Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"You are Unique."

Today in a third grade class, the unit for reading and ELD (the books have parallel content) focused on being unique, and using one's uniqueness to achieve (or be the first to do something). The ELD discussion centered on George Washington Carver, and the lesson was that scientists (and the students) seek to be the first to have original or unique "thoughts" which lead to discoveries. I read that and made a face, and one of the kids saw me. It is wrong on so many levels: (1) the promotion of an exaggerated sense of self-esteem, (2) the shoddy epistemology with its affinity to idealism. True scientific discovery does not happen in vacuo -- it is through being shaped in tradition by good teachers, and it is an increase in what we already know. It is not completely "new," but a reduction of potency to act. (This is something that would be covered in an intro philosophy class by our reading or Plato's dialogues, maybe St. Augustine, and Aristotle's Prior Analytics.)

How serious are these errors, and does it make a difference at what age students are being indoctrinated in them? Someone who objected to these parts of the texts could just skip them over and not tell anyone else that they did. (No one would be keeping track.) By themselves they may not be sufficient reasons for one to swear off the system and avoid a regular teaching job. But there are other problems as well...

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