I’ve mentioned bad filmmaker-turned-bad ed reformer M. Night Shyamalan on this blog before. I’m not sure why somebody whose writing was once described as “an amateurish mess” is qualified to decisions regarding something as important as the education of our children. What’s even more mystifying is the fact that anybody buys what he’s selling.
The excerpts of his book offer numerous reasons to despair. I was stunned to read this gem:
One bit of advice I’m ready to share is this: whenever anyone brings up Finland, back away slowly. In fact it mystifies me that a country with fewer people than Greater Philadelphia, no civil rights problem, and virtually no significant income inequality is held up as a model for the United States.
Ridiculous. You mean to say we shouldn’t strive to achieve Finland’s low levels of child poverty or their comparatively enlightened social views? You don’t think either one of those things could help the American education system? It’s pretty clear that Mr. Shyamalan is just cherry-picking research that supports his views. Either that, or he’s really not smart enough to see the connection between low levels of child poverty, and educational achievement.
Shyamalan also attacks the notion that small class sizes can positively impact the educational experience. His “research” claims that class size doesn’t affect educational outcomes at all. Of course, a study that counters his claim is readily available after maybe 30 seconds of Googling. I’d argue that higher graduation/lower dropout rates for smaller classes is a positive outcome.
We teachers tend to argue passionately in favor of small classes because we know that affords us a greater understanding of each student’s abilities. In a small class, a teacher is able to develop strong one-on-one relationships with each student. This is hugely beneficial when it comes to teaching. But what do teachers know? They’ve only dedicated their entire lives to the study of education. Surely a hack filmmaker who’s looked into education in his spare time knows what it’s like inside a classroom.
Shyamalan cites data that shows that if current trends continue, the average class size could be 16 (SIXTEEN!) students by the year 2017. Huh. Tell that to the teachers in Detroit who have been coping with classes of 40+ students in some cases. Or Philadelphia teachers who, thanks to massive budget cuts spurred on in part by bogus “reformers”, will face similarly gigantic classes.
With his foray into ed reform, Shyamalan has not recaptured the blockbuster quality of The Sixth Sense. His dabbling seems destined to be another massive disappointment, just like every other project he’s been involved with since 2004.
The Trombonist's Mouthpiece by Joe Guarr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License