Friday, June 16, 2006

Blueberries . . . But curriculum isn't our product

Continuation of my discussion with Dr. David Thornburg:


I must disagree about curriculum being our product. The success of our students' learning is the product. The students are clients but their parents are as much the clients as the students. It is the parents who move their students to a different school if they don't see the results that they want with their cherished children.


1 comment:

  1. David Thornburg1:51 AM

    Dear Leigh,

    First, I dislike the "business" metaphors applied to education almost as much as I dislike the "medical" metaphors applied to education.

    That said, I think the product (or service) is a combination of curriculum and pedagogical method (my big mistake for leavning this last part out of the previous post). Student learning is an important measure of success, no doubt, but it is not the product. Think of it this way, a restaurant's product is a blend of things leading to a dining experience -- a blend of the food, presentation, ambience, and service. This is as true for KFC or for Les Frommages Stinque Bleu.

    Either of these emporia will achieve success (or not) with their diners, but the customer's experience will vary. Case in point, last night I ate at a Japanese restaurant on the East Side of NY where the menus were in Japanese and my friends and I were the only whiteys present. Except for the raw fermented squid, everything I ate was (to my taste) spectacular. I'd go back in a heartbeat. However, I also know people who would never eat there again. Is this the restaurant's fault? No, they have a dedicated clientele and are happy meeting specialized needs. They are pleased that I liked their food, but my (or any other customer's) personal positive experience is an outcome, not the product, and is surely not guaranteed (although the barbecued
    hangar steak strips broiled at our table on a Magnolia leaf was yummy by any reasonable standards."

    So I think it must be with education. There is no silver bullet. I am a fan of certain pedagogical models that freak some teachers out, and some teachers are fans of models that (like the fermented raw squid)
    almost make me throw up.

    The problem arises from the reality that schools (like prisons and mental hospitals) are the only places where, if you don't go, someone comes to get you. Schooling is mandatory. I think using those years to facilitate learning is a great idea, but how best to do that?
    Optimally, teachers would have the knowledge and flexibility to adapt to each child's learning style (a challenge that, in my view, becomes more tractable in the inquiry-based classroom.) Unlike FedEx, Macdonalds, or any other business, we have an obligation to work with the betterment of all children, rich, poor, fat, skinny, geeks, goths, cheerleaders, ESL, ESP (earth as a second planet) -- you name it. This is such an important task that teaching is considered a "calling" in many cultures (when I was called "sensei" in Japan I almost cried).

    So, Leigh, I agree that we are successful to the extent that we achieve the goals you consider our "product." I just think "product" is the wrong word for so noble a cause.

    Hugs to all,



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