If we wait long enough, they might become self-aware

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The Washington Post have published a piece by Ted Dintersmith, a venture capitalist who has visited schools across America in order to write a book.

There are valid criticisms to make about the American education system and its accountability regime, but Dintersmith largely avoids these in favour of rolling out progressivist tropes with a twist of jobs-that-don’t-exist-yet. As ever, it is presented as if Dintersmith has come up with these ideas himself, rather than having borrowed them from a centuries-old tradition.

Immediately after he talks about the hollowing out of jobs due to technology, he claims to have no axe to grind and no bias to uphold. He then goes on to favour, without much in the way of explanation, hands-on learning and project work and he criticises curricula for having too much content and tests for assessing low-level procedures (I’m imagining things like adding two two-digit numbers together here).

To Dintersmith, innovation in education means embracing the approaches that he likes. By his definition, he is surprised that so many schools are not innovative:

“Free of regulation, you might think private schools would lead the way in innovation, but most are focused on the college application process…”

Fancy that. What a shock. The whole American private school system must be letting down its customers, which seems like a market failure to me. Extraordinary stuff.

Nevertheless, Dintersmith makes one excellent point that was brought to my attention by Mike Salter on Twitter:

It is a good sign that Dintersmith recognises non-experts as a problem for education. If we wait long enough for the gears to grind, Dintersmith and the many others like him might also start to realise that they are non-experts. It’s only a matter of time, I hope.


12 thoughts on “If we wait long enough, they might become self-aware

  1. Tara Houle says:

    I don’t mind non experts writing articles about stuff; I am one of them. I have also read abysmal trope written by educators that’s worse than what is written here. What I do mind, is the quality of the content.

    I also am getting a bit weary of reading how these incredibly successful individuals trumpet innovative classroom teaching when they, themselves, profited by receiving a well rounded, knowledge based education. They fail to mention that. They also cannot perceive the difference between how a child learns, and what a grown up already knows. One wonders how they made their gazillions, if they cannot even grasp how a child thinks, let alone sorts stuff out.

    • Everyone has a right to comment on education because it affects all of us. However, it’s a bit much for a non-expert to criticise a system for being under the influence of non-experts.

      • They seem to have a problem differentiating between “listen to the teachers” and “listen to me telling you to listen to the teachers I spoke to”, which is not quite the same thing.

  2. David says:

    The book seems to be as replete with echoes of pop-business nostrums that fill airport book shops: meaningless twaddle and utterly beyond operational relevance.

  3. John Perry says:

    A US billionaire who supports public education?!?! Makes a change from the others like Zuckerberg, Gates and Steve Jobs’ widow who want to tear it down and privatise it.

  4. Mitch says:

    ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ makes a painful viewing (and its not cheap costing a couple of thousand bucks per viewing). Full of cliched falsehoods like ‘factory schooling’, selective anecdotes and the good old ‘they don’t care about standardised scores but since this selective data isn’t too bad we’ll use it’. Cameos from everyone’s favourite knight of creativity really top it off.
    This is exactly the sort of person we want to keep out of public education.

  5. Dintersmith and reformers like Tom Vander Ark, Gates, Zuckerberg, Hastings and Bezos are pushing a free-market, “hackable,” “playlist” education model based on workforce aligned skills that will be obtained, in many cases, outside of school buildings or online. This book is a poison pill for neighborhood schools. Dintersmith has the best messaging money can buy and roped Sundance in on it, too. Sad to see Strauss didn’t dig further before promoting his agenda. When venture capital takes on teachers, things generally don’t go well for the latter. https://wrenchinthegears.com/2018/03/21/ted-dintersmith-is-not-here-to-save-neighborhood-schools/

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