Thursday, February 3, 2011

NOTED ACTIVIST: School board's Segert "ignored, shouted down teachers"

Environmental activist Johann Holt, who in 2007 managed 3rd Ward Columbia City Councilman Karl Skala's election campaign and was named a "30 under 30 Columbia Citizen doing extraordinary things" by Vox Magazine (pictured in that article, left), has taken Columbia School Board member Ines Segert to task for being too hard on teachers and "shouting down" the opposition. 
Holt wrote this short editorial in response to a Heart Beat article praising Segert's tenure.
"Perhaps when discussing Ines Segert, we need to take into account she herself ignored and shouted down those she disagreed with, in this case teachers," Holt writes.   
"When a school tried to change the math process which so many people failed at, she completely discredited teachers as having any professional knowledge about the subject, and completely overwhelmed them with hyperbole and warmed-over research.
"Teachers are facing a huge challenge with very little resources, and I see people like Ines Segert doing very little to help them.  Teachers are professionals.  Teachers have extensive knowledge about their subjects. 
"People like Ines Segert though who have never taught, and have most likely done very little research about education, seem to believe they know more about how to teach students and are perfectly willing to go to the media to sell their arguments, something teachers cannot do themselves."

[Editor's Note:  Though Ines Segert doesn't teach K-12 students, she is in fact one of the most popular teachers at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
Student comments at are one indication.  With graduate degrees from Princeton, Segert has taught undergrad and grad courses for over a decade and received a number of accolades, including from students.  
"A-MA-ZING professor. Literally cannot say enough good things about her. Extremely helpful, passionate, compassionate, and funny. Hands-down the best professor/teacher I have ever had," is typical of the student praise she's received.]  


  1. I should have edited my piece by saying she has never taught high school. Teaching at the university and high school levels are very different. Teachers at the high school levels not only have to be experts at their specific subject and at the profession of teaching but also have to be experts at working with families and students from different cultural/racial/economic/sexual preferences/etc backgrounds.

    While the content area at the university level is perhaps more rigorous, then general teaching experience and knowledge at a high school is far more broad. But unfortunately while professors at the university levels are afforded expertise as professions in their field (and indeed Ines Segert would never face the widespread criticism she herself brought against math teachers if she changed her lesson plans), teachers at the high school level are disrespected and looked down upon. I didn't see much different from Ines Segert in that respect.

    Michelle Gadbois understandably and correctly criticized administrators for making too much money, for ignoring critical issues in the school district but she also defended the teachers faced with extremely difficult decisions and routinely ignored by all sides and she was somewhat successful in her endeavors. I'd like to see more school board nominees emulate her example.

  2. I'll concur that teaching at the university level (I did for 5 years) and teaching at the elementary/secondary level (I subbed 3 semesters) are not "exchangeable" experiences. Nor do I conclude, from my reading, everything that Ms. Segert concludes. Rather, I respect her mind, her ability to interrogate to the point, and her insistence that evidence underscore policy and curriculum. I am not here to blame teachers, they've been convenient scape-goats and held accountable for events they did not cause. If there is one thing that most distinctly separates my thinking from hers, it is my agnosticism whether proper curriculum methods EVER can overcome the disparities which some kids present in the schools. To repeat my simile: It could be that fixing the schools without fixing the community is like painting the walls of a burning house...

  3. Ines Segert did what few on the school board were willing to do: critically evaluate the plans they wanted to spend tax payers dollars on. Her experience at Princeton and her work on cognitive psychology made her a valuable resource that the CPS school board wasted. We should be praising people who keep an eye on the details and closely examine things before they make decisions. Our city (and even more so our school board) needs more people like Ines Segert.