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

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bush Announces "Math Now"

Reading First and the National Reading Panel are tough acts to follow. But it looks like Fearless Leader, aka "The Decider"* is up to the task.

According to an Ed Week article from February, "at issue, in broad terms, is whether teachers should focus more on building students’ conceptual understanding of the subject, or emphasize nurturing their mastery of basic math skills."

Here we go again. So, barring a conversion reminiscent of water into wine, it's not hard to guess how this one will shake out. So why waste the tax-payers' and panelists' time? Can you say "fait accompli"? Or how about "done deal"? And if those don't work, how about "self-fulfilling prophecy"?

See, we've been burned on this stuff before. We haven't quite finished sublimating our rage about the last report on "research-based practices" sponsored by the NICHD. We haven't quite gotten used to the fact that "scientific evidence" is whatever The Decider says it is. In my mind, rage is an appropriate response to deliberate deception. It may be the only appropriate response.

Here are some of my favorite parts from the ED press release:

1) "To Encourage Private-Sector Investment In Technology, The President Supports Making The R&D Tax Credit Permanent. America's private sector funds two-thirds of all R&D conducted in America—about $200 billion a year. This tax credit encourages R&D spending by allowing businesses to deduct part of those investments from their taxes. The tax credit has been allowed to expire in the past. The R&D tax credit should be made permanent, so that companies have greater certainty in their tax planning and therefore can be bolder in their R&D investment strategy."

To his credit, The Decider is no longer making any attempts to conceal the relationship between corporate America and public education. In very clear language, His Deciderness has included tax cuts for businesses in with a teacher education plan. In the good old days, tax cut bills and public education bills were separate. But, since he only has two and a half years left in office, I suppose Decider has elected to make things more efficient and role them into one. The irony, of course, is that tax cuts for businesses means less money for teachers.

2) "Adjunct Teacher Corps: This initiative would provide children with the opportunity to learn from people with real-life experience by encouraging up to 30,000 math and science professionals over the next eight years to teach in our Nation's classrooms."

I was an adjunct instructor in higher ed settings for years. Yes, I brought real-life experience to the classroom. But in exchange for my real-life experience, the institutions that I worked for payed me a fraction of what they had to pay full-time instructors. And, as an adjunct, I was not part of a union. I was hired easily. I could have been fired just as easily. 30,000 underpaid, non-union math and science "professionals" would constitute a very large foot in a very large door.

-- Peter Campbell

*"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."
President George W. Bush, 4/18/06 (speaking about Donald Rumsfeld staying on as Secretary of Defense)

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