I don’t know why we have to keep rediscovering the wheel in education. I guess it’s because the reformers keep imposing bad ideas that teachers know will not work and that violate their professional ethics that it becomes necessary to repeat again and again what used to be common knowledge.


Bill Boyle wrote a lovely reflection on the key ingredients in the classroom: human relationships and affection.


Big data can’t take the place of a caring teacher.


He writes:


“I continue to wonder, why do we attempt to impose technocratic solutions on contexts such as education that require the nexus of human relationships? To be more specific, why do use a market driven model of corporate education reform imposed from the top that uses data abstracted from context?


“It’s kind of like arguing for a first down in the game of basketball.”


He quotes the poet Wendell Berry, who said,


““I will say, from my own belief and experience, that imagination thrives on contact, on tangible connection. For humans to have a responsible relationship to the world, they must imagine their places in it…By imagination we recognize with sympathy the fellow members, human and nonhuman, with whom we share our place. By that local experience we see the need to grant a sort of preemptive sympathy to all the fellow members, the neighbors, with whom we share the world. As imagination enables sympathy, sympathy enables affection. And it is in affection that we find the possibility of a neighborly, kind and conserving economy.”


This is why efforts to replace teachers with machines will not work. And it explains why class size is important. Too many students reduces the time for relationships.


Boyle writes:


“The hard fact of the matter is that this corporatist reform movement and the market fundamentalism that drives it will run their course. And then we will be left all that we’ve ever had from the beginning; each other, and what’s left of the land that we depend on.


“The more we practice affection in the meantime, the better prepared we will be.”