A Question of People

“Men and women range themselves into three classes or orders of intelligence; you can tell the lowest class by their habit of always talking about persons; the next by the fact that their habit is always to converse about things; the highest by their preference for the discussion of ideas.”
-Henry T. Buckle, 
cited in  

The above translates to the more popular rendition: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people”, which we see often on the news feed of our Facebook pages. And there are other variations like the one shown below:
Downloaded from http://mariecurieplay.blogspot.com/2012/06/great-female-minds-think-alike.html
Another popular cliche is "Those who can, do; Those who can't, teach". A blog, "EducationRealist", recently had post with a title, "Those Who Can, Teach, Those Who Can't, Wonk". The blogger is a  high school math teacher who has this self-description, "I am, in short, pretty smart. No one knows better than I do that “smart” and $4 gets you a large latte at Peets. Smart is useful to me, but I don’t feel even slightly superior. I am one of the many under-achieving white folk of the world." The post in EducationRealist describes in specific terms some of the personalities behind education reform in the United States. The following are examples:
Andrew Rotherham was a corporate trainer, a curriculum designer who “taught civics to high school students” as a curriculum designer (which means he did demo classes?), and from there, went into full-fledged wonkery.
Diane Ravitch began life as an editorial assistant and then an education historian before she began wonking.
Arne Duncan played professional basketball player in Australia, where he spent time with underprivileged children before he ran a non-profit education foundation and then supervised Chicago’s schools.
The main point of the article is to demonstrate that very few of the leaders of K-12 education reforms in the US have extensive experience in teaching K-12. The author adds that if one finds teachers among those who are actively involved in pushing for reforms, these teachers usually fall under any one of the following categories: "Teach like I do Marketers", "Core Knowledge Advocates", "Bandwagon Reformers", or "Diane Ravitch's Fan Club". Why is it useful to check how teachers are represented in education reform efforts? It is only reasonable to expect that those who would in fact implement the reforms have a say or a contribution to the drawing of the plan. Thus, in the US, the "EducationRealist" blogger writes:
What I don’t run into very often are full-time teachers who read a lot about policy, engage with the data, put it up against their own experience working with the average kid (mid to low ability), and then opine about that policy based on their own analysis, which includes both their experience and their knowledge of existing educational policy...  
...So here we are: Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, wonk. And without a concentrated effort to get teacher expertise into the debate, things won’t change.
For scientists, there are guidelines that have been provided by the National Academies (as described in a previous post, "What Can a Scientist Do?"), on how they can participate in basic education.

The National Academies of the United States list four possible roles for scientists and engineers in basic education: (http://www.nas.edu/rise/roles.html)
By clicking on each link above, one is given a brief introduction on what each of these roles may be.  Each one is provided with examples and advice from the field.  Worth noting is the advice given for the last role, helping develop instructional materials: 
"Unlike the other roles for scientists discussed in this site, a role in developing instructional materials for K-12 science education is suitable only for a few individuals. Many of those involved in improving science education advise scientists who are interested in developing materials, "DON'T DO IT!!""

How about education reform in the Philippines? A previous post in this blog, "Support for DepEd Program Doubted" provides us with a glimpse of the role of teachers in education reform in the Philippines.

An adviser to the steering committee of DepEd's K to 12 and a former undersecretary of DepEd for Programs and Projects, Isagani Cruz, wrote recently in the Philippine Star:
"Teachers today are no longer transmitters of knowledge. Many students know more than their teachers. The teacher-student relationship has to be rethought and relegislated."
Sometimes, although some may think that discussion of personalities belongs to ranks low at an intellectual level, there are cases that we do need to address "A Question of People". Seeing the current state of basic education in the Philippines and the above statement an adviser to Philippine education reforms says, what the .... I will simply stop here.


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