What we need are teachers, not statistics



(Response to Five Innovations that Will Change Our Lives, Jan. 9 edition.)

I respond specifically to the section: “The classroom will learn you.”

“In the next five years the classroom will learn about each student using longitudinal data such as test scores, attendance and student’s behavior on learning platforms.”

What is longitudinal data? What are learning platforms? I admit the paragraph above sounds impressive. But the words bring no clarity in terms of the article. The words that do make sense, such as “attendance,” are smothered by “longitudinal data and learning platforms”.

“Sophisticated analytics delivered over the cloud will provide decision support to teachers.” It appears to say teachers need a computer’s analysis, based on statistics, to understand a student. When I taught, there was little I learned from statistics to know, as a student came in my room, what problems they faced. I had students who came from very wealthy homes, yet had no food in the house, no parents home when children arrived after school, no discussion around a dinner table, often no one een there at bedtime.

The statistics, however, showed a wealthy family who lived in an expensive home, owned by people who made a lot of money, college degrees and the list goes on. The statistics also would have shown a student above average, who had no trouble in school as far as the principal’s office was concerned. Yet, this student had serious problems which only one person in a school setting would know — the teacher. I emphasize “person.” What we need are teachers, who learn to understand people.

The article treats students as objects of study, not as people. I admit this approach has become common in schools. It has been disastrous. People are not objects, are not bugs under glass. It is weird how in modern times we seem obsessed with talking about individuality, how everyone is different, and how everyone is unique. And then we proceed to pigeonhole everyone into a set of given categories as though people can be categorized like elements in chemistry.

Yes, there are similarities from one person to the next, but to take it any distance at all means people are dehumanized in the sense that all must fit in some slot.

In fact, this section of the article gives every indication the teacher is merely a tool whose job is to sit and wait for “data” to come in to know what to do. It dehumanizes teachers into speaking tools.

It takes 10 to 15 years for a teacher to become proficient. By this, I mean it takes an attitude that learning is a life-long process to learn a subject well enough that class instruction allows for pleasant give and take in a classroom setting, and it takes at least a decade to know how to read students as they come through the door, to understand the nuances of behavior, how to direct youthful energy toward learning and how to make the lesson meaningful and useful for life.

However, the article assumes a computer will do this with statistics. Weird and inexplicable.

Bill Prueter

Chesterland, Ohio


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