I Just Thought Fahrenheit 451 Was Sci-Fi

The following CHILLING conversation between teachers, k-12 and higher ed, took place on my Facebook page last week. I’ve included my original post so readers understand what started the narrative. Read it all. It won’t take long.

My original post: From TCEA 2012 Dr. Howie DiBlasi
The skills today’s business leaders say we need to be teaching

•Communications skills
Information and communications skills
Effective Communication
Presentation skills
Use digital technology and communication tools to
Oral and written communication
———————————–
•Inventive/Critical Thinking
Thinking and problem-solving skills;
Creative problem solving
Critical and analytical thinking
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
“Thinking outside of the box” – creativity and innovation
Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Creativity and Innovation
———————————–
•21st Century tools
Use 21st Century tools to develop learning skills
Teach and learn in a 21st century context
Use 21st Century Assessments that measure 21st Century Skills
Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility
Digital Age Literacy
Technology Operations and Concepts
Ability to apply discipline knowledge and concepts
———————————–
•Creating global citizens
“Knowing more about the world” – creating global citizens
Teamwork
“Developing good people skills” – teamwork
Learn academic content through real-world examples
Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
Productivity and Professional Practice
Collaboration skills and projects
———————————–
•Information literacy
“Becoming smarter about new sources of information” – information literacy
Collect and/or retrieve information
Organize and manage information · Interpret and present information
Evaluate the quality, relevance, and usefulness of information
Generate accurate information through the use of existing resources
Information gathering, evaluation and synthesis
Research and Information Fluency
Identify trends and forecast possibilities.
Literacy and numeracy
———————————–
•Personal attributes
Personal attributes such as ambition, self-awareness and an inquiring mind.
Time management and organization
Interpersonal and self-directional skills
Initiative and enterprise
Adaptability
High Productivity
Balanced lifestyle and capacity to manage stress levels
Emotional intelligence; interpersonal skills
Community involvement
Polly Wagner Birkhead A lot of things will have to change in the education world before this will happen!! But I pray the changes do come and soon!!
Thursday at 8:08pm
Mary Beth Lee Me too! Notice there’s one mention of assessment, and I don’t think it’s talking about TAKS or STAAR.
Thursday at 8:10pm
Polly Wagner Birkhead EXACTLY!!
Thursday at 8:19pm
Brittany Norman Even at the college level, we’re sacrificing communication classes. New curriculum regulations are cutting hours from the core, and the state has mandated that those cuts be made from composition and speech classes. Beginning in 2013, instead of 2 semesters of composition and 1 semester of speech, students will only be required to take one semester of composition and then choose between speech or comp for their second credit. That means that students who have trouble writing will probably opt for speech, and students who struggle with public speaking or are shy will choose to write, ensuring that they never have to face their weaknesses. (Also, without second semester comp, there’s no research component in the core ENglish curriculum… so how’s that for information literacy?) I don’t know how, but we have got to find a way to put people who understand education–who LIVE it every day and see what students need–in charge of crafting curricula and setting priorities. As long as a bunch of career politicians–whose primary concern is ensuring their own reelections–are in control, we’re never going to get back on course.
Thursday at 8:31pm
Mary Beth Lee That’s terrifying, Brittany. Who thought that was a good idea? It’s insane!
Thursday at 8:33pm
Brittany Norman According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (at least the last time I checked), the NUMBER ONE shortcoming of recent college grads–and this is according to some of the country’s major employers–is a lack of communication skills, both written and oral. So what does the Texas legislature do? Cuts down on the amount of written and oral communication training students have built into the core curriculum–and for students in some majors, that’s the only communication training that they get throughout their entire college careers (until/unless they fail the writing proficiency exam at MSU their senior year, in which case they have to take another composition skills course. The exam is given before students can start their “senior-level” hours. This year, the failure rate was absolutely staggering).
Thursday at 8:36pm
Mary Beth Lee The conspiracy theorist in me screams SEE, THEY WANT TO PRIVATIZE ALL EDUCATION. They’re destroying education on purpose. There’s an agenda. But then I shake my head and say, nope, they’re just idiots.
Thursday at 8:40pm
Peggy Browning I agree with the idiocy diagnosis.
Thursday at 8:44pm
Charlotte Wittel Dockery maybe they are idiots with an agenda
Thursday at 8:46pm
Peggy Browning That’s a possibility.
Thursday at 8:46pm
Brittany Norman I think the real problem is that things like communication skills, critical thinking, and creativity can’t be easily quantified, even though they’re very real. The education system in general (at least in the US) has a real problem with misplaced concreteness. If you can’t slap a (grossly inflated) grade on it, give it a percentile ranking, and compare it against “everyone else” (meaning, of course, only other schools in the state/country, because we don’t want to even consider how poorly we’re stacking up against the rest of the world right now) to somehow prove that everyone is “above average” even though that entire concept is ridiculous and impossible, no one wants to hear about it. And as long as the entire system is built around standardized test scores and students, parents, and educators are pressured into seeking “more-than-perfect” GPA’s just to make it into the top 10 percent and get into a state school…. nothing is going to change. You can’t assign a number to critical thinking or communication skills, which means… you can’t attach a corresponding dollar value to it.
And I know I’m rambling and going off on a major rant here, but the education system in the US hasn’t changed a whole lot (other than just becoming more and more grade and test-obsessed) since the 1950s, when a big goal of education, especially K-12, was to train students to become functional and successful cogs in the industrial machine. Our economy is no longer driven by factories. The US exports innovation–at least in theory–and the current system doesn’t provide any space in the curriculum to let students THINK. They learn how to take tests, but the real world isn’t a multiple choice exam–it’s open-ended.
Thursday at 8:53pm
Polly Wagner Birkhead I agree with Brittany! 100%. Well said!!
Thursday at 9:03pm
Brittany Norman This facebook discussion led me back to a paper I wrote in a sci-fi lit class back in undergrad because one paragraph of it fits in perfectly here. I remember re-reading Fahrenheit 451 in that class–I had read it at least a half dozen times already, but had never really focused in on the bleak future Bradbury had been forecasting for education. And… I’m afraid he was right. There are far too many situations these days where our classrooms eerily echo those in Bradbury’s dystopia. The first quote in the following paragraph is one that comes to mind far too often these days.

“Even education is prepackaged and directed toward a quantifiable goal – passing standardized tests. Multiple-choice examinations require no thought or analysis – only memorization. Clarisse’s description of education eerily echoes today’s uninspired classroom environments. “We never ask questions, or at least most don’t,” she laments. “They just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing…. It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not” (Bradbury 30). Class, homework, and sports combine with extra-curricular activities, community service, part-time jobs, and SAT-prep courses. High school graduates walk the stage at commencement with a mind full of facts and simplified answers they were never taught to question. No one learns to think because thought cannot be tested, measured, and ranked. Instead, education focuses on tangible skills. College students no longer crave knowledge; they build résumés. Bradbury’s antagonistic fire chief echoed the sentiments of many degree candidates: “Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?” (Bradbury 56). Enrollment in pre-professional programs skyrockets while the arts and humanities flounder. Graduates yearn for assured employment, functional cogs in the corporate consumer machine. Interchangeable parts require only efficiency, not imagination. When that machine inevitably succumbs to obsolescence, there might be no one left to re-invent it.”
Thursday at 9:44pm

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3 responses to “I Just Thought Fahrenheit 451 Was Sci-Fi

  1. Pingback: Teaching Resources Citizenship | Articles On Teaching

  2. Excellent commentary (and quite scary) on the state of education today. On the high school level, we are going with some of the same things. Cut the literature, cut the speech classes, etc. I believe it really hurts our students. If only the lawmakers would listen to Ray Bradbury…

  3. Pingback: Red4EdTX | A Writer's Life

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