David-All I can say is that I have visited a variety of schools around the country that have…
Judy Yero
11

Sadly, I see the same oversimplification among progressive educators. You say that schools have successfully found various combinations of factors that are effective in creating engaged lifelong learners. Are you saying that any student who attends one of these schools will grow into an engaged lifelong learner?

If that’s the case, why don’t we know more about it? I’m not talking about one-size-fits-all methods. I’m talking about the mental models of the educators who work at these schools. They obviously understand students in ways the rest of us do not. Even if they respond to the needs of each student individually, they must have underlying theories which guide their actions. I study education closely and I have not read about any of these theories.

Every day there are countless articles published about the need for student agency and engagement. But there are no details. The theory isn’t evolving. It’s the progressive educators who are oversimplifying Papert. Papert’s vision of Mathland was a land where children learn math as easily as children learn French in France. How would enabling children in the U.S. to direct their own learning of French be in any way like learning French in France? It wouldn’t! According to Papert, self-direction is a necessary but insufficient factor. Unlike most other progressive educators, Papert was willing to lay his other factors on the table so we could test his theory. Are we concealing our other factors because we think the messaging is simpler if we focus only on agency and engagement? That seems wrong to me—and I resent it. We need a better discourse if anything is going to change.

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