Blueberries . . . Soft Semantics

Continuation of my discussion with Dr. David Thornburg:


I think that you are getting caught up in “soft semantics.”

Whether you want to admit it or not, education has a set of products. defines “product” as:

1. Something produced by human or mechanical effort or by a natural process.
2. A direct result; a consequence: “Is history the product of impersonal social and economic forces?” (Anthony Lewis).

As ethereal as you want to be about education, educators do a great deal of work and they have products. The question arises when we try to define how these products are measured.

Should we use tests? Sometimes.
Should use Porter-esque rubrics to evaluate projects? Sometimes.
Should we use attitudinal surveys? Sometimes.
Should we just talk with the students to see how they feel? Sometimes.
Should we interview parents to understand their perceptions? Sometimes.

There is a plethora of opportunities for evaluating the success of the educators in achieving their goals of producing their products (whatever they may be.)

Creating a positive educational environment is the key to developing a learning situation where students can succeed. This environment is filled with intangibles but it is still developed by the educators (these include the classroom teachers as well as the administrators, staff, school board members, parents and community members.) Much like going to your Japanese restaurant, the school and classroom teachers try to provide a successful experience to all who come. It works for some and doesn’t work for others.

Having taught for 6 years in a dropout recovery program in East Los Angeles, I know something about systems that don’t work. I also know about finding and creating systems that appeal to the students that don’t “fit in.” In every case, there is a product that we are trying to create. That product is not the student but the student’s ability to succeed in the world in later life. We can’t follow the student into later life to measure our success, so we identify the skills that we believe are necessary to succeed, we find ways to measure the success on a more immediate basis.

It is a problem when we don’t feel that we can measure our success in achieving our goals in the classroom. Usually educators say that this is because we don’t want to be told that we didn’t succeed. If we can’t find ways to measure our success, we will have no way to be able to compliment ourselves when we have successfully created our “product.”

Thoughtfully yours,


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