The writer of a recent Wall Street Journal article makes a clear, simple, and not-so-new argument to “revive old-fashioned education” while reflecting on her old orchestra teacher’s, Mr. K’s, method of calling his students “idiots”.
Although well-supported with current and sound research, the evidence to bring back her definition of “old-fashioned” schooling is selective and the argument, overall, sounds more like nostalgia than strategy.
Called Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results, the writer, Joanne Lipman, uses provocative headers like “Strict is better than nice” and “Praise makes you weak” to validate that not only did one orchestra teacher’s tough love make her and her former classmates into successful adults, but these lessons were and continue to be transferable to classrooms, at large.
Studies repeatedly show that teachers with high expectations do, indeed, produce higher-achieving students; teacher-education already relays this information to training teachers. Studies also show that students learn best when challenged to the point of mild frustration (i.e. Zone of Proximal Development); again, nothing new. However, to simply argue that Mr. K’s teaching style (i.e. anger and intimidation) is the most effective way to deliver these strategies is shortsighted, if not merely an emotional response.
The oversimplified, self-proclaimed “modest” proposal assumes that most teachers today are “gentle” instructors afraid to give constructive and, at times, “painful” feedback. Secondly, it assumes that teachers not only leave children unchallenged, but through gentleness neglect building a child’s confidence. The writer says the following of effective (i.e. Mr. K) teachers:
At their core is the belief, the faith really, in students’ ability to do better. There is something to be said about a teacher who is demanding and tough not because he thinks students will never learn but because he is so absolutely certain that they will.
After all the hard work and research, Lipman conveniently disspells her own argument, while tooting her own successful “result” as an adult, with the following:
Clearly, Mr. K’s methods aren’t for everyone. But you can’t argue with his results. And that’s a lesson we can all learn from.
What are your thoughts? Should all teachers be like Mr. K?
For comments, questions, or story ideas, email Janice Chong at email@example.com.