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

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

15 Steps Toward an Alternate Education Universe and a Healthier Society

Advocates of education for democracy are in the fight of our lives. The touring kabuki theatre staged and acted out by the Aspen Institute windbags has concluded, and those naive enough to expect recommended alterations in the abusive and destructive NCLB are gasping today, rather than breathing a sigh of relief. As Monty Neill suggested yesterday afternoon, the Aspen Report is NCLB on steroids, thus making Margaret Spellings appear as the voice of moderation--which, of course, completes one of the prime tasks of the Commission from the beginning.

Anyone, such as the NEA, who believed they could play footsie with the Christo-corporate privatization steamroller got a cold dose of board room reality therapy yesterday with Tommy and Roy's 75 new ways to further make American education the laughing stock of the world. In this high stakes poker game that is about to be played out in the NCLB reauthorization debate, corporate America has gone "all in" for an education pot that includes a half-trillion dollars that Americans spend on education each year.

The fact that democracy's weak sister, the Democrats, have bought in to, while being bought by, the Business Roundtable solution for American education, exposes their culpability in the incredible shrinking American civic purpose of school and the overall destruction of the Republic. And Kennedy's solution to the effective elimination of social studies from school? Of course, a test to turn classroom discussion on America's public values into a catechism on the historic Heroes: "My own hope is that following science [testing], we can get into history."

I do not have 75 recommendations like Tommy and Roy, but I do have 15 that might make a humble start in the search and rescue, or is it recovery, effort for American education. Steal these talking points, please:

15 Steps toward an Alternate Education Universe and a Healthier Society

  • Rather than funding school privatization efforts with vouchers and EMOs, rebuild public schools and fund public school choice within and beyond district boundaries.
  • Fund efforts aimed at ethnic, religious, and economic integration, rather than devising testing schemes and testing sanctions that incentivize segregation and homogeneity of the weak in urban internments.
  • Recognizing that there is no single best approach that fits every learning context, encourage local choice in deciding curriculums and instructional strategies that are grounded in best practices as defined by teachers, researchers, and professional associations that represent the disciplines.
  • Base school funding decisions on first addressing the needs of the least advantaged before rewarding those who have demonstrated by their performance that they are the least in need of extra resources.
  • Make improvement to struggling schools an integral part of community and family infrastructure support and rebuilding, rather than pretending that school achievement is independent of family income and community health.
  • Build assessment systems with local and national components that use multiple measures and multiple methods, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that really fits no one.
  • Build assessment systems that assess understanding, application, and factual knowledge for personal growth and future economic success, rather than using junk tests to simply measure the retention of desiccated facts that are irrelevant to prospering in the 21st Century.
  • Rather than defining academic expectations so that the majority of the disenfranchised, the weak, and the poor are sure to fail, build assessment systems that measure progress over time and that match resources with expectations for the special challenges to disabled, immigrant, and poor children.
  • Develop a focused school ecosystem intent on building and nurturing the intellectual, civic, physical, and emotional health of children, rather than the maintenance of maladaptive and dysfunctional testing chain gangs.
  • Rather than the intensifying the denigration of teaching with canned curriculums, the policing of standardization, and rewards for teaching to the test, rebuild the teaching profession by seeking the partnership of teachers in the shared goal of democratic living, economic autonomy, and creative problem solving.
  • Offer research and professional development incentives for teacher education programs to work directly with principals, teachers, and students in schools.
  • Offer funds to support universal mentoring for teacher candidates who are required to complete yearlong internships.
  • Require elementary education majors to have an additional major in a liberal arts discipline.
  • Establish interstate education communications and data links that encourage mutual assistance and shared responsibility among states and municipalities.
  • Plan and implement a formalized national dialogue on the purposes and aims of public schools in a democratic republic.

Any other ideas?

1 comment:

  1. I too am dismayed with NCLB and as an historian of education I recognized immediately who had the upper hand in the century old struggle.
    As a civic educator and professional historian and high school teacher I am disappointed but not surprised to see that history as a staple of curriculum is undervalued and dismissed.
    We need to tie history and civics together and get the subject out from under the umbrella of Social Studies.
    It would be a boon for the democratic-republic of America if teachers of history/civics actually had a background in their subject at the start of their career rather than figuring it out along the way.