Climate change, education, and misogyny

These are the topics that have been on my mind lately. All of the topics I am interested in are blending together!

The Misogyny of Climate Deniers

In college I helped a professor who was studying eco-feminism. At the time I didn’t really understand how the two intersected–how could ecology be gendered? As time went on it became more clear how women are the ones caring for the environment and they are most affected by it. Men see caring about the environment as feminine, and this leads to laughable beliefs like recycling is gay. But it also leads to outright harmful attacks on women, including girls like Greta Thunberg. There’s “a huge gender gap in views on climate change” because men fear change and don’t want to be seen as feminine.

Male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another.

Elena Poniatowska: The Mexican Polish Writer & Anti-Princess

Elena Poniatowska is a Polish Mexican journalist who came from a privileged background and writes about the lives of ordinary people.

She writes about the common Mexico better than most local writers. Whilst other authors troubled themselves with the idle lives of the nouveau riche, busy misappropriating the ideals of the Mexican Revolution, she was busy turning México popular, with its neglected streets and rundown neighbourhoods, into poetry.

Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong

To use a lot of education cliches–this article was such an a-ha moment for me! The idea of empowering kids by teaching them to read, so they can learn for themselves, has always been appealing. As a teacher I really bought into that. But what if teaching them WHAT is just as important as teaching them HOW?

In the meantime, what children are reading doesn’t really matter—it’s better for them to acquire skills that will enable them to discover knowledge for themselves later on than for them to be given information directly, or so the thinking goes. That is, they need to spend their time “learning to read” before “reading to learn.”

I also love the research method mentioned in this article. The “baseball study” by Donna Recht and Lauren Leslie found that prior knowledge makes a huge difference in reading comprehension–which seems obvious, but is something that is acknowledged very rarely in education. Prior knowledge is a given, and not a variable we can control, so I guess we just don’t talk about it. I think the rationale is we can’t do anything about prior knowledge, so let’s just pick a starting line for everyone and start building skills there. However, what if we work on closing the gap by teaching knowledge rather than skills?

Recht and Leslie’s study also found that when high and low readers are reading something made up, a topic where there is no “prior knowledge advantage,” there is little difference in their performance. In other words, even if you are the best reader, reading something you have no idea about is still going to be confusing. I think my biggest takeaway from this is that knowledge and the “what” is still important and skills are not everything.

It turned out that prior knowledge of baseball made a huge difference in students’ ability to understand the text—more so than their supposed reading level. The kids who knew little about baseball, including the “good” readers, all did poorly. And all those who knew a lot about baseball, whether they were “good” or “bad” readers, did well. In fact, the “bad” readers who knew a lot about baseball outperformed the “good” readers who didn’t.

Schools really push higher-order thinking skills and Bloom’s taxonomy, and teachers are encouraged to assign tasks where students evaluate and think critically. Rote learning and recall get a bad rap, but there is value is repetition and laying the ground work too.

I find this super fascinating! I wonder if there will be an argument to be made against focusing entirely on skills? Super interesting.

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