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Bruno: You Call It Indoctrination, I Call It Effective

At the end of an otherwise interesting post on trends in teacher training, Bruce Baker takes an unfortunately-phrased swipe at new, Relay-style ed schools.

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The problem with these GSEs dedicated to training already-affiliated teachers is that they are "focused primarily on ideological & cultural indoctrination," according to Baker, who points specifically to one of Relay's instructional videos that I've discussed before.

It's fine if Baker is skeptical of the merit of Relay's program, but describing it as a form of indoctrination seems to me to confuse aesthetic objections for substantive criticisms.

After all, one person's indoctrination is another person's effective instruction.

I received my teacher training from one of those traditional graduate schools of education at a flagship state university and you could probably describe that training as involving a lot of cultural and ideological indoctrination. In particular, you could say that over my time there - two years! - I was "indoctrinated" into the (stereotypical) culturally progressive, ideologically constructivist educational paradigm.

On the other hand, you could just say my instructors thought they were preparing me to be a teacher in the best way they knew how. The former description sounds ominous and inherently objectionable, but the latter description admits of more opportunities for a substantive discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of my teacher training. 

And so it is with Relay-type ed schools, which as far as I can tell are not indoctrinating their students any more than my ed school indoctrinated me.

As someone who thinks teacher training could use a lot of work, I'm all in favor of a meaningful debate about the merits of different programs. The language of "indoctrination", though, is probably more ideologically loaded than the curricula at our schools of education. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)

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Given that Baker is someone who makes his living at a traditional college of education, it's in his financial and ideological interest to suggest that there's something fishy about a school of education where faculty are are too interested in the practice of teaching in any sort of real-world setting.

I see no reason to doubt Baker's motives. And it's possible to read too much into what was originally an aside. I mostly think it's just a poor choice of words.

In Baker's defense, I know the feeling when someone is about to offer me some Kool-aid that will make me see the world their way...time to find the nearest exit.

However, in the binary world that pervades education debates today, either one is staunchly willing to evade accountability with complete disregard for student outcomes or one is actively hurting the children for their own good. Neither world is real, but they seem to help those who only see power in the bully pulpit sort people out and determine whether or not it is their turn to be heard.

Relay GSE is a change agent more so than a scholarly institution, but we can look forward to a time when even traditional ed programs accept the best of what they have to offer. That, of course, cannot happen until we have the kind of data that can stand up to scrutiny.

Well, his choice of words was itself so ideological that it's kinder to assume some sort of competitive feeling than to assume that he really is that dumb.

I think it's important to make a distinction between a learning environment which engages in critical thinking, dialogue, international academic discourse and is grounded in a century of theory, discussion, research, and practice even if it has a particular bias, with what is being peddled at Relay.

In my Ed Masters Program we had many different viewpoints represented in our class and different professors certainly taught their own particular perspective which led to rich discussion and many unanswered questions. My guess is that Relay is not a place of deep questioning but rather a place to learn "The Relay Method", without questioning or tweaking or challenging. And the fact that this is done within a self-serving feedback loop where no outside voices will be heard makes me believe it is, absolutely, a form of indoctrination.

Oh, there's no question. Ed school holds a liberal progressive view and forbids all others from entry. But ed schools don't mandate one form of teaching. The Relay styles schools, like the guy starting an Ed School? are absolutely doctrinaire camps that say there is One Path to Teaching, and Only One. I can't remember who I read that called these programs North Korea, but it's completely true.

It is accurate to call it indoctrination of a sort not practiced or even understood by ed schools, who have to at least pretend to offer academic freedom. These prison camps don't.

I'm certainly open to hearing evidence about these schools, but so far every single criticism of them I've heard comes from people with no first hand experience and very little second-hand experience, so so far it all comes across as biased speculation to me. "Prison camp" strikes me as even more hyperbolic than "indoctrination" here.

It also occurs to me that if we're going to use a (pretty silly) North Korea metaphor, "pretending to offer freedom" is really more like most dictatorships and "telling people in a straightforward way what you think is the best way to do the job" is more like, you know, a trade school. Like, e.g., medical school.

The medical school comparison is a good one. Teachers are always saying that they are "professionals" equivalent to doctors. Well, take a look at how doctors are trained.

When someone goes to medical school, they face: 1) simply vast amounts of drill and kill, far beyond what most teachers could even imagine, over every minute aspect of the human body; and 2) incredibly detailed technical instructions about the "right" way to do everything, from inserting an IV to how to do surgery (for some reason, medical schools aren't quite as keen on giving everyone the "freedom" to explore their own new ways of doing heart surgery).

For example, take a look at this 642-page manual describing every little technical detail of what has to occur during heart surgery: http://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/16749867/1879409806/name/Manual_Of_Perioperative_Care.pdf Do you think doctors would be impressed with a so-called "profession" wherein practitioners whine that there shouldn't be an official standards of practice and that they shouldn't be told what to do?

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.