Why Constructivism and Direct Instruction will Damage Your Child’s Brain – Part 1

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Sac­ri­lege! Direct Instruc­tion is bad??? By the end of this 3 part arti­cle I hope to explain what I mean by this before my home­school and char­ter school friends storm the cas­tle, though they do have some­thing to ponder.

Back­ground: What Moti­vates Us

I recent­ly lis­tened to a book on tape called “Dri­ve,” by Daniel Pink. The book is about the sci­ence behind moti­va­tion. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject explain­ing the appro­pri­ate­ness of reward sys­tems and what increas­es or decreas­es moti­va­tion. He says that what we real­ly seek is auton­o­my, mas­tery, and pur­pose. When we are giv­en high amounts of auton­o­my, the oppor­tu­ni­ty to per­form chal­leng­ing work at our lev­el of com­pe­ten­cy so we expe­ri­ence growth, and have mean­ing­ful pur­pose behind what we are doing, we expe­ri­ence some­thing called flow, a term coined by psy­chol­o­gist Mihá­ly Csík­szent­mi­há­lyi mean­ing focused moti­va­tion. When we are denied these 3 ele­ments in var­i­ous degrees, we do not gain the state of focus and con­cen­tra­tion to max­i­mize our per­for­mance. You need to under­stand this to under­stand one of the edu­ca­tion­al philoso­phies I’m going to discuss.

Every­one is moti­vat­ed either intrin­si­cal­ly or extrin­si­cal­ly. We are also reward­ed either intrin­si­cal­ly or extrin­si­cal­ly. You either get joy out of what you’re doing, or some­thing exter­nal to you is your reward for doing it. What the stud­ies show is that when extrin­sic moti­va­tors are used incor­rect­ly, it can destroy intrin­sic moti­va­tion and dam­age that mech­a­nism alto­geth­er. There are times when both can be used effec­tive­ly, but when intrin­sic moti­va­tion is key, such as in the area of edu­ca­tion, then intro­duc­ing extrin­sic moti­va­tors can cause seri­ous harm to the true long-term goals we have of chil­dren becom­ing life-time learners.

Here’s how it works. If some­one is doing algo­rith­mic work that could per­haps be auto­mat­ed and doesn’t require cre­ative think­ing, those actions can be moti­vat­ed by a reward or incen­tive sys­tem where the per­son knows they will be reward­ed for com­plet­ing the task. For exam­ple, mov­ing box­es from one side of a ware­house to the oth­er or rak­ing the leaves. These don’t require cre­ative process­es (under most cir­cum­stances) and so you can incen­tivize them.

How­ev­er, as soon as you step into any­thing requir­ing think­ing and cre­ativ­i­ty, to pro­vide an extrin­sic moti­va­tor actu­al­ly decreas­es moti­va­tion and out­comes because what the indi­vid­ual could have done for intrin­sic pur­pos­es has been made to appear to be work instead of play. Instead of striv­ing for mas­tery for the chal­lenge itself, the bribe/incentive/reward turns it into work. Once on that path, rewards moti­vate peo­ple to seek rewards. In stud­ies men­tioned in Daniel’s book, cre­ative peo­ple are less cre­ative when they know there is a reward in it for them as if doing the thing itself isn’t enough. For exam­ple, ask­ing a child to read a book because it’s excit­ing and fun would turn into work for them if you offered them $10 to read it because they would begin to per­ceive that if you have to pay them to do it, you might be think­ing they real­ly won’t like it and must moti­vate them with money.

If you’d like to watch Daniel Pink’s TED talk on moti­va­tion, it’s high­ly worth watching: 

A Lit­tle Edu­ca­tion History

Now we need to lay a lit­tle edu­ca­tion his­to­ry frame­work before we get to the meat of what’s going on.

Horace Mann

Horace Mann

In the ear­ly 1800’s, the Pruss­ian army was frus­trat­ed that its sol­diers weren’t per­form­ing on the bat­tle­fields with pre­cise order. They want­ed to make sure that future sol­diers didn’t have this prob­lem so they imple­ment­ed com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion on their chil­dren and began psy­cho­log­i­cal approach­es to edu­ca­tion to cre­ate the desired result of obe­di­ent chil­dren that would do exact­ly as they wanted.

Hall­marks of this Pruss­ian edu­ca­tion sys­tem includ­ed com­pul­so­ry atten­dance, nation­al train­ing for teach­ers, nation­al test­ing for stu­dents, nation­al cur­ricu­lum for each grade, and manda­to­ry kinder­garten. The phi­los­o­phy it was based in was that humans were sci­en­tif­ic objects. There is only a body, brain, and ner­vous sys­tem. There is no God, and no spir­it, so every­thing in this sci­en­tif­ic object was sub­ject to a stimulus/response system.

In the mid 1800’s, Horace Mann was trained at Leipzig uni­ver­si­ty in this method­ol­o­gy and returned to Amer­i­ca to imple­ment it here. Up until this time, com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion was not used in Amer­i­ca. When it was imple­ment­ed, par­ents rose up to stop it and the mili­tia was called out to force chil­dren to pub­lic schools until the prac­tice became accept­ed. John Tay­lor Gat­to talks about this in his accep­tance speech when he was award­ed the NY City Teacher of the Year award for the 3rd time. He also points out that pri­or to com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion, the lit­er­a­cy rate in Mass­a­chu­setts was 98% and after com­pul­so­ry edu­ca­tion was imple­ment­ed it dropped and has nev­er exceed­ed 91% since then.

G. Stan­ley Hall was anoth­er trained in this phi­los­o­phy at Leipzig and he was John Dewey’s men­tor. In 1934, John Dewey became one of the orig­i­nal sig­na­to­ries of the human­ist man­i­festo. The man­i­festo was a social­is­tic, athe­is­tic, reli­gious doc­u­ment pro­nounc­ing that there was no God or spir­it and that man was to fare accord­ing to his capa­bil­i­ties. Through­out his life, Dewey sought to use the school sys­tem to imple­ment col­lec­tivist philoso­phies on chil­dren in an attempt to have them lose indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and pro­mote socialism.

John Dewey

John Dewey

Dewey wrote, “chil­dren who know how to think for them­selves spoil the har­mo­ny of the col­lec­tive soci­ety which is com­ing, where every­one is inter­de­pen­dent.” (Human Events, 10/18/96)

He also wrote, “you can’t make social­ists out of indi­vid­u­al­ists.” (Gor­don, What’s Hap­pened To Our Schools? P. 16)

Anoth­er well known indi­vid­ual trained at Leipzig was Ivan Pavlov, famous for his bell ring­ing gen­er­at­ing sali­va­tion in dogs. Intro­duce a stim­u­lus and reward a prop­er response and these psy­chol­o­gists trained chil­dren the same way. To them, there was no such thing as chil­dren with divine poten­tial and indi­vid­ual God-giv­en tal­ents and abil­i­ties, they were lumps of clay ready to be formed to what­ev­er the teach­ers desired them to become, giv­en the prop­er stim­u­lus of course. Cor­rec­tion, Horace Mann referred to chil­dren as “wax,” not clay.

What did these psy­chol­o­gists want teach­ers to do to chil­dren? Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Har­vard pro­fes­sor of edu­ca­tion and psy­chi­a­try said this in this address to the Child­hood Inter­na­tion­al Edu­ca­tion sem­i­nar in 1973.

Every child in Amer­i­ca enter­ing school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with cer­tain alle­giances to our found­ing fathers, toward our elect­ed offi­cials, toward his par­ents, toward a belief in a super­nat­ur­al being, and toward the sov­er­eign­ty of this nation as a sep­a­rate enti­ty. It’s up to you as teach­ers to make all these sick chil­dren well – by cre­at­ing the inter­na­tion­al child of the future.”

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning

Bloom’s Tax­on­o­my of Learning

Ben­jamin Bloom, anoth­er psy­chol­o­gist and edu­ca­tor, most famous for his work on his hier­ar­chy of learn­ing, said we need­ed to move chil­dren toward high­er order think­ing and defined it like this.

…a stu­dent attains ‘high­er order think­ing’ when he no longer believes in right or wrong. A large part of what we call good teach­ing is a teacher´s abil­i­ty to obtain affec­tive objec­tives by chal­leng­ing the student’s fixed beliefs. …a large part of what we call teach­ing is that the teacher should be able to use edu­ca­tion to reor­ga­nize a child’s thoughts, atti­tudes, and feelings.”

So we can imme­di­ate­ly see that those who strong­ly influ­ence the edu­ca­tion sys­tem are in many cas­es cor­rupt god­less indi­vid­u­als who desire noth­ing more than to take chil­dren out of the home at young ages and reshape their belief system.

Last year the Texas Repub­li­can Par­ty amend­ed their plat­form to include this new item, demon­strat­ing that they under­stood this issue very clearly.

Knowl­edge-Based Edu­ca­tion – We oppose the teach­ing of High­er Order Think­ing Skills (HOTS) (val­ues clar­i­fi­ca­tion), crit­i­cal think­ing skills and sim­i­lar pro­grams that are sim­ply a rela­bel­ing of Out­come-Based Edu­ca­tion (OBE) (mas­tery learn­ing) which focus on behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion and have the pur­pose of chal­leng­ing the student’s fixed beliefs and under­min­ing parental authority.”

Oh, but all is well in Utah, right?

John Goodlad

John Good­lad

John Good­lad is the mod­ern era dis­ci­ple of John Dewey. He’s an athe­ist, social­ist, human­ist, anti-fam­i­ly, pro-social jus­tice edu­ca­tor that is one of the pre­mier voic­es lis­tened to in numer­ous edu­ca­tion depart­ments across the coun­try includ­ing BYU’s McK­ay School of Edu­ca­tion. Go fig­ure. Many quotes could be shared from Good­lad but I’ll just share a couple.

Most youth still hold the same val­ues of their parents…if we do not alter this pat­tern, if we don’t reso­cial­ize, our sys­tem will decay.” – John Good­lad, School­ing for the Future, Issue #9, 1971

Pub­lic edu­ca­tion has served as a check on the pow­er of parents,and this is anoth­er pow­er­ful rea­son for main­tain­ing it.”
– John Good­lad, Devel­op­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic Char­ac­ter in the Young, pg. 165

With peo­ple like this influ­enc­ing the sys­tem, is it any won­der that pub­lic edu­ca­tion is in decay? The goal these peo­ple are work­ing toward is social­iza­tion, and a dis­rup­tion and over­turn­ing of fam­i­ly values.


Con­tin­ued in Part 2