exist.

The information revolution ushered in by the internet has created both opportunities and threats, as well revealed the strengths and weaknesses possessed by students and teachers in terms of their understanding of the world and the choices that flow from that understanding. Access to large amounts of information has required a greater degree of critical thinking and discernment across all of the academic disciplines. Consequently, both students and teachers are deeply vulnerable to institutional propaganda and the use of what Reinhold Niebuhr referred to as “emotionally potent oversimplifications.”

Like the elusive sighting of a baby seagull, the teaching and learning of history possess a glaring intellectual blind-spot in the minds of both students and teachers. The “who, what, why, and how” of history are fundamental questions whose orthodox answers are misleading at best, and at worst, wrong. This assertion suggests that there is a great deal of historical revisionism taking place, which should be properly understood in this context as an interpretation of history whose purpose is to obfuscate and mislead.

The orthodox writers of history are, by ignorance or by design, engaged in something far more corrupting than that, because historical revisionism implies (more…)

RADICAL AUTONOMY

autonomy

The philosophical foundations of discipline

By Brett I. Kier | Monday, 27 July 2015

What is clear in reviewing the different theorists of classroom discipline is that for the most part they are all addressing different aspects of human behavior for the ultimate purpose of creating a positive learning environment, which is why a strong argument can be made that each theorist is simply highlighting a different side of an infinitely-sided die. This is in part due to the schizophrenic nature of educational theory in general, but also speaks to the historical moment we are currently experiencing, where the individual and collective socio-cultural and economic realities are driving a great deal of the shift in students’ behavior. Because human behavior is to a large extent environmentally mediated, it is not surprising to see constant shifts in philosophy and approach about what are the most effective ways to create a cooperative learning environment.

Over the years, classroom discipline has been influenced in a number of ways by various theorists, creating a hodgepodge of philosophical approaches that all seem to agree on at least one fundamental point: (more…)

MAIEUTIC AWAKENING

the awakening

An interlocution between teacher and student about what it means to teach social justice within the context of the study of history, government, and ethics.

By Brett I. Kier | Friday, 26 June 2015

Student: What is teaching?
Teacher: It is the act of deconstruction and transgression between teacher and student.

Student: What is its purpose?
Teacher: Knowledge that leads to growth, expansion of awareness, and action, i.e., wisdom.

Student: What does teaching social justice mean?
Teacher: Teaching social justice means teaching and speaking to the historical moment, it means exploring the “mechanisms of power which establish inequality, through the systematic analysis of political discourse,” and contextualizing that moment within the arc if history.1 Teaching social justice begins with throwing oneself, and later your students, into an epistemological and existential crisis where everything you think you know about who and what you are needs to be deconstructed then reconstructed from the ground up (more…)

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE

school desk

A 12 year retrospective on the state of education by a veteran educator.

By Brett I. Kier | Friday, 12 June 2015

Below is an interview conducted by Orenda Review 12 years ago with now retired college professor R.L. Pritchard. He taught History, Political Science, and Law for over 40 years.

OR: In what ways has your perception of education changed since you began teaching?

R.L. Pritchard: One thing that has continued to amaze me during the long course of my teaching career, especially on matters of public interest and public affairs, is how ill-informed most people are. One consequence of that is that people arrive at political positions and opinions based on sort of gut-level responses or remembrances of things without really looking carefully into the facts to find out what truly was the case and how complex things were. Overall, it’s how simplistically people think, including a lot of very well educated people. And I’ve had a lot of very well-educated people in my classes over the years, including older students and people who’ve lived through just about everything I’ve lived through during my lifetime, and yet who know so little of it or retain so little of it. Consequently, because they don’t have the breadth and depth on these things, they tend to (more…)

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

elephant classroom

Thoughts on College Board’s efforts at making the SAT more “fair”

By Brett I. Kier | Thursday, 6 March 2014

When College Board, the largest non-profit standardized testing company announced recently that it has found a way to make the SAT fairer, I was all ears. Like many, I was not ready to drink the Kool Aid just yet. After reading their planned improvements to the SAT starting in 2016, I can say that I am not at all confident that their efforts to level the playing field will have the desired effects. As always however, it is bound to be a mixed bag. Unfortunately, it will likely not level the playing field among students taking the SAT, which is of deep concern to students, parents and teachers alike.

First, the economic inequality, which is at the heart of the issue, reflected in the disparity of SAT scores of economically disadvantaged vs. the affluent will always be there so long as inequality persists. Trick questions or obscure vocabulary words are not the obstacles to students’ success on the SAT, nor is it test-taking strategy or methodology; the opportunity and financial resources to prepare for the test early on and as often as possible in one’s academic career is what yields success. This is the elephant in the room that no one seems to want to admit about the entire entrance exam industry. Overall, those with the financial resources to prepare for the SAT will always perform better on such exams, regardless of content.

The notion that the content is somehow the problem only sheds light on the uncomfortable realities that many students are coming from schools that barely graduate 50% of their seniors on time, or that the high school graduate illiteracy rate is nearly 20% – which is instructive considering the illiteracy rate of prison inmates is over 60%. Additionally, making written communication (essay response) an optional portion of the test will only serve to (more…)