Thursday, February 25, 2010

An epidemic is upon us!

Yes, an epidemic seems to be upon us. And there is no vaccine. I don't know about a cure either. However, I am worried and concerned. The epidemic is that it seems we're about to fire many of our teachers--outright. It happened just the other day in Central Falls, RI where the school board fired ALL (yes, I did say all) of the teachers, principal and three vice principals because test scores and graduation rates have not improved. Between seventy-eight and eight three teachers and staff were given notices that their jobs would end in June. I'm sure a number of you heard this on the television news and/or the newspapers. You can expect to get more details from the likes of TIME and NewsWeek.

I have been scanning on the web local papers and larger papers in the Boston area. I've listened to a couple of interviews of teachers on the web. The town of Central Falls seems to be one of Rhode Islands most in need cities, a bad economy and one of the highest unemployment figures in the state. It looks like the unemployment figure is about to rise.

The rest of this blog is mostly my opinion and conjecture. What do we know for sure? This release of all teachers has the blessings of the Secretary of Education (Arnie Duncan), the State Superintendent of Education (Gist) and the Superintendent of education in Central Falls (Gallo). One of the motivating factors is that the State of Rhode Island has just changed some laws to match up with the requirements of the Federal government in order to be eligible for federal funds to improve schools. According to a local paper (Pawtucket Times) this is probably a school district vs. the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Break the union and we can have good schools again. I don't think so.

My analysis for the past few days has bounced all over the place so forgive me if I at times seem disjointed in my thoughts. But we'll get through.

Okay, so we've fired all the teachers--those that have been there for many years and live somewhere in the area as well as the new teachers. We've fired the PE teachers, music teachers and special education teachers. How this group of teachers can raise test scores is beyond me at the moment. We've cleaned house.

So where are you going to get a whole school full of teachers for next year? You are going to go into the Boston area and recruit teachers? I doubt it. Once teachers hear what has happen in Central Falls, they are not going to go there in a heart beat. So you're going to have to hire non-certified people to become teachers--with the blessings of the State Superintendent of Rhode Island. That is not going to make her look good in front of her legislature.

You could take some of your elementary teachers and move them up to the high school. But then you have certified teachers teaching outside of their certification. Again, not good. It seems to me that emergency certificates is about the only thing going for the moment--people who haven't got a job and are willing to try teaching for a year.

I can say right now that if I had undergraduates about to graduate in education I would tell them not to go to Central Falls Schools. If I were teaching at Boston University, I'd tell my students to stay away. There are enough teachers retiring that you can get a job elsewhere. This school district has not thought this through. You know that damn well the union is going to tell its membership to stay away as well.

Some years ago I was privileged to take a tour of two Seattle elementary schools that had many minorities--Asian, African American, South Sea Islanders, Hispanics. These two schools were doing well and their students were progressing at pretty much grade level. The Assistant Superintendent that I was with was a brilliant African American teacher who had progressed into the administrative ranks. I am still in awe of her (and I beg forgiveness that I cannot remember her name). At some point I commented that there appeared to be a lot of disadvantaged children in the school. Her definition of "a disadvantaged child," has stuck with me over the years. A disadvantaged child is one that learns something at home that is not reinforced at school and learns something at school that is not reinforced at home. I've never forgotten that saying. It does take a community to raise a child. It doesn't happen just in the classroom.

With that I looked up some data about Central Falls, RI. It is one of most heavily populated cities in Rhode Island but one of the smallest is size. And one of the poorest. 96% of the students in the high school are eligible for free or reduced lunch. That is incredibly high number. 65% of the student body is of Hispanic origin, 13% are white, 14% African American and 8% other. I suspect many of the students speak Spanish at home and English in the high school. One out of four get ESL (English as a second language) services. That means in this high school two hundred and fifty students have problems speaking the English language. I wonder how they do on those damn tests?

According to one newspaper, the high school has had five new principals in six years. This would indicate sever lack of leadership or planning in the school district. A good district needs elementary schools that have learning levels that will lead to success in the middle schools and the middle school needs to have learning standards that will lead to success in the high school. Success breeds success!

There was a short interview with two high school boys. One of the boy's mentioned that he didn't always attend school. Just stayed home. It is difficult to teach children when they are not in your classroom. If the parents don't encourage their children to go to school, we have a major problem that is not entirely of the school's fault.

So here is my predictions. The school district will hire at least half and perhaps more of the teachers back at a slight pay raise (which will come from the feds). The union will say they won and the school board will say they won. But in reality neither side has won. The community has lost. I think the mayor needs to start having some neighborhood gatherings to discuss what to do in the neighborhoods and what they expect from schools. What are they going to do to help their children? Mr. President (of the U.S.), tell the Secretary of Education what you use to do in Chicago and tell him to do it in Central Falls! Then this summer take some of that federal money and pay the teachers to sit down and discuss how they are going to set up a program from heavy minority student population. And someone needs to get the University of Rhode Island School of Education involved to helping this community. They need an outreach program.

Yeah, fire all the teachers--not a very high level leadership concept. I wish those teachers of Central Falls well. This incident will affect their lives as well as those teachers in the surrounding area. You don't teach well when you think you're going to get fired. It's like getting a paddling because you're not smart enough. So to all those teachers in Central Falls, thanks for all you did. I know you tried to help the kids.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I Don't Understand Some People's Thinking

I hadn't planned to do another blog but a couple of things had surfaced on the news and I need to clarify my head a bit. The first bit of news is that a popular middle school principal in southwest Washington is being fired at the end of this year because....test scores have not improved. The second bit of news is that Dallas (TX) plan on firing teachers whose classroom test scores do not improve by next year. Damn!

First a RANT then an analysis of the situation. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. I could go into any of the Dallas classrooms and improve the test one year. No sweat. But the kids would have learned very little and their mental growth will not have improved much. I can teach to the test but that is no education. And the Dallas superintendent of schools has a doctorate in education! Amazing. I suspect somehow there is some politics involved but I have no clue if that is true.

As for the principal being let go at the end of the year I feel sorry for the community. Middle school level. Test scores are the reason for the dismissal. I don't have any teacher friends in that school district so I can't call and say, "what's up?" The situation is up setting to the community (according to local news sources). Apparently drug usage is slightly down. Behavior problems are also slightly down. What I cannot find out is what the superintendent said to the principal and how long was he given to work on test scores. Does the principal have any power? How big are the classes? Did the school get any budget for innovating practices? Lots of things I'd like to know. But the situation bothers me.

It is a case of "let's get rid of the bad teachers" but no one will tell me what a bad teacher is. The Dallas superintendent said on the TV news that "everyone, including other teachers know who the poor teachers are." I wish he would be more decisive and tell us what everyone is suppose to know. I hate these situations. I wonder if money is involved? End of Rant.

Now an analysis. One of the tasks that a researcher does when addressing a problem is to list all the variables. So let's give that a whirl.

We'll start with the obvious--the teacher. Where was she or he trained? What sort of a teaching certificate? Is the teacher teaching the subject or class that is listed on the certificate? How many years teaching? Does this teacher have any assistance such as teaching assistant, librarian, music teacher, PE teacher, curriculum specialist? Any extra training? What is the age of the teacher?

Next, the environment. How many kids in the classroom OR how many classes per day? And of the latter, are they the same or different classes? How old is the school building? How old is the classroom? Is it wired for audiovisual equipment, computers? How hard is it to get audiovisual equipment to the room? Is there adequate heat or air conditioning? Blackboard, Whiteboard or Smartboard? How old are the textbooks? Is there enough textbooks for all students? Are desks nailed to the floor or can they be moved about? Is there a lunchroom or do the kids have to eat in the classroom? Is there a place where students can keep their backpacks or do they carry they around all day? How noisy are the hallways? Is there a library? Is there a computer lab(s)? Are there adequate playgrounds for elementary schools or gathering places for middle and secondary schools? Is the building/classroom up to standards for handicapped students (i.e. wheelchairs)?

Now we come to the students. How many have a mom/dad family? How many have a single parent? How many are in a foster home? How many live with grandparents? How many have a step-parent? How many of the students need breakfast or lunch? How far do they ride a bus to get to school? For certain parts of our country, how many kids are military dependents? How many of the children/young adults have been in the same school for over three years? How many of the students have a minority background? How many students speak a different language at home? How many siblings?

Then there is the community. How would describe the local community? City, suburban, rural, military, stable, quiet, gangs, urban poverty/rural poverty, good tax base, poor tax base, multiple families, single families? Are the schools run by a school board or a political base? What is the ratio of private (including religious schools) to public schools?

There are other variables one could throw into this pot. We might consider what the curriculum is and is it state mandated or locally controlled. I also sense that we could considered sports in some parts of this nation. Are they wining or loosing? There are many variables that influence what goes on in each and every classroom. Please explain to me how improving the correct choices with all the bubbles in a test sheet explains what the teacher (or principal) is doing. I feel for the teachers of Dallas. Were I teaching either a classroom or music and I heard about the new policy I would be already looking around for another place to teach, certainly not in this district. I remember reading some research on districts that went to merit pay and one of the findings was that immediately some of the top teachers leave for other districts. You loose what you want to keep.

There is another little area of research that perhaps we ought to consider. In my class we would discuss the terms, subjective and objective. In this blog I am quite often if not most of the time....subjective, i.e., it is my opinion. Objective is supposed to be not influenced by opinions--it is a truthful fact. But the problem with objective decisions is that you can make it so difficult that you get a false positive. What this means is that you got an answer but the data is skewed in your behalf. Therefore it is not truly objective....but just wrong data.

I could continue but my mind is tired. I just don't understand people's thinking at times.

To all those teachers who day after day continue to teach their charges, you have my sincere thanks. You and I know you're doing a good job. What you say? You're going to change your approach for the spring quarter and see if you can't get more of them motivated? Good thinking, friend. I wish you well.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Need for Some Ethics On My Part....

I have been writing this blog about teachers and teaching for about a year now. Some years ago I was a music teacher in a district just east of Seattle. I was a good elementary music teacher--we had bands in all my schools and I did classroom music, mostly singing of folk tunes, early American songs and an occasional show tune for variety. After schools were let out for the day I would give private music lessons to those kids who wanted more instruction. And I charged ten dollars for about forty-five minutes of instructions. At the time I was making a teacher's salary about seven thousand a year--not much but in that economy and with both of us working, we were getting by. But the twenty or so dollars a week from private lessons helped a lot.

At some point I was conversing with the other elementary music teacher and he mentioned that he was giving private lessons as well but that he didn't charge any money for those lessons. His thoughts were that the district was paying him to teach music and that he shouldn't charge anything extra to those who might have some talent. I thought long and hard about this and decided he was correct--I quit charging but soon after I quit teaching music as well and went back to the elementary classroom. But it was that time when I began to think about the ethical questions that teachers have to make from time to time. I have since taken a number of philosophy classes that dealt with ethics and questions facing public schools and its teachers. It is still one of my most absorbing questions in the thinking about teaching.

I started this blog because I wanted to write about teachers and their teaching. As I stated very early in my writing and occasionally throughout these blogs that I think teachers at all grade levels are the backbone of this nation and indeed other nations as well. Of all the professions it is teachers who give back the most to society. I also think that teaching is one of the most difficult tasks facing us. We really know very little about how kids learn, what motivates them, how to make children productive adults in our society. Ask any adult what they remember about schooling and you will receive some of the most interesting stories--rarely about class instruction. But many will say they remember their fourth grade teacher or their high school drama teacher and they say that with great fondness.

My philosophy starts with the basic question: Are we a social animal or are we individuals? It is a simple question but the answers are complex. I forgot the philosopher who stated, "Live in the questions and not the answers." I choose to believe we are a social living being-that we need each other. Therefore we have schools to educate our young so they may join us as adults in society. And then again I watch on PBS the wonderful show of "Living Alone in the Wilderness." And I wonder are we truly a social animal or are we individuals acting alone. 'Tis a puzzlement. I am beginning to come to the conclusion that one's selection of an answer to this question may well be dictated by one's genes.

So I believe in schools and education and learning. I think that education is the answer to most of society's problems. But at times education produces problems. It seems that teaching our young about texting one another results in sexting, that of sending explicit material over the web and hence we need more education. Problems mandate education which begets more problems which mandates more education...... and so it goes.

I taught K-12 classes; well, naturally. Music teachers have to teach at all levels. But I found the elementary classroom more challenging and spent ten years as a fifth, then fourth grade teacher. I like to think I did an adequate job but over the years watching master teachers do their job I now wish I had done better. I've also taught at the community college level (a class in nursing and a number in early technology for instructors) as well as all levels at the college arena.

I remember teaching a course called the Pre-Autumn Quarter in which I was suppose to take possibly marginal entering freshmen and explain how a university works, where help might be obtained and what was going to be expected of them to continue with their studies at the university. I thought the concept quite good and was pleased that the university was taking this course of action to insure success. You know my mantra: Success breeds success. So I was taken a little bit by surprise when I entered my first autumn class to find it mostly African-Americans and some foreign students. And in the back row sat four or five Black Student Union representatives. They weren't taking the class but were there "to make sure their bothers and sisters were given the right information." I have long puzzled over what might constitute "wrong information" and why would I want to present such knowledge. I will admit it was stressful. The class and I got through the month long classes with the union guys watching me the whole time. At the end of the class nothing was ever said. I still wonder about that episode.

I also worked early on with television in the classroom. Once I recorded a colleague's classroom at the university level with the purpose of taping a person who was making a serious disruption during class. That tape was instrumental in that student being asked to leave the university. Strangely enough, a number of years later that same female student came to my university and asked me in the hall where the Special Education Department was. I told her and then she asked, "Don't I know you--haven't I seen you before?" At first I didn't remember her. Later that day, she was caught robbing a connivence store with a gun. I suspect she really was asking for help but I always wondered what might have happened had she really recognized me from the other university.

The use of technology in teaching has been a passion for me. From still cameras to tape reorders to television to main frame computer to microcomputers and now.....telephones with cameras and camcorders as an integral part can all play a part in the education of our young children. I see teachers who are not using technology and wonder why not.

There are some other passions that I embrace in teaching. I do not believe that either politics or religion should play a part in the classroom. I think that the teacher ought not to allow his or her politics or religion to be made known to the students. This is an ethical position that I hold dearly and I hope over the years I've not allowed my thoughts and actions to influence my students. We need to teach thinking not ideology.

I also believe every child has a right to an education. But that position stems from my earlier one that we are a social animal. But it bothers me when some schools are not as equal as others.

These blogs are written mostly for me to clarify my thinking and memories. If anything stimulates you to think as I do or better yet, to think in a different manner then I am glad. Certainly the process of education is one that is highly complicated with many variables to consider. There are many who are far more knowledgeable then me however, my thoughts on teachers and teaching remain the same--good teachers are amazing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

'Tis a puzzlement.

I've sketched todays blog out twice and didn't like either concept. My subject in question is "TEXTBOOKS." Most teachers use them, the school board normally approves which ones are to be used, most textbooks are old and the textbook budget is overwhelming. In some states and school districts teachers can help in selecting which textbook they want to use. By and large the choice is normally made at the administration level. I don't envy that person who has to make the final decision.

And I think I understand the problem. I was teaching fourth grade--there were three of us at the fourth grade level. I can't remember the woman but the teacher in the next classroom was Chuck (as usual I have changed names but Chuck will recognize himself I'm sure). Chuck was a solid teacher and worked hard at making sure all his students understood the material. Chuck and his wife were very religious, extremely so but I want to give Chuck credit, he really worked to keep church and school separated. I think there was one time when Chuck got his church to help out a family who had a child in his class. It was a gray area I guess but his heart was in the right direction one would say.

If I had a complaint about Chuck's teaching it was that he worked so hard with some of his kids that when recess came and it was his turn on playground duty he would be working with the kids so long that by the time he got out on the playground it was time to come in. I covered for him on sunny days but my disposition on cold gray days wasn't the same. "Damn it, Chuck, you're on duty!" We only had duty about once a week.

But there was one other problem I had with Chuck. OR maybe it was that he had the problem with me. Every once in a while Chuck would come into my classroom with one of our textbooks for the fourth grades. I'd stop going around to my kids and go over to Chuck who would open the textbook and say, "Do you see something on this page that bothers you?" It might have been about Columbus discovering the Americas, or the western movement dealing with the native Americans.... It could also be a page from our science textbook which were pretty bland, batteries, electricity, gases and water, stuff like that. Chuck would hand the book to me and say, "Read it." I'd read the part that he wanted me to and then I'd look at him. It was straight wishy washy textbook stuff--fourth grade level written with third grade words. What did he want me to see? I'd look at him and he would get so upset--"look at the smut there!" I'd read it again and I still didn't see a thing. Chuck would get exasperated and go back to his classroom. Sometimes I would go to his classroom at noon and talk to him about what he was looking at. ALL of the time I could not see what he was seeing. He could see "smut" or "anti-religion" words that I just didn't see.

On several occasions Chuck and his wife went to the school board and complained; they wanted the books recalled. He never won an argument but he certainly challenged the school board on a number of occasions--so much so that the district administration finally made Chuck a kindergarten teacher. Not many books in kindergarten. But even then he saw things in picture books that bothered him but at that grade level it was easier to put different picture books in his classroom.

I liked Chuck and his wife--so did many of the parents of the kids that he had. And as I mentioned he did a good job of keeping religion and the classroom separate. But the textbooks got to him.

I brought this all up today since many of you may have seen the television and web reports about the state of Texas school board having a "to do" about textbooks. There are a few states, and Texas is one of them, indeed the largest of the states, that pick the textbooks at the state level because then they buy the plates and print their own textbooks giving royalties to the publisher. Apparently they save the state a lot of money even though cost for all those textbooks is over a billion dollars. However, cost is not their concern. The state school board is composed of five people. These are the five that choose the textbooks for ALL the children in the state. And from the reports several members of the board want to re-write history, i.e., to show that the founding fathers were all Christians. I am very glad that I am not involved with this debate. But one report says that the argument may go on long enough that some schools will not get their textbooks next fall. I have read enough about our founding fathers that I don't want to get into this debate. But I do feel for those that are deciding upon which textbooks are necessary for use in the classroom.

A few years back I went to a conference in Paris about technology (yes, yes, I paid. Not on taxpayers money) where I presented two papers. Excellent conference. I learned a lot. One of the benefits was the meeting of professors from all around the world. My what a divergent group. One of my colleagues in my field from Russia was a delight and a world of knowledge about technology totally different from the present thoughts at that time in America. It was good to look outside the box.

One of the things that I enjoyed talking to him about was the Russian schools. They take their education seriously and taxes weren't a question. If the schools needed it, they got it. As a teacher I thought that was wonderful. But they have their problems too. I asked which problem was the biggest? And Professor Devosky said that choosing which history was a major decision. Do we tell about Stalin? Do we tell about the negative things in Russian history? Apparently at that time they just left the years out that dealt with Stalin. No mention of the KGB. No mention of the labor camps in eastern Russia. He said that at that time Russia had no health textbooks but they wanted to teach health in the schools--particularly to cut back on smoking and drinking. He said that liver disease was a big cost in the health program.

So I guess textbook selection is a problem the world around. The cost of buying textbooks is a major, major part of district school wide budgets. How long do textbooks last? Eight to ten years. But in some cases, particularly science, the information changes at least every three years. Another dilemma to be faced. What to do!

So I have two assignments for you this week. Double space, twelve point font, inch and a half on the left and inch the rest of the way around. In black type. No handwritten pages. Ready?
1) Defend or disagree (choose only one) with the concept that Textbooks are not necessary anymore. And 2) what was the religious affiliations of the founding fathers of the United States?

If you enjoy contemplating the above assignments, please go thank a teacher who showed you the enjoyment of mental stimulation.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Basic Division in the Philosophy of Education in the United States

Let me start with a disclaimer--I cannot find my copy of "How Women Learn," nor can I find any reference to it. I'm positive that a Harvard sociologist wrote such a book about twenty-five years ago and I was sure I had a copy. Perhaps I loaned it out and forgot about it. On the other hand, because of age my memory may not be as sharp as I think I am. Sadness abounds at this end.

My reason for trying to find that book (both Google and Amazon have not helped me) is that I was going to use it as support material for today's blog on learning mathematics. For you see, the courts just ruled that the Seattle Public Schools must go back and redefine their mathematics curriculum, that their present one does not meet the criteria set forth in policy by the Seattle School board---which ironically had accepted the present plan of study.

I am on an ethics kick today. I don't have the court order to the Seattle Schools in front of me--just a new article. I also don't have that book on How Women Learn, a research item I believe from Harvard. I don't have the textbooks as selected by the Seattle School Board for the Mathematics curriculum. As I might say when teaching my sailing class, we in a fog bank with little references. For those who want to argue with me, you have the advantage, point to your side.

It appears that the Seattle school system had a committee of teachers, administrators and parents study the mathematics curriculum for about a year and decided to go in a certain direction. Other parents and teachers did not like the decision and challenged the boards approval. And that is where we sit today. But I suspect there are other cities in the United States agonizing over the same decision. How should we teach mathematics?

The interesting thing to me--no, make that fascinating is that much of the mathematics dilemma can be found in our philosophy of education. Plato started all this. Blame him. But blaming anyone does not solve our present problem.

I've done this once before with early readers of this blog. I have an in-class assignment for you. Take a sheet of paper and with a quarter draw three circles on your paper. Location is not important but give yourself some space for notes. Now take a dime and circle it inside the first three circles. Should look like you have three wheels--okay so far?

Put the letter "I" in each of the smaller circles. This represents the individual or the student in a learning situation. You can title your first pair of circles Idealism. Now make a few arrows going from the outer circle toward the inner circle. The idea behind idealism is that it is a top down type of philosophy. I suppose a good example of this type of thinking can be found in our military. The president says this will be and then the Generals and Admirals pass the word on to lower officers until it reaches the privates and seaman at the lowest ranks.

An example of a curriculum within Idealism would be the Great Books Selection. Experts in literature would select what they thought was the best and presented it to the rest of us. How about mathematics--how would that get taught? Numbers would be presented to the student. Probably addition next then subtraction. Once that is managed, multiplication tables would be memorized. Rote learning. Then we face division. The teacher would probably show the student on paper or a white board and then have them duplicate the problem. Making sure the student understands would be the solving of the mathematics problems and presenting it to the teacher. At higher levels of understanding a student would be taught algebra and geometry in the same manner. An example of a problem, the solution done by the teacher and then the students does the problem.

Now please understand that this whole example is highly simplistic. And idealistic as well. I'm telling you something except you don't have to respond by giving me an example of what I just explained. You can teach most anything by this method, English, Social Studies, Health, Reading--the list goes on. You need a teacher and an understanding of what needs to be taught.
There are three subjects that are crucial to becoming educated; reading, writing and numbers, i.e., arithmetic. Why so? Because they deal with abstractions. You are presently reading this missive because you understand that a collection of abstracts means a "word." You and I hopefully agree with what that "word" means to each of us. The Letter "T" has evolved from ancient Greek lettering into something that you and I and others all agree on. It can be a seven foot high letter "T" as on a roadside advertising sigh or a minute one in a stock market report. But both "T"s we recognize as an abstraction that we agree on. Think of all the different types of "T"s that we see daily. Amazing isn't i"t"?

The same holds for writing. Getting children to write a word means that they not only have an understanding of the word, they need to form those letters that constitute the word. And then they have to form their letters with a pencil so that someone else can recognize it.....or they can punch it in on their Blackberry. (I can't believe I just wrote that--oh my, life is changing)

My point here is that reading, writing and numbers are abstractions and each needs to have a meaning connected to that item. That is why I think elementary teaching is difficult. How do you attach meaning to an abstraction? I have often pondered how the Chinese teach their abstractions. I would have like to visit their elementary schools.

Idealism is probably learning effective in teaching abstractions. You tell the student, they use the abstraction and then give you an example of it. If correct you go on. This is how much mathematics is being taught today in the public schools. Idealism.

Now let's take your second set of circles. Label it Realism. This time make arrows going from the inner circle to the outer circle. Four or five will do. It is symbolic that the individual "wants to learn" and asks the environment or adults. It is not uncommon in preschools to have letters or different sizes and shapes for the children to play with. When a child holds up a green letter "T" and waves it at a teacher, she responds by saying "T" Later on when the child hold up another perhaps smaller letter "T" the teacher agrees that it is a "T" as well. In this manner the child "learns" the alphabet on their own. Seeing a letter "T" in a book makes that child understand that it is something important and begins the understanding of the different letters. We can do the same with numbers. Combining numbers and letters tell us something different but the child has to discover these combinations.

Again I have simplified this example. In the Idealism mode, a student memories the learning. In the Realistic mode the student discovers or owns the learning. Which one is the better method? I really don't know. I suspect that sometime in the future we will do a report on the genes of each child and know by those genes which mode of learning is optimum. At present we can only use trial and error. Maybe our form of education is correct. A student has this teacher who is idealistic for one year or a subject and then another teacher for a year or subject who is realistic.

What? What? What should we do with the last set of circles? I'm glad you asked. Label it Pragmatism. The draw arrows going to and from each circle. An arrow with points on either end. In this case we have an individual or student exploring the world but getting advice, instruction and guidance from outside; i.e., the adults. Developed by John Dewey (the philosopher not the librarian although I honor both of them) he insisted that it was a different philosophy of education. Dewey said that the only constant was change itself. Therefore the curriculum was always in flux. Given today's technology advances I suspect he would say "I told you so." Learning has to be adjusted for the time and the individual. Tough job.

So what is Seattle school board going to do? They selected the realistic mode but the courts were not accepting of their choice. I suspect they will go back to the idealistic mode. It will be interesting to see what happens.

You've read all this abstraction and you understand it all. You need to be very concrete and go thank a teacher.