"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, March 13, 2006

No Bubble for the Ethics Question

In reading this op-ed by California English teacher, Jamie O'Neill, who shows us how the poetic experience is being folded into the testing mania, I was reminded once again of the crucial role teachers play in the intellectual and emotional genocide that is being initatiated against children in America's schools. Even though teachers are under intense pressure to raise test scores, just following orders does not relieve one of moral or legal responsibility in situations involving human rights abuse.

Teachers I know admit privately to departing occasionally from the Stalinized regimen in hopes of preserving the souls of their students. Teachers who continue to work in these de-humanizing pressure cookers may be rightly concerned with their own souls. The only way to do that is commit as much energy to restoring humane learning conditions as is now being used to place mental straightjackets on the future of the human species. Only following orders? Think about it.

Which 7 of the following 8 standards of the NEA Code of Ethics of the Education Profession are broken on a daily basis as a result of compliance with the NCLB testing hysteria?


Commitment to the Student

The educator strives to help each student realize his or her potential as a worthy and effective member of society. The educator therefore works to stimulate the spirit of inquiry, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding, and the thoughtful formulation of worthy goals.

In fulfillment of the obligation to the student, the educator--

  1. Shall not unreasonably restrain the student from independent action in the pursuit of learning.
  2. Shall not unreasonably deny the student's access to varying points of view.
  3. Shall not deliberately suppress or distort subject matter relevant to the student's progress.
  4. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning or to health and safety.
  5. Shall not intentionally expose the student to embarrassment or disparagement.
  6. Shall not on the basis of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, marital status, political or religious beliefs, family, social or cultural background, or sexual orientation, unfairly--

      a. Exclude any student from participation in any program

      b. Deny benefits to any student

      c. Grant any advantage to any student

  7. Shall not use professional relationships with students for private advantage.
  8. Shall not disclose information about students obtained in the course of professional service unless disclosure serves a compelling professional purpose or is required by law.

Here is how O'Neill ends her op-ed:

In a drill-and-kill educational environment, we're likely to produce students who are just what the tests teach them to be : passive and compliant literalists who are eager to be "right," eager to please authority and eager to be done with it because, once the scores are posted, the learning is finished. Perhaps no child will be left behind, but what the children leave behind in such a system may never be calculated.

The question is, too, what are teachers being taught to be?

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