Stop the Inspiring Education/21st century learning agenda
Dec 29, 2014 — Dear fellow petitioners,
This cause, as you know, has expanded with the Knowledge is Power petition to target the root of the "discovery/new math" curriculum, that is, the Inspiring Education/21st century learning agenda because I see no other way to stop the math nonsense. I thank you to all those who have taken the time to lend your voices to that petition as well. In so doing, you are making Minister Dirks realize that he cannot be an accomplice to the breakdown of our children's education:
This Back to Basics and the Knowledge is Power petitions have been and will be guided by the voices of good teachers who know from their years of experience what teaching methods are effective, and they have seen the fads come and go. The petitions are also guided by mathematicians, academics and professionals who know what it takes to succeed.
This time, I will not let my children be one of the victims of another fad. I will not let the pendulum swing to the other end with the Inspiring Education agenda before their mistakes are reflected in our children's failures.
Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies
facebook: Alberta Math Petition)
p.s. 2016 is the target year for the entire province to move towards the Inspiring Education/21st century learning model. Pilot projects have already been implemented in a few regions throughout Alberta. We were so focused on the math, that I didn't look to the big picture. This is the big picture and it is concerning not only for our children, but for good teachers who truly care about our children:
"Rockyview school division (where Greg Bass was superintendent before he became Deputy Minister) - there are definitely some concerned parents, teachers and students in our division. However, there is also a lot of complacency here (although every complains about their kid's schools, no one does anything about it) and there are a lot of constructivist advocates here. Greg Bass pulled a real number on our school division, and if you would like a real-life illustration of what Alberta education will look like once "Inspire Education" has been rolled out, you should look to how Rockyview schools are currently functioning. And I should also mention - Bass is no small force to reckon with. He is very well versed in fancy rhetoric (he reminds me of a used car salesman;) and his ability to persuade people that we are all going to fail miserably if we don't embrace constructivism immediately is quite impressive - reminiscent of a cult leader in my opinion! If you know even an infinitesimally small amount about Greg Bass, you would know that he is an insanely enthusiastic supporter of constructivism, so I don't buy for one minute that Johnson wasn't aware of Bass's philosophy, as he seems to be currently claiming.
For many years in our division before he got promoted to Johnson's right hand man, Bass worked successfully at brainwashing vulnerable teachers in RVS (he particularly targeted the young ones fresh out of school) to embrace constructivism. He has been hugely successful, particularly amongst the non-intellectual sector of his staff (sorry, I'm being extremely blunt here!). For the past few years, you could easily gauge who would be next hired for administrative positions in Rockyview based on which teachers' PD videos promoting constructivism were being posted on the RVS website. The funny thing is, knowing the teachers who got promotions, many of them were the worst teachers in the schools - completely unengaged with the kids, the kind of teachers who would roam the hallways during class time looking for something to chat with, or who would spend class time on facebook on their laptops during class, who would spend all of their time trying to "fit in" with the popular kids, or who would seat kids in the classroom in order of how well they did on their tests, teachers who were widely known to have zero expertise in their subject content and who would look to their high achieving students to answer questions in the classroom because they didn't know the answers themselves...oh I could go on and on! Anyways, as long as these teachers chanted the discovery learning song in tune with the rest of Bass's choir, Bass would promote them within the division (smart move on his part). So after a few years once all of Bass's "minions" had been promoted to administrative positions, his work was made very easy. If you analyze the stats, you can see that our division has an insanely high number of new, very young principals with no real experience in teaching core subjects, who mostly hold recreation or phys ed backgrounds, my kids' high school being one of them (it's the biggest high school in our division); our new principal 2 years ago was promoted from being the outdoor ed teacher and vice principal at another high school, he has a background in phys ed and no teaching experience in anything other than phys ed and outdoor ed, he has a master's degree in how to utilize Moodle in the classroom, he openly states how he really struggled with academics when he himself was in high school, and yet he is in charge of my children's academic education. How can you teach or supervise something that you yourself were unsuccessful at mastering? And what kind of teachers are you likely to hire when this is your background? This current guy replaced the former principal, who didn't finish high school - he went back later and completed it after joining the army (and often told the kids this with great pride during school assemblies), he combined his high school administrative duties with being an officer in the royal Canadian navy, he got his master's in "Educational Leadership" at the U of C (what is that? Constructivist Brainwashing 101?), he made the school feel like a military zone in terms of discipline, was very disrespectful to both students and teachers, got rid of some of the best academic teachers in our school replacing them with constructivist-inspired teachers who are very weak in their subjects and who consistently teach using constructivist methods - i.e. by sticking kids in groups and telling them to teach themselves whatever subject matter happens to be assigned that day. (By the way, this guy left our school to become Deputy Superintendent in another division.) I give these details to demonstrate that, like Bass and Johnson, I think that we now have significantly large sectors of our education system being run by people who know nothing about academic learning, although they have some very strong theories about how to teach teachers to not teach our kids. I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like the one form of intelligence and skill that these guys seem to have is how to take over Alberta with their new age philosophies;)
So if you would like to see what the nightmare of constructivist schools looks like in real life, come visit Airdrie! Teachers that don't embrace constructivism are disrespected and allowed no voice, at the high school level, they get demoted out of learning lead positions to be replaced by constructivists. And it's not just math that's a problem, it's across the board. My brother, who is an engineer, is very concerned that he can't make sense of his 8 year old daughter's convoluted math assignments. I'm an English buff, and so what's happening in the humanities is especially concerning to me; it is just as serious as what is happening in math. I actually keep my kid home from school some days so that I can home school her (unofficially) in English. My kids are all much smarter than their English teachers, which I find very sad. My big issue last year (and hence my letters to the local papers) was that Bass virtually wiped out most of our paper-based books from our libraries and turned them all into computer labs. Also, he blatantly lied to the media about this (I have written proof of this via and email from one of the school principals here in Airdrie). For those of you who are English enthusiasts, I don't need to tell you about the importance of "real" books to learning, and many studies that have shown the importance of limiting our kids' screen time in school and at home - especially at a young age - and balancing this with paper based books and other manipulatives. One of the most highly touted examples of constructivism in RVS was a project that some Grade 1 teachers in our school division did - they were admired as being geniuses because they were teaching kids to read (and no, I'm not kidding with this) by looking at a real book through the video-viewer of an Ipod and zooming in on the words and pictures with the Ipod viewer lens while trying to read the words and look at the pictures of a real book. WHY?? -I'm still not sure, but they were huge heroes in Rockyview and did presentations of this project everywhere about how to successfully incorporate technology into learning. I think RVS has shares in Apple, they promote Apple to a nauseating degree! -Again a concern if we are really trying to teach kids critical thinking (as constructivism claims to do), as Apple is a terrible company in terms of ethical standards and if we were critically thinking about ethics we should be offering students choice in their brand of technology. If your kid doesn't have an Apple in RVS, they are at a distinct disadvantage as everything is Apple run in all of the schools, and this was another big push by Bass in our division. This has also posed issues for parents who are economically disadvantaged in our division.
Let me give you an example of what my daughter's English 30 looked like last year, taught by a constructivist teacher (this was an actual assignment): The teacher asked the students to split into groups of 5 students each. They were then given a poem each (so each group got 5 poems and each student within the group was to pick a different poem). The students were then told to go home and analyze their own poems. They were told that the following day, they were going to get a “group test” on the poems that they had been assigned to analyze. Each student would be responsible for first teaching the group about his or her poem, and then the group would take the test together, with one mark being given to the group as a whole. My daughter scrambled to find other students in the class who care about their homework and their school achievement. She ended up in a group where she and one other student in the group were the “studious” types. *Note - no instruction involved whatsoever from the teacher. Not even information about how to google peer-reviewed, credible analyses of the poems they were meant to analyze.
In a situation like this, I have many concerns. Aside from the fact that there is no qualified instruction given, it really bothers me that the learning capabilities of 4 other students are now my kid’s problem (I think being responsible for just your own learning when you’re a kid is plenty of responsibility). Also, no matter how hard my daughter works on this project, she can only affect 20% of her own mark, unless she offers to help to do the analysis for the kids in her group who were not motivated to do their work competently (which OFTEN ends up happening). This is what the reality of group work is all about in school – certain kids being made to take responsibility for their peers’ learning, or on the flip side, students slacking off and letting someone else do all of the learning and then getting a good mark whilst actually learning nothing, or finally, the option of everyone slacking off and getting a poor mark because no one bothered to take responsibility for their own learning. I know that you’re all in touch with classroom realities enough to know that it never happens that all kids take equal responsibility for their own learning in a group situation, nor are all kids ever on the same level of academic ability - which is one of the many huge problems with constructivist learning. This is how most classrooms in Airdrie - on all three levels - typically function now, and have done for several years - everything is self-directed and done in groups. Only the really academic kids can do well, but even then, it's very stressful to have to be responsible for the education of your peers when you are only 8, or 12, or 16 years old. That should be the adult teacher's job - the teacher whose wages we all pay with our tax dollars. My kids should be making a teacher's salary based on how much they are expected to teach their peers in Rockyview Schools! However, as parents, our voices are all stifled as well, for fear that our kids will be targeted by their constructivist teachers if we complain.
As it turned out, in the example given above, my daughter didn’t have time to help anyone else out with their work because she had lots of homework in her other subjects that day, so she crossed her fingers and hoped that the other students would do their work as assigned. The next day, my kid and one other student in her group showed up with their poems thoroughly deconstructed. The other 3 students hadn’t even read their poems. The students were all given a certain amount of class time to share their respective work with one another in their groups (they were only given enough time to skim each other’s poetry and then hear each other’s deconstructions; not enough time to actually analyze everyone else’s poems). The 3 students in my daughter’s group who had not even read their poems fudged their way through ad-lib presentations of what they felt the poem might mean, while simultaneously trying to get through the actual reading of their poems, and my daughter and the other student who had done her homework presented the material that they had analyzed. Then they were tested on 2 of the 5 poems that belonged to each group - these 2 poems were randomly picked by the teacher just prior to the test being given, the students were not allowed to have any choice in this. Once these group tests have been marked, each group was given a group mark which then will be applied individually towards each student’s English 30 final marks (!!)."