Gov. Burgum Confused by Use of Teachers and Books in Education

The Bismarck Tribune put it lightly when it characterized Gov. Doug Burgum’s first speech as “short on details.”

In his first State of the State address at the state capitol yesterday, he promised to repair broken relationships with Native Americans; balance the budget without raising taxes; and tackle the drug epidemic. How, exactly? Don’t worry about it.

The speech touched on education when Burgum, a former Microsoft executive, shamelessly plugged Bing, the search engine your grandparents use.

“A search yesterday on Microsoft’s Bing produced 51.6 million responses when I typed in ‘online courses for free,'” he said.

This factoid ties in with Burgum’s broader argument about education: it needs to be reinvented. The old way, with the teachers and the books, simply doesn’t cut it anymore, he says:

“Our basic education model dates back to before statehood. the primary method of knowledge transfer then was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, and a few books.

“One hundred years later, when I attended high school in Arthur, there were a few more teachers and a few more books. But the method of knowledge transfer was still the same.”

Students learning from teachers and books? God forbid!

“Most North Dakota students still study isolated subjects, sit in rows of desks for 50-minute periods and wait for the next bell to ring. Yet nearly all of the world’s information is now available online, anywhere, anytime, for free.”

Can you believe this? These students should be at home, coding the next Snapchat upgrade, not discussing the Federalist Papers!

“We can’t prepare our kids for the 21st century using a 19th-century model.”

Burgum never explains what should replace the old model of books and teachers. On his website, he refers to “public-private partnerships” to “bridge the gap between the classroom and the workforce.” Let’s bring businesses into education — what could go wrong with that?

His website also calls for an “increased emphasis on STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math,” because fuck English and History.

“All the education experts say kids need less screen time yet he speaks of basically hardwiring education into the internet, and speaks of books and such as some sort of outdated things,” said Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla. “Well those textbooks have generally been more trustworthy than the internet. You know of any incorrect things on the web?”

The speech ignored efforts already being made to incorporate technology and innovative practices in North Dakota classrooms, said State Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford.

“There’s a lot of project-based learning, there’s group activities, there’s inter-classroom, inter-grade integration,” she said. “So there’s a lot of things that go on that I’m not sure he realizes right now.”

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said the lack of detail in Burgum’s education pronouncements left much to speculation.

“Reading between the lines and going in the gaps, if I didn’t know better I would think he was setting the stage for alternative education programs, charter schools, going after teacher unions,” Mock said. “But for the most part, this speech was positive, set lofty and non-specific goals and set things that everyone can get behind.”

Here’s a transcript of the speech.

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