Mis à jour le 8/11/03

L'Education aux Etats-Unis

Le talon d'Achille: la formation des enseignants:

Ever since the National Commission on Excellence in Education released the 1983 report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform , there has been a growing awareness in the United States that our K-12 educational system is not performing well.

On today’s standardized tests of basic knowledge and skills, American students compare poorly with those of other industrialized nations—and even some non-industrial ones—ranking close to last out of 21 countries. The average SAT score has fallen by more than 55 points since 1960. (...)

There is no single culprit for our educational weaknesses, but the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (...)—have identified a primary cause: American teachers do not receive good preparation in the teacher training programs they take in college .

The reason for this is not hard to find. Education schools are not just weak or inadequate; they are based on fundamentally wrong premises. With rare exceptions, they assume that subject matter is much less important than method. Prospective teachers are taught how to teach rather than what to teach. Consequently, vast numbers of teachers are unqualified to teach the subjects to which they are assigned.

Moreover, there is a great deal of controversy over the soundness and efficacy of those “teaching methods.” Many college departments of education teach that it is more valuable for children to learn “how to learn”

  • A lire:
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation - Publications

La dérive des sciences sociales vers le relativisme, source de la culture de l'ignorance dans l'enseignement secondaire américain:

Un rapport de la Fordham Foundation: Where Did Social Studies Go Wrong?

  • For a very long time, the deterioration of social studies in U.S. schools resembled the decline of the Roman Empire: protracted, inexorable, and sad, but not something one could do much about.
    Evidence kept accumulating that American kids were emerging from K-12 education and then, alas, from college with ridiculously little knowledge or understanding of their country's history, their planet's geography, their government's functioning, or the economy's essential workings.

Un rapport saisissant sur l'inculture des élites américaines! (ACTA)

  • "In the country that gave birth to Jefferson’s conception of an educated citizenry, colleges and universities are failing to provide the kind of general education that is needed for graduates to be involved and educated citizens."

Effective State Standards for U.S. History: A 2003 Report Card

  • "...assessment after assessment and study after study shows that history is the core subject about which young Americans know least.The fraction of students (in grades 4, 8 and 12 alike) who reach the "proficient" level on tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is smaller in history than in any other field.... " Thomas B. Fordham Foundation - Effective Stat...

Pour la défense de l'enseignement de l'histoire et de la géographie: The Best of Both Worlds: Blending History and Geography in the K-12 Curriculum

L'éducation a été le thème central de la campagne présidentielle 2000

Education has emerged as one of the major issues in the 2000 presidential campaign. Surely many educators are gratified to see so much attention paid to their work, but there are dangers, too, as candidates compete to offer expansive new programs that may appeal to voters.

Une critique radicale du pédagogisme aux Etats-Unis et de ses dégâts "Education Terminology Every Parent Must Understand"

    This use of jargon implies that the teacher cares more about your child's education than you do. After all, the teacher has been trained to use the most progressive methods available, so his or her knowledge on this subject shouldn't be questioned. What the teacher neglects to tell you is that the "research" she refers to is not necessarily supported by mainstream scientific inquiry (i.e., published in scientific journals within a specific discipline such as psychology).

    By using terminology that has either negative- or positive-sounding connotations, educators can succeed in silencing your opposition, simply because you don't understand the meaning of the words and phrases. Therefore, you should arrive at the teacher conference knowing the language teachers speak, just as you would have to do if you visited a foreign country.

Apprendre ou "apprendre à apprendre"?

Dans une étude "Do Hard Courses and Good Grades Enhance Cognitive Skills? " le Program on Education Policy and Governance de l'Université de Harvard, fait le point sur l'acquisition des capacités cognitives dans l'école publique (dominée par les pincipes pégagogistes) et les écoles classiques (désormais privées) où l'on enseigne les disciplines:

    The shopping mall high school has been criticized for its limited capacity to enhance student cognitive skills. Two studies comparing public and private schools find that students learn more in nonpublic schools, in part because private schools concentrate student efforts on academic pursuits. Yet the curriculum is only one of many differences between public and nonpublic schools that could account for the superior performance of private school graduates. And few, if any, studies focused exclusively on public schools have convincingly shown that the curriculum has much effect on student cognitive skill.

L'enseignement classique des disciplines développe donc mieux les capacités cognitives que l'école multiactivités centrée sur "l'apprendre à apprendre"

    We are not at this time quite prepared to recommend a return to the medieval practice in which students tip professors according to the quality of their lectures and seminars. But we are inclined to endorse John Bishop's suggestion that college admissions be determined by substantive external examinations for which students can prepare by taking academic courses. Bishop found that Canadian students acquired more cognitive skill, if they attended high school in a province that required satisfactory performance on an external examination. He interprets these results by suggesting that students, when confronted by an external examination, have a greater incentive to take more academic courses and to study more assiduously. Our results are entirely consistent with his findings and interpretation.

    Our findings come from just one moderate sized Midwestern city. Since the education provided by River City schools seems to be considerably above the average, one cannot conclude from these results that students in all parts of the United States can enhance their cognitive skill simply by taking the more academic courses offered in their high school. Yet the findings should not for that reason be discounted.
    The significance of the study is not that it tells us what is happening across the United States. Instead, it tells us what is possible and has, indeed, happened, within a public high school system that serves a fairly diverse social population. If academic course taking can enhance cognitive skill in River City, then cognitive skill is not so immutable that it is beyond school influence. The findings challenge all those who say not much can be done. They challenge all those who say learning is genetically determined or is decisively shaped by the student's family life. They challenge those who think the most that can be done in American education is to construct a shopping mall.

Conclusion: Pour "apprendre à apprendre", il sufit d'apprendre!

Les débats clés:

La lutte contre le pédagogisme aux Etats-Unis:

" Since the 1980's, there have been substantial efforts nation wide to weaken mathematics education in America, and these efforts have largely been successful.

This is not a communist conspiracy. It flows from an honest desire to help the less fortunate. This effort is based on the misguided notion thatweaker mathematics will be helpful to the traditionally disadvantaged groups in our society. It is this effort, curiously known as reform, that is the root cause of what has come to be known as the math wars. (...)"

Sur le caractère réactionnaire des pédagogies "progressistes":

  • Romancing the Child, by E. D. Hirsch, Jr. "The romantic thinks nature has a holy plan. The classicist, the modernist, and the pragmatist do not. And neither does the scientist. In the end, the most pressing questions in the education wars are not just empirical, scientific questions, but also ethical ones regarding the unfortunate social consequences of the progressive faith, especially the perpetuation of the test-score gaps among racial and economic groups. "
  • When progressiveness leads to backwardness : Une belle argumentation face aux savants fous de l'Union européenne qui veulent remplacer l'éducation par "l'acquisition de compétences": “America’s Achilles’ heel is its schools,” I typed when I started this article. Then I deleted the line. realized that the meaning of the phrase “Achilles’ heel” is fading in the United States. Too few Americans have heard of Achilles, or Troy, for the image to be much but a snobby irrelevancy.
    My struggle with the phrase tells a lot about what is wrong with American schools. Every year, thousands of 18-year-olds who know nothing about Achilles graduate from American grammar schools and high schools. Neither can they figure percentages or write a grammatical paragraph, let alone script Java. There is a school of thought that says this dumbing down does not matter, that technology and the marvelously flexible American economy will always compensate. Why would a supermarket worker need to know how to type numbers, when bar codes do the job? "

Sur les mathématiques et la pédagogie par projet

Parmi les autres textes interessants que l'on peut trouver chez les opposants americains aux reformes, on peut citer :

(D'après les travaux de Michel Delord)

What is Core Knowledge?

An Idea. . . that for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, elementary and middle schools need a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge, grade by grade. 
A School Reform Movement . . . taking shape in hundreds of schools where educators have committed themselves to teaching important skills and the Core Knowledge content they share within grade levels, across districts, and with other Core Knowledge schools across the country.

Les think-tanks américains:

  • The Brookings Institution publie des prises de position et des débats sur la question de l'éducation: développement du "home scholling", les enjeux pour le pays... toutes les options sont envisagées, bien documenté. Une manière de débattre qui nous est étrangère, mais instructive, des plus libéraux (Center for reinventing public education) qui ont le mérite de dire franchement les choses et d'accepter de débattre de leurs positions, à l' AERA (American Education Research Association) dont il faut lire le rapport annuel 2000. Assez exceptionnel: propose un site en français , Canada oblige.
  • Il faut bien sûr se pencher sur les charter schools, écoles publiques expérimentales sous contrats à durée déterminée qui sont évaluées sur leurs performances académiques, pour pallier les pannes du système scolaire.
  • The Manhattan Institute est le think tank des libéraux radicaux: au programme libre choix de l'école par les parents, "home schooling", évaluation des performances (education reform)
  • Dedicated to excellence and fairness in early education, the Core Knowledge Foundation is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1986 by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and author of many acclaimed books including Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them.
  • La Thomas Fordham Foundation lutte pour l'élévation des standards académiques et leur évaluation dans l'école.


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