What's Wrong

    with Education?

  • Micromanaging of teachers

  • Unreasonable expectations for individualizing instruction given our current class sizes

  • Rewarding flamboyancy in the classroom over actual instruction.

  On this page:

         This next video shows a teacher explaining how he uses MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), an achievement-monitoring tool provided through NWEA, an online testing service.    How feasible is this, though, for working with 32 students?  I cannot see how anyone can keep up with what this man is proposing.

  This next video is quite  entertaining.  
 I have two questions, though:

  • How does the teacher keep this up for 6 hours?

  • Is there actual learning (as opposed to a circus act) going on?


Keep in mind, as well, that these kids KNOW they are being filmed.  It is fun to be a star in a movie and to show off what your teacher has taught you about playing the classroom game.

And in this final video, we see strategies touted by gurus and performed by real teachers.  

      The strategies are demonstrated superbly, but you know what else is superb in this video?  The behavior of the students.  This is middle school, and yet not one child is trying to pass a note or eat a snack or derail the teacher's lesson with absurd comments designed only to get a laugh from his peers.

      The problem with educational gurus is that these people don't work in an authentic classroom.   They concoct theories and then test them out in controlled laboratory settings, something you get anytime you bring cameras or VIP observers into a classroom.  Let's try hidden cameras once in a while, and I bet you'd see a vastly different result.  It only takes one misbehaving kid to derail the lesson for everyone else.


The JARGON of Teaching


Best Practices:
Teaching that stresses collaborative group work, project or problem-based learning, varied strategies for assessment of student learning, and total student choice.

* Learning Goal - the big picture idea that students are learning.

        Example: Sentence structure is an important component to effective written communication.

* Learning Target - the daily lesson.  What students are supposed to get from any one lesson. 

        Example: I can use complex sentences in my writing.

* Success Criteria - what students must demonstrate to prove their learning.

        Example: Create a paragraph comprised of at least three complex sentence structures.

If a teacher has not written the above
3 items on a chart or white board for each lesson, then true learning cannot possibly occur.

What the Guru's Say We Should Be Doing...

■   LESS whole-class, teacher-directed instruction


■   LESS student passivity: sitting, listening, receiving, and absorbing  information
LESS presentational, one-way transmission of information from teacher to student
LESS prizing and rewarding of silence in the classroom
LESS classroom time devoted to fill-in-the-blank worksheets, dittos, workbooks, and other “seatwork”
LESS student time spent reading textbooks and basal readers
LESS rote memorization of facts and details
LESS emphasis on the competition and grades in school
LESS tracking or leveling students into “ability groups”

■   MORE experiential, inductive, hands-on learning
MORE active learning, with all the attendant noise and movement of students doing, talking, and collaborating
MORE diverse roles for teachers, including coaching, demonstrating, and modeling
MORE emphasis on higher-order thinking
MORE reading of real texts: whole books, primary sources, and nonfiction materials

     The above ideas sound pretty good, don't they?  What the gurus say we should be doing is not even close to the way you were taught in school, are they?  Not me, either.  


     We were taught lecture-style, from as young as third grade.  Maybe even earlier.  We sat and listened and were expected to remember the gems our teacher was imparting to us when it came time to complete the worksheet.
        Those days are largely gone, if one is following Best Practices.  Even when given a paper and pencil activity, students are encouraged to discuss it with their 'learning partner' while completing it.

     Most of the modern replacements to teacher whole-group instruction are probably for the best, if you want students to receive an education that encourages them to become thinkers.

      There are just two tiny problems keeping this from happening in any meaningful way:

         1)  class size -- Spend time in your child's classroom.  The ratio of children to adults (usually 30+ to one) makes interactive teaching logistically improbable.

        2) student malaise --  Many young people seem bent on the instant gratification offered by their smart electronic devices.  Their inability to connect what they do NOW with their future happiness and earning potential is mind-blowing.  But listen to any "expert" on education, and you'd think the kids are lining up eagerly for their quality education.  If only!

     Time to wake up from the decades-long Stepford Wives approach to education  that now consumes our public schools, America.  As it stands now, we are just paying lip service to the idea that we are educating our children in a way that will help them achieve success in our 21st century world.  It's time to hold children accountable in the classroom.

     And to put a stop to this idiotic philosophy that if I only make it 'fun', the children will learn.

But how does it really work in practice?

    Finally:  A Voice of Reason Among the Educational Researchers...


     The biggest reason differentiation doesn't work, and never will, is the way students are deployed in most of our nation's classrooms.  Toss together several students who struggle to learn, along with a smattering of gifted kids, while adding a few English-language learners and a bunch of academically average students and expect a single teacher to differentiate for all of them.  

     That is a recipe for academic disaster if ever I saw one.  Such an admixture of students with varying abilities in one classroom causes even the most experienced and conscientious teachers to flinch, as they know the task of reaching each child is an impossible one.

Dr. James Delisle

in Education Week

Very few people in authority will address the illogical practices in education today because it is such a lucrative business to tout ideologies and practices, particularly if one can concoct an angle that appears innovative.



videos  for  teachers

Let's take a look at some instructional indoctrination videos.  Substitute learning targets for learning intentions in the first video to the right.  Can anyone tell what is actually supposed to happen in a classroom according to this video?

T.L. Zempel, author and retired teacher

copyright 2020 by TL Zempel