Disagreeing with Jeff Utecht

Jeff Utecht says that in\nAmerica (as opposed to China):


\n
\n

[W]e focus on getting students to think different, we encourage them to\nthink, to analyze, to question their findings. We teach them to learn on their\nown.

\n

Do we, Jeff? Or do we just benefit from our country's overall openness\ncompared to China? 'Cause I gotta tell you, I don't see a lot of explicit\ninstruction here in American schools regarding how to learn on your\nown, at least not using present-day information and communication\ntechnologies (which, of course, are what people need to master to be effective\nlearners in this century). And I don't see a lot of encouragement of students\nto really think, to critically dissect and analyze information that's\nmeaningful and important (as opposed to better regurgitating\nfactual-procedural knowledge or doing what we say more often). And\nI see few opportunities for children to engage in discovery learning\nopportunities where they might actually have findings that are interesting and\nworth questioning (as opposed to the controlled and often contrived\n'experiments' that accompany publishers' science curricula).

\n

I'm fairly certain that Postman & Weingartner's quote from Teaching\nas a Subversive Activity is as applicable now as it was in 1969:

\n
\n

What students do in the classroom is what they learn (as Dewey would say) . .\n. Now, what is it that students do in the classroom? Well, mostly, they\nsit and listen to the teacher. . . . Mostly, they are required to\nremember. . . . It is practically unheard of for students to play any\nrole in determining what problems are worth studying or what procedures of\ninquiry ought to be used. . . . Here is the point: Once you have learned how\nto ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have\nlearned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or\nneed to know . . . [However,] what students are restricted to (solely and\neven vengefully) is the process of memorizing . . . somebody else's answers to\nsomebody else's questions. It is staggering to consider the implications of this\nfact. The most important intellectual ability man has yet developed – the art\nand science of asking questions – is not taught in school! Moreover, it is\nnot "taught" in the most devastating way possible: by arranging the\nenvironment so that significant question asking is not valued. It is doubtful if\nyou can think of many schools that include question-asking, or methods of\ninquiry, as part of their curriculum.

\n

I agree with the general theme of your post, Jeff, but so far I disagree with you on this issue. I think that whatever advantages America may\nenjoy over China regarding critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and the\nlike might be occurring despite our schools, not because of\nthem.

\n

Thoughts, anyone else?

\n