Dr. James Knight is a professor of Agriculture Education at the University of Arizona, speaking today at the annual Faculty Conference of the Arizona Association of Independent Schools.

Those who say they don’t need more money in education have all the money they need for their education.   Knight opens by discussing the way statistiscs are misleading, especially when they are used to argue for less educational investment.

89% of the variability in math scores can be accounted for by things beyond the control of any individual school.

Mencken: For every complex question, there is a simple answer, and It’s Wrong.

We end up with a testing environment that focuses on pedantic minutia.

Educational Excellence: Emphasize the importance of Self Fulfilling Prophecies, the Pygmalion Effect.

How we are see ourselves is a far greater indicator of our future success than anything else, much more than our prowess or our proficiencies.

Main points for educational excellence:

  1. We need to make our students feel important and invited. 
  2. Deal with needed changes in students from a positive point of view.    Catch the student doing something right!   Too often teachers mark up what is wrong, not what was right; they take points away rather than add.  People find what they are looking for, so practice looking for the good.
  3. Get to know students personally and learn to empathize.   Maintain your professional objectivity of course, but be on your students’ side.   Consider making home visits.
  4. Use student-centered instruction.   Teach students how to think rather than what they think.  Make rules for the classroom that are student centered, not teacher centered.
  5. Learn the power of nonverbal cues and have a sense of humor.
  6. Be enthusiastic.

Knight’s closing: Education in the 21st century has to be about a vision beyond tradition.


Dr. Knight is charming; he obviously loves teaching and cares about kids and their healthy growth.   I appreciate his joining us and I think that he must be himself a master professor, and I think his connection to students must be fabulous.

That said, I didn’t hear anything that genuinely testified to being a vision beyond tradition, or pertinent particularly to the 21st century.   There was a brief reference to the significance of critical thinking and the value of learning how to think, not what to think, but no deeper exploration of these topics, why they are more important now than traditionally in the past, nor why or how schooling today needs to be, and can be by virtue of technologies available, dramatically different from the past.