Too much groupthink in public education


“I live in a pretty special world. I know only one who voted for Nixon. I don’t know where they are.”

Liberal film critic Pauline Kael said after Richard Nixon won the 1972 US presidential election. To her surprise, that wasn’t a close result. Nixon won in 49 of the 50 states, winning more than 60% of the popularity polls. Needless to say, if the elections depended on the frog and her liberal friends, the results would have been quite different.

What the frog implicitly admitted in her comment on the 1972 election was that she was surrounded by like-minded people. This naturally leads to groupthink. This is a psychological phenomenon in which a group of people begins to think about all issues in the same way. The desire for conformity is so great that it is clearly unpleasant to disagree with each other.

Groupthink is especially popular among working professionals with the same college education. We have a natural affinity with people in the same profession. Especially when it distinguishes us from the general public. The last thing we want to do is create a rift between us and our colleagues and friends.

This is why the kindergarten-to-high school education system is particularly vulnerable to groupthink. As part of the training, all teachers, principals, curriculum consultants, and superintendents attend the Faculty of Education, which is most often immersed in progressive educational philosophy.

This philosophy is commonly referred to as child-centered education. It emphasizes that learning should be as “natural” as possible and that children should direct their own learning. One of the most common sayings in the Faculty of Education is that teachers should be “side guides” rather than “stage sages.”

Not surprisingly, proponents of this approach favor project-based inquiry-based learning. They prefer interdisciplinary projects to subject-specific courses. In addition, progressive educators believe that it is more important for schools to focus on transferable skills such as critical thinking and collaboration rather than specific content knowledge. Often, this is packaged to equip students with the coveted “21st century skills.”

But in reality there is nothing new about this progressive philosophy of education. Supported by the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century, it was popularized in the early 2nd century by William Heard Kilpatrick, a professor of education at Columbia Teachers College. During his long career, Kilpatrick influenced thousands of educators. Many became professors of education, imposing this progressive philosophy on their students, who implemented this approach in the classroom.

Today we can see the influence of this philosophy throughout North America. The school board’s mission statement is child-centric, with superintendents and principals praising inquiry-based learning, and teaching professors encouraging future teachers to become more progressive. It’s the perfect recipe for groupthink.

This group considers in the over-reaction of educational institutions to the draft K-6 curriculum in Alberta. Education professors, curriculum consultants, and many kindergarten-to-high school classroom teachers have accused the new curriculum of being “developmentally inappropriate.” They believe that the draft curriculum, especially the social studies section, is over-focused on content and over-focused on general skills such as critical thinking.

Curriculum opponents not only wrote newspaper editorials, organized petitions, and conducted media interviews, but also used social media to eliminate frustration. Professors of Education are using platforms such as Twitter to spread the message that this curriculum will bring Alberta students back decades and make the state laugh at other parts of the world.

However, opponents of these curriculums are busy celebrating being on the right side of history, while ignoring some obvious facts. For example, research reveals a direct causal link between background knowledge and reading comprehension.Recent reviews of literature published in the latest edition of Read psychology It was found that the reading comprehension of students was greatly improved by systematically and sequentially teaching background knowledge.

Therefore, the fact that the new Alberta curriculum takes a knowledgeable approach can help all students become better readers. Sadly, groupthink in education means that this important point is likely to be overlooked in discussions and debates. It’s a shame that dogmatic adherence to a particular ideology can hinder the long-awaited curriculum reform.

Like Pauline Kael in 1972, educational institutions have become their own echo chambers. Groupthink needs to be challenged. New ideas should be welcomed, not rejected.

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher, senior researcher at the Frontier Public Policy Center, and “Sages on stage: common sense thoughts on education and learning.. “

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.