Sunday, October 24, 2010
Head teacher says schoolchildren do not need books and recommends Wikipedia
The head teacher of a school in New York is facing calls to resign after he sent out an error-strewn letter claiming that children did not need books, while he also recommended Wikipedia
Andrew Buck, the principal of The Middle School for Art and Philosophy, Brooklyn, wrote to his teachers to defend the school's policy of not providing textbooks, which had been criticised by some parents.
His memo contained so many spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and non-sequiturs that a concerned member of staff passed it on to parents, who began handing out copies at the school gates.
Mr Buck, who is paid $130,000 (£83,000) a year, wrote: "Text books are the soup de jour, the *sine qua non*, the nut and bolts of teaching and learning in high school and college so to speak." However, he added, "just because student have a text book, doesn't mean she or she will be able to read it Additionally students can't use a text book to learn how to learn from a textbook.
"Are text books necessary? No. Are text books important? Yes. Can a teacher sufficiently teach a course without them? Yes, but conditionally."
Mr Buck went on to say that not being able to answer questions in his own school textbooks made him feel "dumb and inadequate" when he was a boy.
"Personal experience aside, which surfaces a concern about the potential adverse affects of textbooks to students learning, let's return to the essential question of learning and how it is best achieved," he wrote.
After listing the names of educational theorists whose work, he said, would back up his claims, Mr Buck wrote: "Check out Wikipedia if you want to learn more about learning theory".
Pupils at the school, where only one in eight 14-year-olds passed state reading exams last year, are given no textbooks for some classes and have to share in others. The school has no library.
Paulette Brown, a nursing assistant with a daughter at the school, told local reporters: "Our principal denies us books and then he sends this nonsense. You can't understand what he's saying in the letter. He has to go."
Mr Buck, a former official in the local education department, has led the school since its foundation in 2007. He was found to be the least trusted principal in Brooklyn by a New York teachers union survey the following year.
He said in an emailed statement: "I often correspond with teachers on educational issues to enhance communications and generate discussion. If any parent has concerns, I am available to speak with them."