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

Saturday, February 06, 2016

What Would a Progressive Education Policy Look Like?

In the last presidential debate, Bernie Sanders did progressives no favor by including Barack Obama among those who have earned the right to wear the "progressive" label:
In terms of President Obama, I think if we remember where this country was seven years ago, 800,000 jobs being lost every month, $1.4 trillion dollar deficit. The world’s financial system on the verge of collapse. I think that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate have done a fantastic job. We are in much better shape than we were seven years ago, although my Republican colleagues seem to have forgotten where we were seven years ago. That’s the fact, but, we still have a very long way to go.

Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yes, I do. I disagree with him on a number of issues including the trade agreement. But, yes, I think he has done an excellent job.
Really, Bernie?

Never mind that the biggest banks are bigger than they were when the American taxpayer bailed them out 7 years ago.

Never mind that none of the Wall Street criminals who wrecked the economy and stole billions were never charged with the crimes they committed against the country.

Never mind that the NSA and Verizon, etc. are still pawing undeterred through personal phone records and emails and storing the data.

Never mind that neither Obama nor Democratic legislators have mounted any organized effort or public campaign to challenge Citizens United, which has essentially neutered any progressive legislative effort in Washington?

Never mind that U. S. soldiers are still dying in Afghanistan and Iraq after 15 years of war--or that Guantanamo is still in business.

Never mind that Obama shelved a single payer healthcare plan in favor of pushing Obamacare, which gave Big Pharma and the insurance companies unlimited profit opportunities.

And never mind that the neoconservative education policy of Bush has been simply relabeled as the neoliberal education policy of Obama, along with expanded privatization opportunities that extend beyond more charters into teacher preparation programs, early childhood education, and instructional, curricular, and assessment delivery systems.

Progressive?  If Barack Obama is a progressive, then so is Hillary Clinton by association and by policy commitments as well.

Despite what Diane Ravitch preaches without much conviction, I might add, the progressive tent cannot hold both progressives and non-progressives, especially when the fake progressives are trying to burn the tent down with the progressives inside.

Progressive unity under a big tent is not helped when non-progressives pretend to be allies, sneak out the sides as the stirring speeches soar,  and begins sawing away the tent supports and torching the tent flaps, as was done with the passage of ESSA, even as Diane and FairTest kept assuring their awed audiences that everything was fine.

If we as progressives believe it is progressive to make public school systems stronger with adequate funding, rich curricular programming, the best professional educators, and stronger public boards that are accountable to citizens rather than CEOs, then we cannot ignore policies that put more public money into the hands of corporate charter operators with an inhumane schooling model that progressive elites would never, ever allow for their own children.

If we as progressives believe it is progressive to encourage inclusive, integrated, and democratically-diverse schools that model the practices of a functional democracy, then we cannot allow some of our public schools that serve the most disadvantaged children to be segregated corporate reform schools with brutal paternalistic management and instructional systems.

If we as progressives believe it is progressive that educators should be highly respected and educated to understand effective pedagogical strategies, child development, educational research, theory, history, and brain science, then we cannot stay silent on educational policy plans that seek to replace professional education training programs with corporate academies that require no research base, accreditation, or even professors.

If we believe as progressives that is progressive to have school children engage in democratic practices while developing cooperative and collaborative skills to solve all kinds of problems, both job related and community related, then we cannot allow education policies that use the term "personalized learning" to disguise a cheap and ultimately isolating strategy of students spending large chunks of their school time in front of computers that collect mountains of data on each child and store it on corporate-accessible computers.

A hundred years in America during the Progressive Era, everyone wanted to be seen as a progressive.  Social meliorists pushing for more democratic socialism saw themselves as progressives, the child study educationists with their focus on child-centeredness argued they were progressive, the social efficiency advocates using "scientific management" as their North Star argued they were progressive, and even the great humanist educator, Charles Eliot, argued his liberal arts fixation was progressive.  And, yes, even the elite eugenicists who set up shop in all these different encampments advocating for segregration, sterilization, and special handling of the "unfit," saw themselves as progressives who got things done.  

During the last debate, Hillary Clinton defined herself as "a progressive who gets things done."  I think the definition needs a little something more.  Gets things done primarily to benefit whom, may we ask?  Espousing progressive platitudes and acting to undercut them, or failing to act to make them realizable is getting things done, but I would argue that it not progressive.

Have a look at this video from 2001, and see if there are not some really good clues as to how progressive rhetoric masks status quo power relations.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important to get words right. Progressive,nliberal, and left-leaning are not synonymous or even interchangeable.
    Liberal and left have become vague and even meaningless.
    I think used correctly (as in this blog post) is well-defined. Someone said that progressive government is there to limit what some peoples and entities might to take advantage of people - it limits the limiters.
    The Moyers - Warren video sums it up. Warren does not have to ne liberal to be a Progressive.

    When we oppose the takeover of public education by for profit entities, it's progressivism vs free market conservatism.
    When we oppose the narrowing learnt by high stakes testing and accountability systems, it's progressivism vs neoliberalism.
    There is no doubt where I want to be.