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

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Grit-sters Have a New Guru without CIA Connections

With the spook-ish Dr. Seligman too scary to mention in contexts involving children, his longtime disciple, Angela Duckworth, does not even mention Seligman in her mini-TED talk that CorpEd is pumping this week on HuffPo's education page.  Seligman's work with the CIA as an expert on learned helplessness, and then his work with the Pentagon on how to teach the joys of positive psychology to Iraq vets with PTSD, have made the mention of his name within the chain gang charter movement out of bounds.

The new guru in town is Carol Dweck, who is given the credit for grounding Angel Duckworth's "grit" research among school children of Philadelphia.  Never mind that Seligman was Duckworth's lifeline and mentor at UPenn and beyond.  Duckworth's six-plus minutes at TED are worth viewing for its public relations sassiness, as she recounts her difficulty as an urban classroom teacher and her epiphany that the answer to achievement must be found in altering the minds of children (even as she and her fellow charter advocates ignore the sociological pathogens that are expressed through the child's behavior and thoughts).  No Excuses for Bad Thoughts!

Obviously, Duckworth's stint with McKinsey and Co. as a charter school advisor left her impervious to socioeconomic realities that she would now pretend to fix with psychological interventions conducted on children aimed at altering their brain chemistry. Duckworth comes across as a perky, though no less "gritty," Michelle Rhee who at least knows how to smile without menace. 

Pitching CorpEd's renewed attention to Duckworth's rerun talk (conducted some months ago) is impresario and Geraldo Rivera impersonator, Eric Cooper, who is working to build his own education industry empire on the backs of urban schoolchildren.  To get an idea of this guy's credibility, I submit this from his FluffPo entry:
At the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, we know that connecting with a student's frame of reference and knowledge base can lead to deep learning. In districts throughout the country, educators use "culturally responsive teaching" -- rhymes, rhythms, rap and other approaches that are rooted in the life experience of the child -- to engage students who were once considered to be "unteachable" in such subjects as science and math.
If you thought culturally-responsive teaching was something more than rote and recitation with a backbeat, you would be right, of course.  But when your job is to promote CorpEd's cultural sterilization schooling techniques to a neoliberal audience looking for a redemptive rationale for pure oppression, you may be expected to produce such bullshit that, otherwise, may appear as purely comic, if the stakes were not so high.

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