Saturday, July 28, 2012

Garfunkel Simonizes the Mathematics CCSS (and I Feel Fine - sort of)

Sol Garfunkel

Sol Garfunkel has just come out against the CCSS in math, while admitting that he'll also be working to help implement them as effectively as he can. Not in some obscure locale, but in an AMS journal, the 8/2012 issue of the Notices.   And I feel fine about it, more or less.

He makes clear that he feels his contributions as a writer of the CCSS were effectively ignored. I find that utterly believable for reasons that are likely clear in the AMS piece.

 I wrote a blog post in 2011, "A Partial Bridge Over Troubled Mathematical Waters: Mumford and Garfunkel Try To Fix US Math Education," in which I critiqued Mumford and Garfunkel's take on how  get things done right in math ed. Even there, it's clear that Sol didn't care for CCSS. I don't know that I realized just how things had gone for him in the writing process, however.

I've hardly been shy about my objections to and skepticism about CCSS. I remain absolutely convinced that what will happen in terms of how mathematics is taught in this country will be nothing good at all.

Having just started re-reading THE TEACHING GAP, 13 years after its publication, 18 years after the TIMSS video study, and with 20 years of teaching and observing other teachers of various levels of experience, from student teachers to 20 and 30 year veterans, I believe that the commentary James Stigler and James Hiebert offer was accurate in the claim that there was little or no evidence of progressive reform teaching (regardless of what textbooks were used) in the US at that point. I agree with what Jim Hiebert said to me at the NCTM Research Pre-session in Philadelphia in 2004: one could stick a pin in a map of the United States, pick a school in the nearest district, pick a math class or lesson in a random school in that district, and that the probability of seeing a progressive reform lesson being taught in the manner proposed in the NCTM Standards volumes from 1989, 1991, and 1993 or 2000 was effectively zero. I believe that's still true today. And I am completely confident that if there is another TIMSS video study done in, say, 2024 after a decade of implementation of the all-important high stakes tests that are being developed for roll-out in 2014, there will still be an effective probability of zero of turning up the sort of thoughtful teaching NCTM had in mind, that appears in the Japanese middle school math lessons from 1994, and not by a long shot. We are stuck in an endless cycle of mindless rote lessons that focus exclusively or nearly so on calculation and algorithms, meant to be memorized and regurgitated by students, taught without any sense of what makes mathematics interesting, powerful, or beautiful. Just a bunch o' facts absorbed for the short-run in order to "pass." And on my view, this is a crime being committed against ourselves, our nation, our children, and our children's children and grandchildren.

Sol Garfunkel gets it exactly right when he describes the oppositional behavior of certain groups and individuals during the Math Wars. And it is a safe bet that anything of value that made its way into CCSS will be watered down, ignored, or fought against doggedly until it vanishes from view. Between the idiocy of yet another top-down approach at effecting real change in individual classrooms, schools, districts, and states, and the absurd educational policies of the clueless Arne Duncan and the rest of the Obama Administration and both houses of Congress, things will only get worse before they get better. Whether they'll EVER get better for more than a small handful of kids lucky enough to encounter real math teaching and learning begins to look more and more doubtful.  As I have argued elsewhere, NCTM, NCSM, and other mathematics education organizations have truly sold out the nation on this boondoggle. Things are no better with NCTE and literacy and literature education. No billionaires are coming to support something better. We have to do it ourselves by staying true to the project of creating great math classrooms, one teacher at a time, and getting the word out ourselves, while fighting the forces of resistance and reactionary thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment