Do We Have a Philosophy of Education?

By Graham Mundy

The intention of this paper is to suggest that New Zealand has no philosophy of education, and that the many problems permeating our education system are a consequence of this. A selection of some of these problems will be outlined, and will be shown to have arisen from a lack of underlying principles which, had they existed, would have provided both epistemological and ethical touchstones, which in turn would have exposed these inadequacies.
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Critical Thinking as a Key Competency in English

By Nathan Woods

This review illustrates a need for research on how teachers in New Zealand have interpreted the Key Competency ‘thinking’ and how they have attempted to embed critical thinking as a Key Competency into English courses. The review is divided into four sections. Section one, What are the Key Competencies, outlines broader issues related to the implementation of a competencies-based curriculum in New Zealand, relating these broader issues specifically to the Key Competency ‘thinking’. Section two, What is Critical Thinking, reviews the literature on critical thinking, paying close attention to how critical thinking has been defined, and how this definition reflects the idea that critical thinking is a competency that draws on skills, dispositions, knowledge, values and attitudes. Section three, What is English, briefly outlines the key features of the English learning area, as stipulated by the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007). Finally, section four, Critical Thinking in English, provides a brief review of literature showing how critical thinking can be embedded in English courses. Key themes arising from the review are: (1) critical thinking can be expressed differently in different subject domains; (2) subject-specific content knowledge plays a key role in critical thinking; and (3) schools and teachers may overlook the subject-specific nature of critical thinking when they interpret the Key Competencies.

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What Does it Mean to be Well Educated: A brief response to Kohn

By Nathan Woods

In What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated (2003) Alfie Kohn criticized what he called ‘traditional’ education. Here I respond to some of Kohn’s criticisms.

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Higher Order Thinking Skills?

By Nathan Woods

Thinking taxonomies establish a hierarchy of thinking; ‘simple’ or ‘less -sophisticated’ thinking skills, such as describing, noticing, or remembering, are seen as inferior to ‘higher order’ thinking skills like analysis and evaluation. However, these taxonomies over-simplify and misrepresent thinking.

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Education and the Politics of Culture

BY NATHAN WOODS

In 1993 Michael Apple wrote that, “Education is deeply implicated in the politics of culture. The curriculum is never a neutral assemblage of knowledge, somehow appearing in the texts and classrooms of a nation. It is always part of a selective tradition, someone’s selection, some group’s vision of legitimate knowledge. It is produced out of the cultural, political, and economic conflicts, tensions, and compromises that organise and disorganise a people”. In this article I will ‘unpack’ Apple’s quotation, showing that it emphasizes the social, cultural, and political processes that underlie any curriculum. I will discuss the political life of the curriculum in New Zealand, paying attention to historical and contemporary conflicts regarding its purpose, content, and structure.  Finally, I will address criticisms of Apple’s approach to curriculum theory.

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Filed under Criticism of theories, General, History of education

Hackschooling?

BY BRENT SILBY

The TEDx talk below by 13 year old Logan LaPlant is spreading around various sites dedicated to “unschooling”. It is being promoted as an argument for alternative approaches to education. I am impressed with the articulation and confidence this young person demonstrates. But does he make a rationally convincing argument?

When talking about writing, LaPlant claims that he was turned off because “my teachers used to make me write about butterflies and rainbows, but I wanted to write about skiing”. I wonder if he’s being entirely honest here. Every teacher I know encourages students to write about what they know. He might be referring to that imaginary classroom that often comes up in these sorts of presentations. This imaginary classroom constitutes part of an often used strawman argument that characterizes schools as authoritarian institutions in which children are strapped into their seats with teachers shoehorning information into their heads.
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The Decline of Education into a Customer Service Industry

BY BRENT SILBY

My four year old son attends a local pre-school. The teachers there do a wonderful job. In fact, I think they deserve medals for the care and attention they pay the students. Working in such a noisy, demanding environment takes a high level of dedication.

We have just received a Progress Report for our son. After a series of comments on a range of social attributes, there is a section for parent comments. Within that section they ask the question:

What do you feel is important for [your child] to have learned / developed before [the transition to] school?
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