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Dangerous Assumptions About Education

Posted By: Kenneth Saltman on November 16, 2004
 
While student feedback is an important tool for self-reflective teachers, Nancy Davis is making a number of dangerously wrong assumptions about education in her promotion of RateMyTeacher.com.


Davis writes:

“Lastly, RateMyTeachers is a useful resource to the teachers who are open and self-assured enough to consider the opinions of their customers, i.e. students…”

and

“There is never improvement without change. We get notes from teachers saying “students don’t get a choice in teachers, so what is your point.” Our answer is “just because that is the way it has always been, it does not make it right.” Why not let them choose? Why not let the market, instead of tenure, decide who gets the teaching jobs? Why not pay for quality instead of longevity?”


One: Students are not customers of teachers. Knowledge is not a commodity. Most teachers do not choose to teach for financial rewards. Students should not ideally be learning to “cash in” their knowledge but rather out of intellectual curiosity, to understand themselves and the world better and maybe even to understand how to participate in making the world better.

Two: “Consumer choice” of teachers replacing tenure lacks the necessary benefits of the tenure process and tenure status. The tenure process allows accomplished scholars with a developed knowledge of a subject to judge the contributions of other scholars. Shallow evaluation measures by students who are not accomplished scholars are not a good measure of teacher quality. Tenure status protects job security which ensures academic freedom which allows for innovations in thought and teaching.

Three: Students as “choosing consumers” do not necessarily reward teaching that encourages students to question common beliefs. Students often reward entertainment and affirmation of their values, identities and assumptions. Teachers who demand of students that they engage in dialogue and debate about disturbing realities such as inequality or injustice are at times punished in student evaluations for doing so. Teachers who aim to encourage habits of critical thought, who demand that students work through difficulty material in order to grow… these teachers are not likely to be rewarded by Davis’ consumer-student. Davis would like to see the classroom modeled on the comfort of easy consumption of shallow knowledge that comes with television spectatorship.


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 Dangerous Assumptions About Education by Kenneth Saltman on November 16, 2004
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