The Social Efficiency Ideology: Michael Schiro

In the section of Michael Schiro’s book titled “Social Efficiency Ideology”,he touches on multiple aspects of education including curriculum, behavior, objectives and standards, knowledge/learning, and child/teacher roles. The intense focus on evaluation and consequence is perhaps one of the most recognisable identification of the Tyler Rationale in my own schooling experience. I also saw the idea of the model citizen or the finished product in my own schooling. The only distinction being that Schiro’s version of a ideal citizen is shaped around labour and industry whereas today an ideal citizen is more shaped around university(PhD’s, etc.).

One of the ways the Tyler Rationale is very limiting is in its tendency to look past diversity and human nature. In this theory students are not seen as individuals with independent worldview and their significance is measured in becoming active members of society. This tightly controlled approach to child development and this push to get students to “emit the desired behavior” (Schiro 90) will become complicated once students don’t act or respond in the way they are designed to. There is also no room for variation or autonomy in this form of education which essentially sets up many students for failure.

In turn, the Tyler Rationale is quite favourable in regards to predictability and structure. Students and Teachers are given clears goals which can increase efficiency. The structure and repetition of this ideology is also beneficial in terms of discipline and leadership. Students (especially students exposed to chaotic environments) often like stability and find comfort in consistency and clear cut expectations.


The Trouble with a Right Answer

In education, there is a common pattern of directing students towards the right answer. In a speech done by Neil deGrasse Tyson, he discloses that our fixation in finding the “right answer” often deters us from logical thinking and original thought. He conveys this notion perfectly using the example of a spelling bee. In this example, a contestant is asked to spell cat which the individual spells C-A-T. They get the right answer. Another contestant is asked to spell cat and they spell it K-A-T. They get the wrong answer. This person is considered just as wrong as someone who spells cat Q-W-R, even thought K-A-T is arguably a more suitable spelling for cat. Sometimes we are so adamant on getting students to the correct answer that we squash their logical process. Although it is valuable to strengthen the ability to follow clues and instructions, it has no use when someone is faced with an unfamiliar situation. Learning should go one step further than listening and replicating.

If students are constantly find answers from someone else it is completely understandable if they become incredibly frustrated in situations where they are left to their own devices. It is almost like taking the training wheels off a bike and then sending it down a cliff. I felt incredibly incapable and discouraged the first time I had to figure out a conflict without support because I was not prepared for it and I have a feeling that is not an isolated incident. If students were given the confidence of figuring things out on their own in a controlled environment I can only imagine the positive impact that would have. The best thing we can do is to challenge students, to let them fail and then to let them grow.

The Complication in Common Sense

In The Problem of Common Sense, Kumashiro defines “commonsense” as commonplace truths and habits which can be both limiting and harmful. This became the most apparent to Kumashiro as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal because he was able to see this phenomenon as an outsider, with a completely different worldview on education. Students and faculty in the Nepalese school he was at were conditioned to believe that there was only one way to implement learning. They believed this to the extent that any other approaches Kumashiro took to learning were often seen as attempts to sabotage success. In wanting to “advance” this school in Nepal to the teaching methods he learned in the United States, he also began to shine a light on his own unquestioned convention.

Why it is so important to move beyond what we are accustomed to is because even though it may seem easier for us, it will always leave someone at a disadvantage. This is especially true when in terms of things like education. If a different approach to learning is the only thing that will work for someone and nothing new if ever tried, that individual’s opportunity to be successful is lost. We can become so subconsciously confident with the methods we use everyday that it is often used as a way to categorize someone as inferior. If someone isn’t successful using a commonplace method, we often determine that there is something wrong with them rather than something wrong with the method. When we do not move out of our comfort zones and find ways to challenge the customary, this can blur the lines between right and wrong and lead to things like exclusion. If we are able to stray away from mindless repetition and move towards analysis and inclusiveness, this can mean a chance for all to thrive rather than a chosen few.

Disabling Segregation

In watching the ted talk Disabling Segregation by Dan Habib I learned that there is quite a lot of research supporting how much more successful students are in an inclusive environment. In addition, I learned that kids assisting peers in inclusive classrooms were shown to have grasped content better because they were explaining it to others. I had always assumed this to be true from personal experience but I was very excited to see that it was supported by data (being a science nerd). I think this data further displays why segregation is rarely a good idea, especially in the classroom where varying experiences is encouraged. In the classroom, we aim to assist students in becoming well rounded and socially successful people. This becomes difficult when you only expose students to half of the kids in their grade level. There was a ton of valuable information on Kelsey Culbert’s blog. Upon reading, one thing that stuck out to me was the little things that can be done to make people’s lives easier when they have varying accommodations. An example Kelsey had posted was to identify people in the room and when you have moved in talking to someone who has a severe loss of vision. Little strategies like these are very helpful because they are universal and not invasive. I also think it is good to remind individuals that people with differences are still people and they just want to live their lives and be treated with respect the same as everyone else.

I saw many connections to my experience at Sask Abilities in this week’s readings. I learned that it is really easy to get fixated on differences or accommodations and that sometimes you have to relax. I discovered that volunteering became much more enjoyable for me and the attendees when I quit thinking about how I should act and behaved as if it had to be any different than I would act with anyone else. Once I educated myself and let go of the fear of doing something wrong I had even started to develop relationships with some of the attendees and we began teasing each other. These readings also reminded me of the times I have seen others speak condescendingly to people who were fully capable of understanding them. I was worried that I would do this myself but the best way to avoid is to ask questions rather than assume.

The question I have this week is, what are some appropriate and beneficial questions to ask someone with a physical or cognitive impairment?

Gord Downie’s The Secret Path Reflection

I think the biggest thing I learned from watching this animated video how well visuals work in influencing empathy. Listening to heart-wrenching stories is incredibly meaningful but seeing the events firsthand and seeing a child’s pain and emotion is what transforms these stories into a personal experience for me. Jesse Wench made a comment about colonialism saying that its “done a great job of obscuring these truths [about residential schools]”. I found this statement very interesting because although it seems obvious that the power colonialism has would shield many aspects of reality I had never thought about its effect on society in that way. I also learned of how current the issue of losing indigenous languages is, It was insightful to see young people who were upset that they were not able to bestow languages like Cree to further generations.

In the panel discussion, Tasha Hubbard remarked that people should remain in a place of discomfort as that is where true learning begins. I connected to this as I have found myself very uncomfortable and unsure of what to do very often this semester. Putting myself on the spot and staying out of familiar environments has been a very valuable aspect of this course. I also connected this film to the film We Were Children as I found these to be the most impacting in my exposure to Residential schools thus far.

My question this week is, can people who are insensitive or ignorant towards the impacts of residential school learn compassion and awareness? How do we teach it?

Gender and Sexual Identity: Readings by Loutzenheiser

In the first reading How Schools Play “Smear the Queer” I learned that the author played a game called “smear the queer” where one student would call yell smear the queer out loud and whichever person had the ball would be piled on by multiple students. I found this game incredibly disturbing and it was definitely successful in adding shock value to the article. I also learned that although Loutzenheiser intended to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community’s experience, sometimes a good intention is not enough. In the second article Can We Learn Queerly, Loutzenheiser mentions it herself that putting individuals in an exposed “other” position was isolating and undesirable. I also learned though Loutzenheiser that when regarding people who are often discriminated against, it is beneficial to check whether your actions are helping with autonomy and acceptance or preventing them.

In order to better understand what the issues were in the first article, I connected it to my own limited experience and to what I think may be very different in some ways but also similar in some ways as well. When I was younger I struggled with acne and I remember feeling like my mom would tell everyone about how bad my struggle with acne was. I remember the embarrassment it would instill in me and the way it heightened my preexisting insecurity.

My question from today’s reading is, what are some good precautions to take to ensure you are respecting others and their boundaries?

CBSL Revisited

Although I have learned many new things my attitude towards my placement since my last blog has relatively stayed the same. Volunteering has taught me how valuable it is to assess and learn the environment you are in as well as learn the people you are functioning with. And just as I had reflected in my previous CBSL blog I continue to learn how easy it is to underestimate another individual even with good intentions. Before my CBSL placement I was not even aware that I did this but have now found that it is something that is vital to be conscious of. In my first reflection my main focus was on doing tasks with confidence but I have since discovered that asking the volunteering coordinator about any accommodations people may have has been the most useful tool for me thus far. Context has helped me to not only gain confidence naturally but has also helped me feel as if I can more adequately assess any situations that arise.

I have made a point to observe the volunteer coordinator in how he functions in facilitating the many drop-in center attendees and in a previous week, a grade 6 class which dropped in to play board games. While doing so I have connected this to the importance of organization a room and always giving people things to do. He has also been very adamant in reverting attention away from any tense situations and keeping order, which is something I hope to take into my teaching career.

My question this week is, what are some of the best ways to evaluate a new environment or a group of individuals you have never been previously exposed to?

Week 8: Curriculum, Leadership, and Representation

I was very surprised to learn of teachers’ lack of academic freedom regarding the content they teach. Until reading Teachers, Administrators, and the Schools by Young and Levin I was not aware that teachers were so bound by the curriculum and had assumed the curriculum acted as a foundation for teachers to utilize and add onto. I learned of the “contingency or situational theory of leadership” or the notion that what is successful in one school may not have the same effect in another school that consists of different staff, student body, and community. This sounded very reasonable to me when taking into consideration how divergent and varied my classroom experiences have been thus far. I was very pleased to discover in this reading that the University of Saskatchewan has a program which specifically recruits Aboriginal teachers into teaching and that this has increased the number of Aboriginal teachers in First Nations schools.

I connected Lambert’s theory of successful leadership coming from the participation of many different members of the school and community to how Hutterites function in their society and how high contribution from all community members allows them to be self-sufficient. I made a personal connection to the section of the reading referring to the need for Aboriginal teachers to represent many of the underrepresented Aboriginal students. My high school had an Indigenous teacher who was extremely successful in reaching out to students who were struggling in school and it was apparent that they related to her more than the majority of the teachers.

The question I had developed from this reading was, is it possible to accommodate the extremely varied needs of students such as personal situation, reading ability, etc. all while following a curriculum?

Teaching Status and Codes of Conduct

In the reading Teachers and the Teaching Professional I learned that teachers are semi-professional compared to lawyers, doctors etc. and unlike these professions, teachers go to superiors for concerns rather than peers. This reading also made me aware that teachers are bound to their code of ethics even outside professional settings and that teachers can be sanctioned if their personal lives are judged to impair their teaching ability. Meaning being a sufficient teacher and a sufficient individual is viewed as being mutually exclusive. In the reading Teacher Identity (Yerks) I learned that discourse meant socially accepted association among the use of language, thinking and acting and teaching had a unique discourse of its own. I was surprised to read that preparation of future events was not attainable and that teacher’s instead need to learn skills to deal with uncertainty and foreign situations.

When reading about semi-professionalism I connected it to the issue brought forth that when a person makes decisions about a career they are not directly in, the decisions can be not based on real experience or unpractical in the workplace. I connected to the reading Teacher Identity in various ways, including dressing in professional attire/high heels to try and transition from a status of low power in a classroom to a position of high power. I also related to the speaker of the article who said that she wanted to prepare lessons, answers to students’ questions etc. there is a lot at stake when you represent yourself as a teacher and as a relief to the anxiety that comes with that I feel the need to preplan my entire experience teaching.

My question from this weeks readings is what values make an ideal teacher both in principle and in practice?

Education Philosophies and the History of School

While reading about various philosophies that influence education one that stuck out to me was perennialism. It speaks of looking to the past for predictions of future outcomes. I believe this repetitive common knowledge has its place in education as some basic knowledge is unchanging. I also learned of critism in this idea and agreed as I believe it could lead to accepting other’s past answers as the truth without looking for a solution yourself. I was also very drawn into the notion of idealism as I had heard of it and of Plato’s philosophies often. I found this extremely eye opening and important as it highlighted that it is essential to teach student how to think rather than what to think. The last thing I was very surprised to learn was that in the late 1800’s school systems struggled with funds, and with numbers of students and employees. I had previously assumed that it was too recent for a time for school systems to struggle since education had been widely emphasized by many people in society at this time.

I connected the notion of idealism to a speech Neil Degrasse Tyson did talking about cloudy thinking in society. He pointed out how it is ludicrous that we consider “kat” to be just as wrong “crd” for the spelling of the word cat. He argues that “kat” may be a more appropriate spelling and that considering that answer wrong is an example of society putting no value towards logical reasoning. I also connected perennialism to the way we have found many of our greatest technologies by viewing the way nature’s mechanisms have been functioning for years.

My question from this weeks reading are, how can you instill effective ideals and values in students with the school year being so pre-set and time-sensitive?