Now we have examined two extremes in educational thought that have developed over the past century. Teacher centered and student centered philosophies differ significantly in their approach to the student-teacher relationship. Teacher centered philosophy does not depend on the student's wants and needs at all. Teacher centered philosophy uses antiquated methods, such as rote learning. However, these methods are quickly being replaced by a more student-centered approach. Student centered approaches to learning are an important part of the new technologically advanced society. The following will explore the role of student-centered philosophies in the emerging technological tends
Teaching Philosophies and the Changing Society
The emphasis of essentialism and perennialism is on standardization and the learning of material. This style of learning is authoritarian and disciplinarian. The study is acted upon and has no choice or preference in the material or the method by which they choose to learn it. They are simply an object that either meets or fails to meet standards placed upon them by entities whom they have never met. The student that rebels and chooses not to learn are penalized by the inability to attain work and achieve a meaningful position in society.
High Stakes Assessments and "No Child Left Behind"
High stakes assessments are an integral part of essentialist and perennialist philosophies. The original concept of these assessments was to raise the standards of American education so that it would be more competitive on a global basis. It was devised with the best of intentions and was supposed to be the "cure-all" for an educational system that failed to produce productive members of society. Since the inception of standardized testing, there have been a rash of claims that it is not the answer to America's educational woes, but rather it has exacerbated the problem to the point where the educational system is dysfunctional. There are some that claim the only good standardized testing has accomplished is to bring the problems with the educational system to the forefront.
Earlier, we discussed the narrowing of curriculum and high drop out rates caused the performance pressures associated with the tests. In support of these tests, one could say that it has had the effect of "weeding out" those that are not up to standard. However, this seems contrary to the original goals of standardized testing from the beginning. Rather than "no child left behind," standardized testing appears to leave many children behind. Since their inception, standardized test have been an object of debate in the educational community and in the community at large.
Standardized testing dates back to the mid-1899s as a means to evaluate the teaching ability of the teacher (Gallagher, 2003 in Edwards. 2006). Tests soon became a popular way to assess student progress and to make decisions about advancement. During World War I, the U.S. Army asked for a means to be developed that would help them to spot officer candidates among the thousands of recruits (Finneran, 2002). The test that was developed had an efficient and effective scoring method, which soon became the standard for many other standardized testing measures. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Title I) used standardized tests as the basis for distribution of federal funds for underperforming schools (Scott, 2004).
From their beginnings, standardized tests were accused of bias based on class and cultural differences. During the mid-1960s blacks claimed that these tests reinforced social biases and economic disparities between the classes (Scott, 2004). Supporters of standardized testing blame the child's home environment for differences in test scores (Scott, 2004). This further supported the supposition that standardized tests widened the cultural gap between those of various cultural backgrounds. These same criticisms are still being made against standardized tests being administered today.
Standardized testing leads to increased accountability for teachers and administrators. When students performed poorly on standardized tests, administrators and teachers were held accountable. We discussed the narrowing of curriculum as a result of standardized testing. As teachers and administrators became accountable for standardized test scores, they began to alter the curriculum so that it more closely matched the contents of the standardized tests. By the 1980s, a majority of states had mandated some form of minimum testing to determine academic readiness (Gallagher, 2003).
Since that time, the use of standardized tests has continued to increase and they continue to drive the curriculum that is being taught in schools even more than in the past. As pressure to succeed on standardized tests increases, teachers must spend more time on the material on the test. This leaves less time for them to expand on the curriculum and teach extras. Teachers no longer have the ability to expand the minds of the students by introducing them topics of interest, unless it is a topic that is on the test. This severely limits the ability to broaden student's horizons and expand their minds. They can only concentrate on the limited content that is a part of the standardized test procedure.
One expansion on the essentialist viewpoint is that of the functionalist view of society. This viewpoint is conservative in that it reflects a social order that is mandated from outside forces. This viewpoint supports the imposition of a hierarchical structure on society. This viewpoint limits the role of the school to teaching children the basics that they need to learn to function in society. It considered that the American society needs schools to teach their children to read, write and speak well above all other functions of the system (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999). The functionalist viewpoint also holds that the educational system should focus on training children to be good workers (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999).
There might be other subjects that parents want their children to learn, such as to be honest, ethical, and to importance of freedom, but these are not considered to be I the realm of the school's responsibilities according to the functionalist viewpoint (deMarrais & LeCompte, 1999). The functionalist viewpoint is pragmatic and focuses on work skills above anything else. There are some that claim standardized tests do more for establishing the hierarchy in schools, as far as academic accountability is concerned. However, in doing so, they undermine the function of learning. Functionalist philosophy is not concerned with the student receiving a balanced educational experience. They are only concerned that the school system produces excellent workers and that they know their place in society.
It is largely recognized by the school system and by those that advocate standardized testing that students must not only compete on a local or national level, but that they must also compete against students from around the world. The globalization of the marketplace means the American workers must be able to compete with those from the rest of the world. This translates into the need to produce students that measure up as well. Political and economic considerations are the driving forces behind the educational system.
The United States is the world's largest economy. However, a 1983 report stated that America's position was at risk from competitors such as Japan and Germany (Tozer, Violas, & Senese, 2002). Test scores offered politicians a way to gauge our potential future competitiveness against that of other countries. However, this is a dangerous assumption and represents an error of causality because student performance is only one perspective in the global competitiveness of the United States. The logic used by the 1983 "Nation at Risk" report makes the assumption the test scores equate the ability to perform the assigned work. However, this might not always be the case. Standardized testing has caused a false sense of security in this respect. One assumes that as test scores improve, so will our ability to compete on a global basis, but there are many other factors that determine the ability to compete other than student performance on test scores.
Standardized testing is convenient from several perspectives. It gives a means to make definitive decisions regarding whether student and teacher performance is up to standard. Using computers and automatic readers, tests are easy to score and compare. However, these scores say nothing about the worker's ethics, or dedication to the workforce. There are many factors that standardized tests cannot measure that might affect the work produced much more than scores on standardized tests.
Students must be able to use a variety of technological devices as a matter of their normal business day. The ability to use standard software packages and the Internet are an important part of the educational process. Children are just as illiterate today if they do not know how to use a computer as if they do not know how to read. In order to function in today's society, children must be able to use standard pieces of technology. However, this is one area where a great divide has taken place. There are various degrees of availability as far as access to technology is concerned. Poorer schools might not have the resources necessary to provide their children…