(July 4, 2011)
[Please include your first and last names, and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]
Same in Italy: Harvey E. Whitney, Jr.'s The State Of Education In America: A Teacher's Perspective
To the Editor:
What Harvey E. Whitney, Jr. said in his essay The State Of Education In America: A Teacher's Perspective (swans.com, June 20, 2011) is largely valid even elsewhere than the United States. My experience is in Italian high schools where every year teachers work in classes that are more crowded and where students use more electronic devices than before with no perceptible improvement in their critical ability. It would be interesting to know whether this degradation of school systems touches all countries or only those whose economies are in recession. I go along with Mr. Whitney's conclusions, perhaps biased by the fact that I too am a teacher. My question to him concerns where reform of the systems ought to start. Can significant improvements come from more effective teaching techniques, from the mixing of students with different abilities in the same class, from better evaluation criteria, from a new approach to schoolbooks and to school-media? Or will simply spending more public money on education do the job?
Fabio De Propris
Rome, Italy - June 29, 2011
Same in France: Harvey E. Whitney, Jr.'s The State Of Education In America: A Teacher's Perspective
Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,
I've passed Harvey Whitney's article on to three friends. One teaches at the university level, the other two in high schools. Their reaction: same situation here, particularly concerning the use of digital technology and existing inequality in funding and resources between schools for minorities (read non-white) and those attending to "hard-working" students (read white).
When asked a question the students do not think for themselves. They immediately reach for Google. Their papers are increasingly filled with copy-paste text lifted from the Web. According to my friends, the biggest challenge they face is to make the students read books, which is another similarity with the U.S. [ed. see Jonah Raskin's The Rebellion Against The Book.] Reading assignments are often ignored as the students spend their evenings babbling on Facebook and playing video games late into the night. Curiously, my friends do not blame their students. For them, it's the absence of parental guidance and discipline, as well as the larger cultural environment that are responsible for this situation. Inasmuch as they lament the state of affairs, they readily admit that they have no answer to the situation and can only hope for the best.
One difference of import they noted is that contrary to the U.S., the French teachers unions, while weakened, remain a force that the government cannot easily bypass.
Anyway, welcome to the new normal! Or is it the new age of ignorance? Only the future will tell.
Allez, bon vent!
Paris, France - June 30, 2011
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