Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Trump, Apple, but No Teacher

Ivanka Trump, Czarina of Shiny Things, traveled to an Idaho school and took Tm Cook, Big Boss Apple, along with her, to contemplate the glossy beauty of post-teacher education.

The Idaho Statesman covered her visit in severe detail (including coverage of an omelet she ate before leaving). The visit was intended to be quick and quiet, with only the Statesman and an ABC crew allowed to witness. And only to witness-- no questions allowed. Some word got out and an assortment of supporters and protesters were waiting outside the school.

One more rich self-appointed ed expert
Inside, students awaited with... well, what the Statesman described were not exactly technomarvels. They spelled out "welcome" on some ipads, and were "making a movie" of the visitors. The tour lasted an hour, featuring the various uses of the ipads that Apple gave the school three years ago.

Trump dropped the usual line about some states and schools being "laboratories of innovation." No, wait-- that was the usual line for the Obama administration. Huh. But the real kicker was Cook's observation about one of the classrooms:

Cook gestured around the classroom: “You notice in this classroom there is no teacher, there is a mentor. It makes the learning process for students very different because in a classroom where there is a mentor, people can move at different rates. This is life. We all learn things at different rates.”

Instead of a teacher standing before the entire class and lecturing, the students at Wilder hold the classroom in their hands and complete the work at their own pace.

It's an ed reformster techno-twofer-- pushing the Personalized [sic] Mass Customized Learning model, while actually only talking about personalized pacing, a model as old as the SRA box of reading samples. It's an idea that has been around for 100 years, but now-- with computers!!

And, of course, no teacher actually needed. Students teach themselves. With computers! This, I remind you, from the head of the Apple corporation, which has completely gotten over any Trumpian misgivings they had to become enthusiastic collaborators, apparently, while the Connected program that began under Obama is apparently not going to be booted by Trump simply for being a program started by That Other Guy.

The White House e-newsletter quotes the line about "Instead of a teacher standing before the entire class and lecturing..." (because that's the only alternative to letting students sit there with computers in their hands, apparently) and it also repeats this quote from the Czarina:

This is what is so exciting, the harnessing of technology in conjunction with incredible educators to create this type of really personalized learning experience ... [to] prepare students for a world where digital literacy is absolutely critical but at the same time enable them to move at their own speed.

Spoken like one more wealthy well-connected amateur. First, as Cook pointed out rather directly, "incredible educators" are neither involved nor required for this "personalized learning experience." Just mentors. Second, Trump blithely slips past one of the central tensions of all education-- students have to master a certain amount of material, and they should do it at their own speed, except they also have to do it by a certain deadline. Teachers since the dawn of time have struggled to balance the amount of content and the available time for it, but the solution is to just hold a computer and just, you know, do both at once. But then, the Czarina is not there actually in a education-related capacity; this visit is part of her tour in connection with the National Council for the American Worker.

There's a lovely picture of a first grader showing his ipad prowess. There is no discussion about the wisdom, safety or educational efficacy of having a six year old spend his day with a screen.

Wilder, the district Trump visited, is one of the poorest districts in the state (100% free and reduced lkunch). Their continuing ed numbers are grim. The district has gone full one-to-one all the way down to kindergarten. There is much to debate about whether computer-driven education can possibly help the district out. But at least they can draw a nice photo op visit from roaming education amateurs.


  1. "It makes the learning process for students very different because in a classroom where there is a mentor, people can move at different rates. This is life. We all learn things at different rates."

    But we're not supposed to learn at different rates! Every single fourth grader in the nation is supposed to be learning exactly the same thing at exactly the same time so that poor Junior who moves from Nebraska to New Hampshire doesn't get confused! David Coleman and the Common Core team told me so!

    Okay, I'm repeating myself from yesterday, but I really wish someone somewhere could and would challenge the rephormers on that point. I want to see Common Coleman and his Core supporters locked in a room with the "innovators" like Cook and be forced to haggle out that question until one side or the other admits they were wrong or until they admit that teachers have been right all along and it's not that simple in either direction (and that really none of them know what the eff they're talking about and maybe non-educators should get the eff out of education).

  2. You know they don't want to listen to teachers, but why don't they listen to students who demand a teacher, a real teacher, one well-qualified and knowledgeable in how to teach as well as a content expert? The children themselves hate this model and every time they are given a chance say so.