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

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Bad Writer? Blame a Teacher, Says Goldstein

As journo-author of numerous pieces in her series, "Educational History for Dummies Who Want to Remain That Way," Dana Goldstein has another gem of a piece in the New York Times, where she regularly brings to light the corporate education perspective on education issues.

This time Goldstein brings her corporate lens to examine the problem of bad writing among school children, and it takes just a few five-sentence paragraphs for Goldstein to get to the root cause of the massive deficiency:
The root of the problem, educators agree, is that teachers have little training in how to teach writing and are often weak or unconfident writers themselves. According to Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a scan of course syllabuses from 2,400 teacher preparation programs turned up little evidence that the teaching of writing was being covered in a widespread or systematic way.
First off, I would ask Ms. Goldstein what Kate Walsh's perspective has to do with the perspective of educators, since Walsh has never been a teacher or studied education (this she has in common with Goldstein, who has a BA in European intellectual history).  In fact, Walsh's corporate-funded business at NCTQ is based on pasting together spurious sponsored research into reports that place all the blame for learning shortcomings on teachers, schools, and teacher education programs.

What Goldstein and Walsh consider as the "root of the problem" is, instead, a symptom of old-growth policies by corporate reformers, the education industry, and conservative politicians, which have attempted to stunt the interpretive and expressive capabilities of children in favor of expanding the storage capacity of children's memory banks.  The Business Roundtable's long-established and continuing test-based strategy of schooling by forced feeding and regurgitation has led to the preparation of generations of workers with strong abilities to be led by the hand (or the nose), to minimally comprehend, and to have the barest understanding of understanding.  With today's new teachers having grown up with writing (and speaking) on the periphery with the rest of the non-tested non-essentials, writing and speaking stand the chance being replaced by what could be, I guess, an emoji-based system of communication.

Unfortunately, Goldstein ignores entirely the history of highly-leveraged attempts by CorpEd to eradicate federally-funded programs and teacher education curriculums that were not aimed directly to increase test scores.  Goldstein does not mention that a number of states, including New York and Tennessee, now judge teacher education programs on how much graduates of those programs can increase test scores of their students. Any concern from Kate Walsh about that?  Nah.

Goldstein also ignores the history of attempts to kill the only federally-funded national program to improve writing and writing instruction of teachers.  The National Writing Project (NWR) was targeted for elimination by W's corrupt henchmen in 2004, just as it was on the chopping block in 2011 under Obama/Duncan.  Nonetheless, the NWP persisted.

Today Goldstein is quick to praise the NWR, which she sees as a important tool toward the kind of "rigorous writing" agenda, which is now being demanded by the Business Roundtable's Common Corers. Until such time that Kate Walsh and her corporate foundation funders can come up with a lucrative scheme to standardize writing instruction in teacher education courses, Goldstein makes it clear that NWR will be an important technology in helping teachers and students, alike, to get in touch with their inner memoranda, as well as tapping into the wellsprings of inspiration for writing annual reports to the stockholders.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Our society persists in setting a low bar as evidenced by our Commander in Chief who professes to prefer viewing television news to the old fashioned skill of reading. The practice of setting policy on Twitter will open up new avenues for historians, political scientists and linguists to explore. Gone are the days of extensive legislative debates and lengthy briefs. Many individuals continue e-mailing and texting while engaged in conversation with a real live human on location. As a teacher, I accept my portion of responsibility for the proliferation of the malady of American illiteracy despite spending my entire career reading and writing every day with my students. There is no more fervent fan of the benefits of a literate life than I.

    Abigail Shure