Man is what he is

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“Man is what he is, not what he used to be.”
~ Jewish saying with credit to Bob at lakesideadvisors.com

Not exactly politically correct in its current form, we would probably substitute “people” into this saw nowadays.

I like the sentiment. Many people bemoan recent changes in education and I frequently feel ambivalent about their criticisms. Has education changed? Significantly, and for the worse, in my opinion. Have people changed? Weirdly enough, I suspect the answer to be yes, and that fact creates my ambivalence.

Eduhonesty: We don’t know what effect the many hours of gaming are having on our children. We don’t know what the effect of teaching retrieval skills rather than memorization will be. I honestly believe that all this hype about small group instruction is based in fashion and wishful thinking. Especially in economically and academically disadvantaged districts, small groups too frequently wander off task. But I’m not sure that traditional whole group instruction works as well as it used to work; attention spans appear to be declining. Kids now want information in fast, short sound bites, or quick-paced games. We are responding to that desire by creating those 10-minute-maximum lectures and scads of new computer games. Will sound bites and games work?

I have a private suspicion that we ought to work on students’ attention spans instead. I also view retrieval vs. memorization as a dangerous path to tread. In the end, you can’t think critically without a base of background knowledge, and memorization creates background knowledge in a way that retrieval never will.