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

Sunday, October 07, 2012

It's Not You, It's Them

In today's New York Times Sunday Week in Review, there's an article titled, It's Not Me It's You,

However, when it comes to the clear message of this academic research on education reform and the need to end high stakes testing, what is comes across loud and clear is it's not you, it's them.

 It's just another fact-based research study that shows how the social implications of racism and poverty or gender bias can impact students' performance on standardized test scores. To all the teachers and students across the country who are suffering under the reign of terror inflicted by politicians and business leaders who continue to support the ridiculous and harmful high stakes testing mania that has taken over education and is punishing and scapegoating teachers, here is just more evidence that will be ignored.

Does anyone give a damn? Is anyone listening? Will anyone in power stand up to these corporate bullies and call for an end to the madness?

This research has important implications for the way we educate our children. For one thing, we should replace high-stakes, one-shot tests with the kind of unobtrusive and ongoing assessments that give teachers and parents a more accurate sense of children’s true abilities. We should also put in place techniques for reducing anxiety and building self-confidence that take advantage of our social natures. And we should ensure that the social climate at our children’s schools is one of warmth and trust, not competition and exclusion.
It's difficult not to feel depressed or hopeless when it comes to the state of education reform in the United States. When I left Wall Street in 2003 to pursue a Masters degree in education to become a high school history and social studies teacher, I thought I would be going into a world where money and back stabbing, greed and selfishness would be replaced with caring, empathy and altruism. Naive, yes, because what I soon discovered as I spent two and a half years researching No Child Left Behind was that the same destructive greed that brought down the U.S. economy was on its way to destroying public education and its role in perpetuating a democratic republic. 
Fast forward to 2012 and as the election approaches, it's virtually impossible to feel any optimism when it comes to ending the reign of tyranny that has taken over the teaching profession as the war on teachers escalates under both Democrats and Republicans. Last Wednesday night as I sat down to watch and listen to President Obama and Mitt Romney, I couldn't help but feel horrified as the President's first words were him boasting about Race to the Top. Yes, through Race to the Top desperately needed funds were distributed across the country to schools in need.  Tragically, however, the policies and priorities  focused on evaluating teachers and students on test scores and the Common Core Standards  will only amplify an already failing education reform agenda. This is a calamity for students, teachers, parents and the future of our country in general.  The beneficiaries will be the corporations and privatizers who will continue to profit from the excessive, never ending testing, data mining and takeover of this $500 billion dollar market, all at the expense of the present and the future.
In a sane world and a compassionate society, the findings of this latest study might make a difference. Politicians, policy makers and the public might care or pay attention. But, unfortunately, our President and our lawmakers are all beholden to the corporate giants who pull the strings.  Now that the country, the states and cities have been starved of funds, it is Wall Street and the corporations who control education. Little did I know in 2003 when I invested $30,000 to become a teacher that Wall Street had already taken over our public schools, the last bastion of any hope against the fascist tyranny of corporations. As Bill Moyers so aptly describes the state of affairs today in his recent profile of The United States of ALEC, there is no other choice but to engage in acts of civil disobedience and Opt Out of the madness, boycott the tests, boycott the corporations and continue to speak out, organize, and try to stay sane in an insane place.
Here's the rest of the story from today's New York Times, but nobody in Washington or the statehouses across the country seem to care. The bullies who have hijacked education are responsible for the bullying going on in schools as competition and races to the top are now the new religion. It's a culture in which the weak or different are trampled and the strongest, meanest, cut throat bullies survive.

It's almost too depressing to think about and to write about but as teachers and educators all across the country know, it is a sad reality. Perhaps some day, the President will come out on stage and say, "Let's invest the money we are spending on tests and data and provide every child with eyeglasses or dental care or food and housing."  Let's return to a time when  field trips  to museums, art,  music and physical ed were part of the curriculum and children looked forward to going to school because their souls were nurtured and they could play, socialize and dream.  Now there would be someone I could vote for.


  1. In the competitive, test-driven climate of our public schools, there is no such thing as a
    "Bully-free zone." Children imitate what they see, and the message is clear. The end result is ALL that matters, regardless of who you have to hurt to get there.

  2. Anonymous7:29 AM

    Yeah, we should really get back to a time when education was paramount on the state's priority list, along with housing, health and dental plans, and food.