"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, May 29, 2015

How We Narrate, Inform and Persuade

Children learn by example and practice. If parents read, their children are more likely to read. When parents demonstrate decision making based on accurate and reliable information, a child acquiring such a skill becomes more probable. In fact, even adults learn by example. It is unfortunate then to read the response of Aquino to critics of K to 12: "Minsan ho talaga 'yung mga kritiko natin, minsan sila lang ang anak ng Diyos at sila lang ang magaling. Kaya bahala na ang Diyos sa kanila." (Our critics seem to think they alone are the children of God and that they are the only ones who are competent, so let God take care of them.) This is from a speech given by the Philippines president who is proudly proclaiming that the government is indeed ready for the new curriculum. Of course, the photo bureau from the palace is quick to provide a picture that depicts a nice classroom.

Above copied from the Philippine Star

But there are obviously other equally relevant and significant scenes. The one below is captured from a news video:

Basic education should help children develop the craft of composing narrative, informative and persuasive text. It is only expected then that promoters of DepEd's K to 12 exhibit these skills themselves. Unfortunately, what the president demonstrates is the exact opposite or the mere absence of critical and informed thinking. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that learning to narrate, inform and persuade is really not an easy task.

In a paper published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Olinghouse, Graham and Gillespie show how several factors influence writing. Among these factors are gender, topic interest, handwriting fluency, spelling accuracy, and text length. Controlling these variables allows the authors then to extract how much knowledge in the topic as well as discourse influences the quality of a student's writing. The results clearly show that both discourse and topic knowledge are important in determining how well a student crafts text that either narrate, inform or persuade. In other words, students need to be taught both how and what to write. Knowledge is important in writing. Otherwise, one simply argues without facts and only with mere conjectures. Discourse knowledge is likewise significant. Mehan in Learning Lessons: Social Organization in the Classroom (Cambridge University Press, 1979) outlines this relationship between topic and discourse knowledge in the following excerpt:

How Aquino responds to critics, whether intended or not, provides a lesson to children and adults. And sadly, it is not a good lesson.

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