David Brooks on Human Nature and Educational Reform

David Brooks, The New York Times columnist, writes in a 2011 article in The New Yorker:

We’ve spent a generation trying to reorganize schools to make them better, but the truth is that people learn from the people they love.

via What the science of human nature can teach us : The New Yorker.

One statement, yet more powerful and profound than many treatises on educational reform. What the greatest independent schools get right is this bond between teachers and students. Even a mediocre teacher will sometimes get a pass if the students know that he or she cares about their success. Similarly, the most competent teacher will fail in his mission if the students feel an emotional tension or distance.

Brooks continues:

What mattered most was not the substance of the course so much as the way she [the teacher] thought, the style of learning she fostered. For instance, Ms. Taylor [the fictional teacher in Brooks’ tale] constantly told the class how little she knew.

How we learn is more important than what we learn, and yet, most schools are content-delivery machines. They let substance drive the curriculum, rather than skills and concepts. As a result, assessments test information rather than application. Too often, teachers become focused on “But I’ve always done this unit,” or “The kids loved it last year,” or “The parents expect it each year.” We need to shift the conversation first, before we can change attitudes and curricula.

As long as we permit such statements in our schools, and hire teachers with low EQ, we will fail in our obligation to prepare students for success in today’s society.

[For another perspective and analysis of Brooks’s article, see Jonathan Martin’s blog post at http://21k12blog.net/2011/01/16/david-brooks-in-the-new-yorker-relationships-and-uncertainty-matter-most-for-learning/%5D

 

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