Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unions, Tenure, Expertise, Outliers

Laura was posting on Gladwell's Outliers during Xmas break, so I read it and, like her, I was pretty underwhelmed. But I did find the concept of 10,000 hours of practice to be intriguing. Seeiming randomosity follows:

The Hudson River ditching (CNN videos).


Joy, via Deborah on If I Ran the Zoo.


Which reminded me of Doctor Who, "Everybody Lives!":



Pilot hero "Sully" Sullenberger:

"Chesley Sullenberger spent practically his whole life preparing for the five-minute crucible that was US Airways Flight 1549.

He got his pilot's license at 14, was named best aviator in his class at the Air Force Academy, flew fighter jets, investigated air disasters, mastered glider flying and even studied the psychology of how crews behave in a crisis.

Marcy/Emptywheel: "This miracle brought to you by America's unions"

Unions, whose job is to protect the workers they represent. Sometimes that involves financial issues/wages, and sometimes that involves insisting on safety regulations.

Gladwell on Outliers, quoting Daniel Levitin:

"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice-skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, this number comes up again and again. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or 20 hours a week, of practice over 10 years… No one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

Tenure protects teachers who have experience. Maybe not quite that 10,000 hours yet, but tenure by its nature ensures that those who are practicing their profession have job security. (By the same token, we could argue that the very difficult training for future doctors also ensures they get a large number of hours of practice before they are allowed to be doctors.)

I'd favor lengthening the amount of time it takes to get tenure. But I'd also like to see some recognition that shiny brand new teachers are likely to, well, suck. It's not just about energy. It's about skills that you can hone only by doing the job for many hours, skills such as "withitness."

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