In a portion of his Journal John Harvard writes about “Tackling Teaching and Learning.” The irony is that from the vantage point of our most respected if not admired educational institution this writer seems to know so little about the subject. In fact, it’s not often that I read so many words of so little substance and interest.
I wasn’t able to finish”Tackling Teaching and Learning,” but just about the point when I stopped reading there was one comment that caught my interest, not by Michael Smith, a Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and whose comments were most often referred to in the piece, but by a biology professor, a Richard M. Losick.
“We spend,” he said, “a lot of time at Harvard talking about what students should learn, and far less about how they should learn and what they do learn.”
Well, I said to myself, le plus ça change …. For isn’t that what all institutions of learning, schools and colleges, have always done, talk mostly about what they’re teaching, what kids should learn. And why? Well probably because they know so little about what the kids are actually learning, and even less about how they learn.
Know it all schools like Harvard don’t like not to be in charge so they go on talking about what kids should be learning, which means they go on, as Losick points out, talking about what they know, and not about what their students might or might not know thanks to their efforts.