• Jonathan

Thinking Through the Summit Strike - 2

Continuing discussion of the Summit strike started last time: with background knowledge informing our approach to the debate, and biases identified and controlled for, we are now in a position to boil the many, many words written about the Summit strike into a set of clear statements fit into a logical structure that can be used as the basis of analysis.

For example, here is a distillation of a number of arguments you can find against programs like Summit:

Premise 1: Technology-driven programs like Summit do not support the way students actually learn.

Premise 2: Programs like Summit are created by technologists who do not understand teaching and learning or what goes on in the classroom.

Premise 3: We should not implement programs that do not support the way students actually learn or programs developed by those who do not understand teaching and learning or what goes on the classroom.

Conclusion: We should not implement programs like Summit.

The above argument is valid, a quality any good argument must possess, which means believing the premises requires you to accept the conclusion. Yet a valid argument must also be sound for it to be any good, and soundness derives from the premises of the argument being true or at least reasonable or plausible.

In this case, the first two premises are simple to doubt, given how they can be easily challenged by just identifying one or more successful technology-driven educational programs developed by seasoned educators working alongside technologists. Given that it takes just one false (or easily doubtable premise) to bring down an argument, this argument – while valid – fails due to lack of soundness.

A less sweeping argument addressing issues related to Summit might read:

Premise 1: The Summit program has been implemented in many schools.

Premise 2: Students, parents and teachers at some schools where Summit has been implemented protested the program, declaring that it did not lead to successful learning.

Premise 3: We should not implement programs that students, parents and teachers do not feel lead to successful learning.

Conclusion: We should not implement programs like Summit in places where students, parents and teachers do not feel it leads to successful learning.

This argument is also valid, requiring you accept the conclusion if you accept the premises. The premises of this argument are also more difficult to challenge, given that the first two are easily verifiable statements of fact, and the third a reasonable proposition.

While we could try to cast double on that third premise, it would be much more valuable to explore it further, given that it points to things we can do in the future to ensure more educational reform efforts, especially those involving technological transformations of learning environments, are successful. For example, new programs can make it a top priority to bring communities along with the educational reform process, rather than making decisions from above and counting on training those who never had a say to implement complex projects successfully and enthusiastically.

This exercise demonstrates how the critical-thinking process can help us sort out issues that confront us today in ways that point out better ways of thinking (and acting) in the future. Helping schools move past outmoded ways of teaching is a noble cause, and the desire to make sure new programs are driven by the needs of students, rather than billionaires and techies, is equally legitimate. But stepping back to deliberate, rather than using this week’s news as ammunition in last year’s battles, can help us better navigate the future – not to mention give adults the opportunity to show students the value thinking critically can bring to their lives.