Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hi, I'm Craig A. Cunningham

Hi! This is Craig, from National-Louis University in Chicago. I'll also be contributing to this project.

I direct the program in Technology in Education, but I'm actually trained as a philosopher of curriculum. My philosophical work centers around the concept of the "Self" in theories of moral development. I am especially interested in the attempt to define a concept of "self" that is not based on religion--that is, that could become the basis for moral education in the public schools.

My work in technology in education focuses on the professional development of teachers, helping them to use the Web and other digital resources more effectively. I am motivated in this work by dissatisfaction with traditional models of education in which students merely mimic or regurgatate the processes or ideas of their teachers. I would like to help schooling to become more thoughtful, and for teachers to feel more comfortable introducing their students to the messy, open-ended problems of real-world inquiry.

I am especially troubled by the underlying assumptions of the attempt to increase the quality of American schools by stressing the importance of standardized tests. The so-called No-Child-Left-Behind Act, it seems to me, is aimed entirely on the schools of lower-income communities, and its primary effect is to take those schools away from a focus on the real problems of those communities and place it on arbitrary "academic" skills that would be better conceived as the product of highly-engaging shared problem-solving. Higher-income communities, where the test scores are already high, are pretty much exempt from worrying about the requirements of No-Child-Left-Behind (except for their special populations, which are subject to the same pressures to teach-to-the-test that the lower-income schools are), and so in those higher-income communities, schools are free to engage their students in higher-order problem-solving. Thus, the primary effect of NCLB is to widen even further the huge and growing gap between rich and poor, thus undermining one of the primary purposes of the public school system.

I will, to be sure, be saying more about all of these things here on The Wall!


A. G. Rud said...

Craig, I like very much your encapsulation of what is wrong with NCLB, especially how schools are diverted from real problems in the community to an arbitrary focus on academic skills. I will use that, and cite you, in an upcoming lecture to the young'uns in my undergrad fdns course here at ole Purdue.

Mary Raphael said...

Hi there. I am a graduate student in Educational Technology and am interested in your work on moral education. I have a research paper on some findings if you would be interested. Or we can blog about some issues.

I thought what was striking and would be interested in doing more research on the beginning of public school education. I have cited some aspects of that in my paper, but believe that many forefathers of education, i.e. Horace Mann, have spoke of the purpose of creating/teaching students to be upstanding citizens. Only did extreme academia come later time to private schools, like Harvard.

I looked up "public school edication" at to backup my aforementioned statement.