Friday, January 6, 2012

Education, Isolation, and Critical Thinking

As Karl notes in the comments, one big drawback of the "virtual" school model is that all the socialization and socializing normally associated with high school disappears in online classrooms.  As is clear in these NYT articles online schools do a crappy job of educating kiddies.

As I mentioned, when discussing Idaho's aggressive and unpopular decision to force more kids into online and virtual learning, most of the proponents of virtual schools haven't got a clue about education. Let's, as an example, consider again the gov C.L. Otter's, one wonders if he has a jug band, claim about critical thinking. He thinks that exposure to information, true, false, or other, fosters critical thinking. How does that work?

Critical think requires at least two people engaged in a constant testing of both the sources of information and its synthesis, analyst, interpretation etc. In most cases, one of the interlocutors has to understand the issue or whathaveyou under consideration and be better able to make an argument. How does that work in an online environment? I was talking to a former student about his experience taking an online class and he pointed out that for the "discussion" part of the course if he or another student made some kind of a conceptual or factual error it could take hours before it was corrected. Even then all students might not become aware of the error for some time. Furthermore, the consistent denigration of teachers, no longer really teachers in the Idaho model but rather "guides," means that correcting errors becomes ever harder to do.

Why is it that neoliberals and conservatives have embraced this pointless endeavor? Because by transforming education in such a radical manner it no longer creates citizens with ties of affection or, really, the means of creating them by insisting on isolating and further atomizing them. In addition, by avoiding actual critical thinking and moving education in the direction that culminates in classrooms that look like the comments sections on you tube, i.e. subliterate and argumentative, they ensure that the few, the proud, the Plutocrats continue to rule without having to govern.

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