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[Xmca-l] Re: MCA Issue 3 article for discussion Re-started



Margaret

     My fault for trying to keep things short as I am not sanguine, at all, about separating ‘good' teaching and the curriculum either. Asking for a teaching of calculus, etc. by most high school teachers will result in courses where students come away with little intellectual curiosity,  serious deliberation  or deep knowledge and understanding qua mathematics and no classroom time for citizen participation or social critique, [Encouraging those qualities, by the way, seems to me (and some would quibble) as reasonable as any definition of ‘good’ teaching]  But even more importantly, at the present time, there is a sense in which it is not expected that these courses be taught ‘well.' They are there to sort students in the college track and these students will again be intentionally sorted at the university level by similar courses which are again not taught ‘well' (tenured faculty tend not to teach these courses and, in general, have little interest in the ‘whole’ student). 
     Part of the problem is, as you say, curriculum, etc. However, part of the problem is many university faculty in the STEM fields although accepting the above definition of ‘good’ teaching by nodding agreement, would have difficulty modeling and teaching such (and this isn’t because they don’t care; they just don’t know how). Schools of Education, who supposedly intervene on these sorts of things are, most usually, ineffectual for all sorts of reasons (especially as regard the STEM curriculum for high school) and so high school teachers are as they are. Again, this goes all the way down to preK and may be more damaging in pre high school. My point - not well made - is that calling all this neoliberal reform seems to miss the point that nothing really has been reformed for, at least, the last 50 years. What you are calling neoliberal reform has just made what was already problematic all the more obvious.

     That said, you can teach mathematics in such a way that, in a manner of speaking, you can subvert the downside of the curriculum. I am speaking from the inside as a mathematics teacher and as a mathematics teacher educator. That is, despite the curriculum, you can teach for intellectual curiosity,  serious deliberation and deep knowledge and understanding qua mathematics and you can - and I admit to not doing this as well as I would wish - make room for social critique (all this is possibly easier in an inner city school that a suburban school). I was able to do a little with citizen participation as a teacher educator, but nothing, I think, significant. I’m not saying it is easy and I, as a classroom teacher, loudly disagreed with principals and superintendents when they engaged, one might say, in neoliberal reform.  All this neoliberal reform, by the way, was an ongoing discussion in my mathematics eduction classroom as my students were headed for classrooms similar to the ones you write about. So, no you can't separate teaching and the curriculum, but that shouldn’t be (and this is my thinking and many of my students) an excuse to forego attempts at ‘good’ teaching. Briefly, key is respect for the discipline and respect for one another and I am reasonably unconvinced such respect is, locally, irrevocably curtailed by the curriculum (although I would agree neoliberal reform globally respects neither).

     Kierkegaard’s solution? I wrote an essay awhile back which was published in Journal of Educational Controversy (Winter 2010) titled Aesthetic Education in the Mathematics Classroom. I don’t really like the ending - too positive - and when I sent it in they didn’t send it back for revision so I couldn’t change it. Far too briefly, rationally it is not possible to do such teaching, but that doesn’t mean, pragmatically speaking, that you can’t. However, the decision to do so is in, one might say, every moment.  

  Ed
    
> On Nov 15, 2016, at  3:29 PM, Margaret A Eisenhart <margaret.eisenhart@colorado.edu> wrote:
> 
> Ed, Thank you for your comments. I’m afraid I’m not as sanguine as you are 
> about separating curriculum and teaching.  Yes, there are some very good 
> teachers who find ways to go beyond the dictates of curriculum reform, 
> accountability, and college/university requirements. But the pressures to 
> conform are many and come from multiple directions.  For students such as 
> those in our study, such teachers are rare and continually pressured to 
> take on more and more features of the achievement regime. I do not think 
> we can depend on good teachers alone to solve this problem.  
> 
> What is Kierkegaard’s approach?
> 
> Margaret
> 
> 
> 
> 
> On 11/13/16, 7:37 PM, "Edward Wall" <ewall@umich.edu> wrote:
> 
>> Margaret and Carrie
>> 
>>    Thanks for the article. I hope what I write will be of interest.
>> 
>>     I am presently a mathematics educator (although retired) and have 
>> taught mathematics in all the grades into graduate school and well as 
>> teachers of preschool, elementary, and secondary mathematics. What you 
>> write about authoring math identities resonates !highly! with my 
>> experience. 
>> 
>>    However, I am unsure what to make of the labeling of neoliberal 
>> reform. I see something similar to the young woman you mention at all 
>> grade levels including those of graduate school. It seems to have little 
>> to do with curricular reform and everything to do with teaching. For 
>> example, the Calculus courses you mention are not there to give students 
>> a deep understanding of mathematics, but to aid in college acceptance. 
>> This, of course, led to parent and student outcry and situation in 
>> schools all across the US for high school Calculus (this has been going 
>> on for some time) The Calculus AP may have originally been for the 
>> purpose of usefully challenging young people, but, in the hands of 
>> college admission officers, soon changed into a way to control admission. 
>> These courses are usually poorly taught (regardless of where they are 
>> taught) because few high school teachers have sufficient training or 
>> experience (taking a calculus course does not mean you have the 
>> wherewithal to teach it; that takes considerably more knowledge). Math 
>> departments do use them for placement, but not because they think 
>> students have been well prepared for Calculus.
>> 
>>    Let me give an exemplar (smile).  A number of years ago I was 
>> teaching a freshman English course (I know that sounds peculiar) with a 
>> significant slant on social justice. One of my students, who seemed (and 
>> acted) quite bright, was having problems completing assignments (and 
>> seemed a little dismissive of his peers). Finally, I told him that I was 
>> going to give him an F. At that point things became interesting. He told 
>> me that he had breezed through high school, scored high on the Calculus 
>> AP, received a scholarship, and was placed in the second semester of 
>> Calculus. The reason work wasn’t done was that he was failing that course 
>> in Calculus and was on the verge of losing his scholarship (especially if 
>> I failed him). Well, I, of course, extended deadlines, etc. and became a 
>> mentor of sorts for the next 4 years. 
>>     All this, as the young woman in your article, pretty much destroyed 
>> his confidence/identity and it was not until his junior year that I began 
>> to see some slight improvement or, one might say, re-authoring (although 
>> the story line had changed considerably; once hoping to be a doctor he is 
>> now hoping to be a PA). This is all to the good. However, during his 
>> final science course (physics), he decided that he was lacking in 
>> geometry and trigonometry and asked for help the summer before and during 
>> the relevant semester. I (being retired you have extra time - ha!) did so 
>> and found that he was !woefully! lacking relevant skills (this from a 
>> student who had scored at the highest level on the Calculus AP). 
>> 
>>    My second point is, in a sense, complicated. Maxine Green has a 
>> variation of this on page 276 of her book “Teacher as Stranger.” She 
>> tells the story of a teacher who believes in social justice and citizen 
>> participation. He is eager for his students to participate in a 
>> moratorium in response to the Vietnamese War. However, he has other 
>> convictions. “He does not believe that learning sequences should be 
>> whimsically or foolishly interrupted; he thinks classroom activity, 
>> because it brings him in contact with his students, contributes 
>> measurably to their education. A lost day, as he sees it, might mean a 
>> setback for some of his students; missed opportunities for other s… 
>> Taking all this in account, he still believes it is more worthwhile to 
>> support the peace action than do nothing at all.” This conclusion may 
>> seem ‘right’ and it may seem obvious, but, as Greene continues, it is 
>> hardly easy. It is also a little more complicated than she makes out. Say 
>> I have a strong commitment to social justice (which I do) and say I have 
>> a strong commitment to my discipline (which is mathematics). I could 
>> skimp on the mathematics and really focus on social justice, but then I 
>> run the risk having students as the above who cannot compete within the 
>> present education system. I could skimp on the social justice and really 
>> focus on the mathematics, but then I have signaled that social justice 
>> really isn’t all that important. So I incorporate social justice into my 
>> mathematics class. I could do it two ways: (1) use mathematics as a tool 
>> to consider issues of social justice (however, if I do this well, this is 
>> not teaching mathematics, but teaching social justice) - this is the 
>> usual approach of those who do such things (and I admire their attempts) 
>> or (2) use an issue of social justice to illustrate a mathematical 
>> principle - this is, quite a bit harder and it is easy to imagine 
>> somewhat silly lessons (although not entirely) as integrating the 
>> distribution of incomes in the US (there is a nice book that sort of does 
>> this called "X in the City”) - this is not, in my opinion, properly 
>> attending to issues of social justice. Neither of these approaches, in my 
>> opinion, give cognizance to the importance of social justice or 
>> mathematics (and, of course, I speak as a person who believes both are 
>> important). Ball does not help here (nor Foucault or Butler). The only 
>> one who comes close is Kierkegaard. He indicates there may be a way out 
>> (although it is not cookie-cutter), but most often one comes to despair.
>> 
>> 
>> PS. There is also the whole issue of preparing teachers of mathematics to 
>> incorporate social justice in their students' learning especially as more 
>> and more Schools of Education eliminate substantial course work in social 
>> justice from the required curriculum.
>> 
>> Ed Wall
>> 
>>> On Nov 12, 2016, at  2:30 PM, Margaret A Eisenhart 
>>> <margaret.eisenhart@colorado.edu> wrote:
>>> 
>>> Hello Everyone, 
>>> 
>>> Carrie and I are newcomers to this list, and we thank you for the 
>>> opportunity to engage with you about our article, “Hollowed Out.”  We 
>>> also 
>>> hope for your patience as we learn to participate in the stream of 
>>> thinking here!
>>> 
>>> Given the comments so far, we are intrigued by others’ ideas about the 
>>> link between our theory and our data.  On this topic, we would like to 
>>> make clear that we did not intend to suggest that the students were 
>>> making 
>>> sense of their lives in the same way that we interpreted them through 
>>> the 
>>> lens of our theory. Our claim is that opportunities and figured worlds 
>>> are 
>>> resources for identity and that the students' words to us reflected 
>>> perspectives consistent with neoliberalism, with some pretty serious 
>>> implications. Like Phillip White, we are interested in what theories 
>>> others would use to explain the data we presented.
>>> 
>>> Like Mike Cole, we are also intrigued by the prospect of “exemplars” we 
>>> might turn to. 
>>> 
>>> We look forward to hearing your thoughts.
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Margaret Eisenhart
>>> 
>>> 
>> 
>> 
> 


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