Friday, December 27, 2013

First: Where we are at. Next: What do we do?

Where we are at

     As education reform moves forward, I am reminded daily of the changes brought to curriculum, assessment, and educator evaluations. I also pay attention to what is happening around my state and around the nation regarding public schools and what has become an open attack on those schools and those who chose to dedicate their career to the profession. To be perfectly clear, my philosophy on education is one that dictates service to the individual in order to maximize their potential and strengthen the nation through an informed and empowered citizenry. An ignorant and obedient population is bound to be exploited by the powerful few who themselves benefit from broad knowledge, true education and enriching, valuable experiences.
     The temptation for the powerful may be to limit access to the same paths and privileges that brought them their positions of power, keeping knowledge to themselves.Travel far down this path, and our nation is sure to end up in a sorry state where the masses are content to fuel their mind and bodies on junk, content to spend their lives in debt and their meager pay to simply sustain a consumer's existence, taught only what those in power want the many to know: worker skills intended to prop up the wealth and authority of those at the top-a modern Dark Age.

We are being controlled by what are called "standards".  But who determines them, guided by what knowledge or authority, and for what purpose?

     There is not now, nor has there ever been a "standard" for success. Students bring their own innate skills and desires, and our nation functions at its best with citizens capable of working and serving in a variety of ways. Lately, we have been forced to accept unproven common standards and seem to have settled on a more consistent justification for "education reform"-and it is an economic one. Initially it was the cost of public pensions (unsustainable following the investment gambles made with money set aside to cover those pensions). Then it was international comparisons of student achievement-comparisons which persist in avoiding discussion of Finland's success-because it comes largely from a greater standard of economic equity and respect for others...values lacking in our market-based solutions paradigm. Finally, it was the "college and career ready" and being "competitive in the global economy". Forcing the nation's public schools to serve the very same "free market" that abandoned a bulk of the population and yet continued to generate massive and ever-increasing share of the wealth for those at the top has not tripped any policy-maker alarms or hesitation...and why?

Because the wealthiest drive our policy and place our policy makers. They have no interest in educating for equity, democracy, or truly maximizing the potential of citizens from lower classes. It is a systemic tyranny.

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and 

oppressions of body and mind will

 vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day . . . . "

(Thomas Jefferson)

 Do we continue to cooperate, only shrugging and saying, "Yeah, we could do a better job preparing students along the path to a career..."

 Do we join hands with oppressors because they offer some bread and water to sustain us on the path they dictate?

     When collaboration is another way to say compromise, or worse yet consignment, we have been taken down the wrong path. It's widely understood that times are tough, economically, and that in this changing world new approaches need to be brought to public education. But the tough times and the changing world are not the fault of public education, and the ill-effects of these conditions (economic disparity, moral and social decay, the academic "achievement gap"...) are forces our schools have always struggled with and against. Instead of finding an urgency to move towards cooperation and true collaboration from the nation's leaders, policy makers and businesses, public education was scapegoated. Having swollen their wealth through a rigged investment and finance industry, and having escaped unscathed and unaccountable-the misdirection of blame (combined with sights now reset on public dollars) game began.

The perfect articulation of the education reform mindset:

"As you grow up in this world you realize that people really don't give a shit about what you feel or what you is rare in a working environment that someone says, 'Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood,' That is rare."

This was said by David Coleman, who spent nearly two hours in April of 2011 telling an audience what he thinks about education in America, what is wrong with it, and how much better what he thinks, or was paid to think, is.

      Apparently what he thinks is supposed to matter quite a lot, but what it means is that he believes a nation of thinkers, educators, learners and leaders has suddenly become no more than  misguided traditionalists raised up on classics in fiction which would he deems classic wastes of time...and  that the less wealthy and fortunate subjects in the new kingdom of reform will be lucky to be steered clear of burdensome thinking about themselves and deeper moral conflicts like those played out throughout history and then reflected in great works of fiction. This is an article describing the event Coleman spoke at.

     It is likely that what is being framed as "reform" , including teacher evaluations through new APPR requirements, is actually a carefully planned offensive involving cooperation at many levels and executed through various public offices and agencies. Here, a school principal describes a conversation with Chancellor Tisch that, if you were to only half believe it, indicates a depth and determination in the plan to undermine public education. This conversation involves our Governor of New York, and why an investigation into the truth of the testimony given in this video has not made the news is only further proof at the agenda and the power behind it. This is why you don't sit at an "education reform" event unless invited. This is why you don't speak, ask a question, or get a concern addressed unless you submit it before hand. This is why if you step out of line at one of these events, you could get escorted out, arrested, or labeled as being corrupted by "special interests".

So how much longer do we "collaborate"? How much longer do we continue to let policy makers and editorials frame reform using test scores and the names of people who haven't earned their authority in the field?

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