A curriculum without content delivers students without knowledge.
It is quite literally the curriculum you have when you don't have a curriculum: it is explicitly a curriculum without content. The new curriculum "will teach pupils how to hold a conversation or ask for help rather than remember facts, historic dates or periodic tables."
The new curriculum, to be released in November and introduced in 2009, focuses on the process of learning, rather than content.Mary Chamberlain is an example of the educational model she proposes: someone who has nothing at all in her head. Miseducating a whole new generation in her image is not the answer; removing her and her ilk from the miseducation of NZ children is clearly urgent.
For example, social science students will be marked for taking action to make their community a better place to live, rather than remembering facts about a society on the other side of the world. Science students might be tested on whether they know how to design an experiment, rather than whether they remember what the result should be.
Mary Chamberlain, overseeing the project for the Education Ministry, says that although people are "rattled" by the changes, "there's no use (students) being little knowledge banks walking around on legs. We've got computers, we don't need people walking around with them in their heads... People just have to get used to that."
Even the teachers union, the PPTA, called this "a paradigm shift that has gone too far." Roger Moses, principal of Wellington College, explains why: with its focus on "skills" rather than knowledge, this will he says see New Zealand children growing up ignorant.
But none of this is new: the process has been going on for years -- this latest promise of miseducation simply continues a process that has been under way for years. Writing in 'Free Radical #76,' George Reisman summed up the Chamberlain view: "With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible."
Nonsense like Chamberlain's does not emerge fully grown. In the following excerpts from his article, Reisman explains where this nonsense comes from, and what has already been the result. Settle back and read his incisive dissection of modern miseducation. It's good:
It is sometimes observed that most of today’s high school and college graduates have very little education in science and mathematics and thus do not understand and cannot properly appreciate modern technology. There is considerable merit in these observations, but the problem goes much deeper. Namely, from the earliest grades, the prevailing methodology of contemporary education systematically encourages irrational skepticism ...For many years now it has been Kant's distorted 'Romantic' version of reason that has been foisted upon students worldwide. Ms Chamberlain and her comrades now wish to make that explicit. Reisman explains how the undercutting of education is explicitly based upon the undercutting of knowledge espoused by 'Romantic' era philosophers.
To explain how this is the case, I must briefly digress into the history of philosophy.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Immanuel Kant foisted on the intellectual world a distorted version of what reason is, namely, a faculty divorced from knowledge of the real world and limited to awareness of a world of mere appearances created by the human mind itself. ...
Romanticism ... follows on the direct foundation of Kantianism... In its essentials, the philosophy of Romanticism is the guiding principle of contemporary education. Exactly like Romanticism, contemporary education holds that the valuable portion of our mental life has no essential connection with our ability to reason and with the deliberate, controlled use of our conscious mind—that we possess this portion of our mental life if not in our sleep, then nevertheless as small children. This doctrine is clearly present in the avowed conviction of contemporary education that creativity is a phenomenon that is separate from and independent of such conscious mental processes as memorization and the use of logic...Such a process of miseducation is so far advanced that few now really see it, particularly not those already miseducated. Ms Chamberlain and the other writers of this proposed 'curriculum without content' are banking on the miseducation of earlier generations to blind everyone to what's happening right in front of their nose. Continues Reisman:
Now, properly, education is a process by means of which students internalize knowledge: they mentally absorb it through observation and proof, and repeated application. Memorization, deduction, and problem solving must constantly be involved. The purpose is to develop the student’s mind—to provide him with an instantaneously available storehouse of knowledge and thus an increasingly powerful mental apparatus that he will be able to use and further expand throughout his life. Such education, of course, requires hard work from the student. Seen from a physiological perspective, it may be that what the process of education requires of the student through his exercises is an actual imprinting of his brain.
Yet, under the influence of the philosophy of Romanticism, contemporary education is fundamentally opposed to these essentials of education. It draws a distinction between “problem solving,” which it views as “creative” and claims to favor, and “memorization,” which it appears to regard as an imposition on the students, whose valuable, executive-level time, it claims, can be better spent in “problem solving.” Contemporary education thus proceeds on the assumption that the ability to solve problems is innate, or at least fully developed before the child begins school. It perceives its job as allowing the student to exercise his native problem-solving abilities, while imposing on him as little as possible of the allegedly unnecessary and distracting task of memorization.
In the elementary grades, this approach is expressed in such attitudes as that it is not really necessary for students to go to the trouble of memorizing the multiplication tables if the availability of pocket calculators can be taken for granted which they know how to use; or go to the trouble of memorizing facts of history and geography, if the ready availability of books and atlases containing the facts can be taken for granted, which facts the students know how to look up when the need arises. In college and graduate courses, this approach is expressed in the phenomenon of the “open-book examination,” in which satisfactory performance is supposedly demonstrated by the ability to use a book as a source of information, proving once again that the student knows how to find the information when he needs it.
With little exaggeration, the whole of contemporary education can be described as a process of encumbering the student’s mind with as little knowledge as possible. The place for knowledge, it seems to believe, is in external sources—books and libraries—which the student knows how to use when necessary. Its job, its proponents believe, is not to teach the students knowledge but “how to acquire knowledge”—not to teach them facts and principles, which it holds quickly become “obsolete,” but to teach them “how to learn.” Its job, its proponents openly declare, is not to teach geography, history, mathematics, science, or any other subject, including reading and writing, but to teach “Johnny”—to teach Johnny how he can allegedly go about learning the facts and principles it declares are not important enough to teach and which it thus gives no incentive to learn and provides the student with no means of learning.
The results of this type of education are visible in the hordes of students who, despite years of schooling, have learned virtually nothing, and who are least of all capable of thinking critically and solving problems. When such students read a newspaper, for example, they cannot read it in the light of a knowledge of history or economics— they do not know history or economics; history and economics are out there in the history and economics books, which, they were taught, they can “look up, if they need to.” They cannot even read it in the light of elementary arithmetic, for they have little or no internally automated habits of doing arithmetic. Having little or no knowledge of the elementary facts of history and geography, they have no way even of relating one event to another in terms of time and place.
Such students, and, of course, the adults such students become, are chronically in the position in which to be able to use the knowledge they need to use, they would first have to go out and acquire it. Not only would they have to look up relevant facts, which they already should know, and now may have no way even of knowing they need to know, but they would first have to read and understand books dealing with abstract principles, and to understand those books, they would first have to read other such books, and so on. In short, they would first have to acquire the education they already should have had.
Properly, by the time a student has completed a college education, his brain should hold the essential content of well over a hundred major books on mathematics, science, history, literature, and philosophy, and do so in a form that is well organized and integrated, so that he can apply this internalized body of knowledge to his perception of everything in the world around him. He should be in a position to enlarge his knowledge of any subject and to express his thoughts on any subject clearly and logically, both verbally and in writing. Yet, as the result of the miseducation provided today, it is now much more often the case that college graduates fulfill the Romantic ideal of being “simple, uneducated men.”
Contemporary education is responsible for the growing prevalence of irrational skepticism. The students subjected to it do not acquire actual knowledge. They have no firm foundation in a base of memorized facts and they have not acquired any solid knowledge of principles because their education has avoided as far as possible the painstaking processes of logical proof and repeated application of principles, which latter constitutes a vital and totally legitimate form of memorization. Such students go through school “by the seat of their pants.” They are forever “winging it.” And that is how they go through life as adults. It is impossible for them to have genuine understanding of anything that is beyond the realm of their daily experience, and even of that, only on a superficial level. To such people, almost everything must appear as an arbitrary assertion, taken on faith. For their education has made them unfit to understand how things are actually known. Their failure to memorize such things as the multiplication tables in their childhood, makes it impossible for them to understand whatever directly depends on such knowledge, which, in turn, makes it impossible for them to acquire the further knowledge that depends on that knowledge, and soon. With each passing year of their education, they fall further behind.
Ironically, their failure to memorize what it is appropriate to memorize ends up putting them in a position in which to pass examinations, they have no other means than out-of-context memorization—that is, memorization lacking any foundation in logical connection and proof. Because they have never memorized fundamental facts, and thus have no basis for developing genuine understanding of all that depends on those facts, they are placed in the position in which to pass examinations they must attempt to memorize out-of-context conclusions. It is because of this that a growing proportion of what they learn as the years pass has the status in their minds of arbitrary assertions. They are chronically in the mental state of having no good reason for most or almost all of what they believe. Thus, in their context of actual ignorance masked by pretended knowledge, they are prime targets for irrational skepticism. To them, in their mental state, doubt of everything can only seem perfectly natural.
Such students, such adults, are easy targets for a doctrine such as “environmentalism.” They are totally unprepared intellectually to resist any irrational trend and more than willing to leap on the bandwagon of one that caters to their uncertainties and fears. Environmentalism does this by blaming the stresses of their life on the existence of an industrial society and holding out the prospect of an intellectually undemanding and thus seemingly stress-free pastoral existence, one which is allegedly “in harmony with nature.”
The destructive work of contemporary education carried on against the development of students’ conceptual abilities from the earliest grades on is compounded, as their education advances to the higher grades, by the teaching of a whole collection of irrationalist doctrines that constitute the philosophical substance of contemporary liberal arts education... These doctrines constitute a systematic attack on reason and its role in human life...
If one wishes to use the expression “intellectual main stream,” and borrow for a moment the environmentalists’ alleged concern with the cleanliness of streams and such, these doctrines may justifiably be viewed as intellectual raw sewage comparable to what can be seen bobbing up and down in a dirty river. They and the methodology of contemporary education have totally fouled the “intellectual mainstream.” The kind of education I have described—-if it can still be called education, consisting as it does of an unremitting assault on the rational faculty and every rational value—-is responsible for the hordes of graduates turned out over the last decades who have had no conception of the meaning and value of the Constitution and history of the United States, of the meaning and value of Western civilization itself, or indeed of the meaning and value of membership in the human race. It has been responsible for the decline in the quality of government in the United States, as, unavoidably, many such mis-educated graduates have found their way into the halls of Congress and the state legislatures, and into major offices in all the other branches of government, and, of course, into all the various branches of the news media and publishing...Such a transformation is not inevitable, but as long as the fundamental tenets of the miseducators remain largely unchallenged, it will continue.
Thus, in what may prove to be the greatest tragedy in all of human existence, we see at the end of more than two centuries of man’s most dazzling success, the proliferation of heirs who as adults possess less than the mentalities of children. We see a culture of reason and science being transformed before our eyes into one which more and more resembles a culture of primitive men.