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

Monday, March 08, 2010

Boycott Newsweek Disinfomercials

"There just is very little evidence in terms of what works in quickly turning around a persistently low-performing school," said Grover "Russ" Whitehurst, a Brookings Institution scholar who oversaw education research under President George W. Bush. --Washington Post
If Obama is willing to go in the dark where even Bush feared to tread, and if Arne Duncan is reckless enough to proceed where even Margaret Spelling drew the line, you can bet that there is enough corporate-government money in the current reform school agenda to buy the media and the research and the politicians needed to push forward with the continued demolition of American public education.

The only problem: no one with any brains believes any of the Gates-Broad-Walton propaganda, and resentment against the Oligarchs is growing as the force of their iron fists becomes felt. With the news last week that the Borg might have blinked in Central Falls, and with the very public defection of Diane Ravitch from the deformer ranks, Gates and Broad are paying big bucks to yellow rags like Newsweek to print lengthy disinfomercials in support of the demolition of public schools.

Newsweek has brought out top guns Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert to offer two such blatantly-biased features in the same issue that they would make Armstrong Williams blush. Check out the screeching pic of union leader, Weingarten, next to the calm resolve of the Oligarchs' poster girl, Michelle Rhee. A couple of short samples will suffice:
The relative decline of American education at the elementary- and high-school levels has long been a national embarrassment as well as a threat to the nation's future. Once upon a time, American students tested better than any other students in the world. Now, ranked against European schoolchildren, America does about as well as Lithuania, behind at least 10 other nations. Within the United States, the achievement gap between white students and poor and minority students stubbornly persists—and as the population of disadvantaged students grows, overall scores continue to sag.
Yes, it reads like a fairy tale, which, of course, it is (see Bracey). The fact is that the population of "disadvantaged students grows" as a result of policy decisions, and indecisions, made by corporations and government, not because teachers won't work longer and more days for free. And nothing is being done to help the growing throngs of the poor except to devise schemes to contain them in segregated ghetto chain gang schools that prepare them for a non-thinking future. Try on some of these irrefutable facts from the Alliance for Excellent Education:
  • The United States has an average number of students who perform at the highest proficiency levels, but a much larger proportion who perform at the lowest levels. The United States is the only member country to have relatively high proportions of both top and bottom performers (OECD 2007b).
  • Although American white students’ average science score of 523 ranked above the OECD average, Hispanic American (439), American Indian and Native Alaskan (436), and African American (409) students all fell far below (U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics 2007). These groups scored similarly to the national averages of Turkey and Mexico, the two lowest-performing OECD member countries.
  • The difference between the science scores of two students of different socioeconomic backgrounds is higher in the United States than in almost any other country (OECD 2007b).
  • First-generation immigrant students in the United States lag an average of 57 points behind their native counterparts, which is the equivalent of nearly two years of schooling. Second-generation U.S. immigrants perform no better than first-generation immigrant students (OECD 2007b).
  • Four of the five member countries that have higher proportions of immigrants than the United States also have higher national scores than the United States (OECD 2007b).
But back to the Newsweek disinfomercial:
For much of this time—roughly the last half century—professional educators believed that if they could only find the right pedagogy, the right method of instruction, all would be well. They tried New Math, open classrooms, Whole Language—but nothing seemed to achieve significant or lasting improvements.
Sadly, the group of educational antiquarians who have been in charge of national ed policy for the past 30 years continue to ignore the failure of their own failed and repeatedly failed test and punish policies that have turned American schools toward penal pedagogy as a solution to low test scores that are getting worse as poverty gets worse. The canaries in this deepening and empty mineshaft of the reform schoolers are, of course, the children, the poorest and the most vulnerable.

No one believes these deformist lies any longer, whether they are printed in Newsweek or the New York Times, and the desperation of the increasingly-unpopular, though bare-knuckled, corporatistas has American parents, students, and teachers at the edge of open revolt. Let us all be revolted in order to revolt!

The Gates-Broad-Walton phalanx is now preparing for the final slaughter of DC teachers. Stay tuned and be ready with your pitchforks.

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