A Teachable Moment

PCT President Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

From California to New York

We knew it wouldn’t be long before the Vergara decision declaring California’s tenure law unconstitutional would prompt law suits in other states, particularly in ones with high profile unions. With the “reformers” notching a victory in California, the obvious next place to achieve a dramatic impact was New York, and, sure enough, it’s in the works.

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal announced that former news anchor turned education reformer Campbell Brown has found some plaintiffs to bring a challenge to the tenure and seniority laws of New York. The big lie impelling these suits is that but for tenure and seniority statutes, school managements would be free to fire the hordes of incompetent teachers standing in front of our nation’s classrooms preventing our youth from succeeding academically. These law cases are just one prong in a carefully designed strategy to attack and cripple teacher unions which have been the frontline defense against the privatizing profiteers who are hell-bent on turning our public schools into profit centers.

Curb collective bargaining, challenge public sector agency shop laws, attack tenure and seniority, spread the big lie that teacher unions exist only to defend mediocrity and encourage the belief in exploited minorities that their children can only be saved by a privatized system in which they are empowered to choose where and how their children are educated. Spread this anti-public education venom through a multi-media bombardment of the public financed by billionaire bankrollers engaged in what amounts to predatory giving, or as my friend Dave Linton calls it “giving to get.” That’s what we’re up against. I wish I saw our strategy as clearly.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Learning How to Learn

Over the weekend I tuned into a Facebook conversation between several participants essentially over the relevance of the offerings of public schools to the future employment of the students it educates. The discussion was of interest to me on several levels.

Firstly, it reinforced for me the penetration of the pernicious idea that a k-12 education is about preparing students for employment. All participants to the discussion clearly viewed education through the lens of employment and competition. All appeared to buy into the notion that educators should first of all know what the labor market will be like in the future and train students to be marketable in it. Thus, one wants more attention paid to writing because the business world demands writing skills even at the lowest entry levels. One wants everyone taking calculus based on a curious notion that the ability to solve calculus problems is somehow related to problem solving in other fields of endeavor. Implicit in all of the comments was a belief that our schools are not doing enough to make their children marketable. Is it any wonder that with parents thinking these thoughts their children increasingly see middle and high schools as a resume building time?

This conversation was also an indicator of the success of the corporate campaign to discredit the public schools. To hear the captains of our industry tell it, it is almost impossible to find qualified people to fill the positions available because of the failure of public education. How these companies have managed to amass record profits amid their claimed critical labor shortage they never seem to explain. Their real agenda is to have the public schools take on the training that business once supplied.
When I think about all of the formal education I received, the downright silliness of all of this talk is clear to me. Boiled down to its essence, my education was all about teaching me how to learn. Like many of my generation, I had no idea of what I wanted to work at when I was in high school. College began the process of narrowing the possibilities. In my day the first two years of college consisted of essentially required courses in the arts and sciences. I took course in biology, psychology, economics, history, philosophy, English, math, foreign language and speech. No one talked to me about their relevance to my future employment.
After a master’s degree in English, I went into the Peace Corps to teach English in Ghana only to find when I got there that what my school needed me to do was to teach biology and function as a principal. I had no training to do either. All I had was a broad education in the arts and sciences. But it turned out that was all I needed. So I figured out how to schedule a secondary school with nothing but sheets of cardboard to work with. I went to the university in the capitol city and bought a couple of biology text xt books written using example of plants and animals with which West African students are familiar. Staying a night or two ahead of my students, I managed to teach a very reasonable biology course, even contacting the UN and getting equipment and materials to build a little laboratory. Without any formal training, I met the challenges I faced. I did so, not because I’m special, but because I came to those challenges equipped with the ability to learn what I needed to learn.
Later, while I earned my living as an English teacher, I began to take an interest in my local teacher union, accepting more and more responsibility as the years passed until I ran for and won the presidency. No one trained me to be a union leader. No one taught me how to run a welfare fund. Yet, though daunting at times, I managed to learn what I needed to learn to be effective. When management began using computers to manipulate important data in labor negotiations, armed with a broad education, I learned a couple of computer languages, even managing to write a compiled database program for our union.

Those who claim to know what the work world our students will meet in their lives speak with a certainty based more on ignorance than knowledge. My readers know my view is that our society will need fewer and fewer workers over time so that the real question is how will we politically divide the vast surplus we will able to produce with fewer workers and what will those without formal work do with their days? But, I’m prepared to be as wrong as I believe those who project a future of public schools and colleges as vocational institutions. What I know I’m not wrong about is the value of liberal education which to me is about learning how to learn. With that, not only is the world a more comprehensible place, but one is also as well equipped as he can be for the unforeseen challenges life will surely bring.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Testing and Standards

The Plainview Board of Education voted last night to not participate in the field testing of the state assessments for the elementary grades. Their action is the latest sign in our community of the growing disaffection with high stakes testing that has no demonstrable purpose other than to convince some people of the existence of accountability schemes for both students and teachers.

In the debate, several board members lamented what they saw as the confusion among many of the Common Core State Standards with the assessments, viewing the two as completely separate issues. While I agree that it is possible, in fact desirable, to talk about high academic standards without discussing high stakes testing, the fact is that the political process that brought us the two combined them from the get-go. Both come from a stream of corporate sponsored initiatives that have sought to propagate the myth that our schools are failing and that it is only through the imposition of national standards and constant assessment that there is any hope of rescuing America from its dramatic academic slide. The Common Core’s spiritual soul is the same testocracy that brought us No Child Left Behind. It’s a failed policy that seeks to punish rather than support – close schools – increase rigor -fire teachers – get tough on all on a system that’s grown slothful and uncompetitive. Its supporters seem to relish failure. It’s as though it provides an opportunity to root out sin.

The time will come when we can have a sensible discussion about standards, a discussion led by educators who bring their knowledge of teaching child development to the table. That can’t happen until we end the connection between standards and testing by getting a testing regime in our state that’s aimed at supporting instruction by pointing teachers to areas of student learning that require additional attention. Once we have ended the curriculum narrowing, culture choking effect of our current testing practices, once we have stifled the corporate raiders of our public institution, once we regain our senses and realize that education is about much more than college and career, once more of our politicians owe their allegiance to their communities rather than their one percent bankrollers, we may have the political space in which to tackle national standards seriously.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

NYSUT Elections – The First Step

Here’s the takeaway from last weekend’s NYSUT convention. NYSUT members are fed up with the measured, halting, accommodationist response of their state union’s leadership to the false charge of failing schools, the imposition and failed implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the maniacal substitution of testing for learning and the public pounding of teachers by corporate leaders bent on privatizing public education. The delegates elected Karen Magee and her entire slate including members of the board of directors, and in so doing clearly said that they want their organization to stand up for our members and energize them to use their to numbers to push back against the forces arrayed against them. With a little over 60 percent of the vote, Magee has a mandate to change NYSUT’s direction and the way it does business.
The challenge to her and her team is daunting. For too long NYSUT has existed on playing the Albany game, putting all its energies into political action, failing to recognize getting members to authorize political action fund deductions from their paychecks neither mobilizes them to vote nor collectively confront the workplace issues that plague them daily. We forgot about being a movement, and as we did the political world began to realize they no longer needed to pay attention to us. I’ve had several experiences where members of the legislature have told me straight out, “I’m not afraid of NYSUT anymore. Your members don’t vote.”

Can the Magee team rebuild NYSUT from the ground up, giving this generation of teachers the same hope that the founders of our union had that if they stood together they could command respectable wages and working conditions and a professional say about the important work they do? I know they will try. I also know that I intend to do everything I can to help them to save our movement.

The education union movement allowed me to make a decent, middleclass living, to practice my craft free of coercion and work with colleagues to better our local schools and public education generally. Though our local union always sought cooperation, when that was not possible, we always had the wherewithal to militantly advance our interests, up to and including striking. I always felt proud to be a teacher and a union member. Today’s teachers need to feel that way again. They will only be able to do so if we are able to revive our movement. Saturday’s NYSUT election was the first step. May there be many more.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

The Creation of Ignorance

If you’re like I am, it seems to you that the world is being overcome by ignorance. Almost half of Americans do not believe in evolution, believing instead that the earth is some 6000 years old. Climate change is seen by many as a left wing conspiracy to undermine the capitalist system. Scary numbers of parents are keeping their kids from being vaccinated against terrible, life threatening diseases. And a president like Barack Obama who once could have passed for a Rockefeller Republican is seen as a socialist bent on nationalizing the private property of Americans, not to mention taking away their guns. If there has been a failure of our public schools, it’s this kind of unbounded ignorance.

I’m thankful to Diane Ravitch for drawing my attention to an academic discipline I have been unfamiliar with – agnotology,the study of the cultural production if ignorance. As part of the WordSpy definition has it, “Ignorance is often not merely the absence of knowledge but an outcome of cultural and political struggle.” In her blog a few days ago, she draws upon scholarship in this area of study to help us understand the forces at work to discredit public education. I know some of my readers routinely read Ravitch, but if you haven’t read this post, it’s a must.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Obama Didn’t Disappoint Me

While many are increasingly disappointed with President Obama’s education policy, a policy predicated on testing and linking the student results to teacher evaluations, disappointment is not the right word to capture my thoughts and feelings. I’m more apt to respond with, “I knew it,”

When Obama was first campaigning in the primaries, he and most of the contenders at the time came to the National Education Association (NEA) Convention seeking our support. He was completely forthright in expressing his support for charter schools and testing. It was clear to anyone who cared to listen that he thought our nation’s schools were failing. Yet the NEA wound up supporting him anyway, even though Hillary Clinton was much better on our issues. From that time on, I’ve come to expect nothing good from Obama on education. Candidly, if Mitt Romney had presented himself as the moderately progressive governor of Massachusetts he actually was, I would have been very tempted to vote for a Republican for president for the first time in my life, knowing that Obama was going to be nothing but trouble. He hasn’t disappointed me.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

The Alignment of the Anti-Deformers

My, my how the direct action of parents and teachers against the Common Core State Standards and the high stakes tests aligned to them has shifted the positions of many of our teacher union leaders. The AFT ‘s Randi Weingarten no longer supports value added teacher evaluation models and while still supporting the Common Core Standards in the abstract is forced to admit that the implementation has been an abject disaster. Even the leadership of NYSUT, as aloof from the day to day realities of classroom teachers as they can be, is realizing they’ve been standing on policy quicksand and are seeking firmer ground. Where the last meeting of the NYSUT Board of Directors debated whether or not we should invite Commissioner King to our convention this spring, the upcoming meeting will entertain a motion of no confidence in the commissioner offered by President Dick Iannuzzi. Where Iannuzzi recently told me that parents were not interested in fewer tests but wanted better assessments, I suspect it won’t be long before his team retreats from absurd position as they are challenges by a slate of challengers running against them.

With many of our politicians beginning to move away from Common Core and the testing that comes with it, with our state and national union leaders beginning to hear the anger of their memberships, with a growing number of parents questioning what their children are experiencing in their classrooms, with a growing number of them opting their children out of all high stakes tests, there is developing and irresistible alignment of political forces to end the so-called reform movement that is deforming public education in America.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Skills Gap?

A central tenet of the corporate school reform movement is the belief that the failure of our public schools is making our nation less economically competitive in a world in which trade has become globalized. The offered “evidence” for this belief is the oft stated unchallenged “fact” that there are many good jobs available in the United States that go begging because employers cannot find workers with the 21st century skills these jobs require.

In a brilliantly eye-opening piece in the January edition of Labor Notes entitled ‘Skills Gap’ a Convenient Myth (Sorry no link available), labor historian Toni Gilpin challenges this conventional wisdom, leaving this reader, at least, convinced of its absurdity. When one stops to think, a lesson learned in high school economics gives us all we need to know to debunk this myth. If there is a skills gap, the wages of skilled workers would rise with the scarcity of their skills. It’s basic supply and demand economics. Yet, we know they haven’t risen. In fact they have stagnated or declined over the last 30 years causing what we are coming to see as the our age’s great social and political problem – rising economic inequality. Where one does see skilled jobs going unfilled, Gilpin says, “…it’s because employers seek high-value workers at discount rates.” Witness what Boeing is attempting to do to its highly skilled workforce. Boeing workers, some of the most highly skilled workers we have, are being threatened with having their jobs outsourced to other parts of the country if they do not agree to management’s demand for wage and pension concessions. How could this happen in an economy where there is a shortage of skilled workers?

So it’s not a failing public schools caused skills gap America is experiencing. It’s a jobs gap. It’s not training that is going to provide the jobs we need. It’s the existence of jobs that provides training. We’ve been encouraged to have this all backwards. Just as we have been encouraged to believe our schools are failing. Get a hold of Gilpin’s piece if you can. It’s a wonderful remedy for the corporate bull that clouds our thinking.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

New York is the Key

I’ve written about my differences with state and national union leaders on what I have termed their wholesale embrace of the Common Core State Standards. I had occasion last week to meet with a group of local union presidents from across the country and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel under the auspices of the National Council of Urban Education Associations (NCUEA), a powerful caucus with in the National Education Association (NEA). I used my opportunity to engage Van Roekel to address what is becoming clearer to me all the time: the difference between the Common Core Standards as they exist as originally promulgated and the Standards as they are being experienced in the school districts and classrooms of our nation.

Acknowledging that the implementation of the Standards in New York has been a disaster, Van Roekel went on to explain that the NEA’s support for them has been driven by internal polling of the membership indicating broad support for them, and, in fact, several of the presidents in attendance spoke to the support of their members. He did say that the members have some concerns about implementation but are generally supportive.

While I was reluctant to accept this report on NEA’s polling, a number of experiences at this conference caused me to change my view. Wherever I went, whatever discussion I participated in at this NCUEA conference, there was a sense in the leaders I met that Common Core Standards are here to stay so that we might as well make the best of them that we can. To be sure there are places in the nation where the Standards are being implemented better than in New York, but that doesn’t mean that they are being enthusiastically embraced by our members. In a world where their leaders offer them no alternatives, it’s sensible to try to make the best of things.

I returned home convinced that the battle against testing and the Common Core Standards increasingly linked to that testing will have to be won in New York first. Here I increasingly meet local leaders who see the lunacy the Standards have become, leaders whose members are fed up with the attempt by corporate interests to take over their profession, standardizing their work and neutering it of its creative challenges. Not only must the battle be won in New York, but the driving energy to victory is going to have to emanate from Long Island where parents are joining with teachers to defend what we all know are some of the best schools in our nation.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

The Deadly Connection of Test Results and Teacher Evaluation

Whether it’s Common Core or some other reformist miracle cure for the social pathology that we believe can be cured if only we have the right kind of schools, once we link student performance on standardized tests to teacher evaluations we will inevitably have a system in which we teach to some test. To think otherwise is to believe that human beings will ignore the threat to their income these tests pose and concentrate their attention instead on ensuring the exposure of their students to rich curriculum experiences that lie outside the narrow scope of these exams. Only those drinking the reformist Kool-Aid believe that. The connection between student test results and teacher evaluation will have to end if we are ever to get out of this mess the reformists have created. I say this as the president of a local teacher union in which 77 percent of the members were rated highly effective and none ineffective.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Talk About the Real Common Core, Not An Abstraction

I’m growing progressively angrier at the blind support of state and national teacher union leaders for the Common Core Standards. The Standards they support are an abstraction contained in a document that bears about as close a relationship to what is happening in our classrooms as s White Castle hamburger to fine dining. My leaders can tell me that the Standards are not a curriculum, but the fact is that the curriculum modules developed by the faceless state ed bureaucracy are becoming the de facto curriculum, as financially strapped school districts, hobbled by a property tax cap, cannot muster the resources to write their own curriculum aligned to the Standards. The Common Core teachers experience is increasingly test driven, scripted instruction that leaves little to their professional judgment and creativity. It is assignments that anger parents who can’t make heads or tails out of them. It is children who are frustrated to the point where many talk openly about not liking school. It is little kids struggling with math problems that they can’t read and drawing the erroneous conclusion that they aren’t good at math.

The Common Core Standards were not developed by teachers, despite claims made that they were. At best, a few teachers, picked through a process unknown to me, got to comment on them, this process lending the Standards the illusion of professional respectability. To me The Common Core Standards are a central plank in a strategy to discredit the public schools financed by the one percenters of our nation and pushed by the Obama administration that has shown itself to be no friends of public schools and the people who work in them. But even if we disagree about the motivation behind the development of the Standards, there is very little room for disagreement about what the Common Core Standards have become in our classrooms. The more our union leaders ignore the Standards as they actually exist, the more their credibility and the credibility of our union is diminished.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

STEM

Can we have a discussion about education these days without hearing the acronym STEM, the shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math, the subjects we are being told that will determine the employability of our children in the years ahead? This belief is being sold to a gullible public by a corporate elite that seeks to substitute training for education – that wants people from their very childhoods prepared for their vision of the modern workplace. An article in this morning’s Times about the decline in the study of the humanities at America’s universities has me thinking about just how insidious this attack on learning has gotten and how those of us who cling to the ideal of a liberal arts education had better get an acronym of our own.

It’s in that frame of mind that I propose that we rally around our own acronym HEART, our shorthand for, ”Humanities Education Advances Reading and Thinking.” HEART is not about training, but rather about making sense of the world and the people in it. HEART is about envisioning a better world and having the knowhow to organize people to call it into being. HEART is the antithesis of training. It’s not about making a living but learning to live. It’s about having HEART.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Forums in Any Format Doom King and Tisch

I watched about an hour of the forum Commissioner King and Chancellor Tisch had in Westchester yesterday and am amazed at the consistency of the criticism of State Ed’s efforts. Even more amazing has been the obvious inability of Dr. King or Tisch to get any superintendents or anybody of any stature to stand up and enthusiastically support the state’s reform efforts. Not only is their reform program intellectually impoverished, but these so-call leaders lack the most elementary political skills. I get the distinct impression that the more forums these pretenders hold, the more energized the public becomes to put a stop to the stupidity being passed off as sound education policy. More and more of the people I meet with young children in the public schools are giving serious consideration to opting their children out. More forums, please!

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Reading Fiction More Important Than Thought

Among the many facets of the Common Core Standards that frankly strike me as stupid and ironically anti-intellectual is the preoccupation with the reading by young students of non-fiction texts. English teachers throughout the country have adjusted their curricula to read significant amounts of the kinds of prose it is thought students will have to read in college and the workplace. Perhaps thought is not quite the correct word.

A sub-text of the Common Core Standards is that the reading of fiction is essentially entertainment, not the sort of rigorous, difficult, manly reading demanded for college readiness and career. How the business types who brought us the standards must feel this morning when they picked up their New York Times to find on the front page coverage of research showing the connection between reading quality fiction and the development of empathy and the greater ability to read the emotions of other human beings – qualities sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence.

Could it possibly be that the core of any good k-12 academic program is what we call the humanities? Could it be that to be adult-ready in a humane, democratic society requires skills developed through repeated exploration of great literature, music and art?

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

A Seat at the Table?

We will never resuscitate the teacher labor movement by currying favor with those who behind euphemisms like “reform” or “college ready” really are bent on the destruction of public education as we have known it, their ultimate goal being a corporate, profit oriented education market. Yet, the leadership of both the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers continue to seek and tout a seat at the table where ironically the demise of public education is cleverly plotted.

I’m on this theme again having read an article in the May 10 NEA today entitled “Six Ways the Common Core is Good For Students.” The article quotes several teachers extolling the virtues of the Common Core . The piece also links to other areas of the NEA website that weave a narrative of how the NEA was part of the development of the Common Core, a narrative clearly written to make it appear as though the voice of teachers was heard.

That teachers voices were not heard, or maybe were not expressed by the National Board Certified teachers the NEA sent to the meetings, becomes very clear when one reads the responses of teachers in the trenches to the article. Not one has anything good to say. And those comments are very much like the ones I hear daily from the members of my local union.

The national unions find themselves living a paradox. Both are trying to get back to their organizing roots. But they don’t seem to want to seriously organize around the issues that excite their members. Nobody I know is marching for the Common Core. Nobody I know is doing labor walks for the Common Core. They are not going to their state capitols to ask for more Common Core. Why don’t the leaders of the NEA know this? Their failure is frightening. In so many ways, our leaders organize opposition to themselves when they seek seats at a table that is set as a trap.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Gates and Our Union

Some of my colleagues were upset by Diane Ravitch’s blog post for yesterday from which they learned that last year our state union accepted a grant from the Gates Foundation to its Education and Learning trust of $500,000. I’m happy for their surprise. I’m even happier for their anger! I hope they channel their anger into action.

While I didn’t know of this, even though I’m a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors, I’m not in any way shocked by this news. That the NEA and AFT have both been altogether too cozy with Gates has been clear for years. Why would anyone be surprised that the AFT’s largest state affiliate would try to translate that coziness into dollars? Where was the outrage two AFT conventions ago when the featured speaker was none other than Bill Gates talking about teacher accountability and how to measure it? Very few people walked out of the hall with me. Our leaders encouraged us to be polite to the man who has done more to discredit teachers and public education than anyone I can think of. Our leaders believed for a time that a seat at Bill Gates’ table would enable us to influence the policy of his foundation, ameliorating the negative influence of his money on our profession. I believe they have started to learn otherwise. We can see them changing course. Their policies haven’t worked. Our members are increasingly demanding action. They are starting to get it.

Both AFT and NEA have gotten considerably more aggressive in the anti-testing campaign. While they can’t yet bring themselves to openly support the Opt-Out movement, it’s beginning to lo0k as though they will have to if we are to maintain any credibility with parents of the children we serve. When AFT President Randi Weingarten calls for a moratorium on “the consequences” of the Common Core Standards because of the slipshod way in which they are being implemented, she surely knows that call will go unheeded and that the only next step open to us will be to join the growing public movement against the Common Core. Both organizations are making serious efforts to get away from service oriented unionism and back to their organizing roots. Witness the call of New York’s leaders for a mass demonstration in Albany on June 8 to demand a sane testing regime and adequate funding of our schools. Better yet, witness the organizing work being done at the local level to make this day a huge success.
So, colleagues, be angry. Let your anger move us to action. Let’s get organized. Let’s start taking some risks to defend public education. We’re going to have to do more than vote and write letters to save the institution we love.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Gates Is At It Again

In a show soon to air on PBS, Bill Gates is said to be going to air his latest teacher improvement plan. Taking a step back from student test scores as a measure of teacher quality, he is now proposing that the country spend 5 billion dollars to put a camera in every classroom so that God knows who can watch and evaluate teachers’ performance. It can’t be long before some data driven dunce comes up with a scale that gives principals 25% of the teacher score, parents 25%, students 25% and taxpayers in the community another 25%.

There are literally countless people working in America’s public schools who know infinitely more about educating children and judging the quality of teaching than Bill Gates. We almost never get to hear them. In America today, the value of an idea is directly proportional to the money behind it.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

The Changed Meaning Of Educate

“Ed”u*cate (?), v. t. [imp. & p. p. Educated (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Educating (?).] [L. educatus, p. p. of educare to bring up a child physically or mentally, to educate, fr. educere to ed forth, bring up (a child). See Educe.] To bring or guide the powers of, as a child; to develop and cultivate, whether physically, mentally, or morally, but more commonly limited to the mental activities or senses; to expand, strengthen, and discipline, as the mind, a faculty, etc.,; to form and regulate the principles and character of…”

The above definition of the verb to educate comes from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary. We would be wise to take it as our public school reform agenda, offering it as a humanistic, sensible alternative the current “reform” model which is the stuffing of age inappropriate curriculum down the throats of our children, testing the endlessly to make sure they’re “growing” to the satisfaction of the corporate world – more like the making of foie gras than rearing children to be healthy, thoughtful ethical citizens of our society.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

Education – The Tools to Know

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a promotion for a talk by a Dr. Yong Zhao a reputed education expert who is going to be talking in my area about education that fosters “creative and entrepreneurial learners.” If those words are in fact Dr. Zhao’s, the he is the latest in a long line of ignorant people who keep yapping at me about what we must do to fix our schools.

While my friend sent me the promo because the good doctor appears to be with me on the issue of the over use of standardized test, I wrote back the following: The last thing I want to do is educate entrepreneurial students. What bull! I want innovators who are socially committed to the improvement of their fellow human beings – people who can find ways to temper the evils of our economic system and the political system it creates that produces great wealth and extreme poverty.

I’m fed up with ignorant people telling me what education should be about. Here’s the thing. If we could raise Thomas Jefferson from the dead, there would be much about the modern world that he wouldn’t immediately understand. However, I believe as an educated person, he would possess all of the tools to find out anything he wanted to know. That’s what a good education is about.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments

The Equity and Excellence Commission Reports

“…America has become an outlier nation in the way we fund, govern and administer K-12 schools, and also in terms of performance. No other developed nation has inequities nearly as deep or systemic; no other developed nation has, despite some efforts to the contrary, so thoroughly stacked the odds against so many of its children. Sadly, what feels so very un-American turns out to be distinctly American.” This is but one of the strikingly frank conclusions of the Equity and Excellence Commission, a federally created group of 27 people from the world of education (including the Presidents of the NEA and AFT) appointed to look at our nation’s public schools and their accomplishments. The report deserves a wide and deep public discussion for what it has to say about the inequitable funding of public education which creates a system in which a young person’s success is in too many instances determined by the zip code in which she is born. To quote the report again, “Our education system, legally desegregated more than a half century ago, is ever more segregated by wealth and income, and often again by race. Ten million students in America’s poorest communities … are having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted by a system that consigns them to the lowest-performing teachers, the most run-down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities considerably lower than what we expect of other students,” Sadly, I suspect, the focus of the report on the impact of poverty and the maldistribution of wealth, income and resources in our country will receive very little media play while the documentation of where are schools are failing will be the big story.

posted by Morty in Uncategorized and have No Comments