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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Brief comments on "hard words"

S. Krashen. Sept 16, 2018.  
Hard Words (https://tinyurl.com/ybgv4742) champions systematic intensive phonics, teaching all the rules of phonics is a strict order to all children. Here are objections to their conclusions.
(1) Researchers admit we have not discovered all the rules.
(2) Even among those rules that have been described, some are extremely complex.
(3) Many children learn to read with little or even no phonics instruction.
(4) Studies show that intensive phonics produces strong results only on tests in which children pronounce words out of context. Systematic intensive phonics has little or no impact on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
(6) The best predictor of performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read is real reading, especially self-selected reading.
(7) “Basic phonics” can be helpful: teaching straight-forward rules that children can learn and can actually apply to texts to make them more comprehensible. Our ability to use complex rules is acquired as a result of reading.
(8) I know of no scholars or teachers who support “zero phonics.”

Supporting bibliography is available for free download at sdkrashen.com, section on phonics and phonemic awareness. Many of these points have been presented by Frank Smith and Kenneth Goodman.
Hard Words strongly supports the report of the National Reading Panel. For another point of view, please see papers in the Phi Delta Kappen by Garan, by Krashen, and by Yatvin. I will supply references if requested.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Marc Tucker Digs Up New Rationale for Public School "Unbuilding"

Marc Tucker is at it again, with a newly-excavated rationale for blowing up public schools and universities.  

My reaction:

Tucker continues to weave a narrative that entirely ignores the systematic formation in the early 20th Century of a racist and classist education system that reflected the prejudices of social efficiency zealots, who threw open the doors to the new education factories they built for exploitation by succeeding generations of snake oil salesmen with a never-ending supply of fake remedies for manufactured problems.
The learning "crisis" of American schools in the 1970s grew from an unacknowledged fear of racial integration and social progress. The rise of testing accountability, which was based on the same racist testing technologies from the eugenics era earlier in the 20th Century, functioned to efficiently label, sort, and segregate students, and to further incentivize the monetization of public education by what has since become the testing-technological complex.
Mr. Tucker's half-baked history lesson and his blinkered rationalizations would clear the way for another generation of capitalist plunderers who know nothing about schooling, learning, or teaching, this time centered in Silicon Valley and backed by another generation venture philanthropists with self-serving solutions. With new schemes in the making for increased monitoring, surveillance, data sharing, neurological reprogramming (SEL), and increased screen time isolation, the paternalist threat to humane learning environments and democratic institutions has never been greater, and the opportunities for social capital investment predators has never been higher.
There is nothing new in Mr. Tucker's tired tirade that we haven't heard before. His suggestion to allow a new generation of "scientific" managers to "unbuild" public schools and public universities expresses an antiquarian faith in the ingenuity of capitalist enterprise in education that is as undeserved as it is irresponsible.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Blockchain: Welcome to Your Permanent Record

by Alison McDowell (previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
I realize my Blockchain video presents an abundance of information that may be difficult to absorb all at once. For that reason, I’ve pulled together images from the video and accompanying text into a slideshare that people can review at their own pace.
Access the slideshare here.
Access a PDF of the script here.
I hope the scenario below provides a compelling enough reason why regular folks need to get up to speed on Blockchain, decentralized (digital) identity, tokenized behavior, and smart contracts. You can be sure the Davos crowd is well aware, and we really do have to start catching up if we want to save humanity.

Picture this:

A possible future, perhaps fifteen years from now. 
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is well underway.
Wages and conditions for jobs involving physical labor and direct service are forced below subsistence levels.
Austerity continues.
Debt is omnipresent.
“Smart” devices, facial recognition software, and drone surveillance ensure the public and private spheres are constantly monitored.
People’s lives have become ever more precarious.
The working class has few resources left and cannot serve as a market for goods and services.
There is limited currency in circulation. 
Instead, alternative exchanges of value are logged in Blockchain ledgers.
People are increasingly managed as commodities to keep capital circulating.
Economic activity, such as it is, revolves around data.
That data is stored on Blockchain, your permanent record.
Data are used to prove compliance and demonstrate the successful “impact” of poverty management systems.
Public services, like education and healthcare, have been outsourced to private entities funded by speculative investors.
Predictive analytics dominate the lives of all but the most powerful.
Big Brother lives in the cloud.
Each person carries a minder, a smartphone or a chip inserted in the hand.
Finance and technology interests anticipate managing humanity as an extractive industry. 
It is a future that hinges on bringing self-sovereign identity and Blockchain to scale.
So, will it scale?
Will people recognize the peril?
And will they refuse to cooperate?

For more information:

Smart Cities: Link
Internet of Things: Link
Blockchain: Link
Smart Contracts: Link
Self Sovereign Identity: Link
Alternative Currencies: Link
Behavioral Economics / Nudge: Link

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mindful Compliance or Non-Cooperation

by Alison McDowell 
(Previously published at Wrench in the Gears)
Classrooms have always been sites struggle. We find ourselves in the midst of a battle pitting human agency and relationships against technologized surveillance and predictive profiling. Can schools evolve into places of community where new ways of being in the world, ways that begin to address past harms against oppressed people and the earth, can be imagined and tested? Or will educational spaces become even more authoritarian? With each passing day we see students distanced from one another as algorithms, artificial intelligence, and online games mold their minds in “personalized learning” bubbles.
The lean-production, dystopian economy the Davos crowd envisions will offer few stable living-wage jobs. Their model will force most people to adopt a practice of unrelenting “lifelong learning,” continual reinvention that might allow them to piece together a patchwork of precarious, soulless jobs. It is a process that will demand the acquisition of just-in-time skills, but perhaps more importantly it will demand the proper mindset. In this future, the most desirable trait for hires won’t be the level of knowledge they possess. Far more attractive will be their demonstrated ability to adapt to and thrive on instability. That is where grit, self-regulation, resilience, and executive function come in. That is why these words are becoming so prominent in professional development, new “evidence-based” curricula, and educational literature. We are being groomed.
There will be limited opportunities for creative thinking in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Knowledge will be controlled among the general populace. In fact knowing enough to question or disrupt the status quo will likely land a job candidate in the algorithmic rubbish bin. The current system works fine for the elite. They won’t onboard anyone who might organize with others to actually fix the system and make it more humane. For those at the top, the best employee is the one who thrives in dystopia and shames others into doing the same by example.
Neoliberal interests have secured esteemed social scientists and branding consultants to sell the unsuspecting public on their poisonous program of human capital engineering. It is being packaged as “whole child education” and “social emotional learning.” Legions of parents and teachers are embracing top-down programs of mindfulness training, structured recess, and gamified behavior management systems. Shell-shocked from years of test and punish, their defenses are understandably weakened. When they hear “play” and “soft skills,” most just sigh and cross their fingers hoping the worst of it is over. The privatizers know exactly how to push people’s buttons.
Efficient markets require a robust pipeline of interchangeable, cheaply paid employees who will labor with minimal complaint under intolerable conditions. Everything today is about return on investment. The logic of the market dictates it’s never too early to triage who is worth an investment of public resources and who is not. Schools have always been sorting mechanisms, but with digital surveillance education, the sorting systems are becoming ever more vicious.
Lest we be lulled into a trance by the zen masters of corporate mindfulness, we must recognize that the push to monitor, track, and cultivate an appropriate learner mindset, is not emerging from an authentic grassroots concern for the well being of children. It is an intentional campaign launched by philanthro-capitalists to expand the metrics of student measurement into the non-cognitive sphere.
These metrics will be used to profile children and double the size of educational impact investment markets. Why limit yourself to gambling on children’s academic proficiencies when you can do the same thing on their behavioral proficiencies, too? Believe me, the folks in this game are not ones to leave money on the table.
Who are you?
What kind of person do we predict you will become based on your data profile?
How do you score in the Big Five traits? OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism
Will you obey?
Will you work hard?
Are you a team player?
Are you a leader?
Are you a follower?
Are you broken beyond what we’re willing to invest to repair you?
THAT is what social-emotional learning is really about. They will put resources into creating the metrics, the systems, the rubrics, the monitoring systems to ensure fidelity. It is the metrics that drive the social impact investment markets. It’s about moving data on dashboards, not caring for children.
So, before you do another thing in the classroom with respect to student behavior or social emotional learning, take a look around and recognize we ARE living the Hunger Games. Stop and think about where the intervention you are using came from? Whose interests does it advance? What data are YOU collecting on the children in your care? Where is it stored? Do you know what behavioral information the devices in your classroom may be capturing on your children? Do you know how that is being used? Do you know who is funding the new SEL curriculum in your school? Do you know who is funding that nice non-profit that wants to manage your recess program? Could it be a defense contractor (Playworks / Bechtel)?
Are you teaching children to be good players in the Hunger Games or are you teaching them what they need to know to upend the game? And if you are doing the latter, keep it offline. Don’t give the elite any power over the children who depend on you. Adopt a policy of non-cooperation. Find your way to resist the corporate SEL agenda and do it.
Much respect to John Trudell.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why Parents Want Their Kids to Stay Out of Teaching

This year's annual PDK/Gallup Poll of public attitudes toward public education found for the first time a majority of American parents unwilling to advise their children to become teachers:
Two-thirds of Americans say teachers are underpaid, and an overwhelming 78% of public school parents say they would support teachers in their community if they went on strike for more pay, according to the 2018 PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. 
Even as most Americans continue to say they have high trust and confidence in teachers, a majority also say they don’t want their own children to become teachers, most often citing poor pay and benefits as the primary reason for their reluctance.
Here are just a few of the good reasons that the majority of parents have made the right call:

  • Over the past two decades, corporate reformers and politicians have put in place teacher evaluation schemes that are invalid, unreliable, and unfair to teachers.  Untold numbers of teachers have lost their jobs as a result, even as many other teachers fled to other career fields to escape the unrelenting pressure.  Those who have stayed now focus on producing test scores by any means necessary in order to survive evaluations, which, in turn, results in moral breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, and miseducated children.

  • Targeted mass killings in schools with weapons of war threaten the safety of all school personnel and children.  Growing numbers of politicians and corporate lobbyists make the case for arming teachers in schools, and kevlar book bags are now prominent on schools' mandatory supply lists for parents.  Who can blame college students and their parents for thinking of their safety and that of their children?

  • The metastasizing of the corporate cancer known as "rigor" has turned schools into training grounds for the increasingly alienating and disaffected corporate adult workplace.  Teachers are expected to function as efficiency-driven managers who increase the bottom line (test scores), and their own creativity and ingenuity have been sacrificed on the alter of standardization and quantifiable results that ignore the sociological and psychological realities of children.  

  • Teachers have continued to lose economic ground to other career fields over the past decades.  With a wage gap larger today than it was in 1980, teachers work two jobs to maintain some semblance of middle class living standards.

St. Hope Charter School Students Have Had Enough

St. Hope Charter Schools, Inc. is a small charter school chain owned by Kevin Johnson and his wife, Michelle Rhee. These are "no excuses" KIPP Model schools that enable Kevin and Michelle to live the lavish lifestyle to which they are accustomed, while providing the total compliance training and cultural sterilization pedagogy that makes this model so attractive to white philanthropists and their minority servants.

Apparently, students and parents at the St. Hope High School are tired of being treated like dirt.  A short video below shows us what real hope looks like in action:

Saturday, September 01, 2018

At least 920 Florida teachers out of jobs after failing state test, desp...

ABC affiliate is on the story of how the State of Florida is using a standardized test to weed out qualified teachers across the state.  Two reports below, the first from July of this year and the second a follow-up attempt to get a straight answer from Commissioner Pam Stewart, who is more concerned with losing her lunch break than providing a sensible answer to a very good question.

ABC Action News catches up with Commissioner Pam Stewart