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Chapter 2: Myths

What Are Myths?

Myths represent the enduring, unconscious beliefs that we all have about teaching and learning that are forged by our own experiences as students over the years, or what Lortie (1975) describes as the "apprenticeship of learning." That "apprenticeship," combined with vicarious role models found in popular literature, television, movies, and, more recently, YouTube, contribute to the myths that unconsciously shape our beliefs about what effective teaching and learning look and sound like.

Underpinning our beliefs about who can learn and how much they can learn are pervasive cultural norms and societal values that fuel the public discourse about education. Gregory (2007) refers to these as education narratives that "haunt real classrooms like ghosts and invisibly distort all students' and teachers' notions about what education is for, how it should be conducted, and what kind of experience it should provide." Many of these narratives shift the blame for poor performance to the students, their families, or their communities based on unfounded beliefs about the nature of intelligence, racial stereotypes, cultural norms, and the equality of opportunity.

Ullucci (2007) points out that while many of these beliefs remain unspoken and unchallenged; they form the bedrock on which we build educational policies and practice. As Tyack and Tobin, (1994) suggest, such beliefs can be considered a form of grammar: those taken-for-granted, unconscious structures that form the basis for preserving things the "way things are" in schools. We think that an exposure to the foundations of education can help prospective teachers become more aware of the myths that have influenced what they believe about effective teaching and learning.

Related Resources and Articles

Videos, PowerPoints, and Podcasts
Newspapers, Magazines
Journals, Book Excerpts, Monographs

List of Cases

  1. The Suit's for Wearing
  2. When I Grow up I Want to Be . . .
  3. Who Cares?
  4. Flipping Burgers
  5. Missing in Action
  6. Just in Time
  7. Who Pays?
  8. Whose Culture, Who's Teaching?
  9. Unmasking Hallowe'en
  10. No Space for God Here