“I am not an outright proponent of the philosophy that ‘If you want something done right, you have to live in the past’, but when it comes to how to teach math there are worse philosophies to embrace,” Barry Garelick explains as he continues from where he left off in his last book (“Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn”). He describes his experiences as a long-term substitute teacher at a high school and middle school. He teaches math as he best knows how while schools throughout California make the transition to the Common Core standards. It is the 50th anniversary of key historical events including the JFK assassination and the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. It is also the 50th anniversary of his first algebra course, the technical and personal memories of which he uses to guide him through the 21st century educational belief system that surrounds him. Among other things, he concludes that “the eighth grade traditional Algebra I class has become an endangered species open to a newly formed and very small elite.”
It is a book for anyone concerned with what Common Core is bringing about in the name of 21st century math education, STEM education, and “21st century skills.”
From the Introduction:
“This book takes place in the 21st century and a school district in California. Like many districts in the U.S., it is married to the groupthink-inspired conception known as 21st century learning. Those who have fallen under the spell of this idea believe that today’s students live in the digital world where any information can be Googled, and facts are not as important as “learning how to learn”. It is a brave new world in which students must collaborate, be creative, work as a team and construct new meanings. Teaching subjects such as math, history, science and English (now called Language Arts) as separate disciplines is an outmoded concept; they should be blended into an integrated discipline.
“In the world of 21st century learning, one prevailing belief is that procedures don’t stick; they are forgotten. Habits, however, are forever. Students are to be taught “learning skills”, “critical and higher order thinking” and “habits of mind” in order to prepare for jobs that have not yet been created.
“In short, it is an educational orientation that I and others like me 1) do not believe in and 2) find ourselves immersed in. It was the underlying belief system in which I had to work during two long-term sub assignments which are the subject of the book you are about to read.”