9 thoughts on “Educational monoculture

  1. More specifically, it’s a problem of credentialing. It’s not hard to let different people learn different things. The problem is then having to assign numbers to everyone. So we make the requirements more rigid to make it easier to quantify people. It makes people more “legible,” to use a phrase you and I have discussed before.

  2. Is it possible that this starts in junior school. Was doing math homework with my 7yr old, and wondered if the system was rigged. I keep on having to give my boys hints on how to word the answers so they look more like what the homework setter wants.

  3. Well, while I think there are places for letting students (of all experiences and ages) be “wild and free”, there is a role for presenting coherently what the major problems of a field are, and how they have been approached. I do think the set of things “people ought to know” is too large, and should be intelligently pruned and designed. People can and should turn to the literature for additional insights.

    So, at the risk of resurrecting the zombies of the Famous Wars, I think there’s a lot to be learned from the conflicts between Bayesians and Frequentists. I think it’s most important in practical work to understand all of your assumptions, including those you import because the methods being uncritically used were what you were taught.

    To the problem of credentialing, I wonder if that support of the caste system isn’t less important than it used to be. It is essentially to properly accredit people who will teach, no doubt. But I think the publications system is an almost independent means of adjudging worth of contributers.

  4. I agree there’s a large body of knowledge everyone should be exposed to. But I don’t believe, for example, that everyone in high school needs to be on a college prep track. I’d like to see more vocational training options.

  5. human mathematics

    Since you restrained yourself, I can’t really tell what ‘educational monoculture’ is. (Except sort of from the comments.)

  6. Think of the analogy with agricultural monoculture. Lack of variety causes short-term efficiencies and long term fragility.

  7. ….and long-term inefficiencies and short-term fragility :-)

    For the first and last word in educational monoculture, everything
    after JT Gatto’s Underground History of American Education is almost a footnote (in my perhaps overly-adoring opinion.)

    Here’s a radical idea: instead of ‘grading’ students by tests, and teachers by their grades thereon, how about grading schools by the students delight in what they are learning, and teachers by their students’ creative and profitable successes in the world. Sure, it might take a little bit longer to figure out ‘what works’ and how to fund it. And it will definitely be quite a bit more polymorphous, but…i think that’s the idea.

  8. Educational monoculture could mean (1) One teaching method to bind them all (2) tracking: A track is the best students, B track the next best, etc. (3) a rigid curriculum of what’s important (and by omission, what isn’t important). (4) credentialism, as in academics where the PhD functions as a union card.

    I’ve never heard the phrase before.

    I’m more of a random forest of ideas guy, myself.

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