Are the bad ideas dead yet? You know, the ones that have been hollowing out the country’s soul for the last 30 years.
In Atlanta, they indicted 35 teachers, principals and administrators, including a former superintendent, for routinely altering their students’ standardized test results — and in all likelihood this massive fraud is an aberration only because the cheaters got caught.
Everything is at stake in these tests, so perhaps it’s dawning on us that fraud — by adults — is inevitable, but there’s a bigger issue here that continues to escape public outrage: The tests are stupid. They measure virtually nothing that matters, but monopolize the classroom politically. Teachers, under enormous pressure, are forced to teach to the tests rather than, you know, teach critical thinking or creative expression; and education is reduced to something rote, linear and boring.
We close their schools, deny them an equal and equitable education, and in 2013 we may ultimately rescind the voting rights of the few. In January of this year, the Journey For Justice 2 Alliance met with officials in Washington, District of Columbia, to discuss the topic, education policies that discriminate. Today, on February 27, 2013, just down the lane from the Department of Education hearing, another inquiry was held. The Supreme Court heard the case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. On the face of it, the argument may seem separate from the subject of school closures. However, considering the consequences of what might be after a day of testimony, Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices, there is reason for concern. Will the cycle of recrimination continue? Will we curse the darkness that is our own? Continue reading →
The Chicago Teachers Union strike, and the recent rallies held in conjunction, speak to a problem larger than the conventional meme of pay increases, tenure, or pensions. Chicago Teachers want better working conditions. They realize as no other employees might; the environments in which they work fashion the future of our nation. Our children’s education is at-risk.
Twenty-five years have passed since Chicago Teachers Union members have gone out on strike. These Educators realize as do all workers ¬Unions today are not the powerhouses of yesteryear. According to a study by Sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, unionization among private-sector full-time employees fell by 40% between 1984 and 2002. Indeed, as cited in Unions, Norms, and the Rise in American Wage Inequality, “From 1973 to 2007, private sector union membership in the United States declined from 34 to 8 percent for men and from 16 to 6 percent among women. Inequality in hourly wages increased by over 40 percent in this period.”
Inherent within each of us is a conflict. Generally speaking, we think progress is a sign of achievement. As George Bernard Shaw aptly articulated, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” Indeed, politically, at one time or another, persons within each Party have embraced the label, “Progressives.” However, while we glorify change, we also disdain it. Most of us look back and think, “Those were the days.”
The good old days are commonly defined as “when we were young.” It might have been the 1940s; the fifties, or some other decade. In earlier eras, schools were vehicles for success. Now, these same institutions are seen and scored as failures. Teachers were principled. Today, throughout the news we read, educators are perverse. Our children come home and tell tales that affirm what adults have come to believe is true; teachers are bad! Public education is worse. Parents surmise home schools or private learning centers would better serve their needs. Cyber classes, too, must be an option. Online learning tailors a lesson, much more so than a unionized teacher would. The people want Choice!
There is one consensus; tests are good. Accountability is the gold standard. Continue reading →
I’m sending out an old column this week. I just got back from Paris, where my daughter, Alison, got married. I’m still jet-lagged. This column, about an earlier transition in her life (our lives) was written in 2004.
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Nothing fills an emotional void quite like the piercing drone of bagpipes. No matter the kids were rolling their eyeballs as they shuffled two-by-two into the stifling field house — this was profound, and I was on the verge of tears.
Oh, there she is. My daughter. Gulp. Eighteen years old. A college student. I stifled the impulse to wave and embarrass her still further. We had fleeting eye contact, then she turned to the business of finding her seat, one of almost 500 reluctant stars of this event.
Universities are today’s centers of connection. They are one of the last vestiges of American tribalism and community in an age of self isolation and artificial technological cultism. Adults do not meet face to face much anymore to share knowledge, or discuss the troubles of the day. The academic world provides such opportunity, but at a terrible price. A Bachelor’s Degree in the US allows the ruling class to construct a kind of automaton class, which has been taught not to learn independently, but to parrot propaganda without question, writes Brandon Smith.
Can the world shift on such a simple question? Imagine yourself sitting eye-to-eye with a kid in trouble and that’s the first thing you ask. No lecture, no sarcasm, no judgment, no explosion of lost patience and a cry of “Why did you do that?” Just: What happened?
And then you wait for an answer. When it comes, however haltingly, you press gently and firmly on, still without judgment, just the need to know:
What were you thinking at the time? What have you thought about since? What do you think you need to do to make things right?
These are the four basic questions of restorative practices, a movement slowly transforming troubled schools and troubled communities around the globe Continue reading →
Educational systems now train workers to fulfill the needs of companies. A society in which people exist for the sake of companies is a society enslaved. But there’s a deep problem with the notion that education should equal vocational training.
A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question. Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?” “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many. All of the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership. The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children. In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth. Many aspirations. Many a mirage. How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.
George winced and who can blame him? These were 10-year-olds I was talking about, one in particular, Amanda, who’d written about her fight with a bully on the school bus. The bully had cussed her out and in her essay she quoted him with unblinking precision, raising — certainly in my neighbor’s mind (we were riding the train home together as I rattled on) — some alarming questions, e.g.: Truth is nice, but what about decency? And aren’t fifth-graders a little too young for academic freedom?
I’d put these questions another way: To what extent do children own their own lives? And, is there a pedagogical difference between guiding and herding?
You know, don’t you, that you have to invite vampires into your home or they are not capable of entering, or better, they are forbidden to enter by some kind of law that governs the undead. (It’s important to have rules in the necromantic realms as it shows that there is order in all of God’s creations, even the evil ones.)
Abstract — Establishment medicine is sustained by a triad of core deceptions: (1) An apical lie by omission which does not admit that the predominant causal determinant of an individual’s health is the individual’s real and perceived place in the society’s dominance hierarchy, (2) the “voodoo lie” of the false scientific foundation of its professional practice which does not admit that most of medical research used to justify the recommended “treatments” is wrong and that consequently the “treatments” are ineffective at best, and (3) the dirty secret that establishment medicine (in North America) is itself the third leading cause of death, after cancer and cardiovascular failures for which medicine is of little use. All three core deceptions have been decisively exposed by leading-edge mainstream researchers whose works have had virtually no impact in reforming the profession.
As any Mom or Dad might do on Parent Teacher Conference Day, Amy Valens, the Educator featured in the documentary film August To June, traveled from “classroom to classroom.” This journey was not a conventional one. Indeed, Amy did not attend a series of Parent Teacher Conferences. What she did was appear at Palm Beach screenings of her documentary. The film follows twenty-six  third and fourth graders who studied with Amy in her last year of teaching. The open classroom, within a public school, “Brings Life” to education.
After the movie was viewed, Ms Valens and the audiences engaged in conversations. They discussed what they saw and how it might relate to a broader dialogue. The subjects of Education Reform, Classroom Standards, Teacher Quality, Merit Pay, Student-Rewards for Success, Parent Involvement, and Testing are but a few topics prominent in our national debate. While the assemblies of viewers varied widely, the results were the same. Every child, every class, all Teachers, and each parent, tells a unique tale. Regardless of the individual or group, we see the world, or in this case the film, through our own lens. Continue reading →
The people I had hoped most to be able to find upon returning to Libya were eight students from Fatah University (now renamed Tripoli University) who became my friends during three months in Libya this summer. They had all been strongly opposed to what NATO was doing to their country (NATO bombs destroyed some classrooms at the University during final exams in late May) and I was very keen to sit with them again if possible since the August 23rd fall of Tripoli when most of them scattered given the uncertainties of what would happen and we lost contact.
Thanks to Ahmad who was waiting for me we re-united quickly. Some excerpts and impressions from yesterday’s all night gathering with Ahmad, Amal, Hind, Suha, Mohammad and Rana:
“I know Sanad al-Ureibi”, Ahmad said disgustedly about the 22 year old who is claiming he fired two bullets at close range into Muammar Gadhafi on October 22nd.
This whole student loan apocalypse is another confetti currency bubble scam. There are many parallels to the housing bubble, except, of course, that people can’t live inside those useless degrees obtained with borrowed money that can never be repaid.
The availability of the loans is driving ludicrous tuition increases, just like the funny money mortgages inflated the real estate market.
About three years ago, my father and a former student founded the Zinn Education Project (ZEP). Their goal was to promote “people’s history” in schools across the country.
To support this important work will take less than five minutes and requires no money. CREDO/Working Assets supports a wide field of progressive organizations and has selected the ZEP as one of 40 organizations it will fund.
I offer homage to a Teacher whose pedagogy touched me in a manner invisible to me until this moment. For scores, I understood what a gift he was to me. His open and caring ways were as I craved. However, I had never imagined that this man’s schooling style made the difference in my life. Today, I invite each of us to look beyond the boundaries or the labels.
Innumerable Scholars seek to inform rather than interact in a way that inspires. Academicians, an abundance of these, think to fill a brain full of facts, formulas, and figures, is to teach. I wonder; do these Educators believe they learn from their students? I cannot know with certainty. For myriad mentors, their labor is not born out of love, but out of need . . . the need to train students for a test. Continue reading →
Near a month has passed since the Save Our Schools storm swept through Washington District of Columbia. As with all squalls the effects of such an event linger long after the winds die down. A physical space cleaned-up after a tempest takes place does not erase the memory of what occurred. Be it a blast of air or an action, the calm does not close a chapter in our lives. The current, commitment, the cause, and our concern do not wane with time, that is, unless we choose to move on or tell ourselves that that is possible. I believe the notion the past is past is fallacious. Our past permeates the present and is a foundation for the future. Thus, for me, the thought, and the March to Save Our Schools are strong. It survives as is evidenced by the now named Movement.