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

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Coming of the Anti-ED

Nick Burbules raised some very good questions at The Wall about leadership that might lead us to better teacher recruitment, retention, support, and qualifications. It is unfortunate that this White House and this ED have initiated policies that have taken us in the other direction. They
  • have demonized, distrusted, and demoralized the teaching corps and the university programs that prepare teachers.
  • have driven out many of our best veteran teachers who will not give up meaningful learning for mandatory ministrations and unending hours of meaningless test preparation.
  • have created a confusing labyrinth for states and colleges that must modify and enact programs based on unrealistic timetables and shifting regulations. (It is the equivalent of the pilot going out to do repairs on an airplane that is in flight and nearing the airport.)
  • have embraced alternative certification programs, including credentials obtained through an online testing company entity created with ED grant money (ABCTE), even though there is zero evidence that these alternatives offer the necessary knowledge, skills, and dispositions to help candidates succeed in teaching.

  • advocate alternative school management options such as charters, which in many cases effectively neutralize collective bargaining rights of educators, while threatening the foundations of tenure laws.
  • support and prefer the use of scripted teaching through direct instruction curriculums in reading and math literacy programs, particularly in high poverty areas. Direct instruction effectively de-professionalizes teachers by making them script readers rather than adaptive children’s advocates. With the preference for direct instruction comes the emphasis on a draconian and robotic form of behavior modification, which, when combined with endless recitation, creates what Jonathan Kozol describes as “cognitive decapitation.”
  • support paid consultants in the conservative think tanks, who spew their reports arguing that teachers are lazy and stupid and make more money than they deserve.
  • operate an around-the-clock public relations effort to castigate public schools and public school teachers for failing to reach performance targets intentionally set to be unattainable.
  • ignore poverty and racism as factors in the performance of urban schools, while advocating the sending of poor children to even worse private church schools.
  • finally, have enacted a strategy that is thoughtless and requires no thought, that is without feeling and solicits none, that is authoritarian and demands nothing less from all who participate in it.
Yes, Nick has raised some crucial points and made some important suggestions, but I am afraid most of them will have to wait until we get the leadership interested in public education. This White House and this ED are only interested in ending it.

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