Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mac Week #2 Response to Bianca Woods

Bianca Woods wrote the following:

Through my current Google Reader obsession (I mainline 43 blogs a day now, NOT including the class blogs... I'm sure there's some 12-step program I ought to be joining about this) I bumped into the following quote from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson:

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is, among other things, one of the scientists who is responsible for Pluto being demoted and people like me being forced to wear t-shirts that say this:

As a result of his involvement with the whole Pluto debacle he even received hate mail from elementary school children. He also happens to be exceptionally funny and personable, which is what's saving him from getting pro-Pluto-as-a-planet hate mail from me too... well, that and from a strictly technical perspective he makes a good point that Pluto does behave completely oddly for a planet, what with its wonky orbit and tiny size.

He's also got a point about education. Like our reading from last week, he questions the value of having students work towards A's, which is a feedback scheme that becomes almost completely irrelevant when you become an adult (well, unless you apply to work at Google that is, because they ask for your GPA for some reason). Here's the full quote:

The flaw in the educational system, as far as I see it, is that you live your life – the teacher and student – in quest of A’s. Yet later in life, the A is irrelevant. So then what is the point of the school system? It’s missing something. It is not identifying the people who actually succeed in life, because they’re not showing up as the straight A’s. So somewhere in there, the educational system needs to reflect on what it takes to succeed in life, and get some of that back into the classroom.

There is ever so much more to becoming a success than being able to get good grades in the standard school system. The school system as it is just doesn't work for a lot of children, but because this single system doesn't work to teach certain students some people see anyone who can't get A's as failures. And, in the end, this letter grade structure relates very little to what we do outside of school.

Dr. Tyson is right in questioning the system and what kids who go through it actually gain (or don't gain as he suggests) from getting letter grade feedback instead of something more relevant.


I agree that our school system needs to be reinvented. It’s not that professional educators don’t know what needs to be done. That is not the problem. The problem is simple: there’s an unwillingness to dismantle the old system and replace it with a new one. Look at the grief Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has gone through for insisting on stating what scientists have already known for a long time - Pluto is not a true planet. Redrawing solar system maps and rewriting nursery rhymes doesn’t justify continuing the myth.

I recently attended a Professional Learning Community Summit and they were very glad to dispel a few popular myths about education. One myth is the lone teacher myth. There is a myth that individual teachers can raise test scores. That is not true. Interdependent teams of professional educators working collaboratively to raise the level of learning can raise test scores.

Don’t get me started on whether or not these high stakes test scores tells us anything worthwhile about the students.


Solution Tree (2009, October 09) Solution Tree: Richard DuFour PLC keynote. Video retrieved from


Solution Tree (2009, October 09) Solution Tree: Richard DuFour PLC keynote. Video retrieved from

1 comment:

jbb said...

You mean you want us to work together? OMG! I'm going to have to invoke Rule #6 before I end up burning something down. Just sayin'