The paper “What Shift in Education Is Responsible for Creating Students with Non-Balanced Thinking?" is a breathtaking example of a term paper on education. During the past 100 years in education, there has been a shift in focus from "what" and "why" i.e. declarative knowledge, content to "how" i.e. procedural knowledge, instruction, metacognitive knowledge, critical thinking, learning how to think as opposed to what to think. Today, it is common for teachers to have little or no background in discussing such concepts as Good, Worthwhile, or Right? Since these are value-laden and influence the credibility of the "what" and "why" of a particular curriculum. In other words, today we focus on such things as learning disabilities, learning styles, and talk of alignment between such things as instruction and assessment - these are all how’s." So, has focusing on the "how’s" resulted in a loss of the "what’s" and "whys"? In part, this shift reflects the ascendance of science in talking about education because science is mechanical, empirical, and impersonal and bases its conclusions on observation and attempts to avoid biases in making conclusions and it also reflects the rise of postmodern philosophies. Has anything been lost in the shift from talking about "what" and "why" to talk about "how" in education? In other words, has anything been lost in the shift in focus from teaching children what to think and why, to teaching children how to think?
There is an increasing shift in the current curriculum to equate education with skills and education with learning. Tyler (1949) has written extensively of what is education and what educational purposes should the school seek to attain, learning experience that can be chosen and others which are directed in creating a good rounder intellect that can think critically, has certain values and morals and can repay the responsibility to society. Whitehead (1929) has argued that a merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God's earth. What we should aim at producing are men who possess both culture and expert knowledge in some special direction. He is talking of two components, culture, and expert that need to go hand in hand. This would go along with the current trend in the curriculum that is directed towards producing students with immediately employable skills.
But somewhere along the track, we lost the big picture. While prescribing to one component ‘expert’ the other vital component – the culture has been cast away. This is the loss that has resulted in the shift of the focus from ‘what’ and ‘why’ to the ‘how’.
Involvement of state-appointed experts to draft the curriculum seems to have aggravated the situation as they're well-meaning efforts are directed at producing a crop of students who can cater to the job requirements. While empathizing with the need for subject experts is important, the needs of students and society have been forgotten. The jargon ‘skillset’ assumes great significance and it is acknowledged that a person with the right relevant skills is educated enough for the job. Barrow (1999) speaks of the all-important ‘relevance’ that has pervaded the educational curriculum. He has questioned this theme with the question of ‘relevant for whom’ and interpolates that `relevant studies’ are presumed to be things that are skill-based, practical, professional and labor-related. There is an urge to create an expert who specializes in a specific field.
What we have lost in the changed perspective by shifting from ‘what’ and ‘why’ to the ‘how’ is echoed by Whitehead (1929) who envisioned the educations system and its curriculum. He speaks of getting rid of ‘inert ideas’ that bogs down students and they get caught in a passive web of disconnected ideas where children are taught by following the principle "do not teach too many subjects. What you teach, teach thoroughly." The shift has produced children who have fragments of knowledge that cannot be made relevant to the streams of events that pour through their lives. When we attempt to teach a child with bits of information that is not coherent and offer a few ready-made problems and their solutions and this would create a crop of shortsighted subject experts who may have some exposure and learning but no education. Education attempts to change the very moral fiber and thinking of students and it requires experimentation with ideas and principles and giving them the means to put these structures in different combinations and this opportunity has been lost. What has been lost is the art of creating a full-fledged menu that generates a craving and thirst for more knowledge and what has come instead are recipes for fast food menus that blunts the appetite and leaves the child agonizingly full with stillborn concepts and ideas.
The paper concludes by suggesting that the shift in ‘what’ and ‘why’ to ‘how’ has lost the responsibility of creating students with balanced and critical thinking and has also robbed them of the joys of discovery.