OK, I know, it's too early for another rant on Amairkuhn Edgykayshun and the billionaire busybodies like Bill Gates who want to hurry the process of ruination and dumbing down even more, by more injections of technology. But I have to rant anyway, and you'll probably want to join me after you finish reading this study that was sent to me by Mr. S.D.H. Only in this case, we're talking not just about the dumbing down of Amairkuhn edgykayshun, but also about its numbing down:
Background and Documentation for Parents Across America EdTech Position Paper: Our Children @ Risk
What do I mean by numbing down? Well, the above report, while lengthy, says it all, and I cite here a lengthy section from this article to drive the point home:
Impaired cognitive functioning:
Imaging studies have found less efficient information processing and reduced impulse inhibition (Dong & Devito 2013), increased sensitivity to rewards and insensitivity to loss (Dong & Devito 2013), and abnormal spontaneous brain activity associated with poor task performance (Yuan 2011).
In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or
career success to relationship skills.
In other words, all this "screen time", now enforced through Rotten to the Common Core's individually adaptive computerized tests and "assessments", is doing actual brain damage, and as a result, damage and impairment to children's abilities to recognize and name their emotions. (And please note an additional thing that I've ranted about occasionally: note the use of completely inadequate methods of citation: this is now the [dumbed-down] standard in professional journals: one need no longer cite the article by title, magazine or journal, volume number, and actual page citation where the specific points are to be found, one need only cite the author and year of publication, and one does so by inserting a parenthetical expression in the main text itself, interrupting the smooth flow of argument and the "look on the page"! Had I tried this "now acceptable" nonsense in high school on my papers, Mrs. Connors would have returned the paper with a big red letter F for lack of adequate and proper scholarly citation. But through the efforts of the "educators", these shoddy methods are now considered acceptable. And I say, they are not. They need to be ditched, completely, and professional journals need to insist on the older style of referencing such as I use in my books. Period. End of discussion. No negotiation here.)
Referencing orthography problems aside, the focus of the article is clear: do we want to expose schoolchildren, whose brains are still developing, to the fallacy of "more" (as my co-author Gary Lawrence in Rotten to the (Common) Core put it), to more "obesity, sleep deprivation, mental illness,and radiation"(to cite the article once again). I think the answer is a perfectly clear "no!"
The most damaging study cited by the article, however, is this finding on "technology in the classroom":
Last fall, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development published its first-ever, and one of the largest-ever, international analyses of student access to computers and how that relates to student learning. "Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after controlling for social background and student demographics."
That's right. Lots of computer time meant worse school performance — by a lot.
A little bit of computer use was modestly positive, the authors found. But countries that invested the most in technology for education in recent years showed "no appreciable results" in student achievement. And, striking at the root of one of the biggest claims made about tech in education, "perhaps the most disappointing finding in the report is that technology is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students."
(A) study published in July looked at high-achieving eighth-graders across North Carolina who had the opportunity to take Algebra I online. The study found that they did much worse than students who took the course face-to-face — about a third of a letter grade worse, in fact. The study author, Jennifer Heissel, a doctoral student at Northwestern University, noted that across education research, "There's not a lot of cases where you see these big of drops in high-achieving students. Usually you can throw a lot at them."
So, do we really want students to be spending more time with Bill and Melinda Gates via their computers and standardized tests and electronic textbooks? Well, as one person put it to me in a recent private email to me, not only are the tests proprietary, and hence, not subject to parental scrutiny, the fact that more and more schools are moving to electronic textbooks - amendable at the touch of a button, let us remember - little Johnny or Susie cannot come home and easily point to their schoolbook and ask parent for clarification in many cases, thus removing parental scrutiny from the "texts" themselves. Of course, currently many parents can probably access these "e-texts" via their home computers. But just wait for what's coming down the pike, for you know it as well as I do: the "edugarchy" and their corporate billionaire busybody masters will next come up with some lame excuse to prohibit parents from that access. Remember, the game is total control, so that even parental access to textbook content will have to go inevitably, and the "e-textbook" is a convenient stepping stone to that end.
Recently someone asked me why I think so many modern American schoolchildren cannot, like, talk coherently, like, without like dropping like the word "like" into every, like, sentence, you, like, know, man? Well, like, consider this, like, explanation for the, like, phenomenon:
“Children learn to talk and communicate through interactions with other people. That’s the way it has always been and that’s the way it will continue to be, despite any new technology that comes our way. The first several years of life are crucial for your child’s language development. It is when their brain is the most receptive to learning new language and is building communication pathways that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Once that window closes, it is much more difficult for someone to learn and develop language skills. “Every minute that your child spends in front of a screen is one fewer minute that he could spend learning from your interactions with him or practicing his interactions with you. Screen time takes away from time that could (and should) be spent on person-to-person interactions. “Communication is about interacting with others, the give and take. The speaker responds to the listener’s body language and responses to change and adapt what they are saying. The listener uses non-verbal cues to gain deeper meaning from the speaker’s message. There is so much more going on than the list of vocabulary words that the lady in the video is teaching. Videos do not replace
person-to-person interactions for teaching language or communication.”
But when, like, children are, like, exposed to such, like, "conversation" or methods of, like, speaking, like all the time, like on television or, like, you know in their, like, ipads and e-books, they, like, think that is like a perfectly acceptable way of like speaking, and, even like, more importantly, like in, ya know, like writing an' things like that, ya know?
So I have a "modest proposal" for the addle-minded phylogenetically impaired billionaire busybodies: we'll sign off on your Common Core assessment process and e-textbooks, if you can first sell the program to Russia. After all, Mr. Putin is the epitome of evil neo-Soviet centralization and backwardness, according to our modern "media," and should therefore leap at the chance to turn the entire Russian population into compliant "maroons," as Mr. Bugs Bunny used to say. (And please remember, Mr. Bunny had to tailor his cartoonish remarks to the American audience. And as for the billionaire busybodies, it would be really nice if you move over there too, and stay there while you're trying to sell the Russians on the idea, and leave us alone... just a suggestion...)
But we all know that Mr. Putin's response is likely to be a polite but firm "HET!" to the educational side of that proposition, and probably a firm "HET!" to a Russian version of The Consortium Foundation of Billionaire Busybodies and Agitprop as well.
And that requires we must say our own very polite but firm "NO!" to the whole scheme being proposed; we must recognize what renowned American school teacher John Taylor Gatto has reminded us of: the current system is not fixable, no amount of money, no amount of technology, or trendy educational methodology or theory will save it or fix it. It is the system itself, i.e., its underlying philosophy and assumptions, and the quackery of the standardized test, that is the problem. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as Dr Gary Lawrence and I attempted to show in Rotten to the (Common) Core, the billionaire busybodies created the problem, and are therefore never to be trusted to provide the solution. As far as education goes, they are the problem, not the solution.
See you on the flip side...