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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why Doesn't This Feel Liberating?

Besides plugging Arne Duncan as the best hope to carry NCLB forward to its corporatizing conclusion, W had a few other truths this week to inspire a public made giddy with glee that he is finally leaving. In his final public policy speech, we find that W is not only the liberator of the Middle East, but also the liberator of us all via NCLB:
Now, under this system, if your public school is failing, you'll have the option of transferring to another public school or charter school. And it's -- I view that as liberation. I view that as empowerment.
Yes, yes, yes. Schools, indeed, have been liberated--from art, music, P.E., social studies, and even science. Throw in, or throw out, rather, Black History, health, holiday lore, assemblies, field trips, and recess and you have some real liberation, yes? Children have been empowered to cram their brains with testing items and to learn like parrots, all punctuated by their marching silently in the hallways to lunch 30 inches apart in lockstep.

Schools, yes, have been liberated from teachers who care too much or are too ethical to be part of the bureaucracies of sanctioned child abuse that schools have become in poor communities. Many of the teachers remaining have become empowered to create harsh behavior control regimens and to treat children as if it is their fault that they are not passing tests that would, otherwise, provide a teacher testing bonus. Urban schools have been liberated of most of their caring teachers.

Schools, too, have been liberated out of existence, to be replaced by charter chain gangs or church school vouchers that are no better or even worse than the impoverished public schools that are being shuttered. Charter school principals and mayors have been empowered to hire and fire at will without regard for due process or collective bargaining, while these same administrators have been liberated from any oversight or dissent from democratically-elected board members.

And children, yes, they have been liberated, too, from caring about what they are forced to "learn," liberated from any historical or cultural contexts for the factoids they parrot back at teachers. They have become empowered to pursue an anti-cultural sameness and a crass economic fundamentalism that makes education irrelevant unless it is motivated by a financial or other extrinsic reward.

Finally, the public has been liberated from a concern for what is imporant, what is significant educationally to sustain our republic, to maintain our political and cultural values, to preserve our ethics, to restore our environment, to even survive in the world as one of the best reasons to hope for the future of humankind.

As Cal State professor, Art Costa, has said, "What was once educationally significant, but difficult to measure, has been replaced by what is insignificant and easy to measure. So now we test how well we have taught what we do not value."

And yet he will not leave yet. He remains this week still the clueless and dangerous simpleton made senseless to the world by an unconscious convoluted stream of ideological bromides that are simply stunning in their absurdity and outlandishness:
The key to measuring is to test. And by the way, I've heard every excuse in the book why we should not test -- oh, there's too many tests; you teach the test; testing is intrusive; testing is not the role of government. How can you possibly determine whether a child can read at grade level if you don't test? And for those who claim we're teaching the test, uh-uh. We're teaching a child to read so he or she can pass the test.

Testing is important to solve problems. You can't solve them unless you diagnose the problem in the first place. . . .
To sum up Bush and to mangle T. S. Eliot all at the same time,
. . . And the end of all his exploring
Will be to arrive where he started
And still not know the place for the first time.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Didn't know this site existed! The people we need to liberate are the teachers. We need to encourage them to teach, not tell them they aren't doing a good job. I watched several episodes of 'HOUSE' in which a man gave the hospital a bunch of money, they made him a board member, and he immediately began to tell the doctors 'how' to do their jobs. He began with what to wear and went all the way to deciding to whom to give new organs. The board and staff went along for awhile because he gave them money, they were beholden. In the end they gave him back his money and took him off the board. This story reminded me of where our school system has come. Teachers, administrators, counselors dance to the state's drummer because the state says to them 'you exist because we pay you, therefore, you must do what we say to get our money'. There is this middle level which keeps teachers and administrators where they want them in order to maintain their own jobs. The State Dept. of Public Instruction in North Carolina is a self-perpetuating monster and they NEVER are (nor most ever have been) in the classroom. I felt my job as a counselor in public or any school was encouraging and helping teachers and students to do THEIR best job NOT MY WAY. How can we now encourage teachers to stand up against the people who keep saying to them they can't teach without the monster's help? Doug Ward stood up and got fired.I implore you and any other site out there to help teachers and school administrators, encourage them, that they are the ones 'face to face, on the ground', with their students. They are the ones who know their students and they know what their students need to help them learn. Our legislature is currently debating what kind of sex ed classes our kids need. Why aren't we respecting kids and parents enough to teach them to read. That way they can read and understand the condom package, the abortion literature, the baby seat instructions or the Bible?! C. Trine