To give a bit of background to my opinion, I do have to say that I am a teacher. A special education teacher. A special education teacher whose roster is entirely dictated by whether or not the student has pass the state test intended to indicate that the student has a 10th grade reading level and is thus graduation material. Pardon my block of text, but I do have quite a bit to say about my chosen field.
On to your questions:
What do you guys think?
I can agree and disagree with the speaker on many points. The main issues I wanted to chime in regarding were ADHD and the accusation of the educational system only endorsing a single learning style.
ADHD is a very real and very serious issue. Its diagnosis is at times a life saver. ADHD is not merely manifest in inattentiveness or hyperactivity but also in impulse control. I read a study just recently that found that students who lacked the ability to control their impulses (unable to wait in a line, take turns, etc) were much more likely to indulge in illegal drugs, commit crimes, and suffer from joblessness. Through my years, I have seen many students succeed socially and academically while medicated and consistently fail at everything they wished to accomplish when they were not. I've also seen many students successfully lower and stop their medications, having learned to internalize their self-control mechanisms as they have matured.
I'm rather put off that the speaker seems to want to blame diagnosis of ADHD on the "boring" material. I've seen some very exciting lesson plans, fun, interactive and inclusive to multiple learning styles, which were seemingly ignored by at least one student at each time. What constitutes "boring" varies greatly from person to person. What constitutes exciting is likewise subjective. There is no magical method of precise delivery of any piece of information to everyone in an entertaining fashion.
I was concerned at the speaker lack of discussion of learning styles. I know this theory is fading from favor, but I latch very deeply onto recognizing learning styles in my classroom. Though I am charged to teach Reading, I am forced to recognize that not all reading is eyes on text (despite it being proven in many studies that every moment we spend with our eyes engaged with text betters us as readers and learners). Listening to passages being read, manipulating words mentally and physically, small and large group discussion: all are valid methods of instruction in addition to individual eyes on individual texts without collaboration. Note my emphasis.
We cannot throw the figurative baby out with the bathwater: "old" methods can be wedded well with more varied delivery methods. Honestly, I'm a visual learner who needs independent study: the old school ideal student. The majority of my students, as I have tested them this year, are social learners who need auditory or tactile methods of instruction. I've done my best to adapt my classroom to fit this, and I realized something: if I were a student in my classroom, I wouldn't learn a thing. Thankfully, I am a special education teacher who is expected to differentiate lesson based on student needs; general education teachers are not encouraged to investigate their students' learning styles, preferred methods of delivery or to alter the students' methods of response. Luckily with my 12th grade classes, I have at most 16 students, which allows me ample time to differentiate as needed. In my class of 25 juniors, I don't have as much ability.
I won't even discuss how I grit my teeth as the speaker poo-pooed the Classics. Yeah, the very foundations of our culture, religions, literature, governmental system, and arts: why would we ever want our kids to learn about those?
My main issue with the Montessori model is its inability to offer structure to the very students who need it most. This is a fine method with small groups of students who can emotionally handle self-direction. I have taught many students who fret and self-destruct at being offered open-ended assignments and long-term projects for many reasons both caused and unrelated to their learning and developmental disabilities. I have offered such as a choice for students who embrace such assignments, but I recognize that it is not for every student. Some students thrive on the structure and scaffolding the speaker seems to want to cast off as outdated, which I think would be a complete disservice. Also, it fails to meet the needs of older students.
What were your schooling experiences?
I failed nearly all my classes my sophomore year, including honors English. At the parent-teacher conference, I announced that I had realized the difference between grades and learning, and that it was my intention to learn regardless of whether or not I completed my assignments. I was more interested in discussing literature one-on-one with the teacher and writing fiction and research papers than anything else my teachers placed in front of me. My GPA when I graduated was only .12 above the requirement despite being in honors and college credit courses for the entirety of my time in high school. My grades in college weren't much better, only a single grade point above my high school GPA when I finished my BA.
When a student complains to me about the inequality of grading and testing verses learning, I understand exactly what they mean.
Do you feel you might have benefited if your schooling was structured in a different way?
I would have enjoyed more one-on-one time with my educators, and I do consider myself lucky for having a learning style that matches well with standardized education. I don't think I would have benefited from more self-directed learning beyond my upper elementary years. How would I have wanted to know what I wanted to learn if I didn't know it even existed? Why force our students to reinvent the wheel for the sake of fostering their divergent thinking or ask them to be randomly curious about an concept they have had no interaction with the basics of?