Even worse than the book itself were the discussions in class that came out of it. One event in particular stands out. In a chapter that discussed the difference between “knowing” and “understanding”, a chart presents examples of “Inauthentic versus Authentic Work”. In this chart “Practice decontextualized skills is listed as inauthentic and “Interpret literature” as authentic. The black and white nature of the distinctions on the chart bothered me, so when the teacher asked if we had any comments, I said that calling certain practices “inauthentic” is not only pejorative but misleading. I asked the teacher “Do you really think that learning to read is an inauthentic skill?”Oh, it gets so much worse. Go read the whole thing.
She replied that she didn’t really know about issues related to reading. Keeping it on the math level, I then referred to the chart’s characterization of “Solve contrived problems” as inauthentic and “Solve ‘real world’ problems” as authentic and asked why the authors automatically assumed that a word problem that might be contrived didn’t involve “authentic” mathematical concepts. “Let’s move on,” she said.
I've written about this before, and have even used the example in this (brilliant) comment:
I think we should take the same approach in driver's ed classes. The state driver's manual should only be used as an occasional resource. The students should spend most of their time in driver's seats in authentic traffic situations. What better way to inspire them to figure what needs to be done in order to get back safely. Automobiles and traffic rules, just like mathematics and literacies, are social constructs, and, as such, should be grappled with and (de)(re)constructed by individual students according to their distinct learning styles and points of entry.But see? We can't teach driving that way. Driving is too important.