Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"I disagree with everything you said"

My blog needs a gimmick.

How about this?

The Bold Statement of the Week Award.

This week, it goes to Jim Smith, the president of the West Chester Area School Board.

At Monday night's meeting of the school board's property and finance committee, the following transpired:

School Board Member Rogers Vaughn said that distance learning could be a solution to the school district's budgetary woes. His argument: teachers who deliver instructive and insightful lectures are rare. Why not set those teachers in front of a camera and beam their lectures into all classrooms? Facilitators (who would presumably be paid less than traditional teachers) would be in the classrooms to oversee the process of lecture absorption.

Smith, after hearing this, responded, in raised voice, "Rod, I disagree with everything you said."

Smith said that West Chester East was designed so that teachers could preside over large lectures. This, Smith said, was supposed to have been a new, innovative way to educate high schoolers. However, he said, the program was scrapped after five years.

"The kids did not like it and did not accept it," Smith said.

Smith, a former History and Social Studies teacher, said that the lecture model (especially the remote lecture model) is inappropriate for high school students - it does not give them enough access to teachers. Teachers need to be there to answer students' questions, to wake students when they are sleepy, to inspire students when they have lost the will to keep studying.

Assuming an oratorical tone, Smith concluded, "We have tried the lecture model. Did we try it long enough? Maybe not. Was it successful? No. ... I understand the way colleges go. Will it work in a High School? No."

To that, I say, "Huzzah."

Allow me, for just a moment, to be unobjective.

I distrust remote learning. My instinct tells me that face-to-face instruction conveys knowledge in a way that remote learning cannot fully replicate. Being in school with other people - learning to interact with other people - is just as important - if not more important - than academic learning.

That's not to say that Vaughn is full of nonsense. He is right about many things. Here are two:

1) Teachers who deliver inspired, engaging lectures are rare. Students would benefit from more access to them.

2) The cost of salaries and benefits is rising quickly. The current system may be unsustainable. Bold action is needed.

Vaughn's argument contains a third, perhaps unintended implication:

Many students would rather watch TV than listen to their teachers. Could students be tricked into watching teachers on TV? Would they pay more attention to TV teachers than to in-person teachers?

I'm serious.

Labels: ,