Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Reform We Need

The difficulty of the tests and the students having to take them

     There is nothing wrong with high expectations, depth, and rigor. What has been happening, though, is a shift away from logically scaffolding experiences in public school to take advantage of normal childhood social development. Already, kids get less live, active play with others, moving instead to more isolating hand-held and computer games. School play is being diminished to push more academics down from above.
Students are less comfortable with recess, group-work,  speaking to other students and adults...
    There are  more and more students in primary grades and elementary school who haven't come prepared for friendships or ready to navigate the social settings, situations and relationships that exist in school. Academic "depth and rigor" ignores the social curriculum needed, and the most vocal reformers either don't get this because they enjoyed privilege and security their whole lives, or they deny this need and how it impacts learners because it's one of those inconvenient truths.

The "shock and awe" of "sharing the sacrifice" and "staying the course" to "hope and change" to make sure that there's "no child left behind" and that all students leave schools "college and career ready"..."NO EXCUSES!"

     I'm sorry, but after a while the stuff politicians and policy-makers say starts to sound like one long Charlie Brown style drone...

     Much of what is happening in school reform has happened before. The willingness of government to paint schools as unworthy and then bend the direction of education to match the desires of corporate backed policy-makers and their designs on our nation, the world, and its economy is well documented.

"A Nation at Risk" (1983) portrayed our school system as a threat to the nation then, and that same spirit of accusation has come back.
     The economy has been gamed by those who already enjoy a disproportionate benefit and the protections that their wealth can buy. The most recent attack on schools has been accompanied by all the tidy little catch phrases that come with such campaigns to win over public opinion. Schools it seems, and teachers-especially public schools and unionized teachers are to blame for everything. The economy's precarious situation, the government's unwillingness to meet its obligation to public servants that give up pay to pension and retirement systems, the failure of investors to invest and job creators to create...It's because teachers (again, it's public school unionized teachers) aren't teaching hard enough and can't be fired easily enough. Remember how, on the heels of the financial crisis, we kept hearing about "shared sacrifice" when it came to extending retirement age, concessions for public worker wages and benefits, employee bargaining rights...pretty much a middle to below class give was what was being called for and the popular news stories had to do with how much money was being stolen by greedy public workers.
     Yet banks were bailed out. Bonuses continued to roll. Raises in corporate and finance wages and compensations continued to far outpace anything in the "real world". Corporate profits continue to break records. How has the sacrifice been shared?

Why is this happening?

There is a distinct difference between heart, soul, mind, and wallet. Unfortunately, wallet wins up front, as it is winning now. Money is making decisions that make other people more money than they are worth. But the tide is beginning to turn. Keep thinking, keep talking, keep writing, and keep voting. We need reform, for sure, but it is on the policy end first, and THEN in schools. It needs to look different than the top down press. It needs to be lifted from within, by the students, communities and teachers that know what they are doing.

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