A few weeks ago Outliers and the Tipping Point author, Malcolm Gladwell, gave the keynote address at the Imagining Ontario’s Future Conference. He’s a brilliant writer and thinker – but if he wants to speak on K-12 education he should spend some time in a classroom. Preferably a class of 35 Grade 7s in a portable resourced and designed for 25, in the unaircondiditoned heat of a sweltering Ontario June day.
He caused a bit of a stir in education circles. He said that reducing class size was pursing a dead end – what mattered most was improving the quality of teachers.
Now I agree that quality teachers are key to having a good educational experience, but what kind of quality education can an individual deliver in an over-filled, under-resourced classroom?
Not surprisingly, the Toronto Star’s Saturday’s paper on May 16 included many letters from incensed teachers.
I was one of them. Here’s what I wrote:
Advice to Mr. Gladwell: stick to what you know. Teaching K-12 is not like speaking to a university lecture hall full of grown-ups. Teachers negotiate diverse levels of academic ability, facility in English, behavioural tendencies, and home-environment influences in classes of children from ages 4-18. In his book, Outliers, Mr. Gladwell states it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in any field. I have my 10,000 hours in teaching K-12; he has about 10,000 to go.