Wednesday, January 18, 2012

C'mon baby light my fire

The  UK has banned teaching of the Holocaust so not to "offend" Muslim students ( This notion is NOT new, as America has banned quite a lot of history or even imagery, terms, ideas... think 1985 Orwellian news-speak. American education loves to include special interest groups, getting their hands dirty and messing with education, history, facts

While Diane Ravitch has kind of turned against herself, her older books are chock full of great facts. The Language Police is a case in point, referring to the news-speak in schools.  terms such as yacht-too elitist, polo-too elitist-, senior citizen-demeaning, God and/or devil-too religious, busybody -sexist-, cult-ethnocentric- dialect-ethnocentric, lame-offensive, Middle East-ethnocentric, Founding Fathers-sexist, huts-ethnocentric, insane-offensive, replace with person who has an emotional disorder or psychiatric illness, Old Wives Tale- sexist, tomboy-sexist, West/Western- ethnocentric

Images banned are, women portrayed as teachers, mothers, nurses,secretaries; men playing sports or using tools, girls as peaceful, emotional, warm; boys as competitive, strong,rough; people of color being liberal, Native Americans living in rural setting/the rez, not mainstreamed, doing a rain dance; Asians as intelligent, ambitious, hardworking; Hispanics in urban settings, doing manual labor, elderly people with eyeglasses, canes, orthopedics, being fussy, charming, or absentminded, retired, living with their children, fishing, baking, knitting, reminiscing.

While yes there are some stereotypes and offenses here, isn't the real world a little shocking, offensive?

And no wonder many kids HATE school and call it BORING when so many things that might strike controversy or emotion are banned. When history, books, truth become banal, who wants to have anything to do with learning? Even writing prompts must be stripped of any excitement and become things like,

"Some students at your school expressed an interest in making the school more
attractive by getting rid of the trash on the school grounds.
Write a persuasive essay for your school paper in which you convince the readers of
the importance of getting rid of the trash and making the school more attractive.
Convince your readers through the use of specific reasons and examples."  (An actual essay prompt from a High School Exit Exam)

Bo-ring. How can you even want to write about this? Even s stellar writer will end up sounding trite, using simple sentence structure and vocabulary, sounding very robotic and ignorant, "Trash is littering, which is illegal. Students, have respect for your school. Pick up your trash. It smells bad. It is pollution, so show pride in your school and throw away smelly trash".

Where will these books, essays, learnings get students in life? A person will not be inspired to greatness this way, when learning lacks controversy, passion, facts, emotion. How can our world's next leaders, movers and shakers, founders, inspirational icons, be fostered? How can a child's joy of wonderment, curiosity, discovery, intellect be lit in these conditions?

Also, if history is partially banned, or written without pure fact (I mean, if Native Americans cannot be depicted as living on reservations, doing rain dances, or respecting nature, what is to be learned of their history? The Native Americans were in America before Europeans. They....ummmm...did stuff, cultural stuff. Then they ummm decided to mainstream in US culture....those reservations? No, the Europeans didn't create those and no one lives there. The end." Ha!

Denying history- which is controversial, it does contain horrible acts such as the Holocaust- is plain WRONG. Without knowledge of history, we are doomed to repeat it. And a caged bird cannot sing a song of freedom if that bird does not know it is caged, and does not know what oppression, or for that fact freedom, really is. That bird is to live its caged existence being just....caged.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Whining teachers

While I agree that schools want to hire the cheapest teachers, and that not having a class of your own is not desirable.... this article really angered me. Credentialed, laid off teachers in California are competing for part-time teacher aide jobs, at about $15,000 year, and yet these teachers have the audacity to complain about making $100,000 year subbing. I have no kind words for these people, or for the administration/union that wastes needed money keeping these unhappy employees.

Teaching Programs

I was reading the CTEN newsletter ( and reading about Larry Sand's experiences in teaching colleges (  and began to reflect on my own. What did I learn? Having taken a one year program for my K-8 credential, plus some courses to clear it, plus a few courses for my English credential, and then a two year MA and credential program for Administration, I've spent a good amount of my adult life at the same university in teacher prep programs.

The courses I took varied in decency. Many courses were theory, or even worse, "fluff". Sure, theory has its place, you need to know it somewhat as it applies to how and why things are done, but too much focus on theory takes away from applicable learning. "Fluff" courses were "fun" and a breeze to pass, ones where you were to be "reflective" and write about self-exploration, your experiences, analyzing your self and part in this world....classes such as Educational Pluralism and Interpersonal Relationships. I enjoy fluff classes for some odd reason, but they have little value; what I learned in those courses has barely been applied to my practice as a teacher. After filling one's schedule with theory and fluff, there were few courses that were applicable, including practice of teaching, tools, tips, tricks of the trade.

Of the applicable courses, some only seemed applicable; I think of a curriculum course where we were to develop a unit- 10-12 lessons, recognizing all learning modalities, major minority cultures, "level" of learner (i.e. English Learner, Special Ed, Gifted) and bringing in an interdisciplinary flair (i.e. a math lesson which includes history and science), all with to no use of a textbook. Another course had us create something like 50 cards that each represented a different elementary level book/novel/picture book that "met" diversity- i.e. a book about immigrants, homosexuality, Native American culture, dyslexia, or even "problems" i.e. divorce, adoption, bullying.... all through a positive light.  Now, I love creating curriculum and deviating from a prescribed lesson, but, well, this is not reality. I waltzed into my first teaching position with these aforementioned lessons and the like, ready to take on the world, only to encounter an opposing reality, a place with 100% scripted, nothing else, curriculum, and testing/assessment gone wild. Everything I'd learned, created, presented, is still collecting dust in my bookshelf.

I did take one class that was exceptionally, gasp, useful. We did case studies of what would you do if.... (real life cases, too) and we practiced contacting superintendents, citing ed code, analyzing curriculum, etc.... things that were applicable! In fact, I used what I learned during an expulsion case at work- having never expelled students but suddenly facing 5 cases with stakeholder pull, we needed a streamlined process and paper trail RIGHT THEN and guess what? I had it handled. Such stories are far and few between.

Also, while a few courses had challenging professors (and add in that you work at a charter school, when having to do coursework regarding union policies or other non-charter thing....a challenge), many were fact, probably half were as easy if not easier than my BA courses! So, if the rumor is correct that the bottom third of college grads go on to be teachers, and those teachers receive an education not pertinent to the job, wonder our education is abysmal, but who knows, maybe it is on purpose. Oh, but to be fair I did have a huge challenge when obtaining my MA - my lit review/white paper. I worked and worked and worked at that thing, with nearly 30 pages of cited, double cited, et al.... it was a challenge, but I am also proud to say my lit review was "exemplary, what a MA level paper should attain to be". 

Back to the notion of not learning much from my coursework... not only did we not really learn much applicable to today's educational climate, but we also learned nothing about classroom management which is a HUGE part of teaching these days. Gone are the days where Billy and Susie behaved in school because mommy and daddy wanted them to, or because mommy and daddy and the whole town would know Billy tripped Susie, right after it happened. Now, kids are the "teacher's problem", but with so many procedures and laws (many which are indeed necessarry), a teacher cannot reprimand a student. I heard of a special ed student who had caught his classroom on a year, slugged students, threatened the lives of school personnel, brought a knife to school.....but because he was on an IEP, the school didn't want to do anything about it because it could go against his IEP. He'd been suspended 15 times in not-quite-a-school year, and the staff and especially students feared school because of him.

Classroom management, when barely brushed over in school, supports Skinner-style positive reinforcement, you know, gold stars and candies for being a good little boy or girl. Never do they mention that this may not work for all students (and besides, is rewarding a child, always, for what is expected- kindness- good for society or detrimental?). Never do you learn what to do when a child breaks into your classroom and urinates and defecates all over the furniture. Never do you learn how to deal with hard-core gang members dealing drugs in the classroom. Never do you learn what to do when a child calls you a BIT _ _ and throws things at you and then runs out of the school building. You do not learn what to do when a child threatens suicide in front of you, or when a child says, during a 9-11 ceremony, that he'd like to do what they did but blow up the school with everyone in it....given in explicit detail. What do you do when a brawl breaks out in the classroom? When a knife is shown in class? When a child is absent more than present, failing, and the parent never gets involved, or tells you to FU_ _ off, the kid's your problem? Or how about when a parent defends their child and calls you a liar, that you cannot teach (I mean, surely their snowflake turned in every assignment, and it was 100% perfect, right?), and threatens to take it to the superintendent? What do you do when your class refuses to do work for an entire week because other staff members, who are losing their jobs, have bribed them with pizza parties if they can "shake things up a little and make the teachers keeping their jobs, lose them too?" What do you do when a child bites himself so bad he is gushing blood all over the classroom? Do education courses cover these things? Can I just promise gold stars if the kids stop dealing drugs, give children a lollipop if they promise not to pee on my chair? No. Education courses exist in a vacuum, another world where children are perfect little innocent robotic angels.

Oh. And my image here, is a word cloud of the key terms used in course descriptions for an MA in Curriculum and Instruction, which is by far the most popular MA for teachers in my area, as it is the closest to a "general education" MA and is "the easiest program". So instead of learning how to apply rigor and relevance, how to help children grow academically, be all that they can be, embrace an educational enlightenment much like our Founding Fathers, we're instead training teachers to...well....not do all that. We focus too much on culture. I am not the least bit racist or against other cultures- heck, I majored in Sociology/Anthropology and "culture" is something I find fascinating. I do think we need to realize we're not 1600 colonial America where we're all from the same place, same religion, same ancestry. We are a global world now. But when this replaces learning, facts, building blocks...or even just becomes the main focus, "more important", we lose out. Sure, our textbooks may be culturally sensitive and not portray elderly with walking canes, or Hispanic people working, or a mom staying at home. Sure, our textbooks may include problems like, "D'Andre and Ranjith are making Tres Leches. They have to double the recipe....." or what have you. But this does not stand for multicultural appreciation or recognition. If suddenly your child decides not to be a criminal, and rather a neurosurgeon because the textbook once recognized his culture, then we have deeper societal problems. If children are taught a non-offensive, politically correct world where women can't wear skirts and a Black person cannot live in an apartment, or the Holocaust must be skipped over for fear of offense, what kind of world are we creating? And why are teaching colleges promoting it?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Just a quick note to self and others, when I taught scripted curriculum/Reading First/Houghtin Mifflin, I attended mandatory LETRS training. I hated it, every bit of what I knew and felt, was against it. It was making learning rote, trite, boring, robotic, very reminiscent of Outcome Based Education/Mastery learning. They even claimed that all students learn the same way, that multiple learning modalities were non existant, that their direct instruction style learning (which is a style of learning few "have") was the best because it was research based....research done by their subsidiaries and partners and themselves.

LETRS is via Sopris learning which states on their website,
Sopris, a Cambium Learning™ company, was founded on the belief that all students can achieve. The company specializes in providing research-based curricula, targeted interventions, assessment, positive school climate resources, and professional services to educators working with preK-12 students who have special needs.
Committed to scientifically based practices, Sopris only publishes programs that are theoretically sound and proven effective with students who are at risk. In addition, Sopris West provides comprehensive services, including in-depth staff development to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom, and partnerships with states and school districts dedicated to schoolwide reform through its Closing the Achievement Gap Initiative.

Mission Statement

To positively impact the education of children and youth, particularly those at risk for school failure, by providing educators and parents with practical, affordable, and theoretically sound products, programs, and professional services that promote safe, civil, and achieving environments.
The authors/creators of LETRS are Dr. Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D.Deborah Glaser, Ed.D.Carol Tolman, Ed. DNancy Hennessy, M.Ed.Susan L. Hall, Ed.D.Marcia Davidson, Ph.D.Carrie Hancock, Ph.D.María Elena Argüelles, Ph.D.Scott K. Baker, Ph.D.Lucy Hart Paulson, Ed.D., CCC-SLPAnthony Fierro, Ed.D.J. Ron Nelson, Ph.D.

They back up their "research" below, people/books I want to look into to see the "connections", of course AFT supports it, do they actually support what's best for children? Nah.

Ah ha! Before delving into "research", Lousie Moats works with neuro psychology- she is a psychologist and studied human development. I'm sorry, but psychology does not belong in education, it can be used for evil, mind control, shaping of children. No no no. And gasp she is a grad. of Harvard. (Seems every "change agent" went to Harvard, Stanford, U of Chicago...the big liberal pricy universities all the elite/status quo attended.) Maryann Wolf, another author not listed here but on the website and below as "research" ; she is a Harvard grad and psychologist as well.

American Federation of Teachers. (1999).
Teaching reading is rocket science: What
expert teachers of reading should know and be able to do
. Washington, DC:


span style="font-size: xx-small;">Bos, C., Mather, N., Dickson, S., Podhajski, B., & Chard, D. (2001). Perceptions and
knowledge of pre-service and in-service educators about early reading instruction.
Annals of Dyslexia, 51
, 97–120.
D enton, C. A., & Vaughn, S. (2003). Bringing research-based practice in reading

intervention to scale.
Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18(3), 201–211.
Fletcher, J. M., & Lyon, G. R. (1998). Reading: A research-based approach. In W. Evers
What's gone wrong in America's classrooms (pp. 49–90). Stanford, CA:
Hoover Institution Press.
Foorman, B. R., & Moats, L. C. (2004). Conditions for sustaining research-based
practices in early reading instruction.
Remedial and Special Education, 25(1), 51–
Foorman, B. R., Chen, D-T., Carlson, C., Moats, L., Francis, D. J., & Fletcher, J. M.
(2003). The necessity of the alphabetic principle to phonemic awareness
Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 16(4), 289–324.
Gersten, R., Chard, D., & Baker, S. (2000). Factors enhancing sustained use of researchbased
instructional practices.
Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33(5), 445–461.
Gersten, R., Morvant, M., & Brengelman, S. (1995). Close to the classroom is close to

the bone: Coaching as a means to translate research into classroom practice.
Exceptional Children, 62
(1), 52–66.
Gersten, R., Vaughn, S., Deschler, D., & Schiller, E. (1997). What we know about using
research findings: Implications for improving special education practice.
of Learning Disabilities, 30
(5), 466–476.

Hill, H. B. (2000).
Literacy instruction in teacher education: A comparison of teacher
education in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America.
Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Columbia University, New York.
Learning First Alliance. (1998, 2003).
Every child reading: An action plan. Retrieved
March 22, 2004, from
6Learning First Alliance. (2000).
Every child reading: A professional development guide.
Washington, DC: Author.

Lyon, L. G. (1998).
The NICHD research program in reading development, reading
disorders, and reading instruction: A summary of research findings.
presented at Keys to Successful Learning: A National Summit on Research in
Learning Disabilities.
Mathes, P. G., Torgesen, J. K., & Allor, J. H. (2001). The effects of peer-assisted literacy
strategies for first-grade readers with and without additional computer-assisted
instruction in phonological awareness.
American Educational Research Journal,

(2), 371–410.
McCardle, P. and Chhabra, V. (2004).
The voices of evidence from reading research.
Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes.
McCutchen, D., & Berninger, V. (1999). Those who know, teach well: Helping teachers
master literacy-related subject matter knowledge.
Learning Disabilities Research
& Practice, 14
(4), 215–226.

McCutchen, D., Abbott, R. D., Green, L. B., Beretvas, S. N., Cox, S., Potter, N. S.,
Quiroga, T., & Gray, A. (2002). Beginning literacy: Links among teacher
knowledge, teacher practice, and student learning.
Journal of Learning
, 35, 69–86.
Miller, B., Lord, B., & Dorney, J. (1994).
Staff development for teachers: A study of
configurations and costs in four districts. Summary report.
Newton, MA:
Education Development Center.
Moats, L. C. (1994). The missing foundation in teacher education: Knowledge of the
structure of spoken and written language.
Annals of Dyslexia, 44, 81–104.
Moats, L. C. (2002).
Blueprint for professional development. Reading First Leadership
Washington, DC: United States Department of Education.
Moats, L. C., & Lyon, G. R. (1996). Wanted: Teachers with knowledge of language.

Topics in Language Disorders, 16
(2), 73–86.
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (2000).
Report of
the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based
assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for
reading instruction
. (NIH Publication No. 00-4769). Washington, DC: United
States Government Printing Office.
7Pressley, M. (1998).
Elementary reading instruction that works: Why balanced literacy

instruction makes more sense than whole language or phonics and skills
. New
York: Guilford Press.
Rayner, K., Foorman, B. R., Perfetti, C. A., Pesetsky, D., and Seidenberg, M. (2001).
How psychological science informs the teaching of reading.
Science in the Public Interest, 2
(2), 31–74.
Shankweiler, D., Crane, S. Katz, L., Fowler, A. E., Liberman, A. M., Brady, S. A.,
Thornton, R., Lindquist, E., Dreyer, L., Fletcher, J. M., Stuebing, K. K., Shaywitz,
S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A. (1995). Cognitive profiles of reading-disabled children:
Comparison of language skills in phonology, morphology, and syntax.
Psychological Science, 6,
Shankweiler, D., Lundquist, E., Dreyer, L. G., & Dickinson, C. C. (1996). Reading and
spelling difficulties in high school students: Causes and consequences.
Reading and
Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 8,
Shankweiler, D., Lundquist, E., Katz, L., Stuebing, K. K., Fletcher, J. M., Brady, S.,
Fowler, A., Dreyer, L. G., Marchione, K. E., Shaywitz, S. E., & Shaywitz, B. A.
(1999). Comprehension and decoding: Patterns of association in children with
reading difficulties.
Scientific Studies of Reading, 31, 24–53, 69–94.
Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998).
Preventing reading difficulties in
young children: Committee on the prevention of reading difficulties in young
children, Commission on behavioral and social sciences in education, National
research council.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Stanovich, K. E. (2000).
Progress in understanding reading: Scientific foundations and
new frontiers
. New York: Guilford Press.
Torgesen, J. K., Alexander, A. W., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Voeller, K., Conway,
T. (2001). Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading
disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional
Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34(1), 33–58, 78.
Torgesen, J. K., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Alexander, A. W., & Conway, T. (1997).
Preventive and remedial interventions for children with severe reading
Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal, 8(1), 51–61.
Wolf, M. (2001). Reading fluency and its intervention.
Scientific Studies of Reading,

5(3), 211–239.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Education: Comply Conform Control

Two of the four functions of Mastery Learning are: Extra: whole agenda of acculturation,
social roles, social integration, get the kids to participate in social unit, affective; and Hidden:
a system of supervision and control which restrains behavior of kids; the outcome of the hidden agenda should be the fostering of social responsibility or compliance.

Spoke by William Spady, "father of Outcome Based Education" Sociologist, Employee at West Ed (then called Far West Laboratory for Ed. Research). Sociologist at the National Institude of Education, Assoc. Executive Director for the American Association for School Administration

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

P 16

The P-16 movement (Pre-K through College) is not a "good thing", for many reasons which I hope to delve into at some other time. I found a quote today though that really sums it up, from editor and author Barbara Morris who quotes a speech by Mary Berry, Asst. Secretary to the U.S. Office of Education, 1977...

"we  have work/study
programs and  the  U.S. Office of Education is working on development of Lifelong Learning
programs—another Chinese import. Such programs will enable people to work and study
their entire lives for the benefit of the state."

To know all about P-16 visit

Saturday, January 7, 2012

NCLB, RTTT, Federal intrusion in education is ILLEGAL...

....Here's the proof,


Provisions Act (GEPA), was enacted in 1970 and reads as follows:

Sec. 432. No provision of any applicable program shall be construed to authorize any department,

agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision,

or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any

educational institution, school, or school system, or over the selection of library resources,

textbooks, or other printed or published instructional materials by any educational institution

or school system, or to require the assignment or transportation of students or teachers in

order to overcome racial imbalance. (20 U.S.C. 1232a) Enacted April 18, 1970, P.L. 91–230,

Title IV, sec. 401(a)(10), 81 Stat.169.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Goal of Education

Edward Thorndike wrote, "for a large number of children the possibility of being a great benefactor of humanity, as teacher, physician, moral leader or the like, is nil....... if one restricted their education to preparation for the loftier would be giving them an education unfitted to their capacities and to what the world needs of them."
What is the goal of education? Why do we educate our children? It seems that the goal is black or white- to enlighten people and encourage a life-long quest for knowledge, or to develop a person who is prepared for adulthood and the workforce, with a "place" in society. For some reason, schools seem to exist in a vacuum where, instead of finding the best of these tenets, they ignore them altogether, but claim the opposite. The Progressive movement brought about a lot of educational reform, and while I am a harsh critic of the movement's impact on education, I will briefly say some good came out of it - but that is for another post, another day. The Progressive movement yearned to implement a fair and equal education (doesn't that sound great?) in what I feel were very segregated, stereotypical, racist means. Vocational education is a major Progressive reform, and one would think, how wonderful, preparing students who are not college bound, to find a great job, enter the workforce with skills, and what a great place for non-traditional students. Heck, I can agree with that, as I have had students who ended up in apprenticeships and the like and succeeded beyond even their own imagination, so yes, college is not for everyone, and all children deserve a education to best "fit" them, where they can blossom. However, if we decide for the student which "pathway" to take- college bound, vocational ed, etc, isn't that denying them rights and freedoms, and isn't that being judgemental? The "evil" of vocational ed is that when created, the Progressives made it specifically for the "negro", the girls, the children in poverty. They did not want the downtrodden to aspire to a broken, hopeless dream of being a successful, college-bound, elitist (because recall, the IQ and standardized tests "proved" that these students were less-than). I do not see any "good intentions" in the drive behind vocational ed, but only if you look deep, under the covers, do you see it for what it is- institutionalized racism, classism, and control. The majority of people- myself included, once- think that vocational ed is, as I said, "wonderful, preparing non traditional students for success". Too bad it isn't that way. And now, with NCLB and the pressure to have all students "proficient" in the standardized tests, there isn't any room for vocational ed, whether good or bad. Vocational ed cannot be assessed via a standardized test, and it is not standardized, therefore it is worthless in our current educational climate. Why teach a child how to administer a blood test on a patient, or dismantle an engine, when you HAVE to teach them the quadratic equation and stoichiometry, to pass the test?
Wait, you may say to me, I thought you were for an education that has rigor, a private-school, college level, enlightenment era style education, and yet you're flip flopping here. To defend myself, I believe education should teach students some life and job skills, as well as curiosity, knowledge, etc. I think education is not black and white in that aspect. I have had students who leave high school completely unprepared for adulthood. In fact, I know it first-hand. I took the "smart" path and enrolled in AP courses and graduated in the top 5% of my high school class, and yet I hadn't a clue how to determine a tip or discount, how to file taxes, how to dress for success, etc. I do NOT think, as some Progressives did, that education should only teach these skills, or only teach them to select students. I feel life skills are a must in schools, but not a focus- perhaps it should be a one semester course. I think education should indeed educate, enlighten, inspire... everyone. Sure, some students cannot master or do not wish to master the quadratic equation or stoichiometry, but that does not mean that you simply dumb everything down enough that learning is dull, rote, disconnected, nor does it mean you force the child into learning it. I recall in high school that I despised my Algebra II class, and saw no point to it. Whenever I'd ask anyone why I HAD to take it, I was told either "well, you have to as a college pre-req" or "well, it exercises your mind." Sorry, but, no. I have never used ANY of my Algebra II math in life, so why did I sit and waste an entire years, an hour a day, in a pointless class? Why is it I graduated with knowledge of cosine and vector graphs and yet, I had completely forgotten how to divide a fraction or calculate tax, because those skills were reserved for the "dummy" group that got the privilege of taking consumer math- math you can use! I do not advocate removing algebra from schools, but perhaps we should give students a choice in their education. I'd have gladly chosen consumer math over algebra II, writing for publishing over English I, and the like - and I think I'd have enjoyed school more, and got more out of it. However, just because I would have taken "dummy math" does not mean I should get a dumbed down education, as Progressives may have proposed. There should be rigor, relevance, critical thinking, hands on learning, application, freedom, choice, etc in ALL courses. And in case it hasn't been emphasized, school staff and "experts" should NOT have any say in what courses or pathways a child decides upon, or else we'll just have reform on paper and be back to marginalizing students and putting the "unfit" (aka minority or low income) students into the "dummy classes" which solves nothing. A child should own their education since it is for, well, them. A cooperation of parent and student can help determine coursework. Socialization, preparation for life, etc can be a product of education, but not the goal. Education should give students the tools for living, but that can be approached through choice and curriculum. Who says consumer math cannot have project based learning as a final project, where students file taxes or balance a workplace budget or what have you? Why can't a basic American History course teach - instead of "social studies"- the connectedness of historical events, the philosophies behind them, the hidden histories....and the ability for a student to determine on their own what they believe to be the "real" history, the two sides to every story? Why can't we offer every child a "world class", private- school, college level style of education, tailored to each child's needs based on what THEY decide, not what some biased exam, given just once, determines? Why can't we teach our students to think critically, analyze, interpret, connect, compose, create.... why can't we teach students to develop their individual ideas and dreams, to think for themselves, to learn what they deem valuable?

Ah...yes...because this would shake up the Progressive Utopia, the idea that only the top few percent of people can succeed, rule, manage, or think. If suddenly the masses thought for themselves and began to question the world around them, the master planned society that's been built up for over a century would be dismantled. Since the masses are too unfit to do things on their own, pandemonium would break out! Heck, we'd end up with a world reminiscent of the Age of Englightenment or Colonial America, yet modern. I think this strikes fear in the ruling elite's eyes. Also, as they said, why should a "dummy", say, a fast food cashier, know, or need to know, about the philosophies of the Founding Fathers or the beauty of iambic pentameter in Shakespeare's sonnets? I mean, what good would that do them, when their place in society is a cashier? Wouldn't this knowledge be a waste? I think not. I say, let the cashier decide if it is a waste or not. Education is not a product that must be used in its entirety, there will be some bits and pieces not used, not applicable to a career, but that have some other intrinsic value only the user, the educated, knows of.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Blind Trust in Schools

Often, if you ask a parent how they feel about their child's education (if their response is positive). you get something like, "good, my child gets good grades and seems happy." Many parents have a blind trust in schools and their teachers. I'm not bashing teachers, since I've been a teacher. However, while teachers are educated in education, they are not all "experts" in regards to every child. With 20 - 200 students per day, for approximately 180 days a year, for one to six hours per day, they certainly aren't experts on the precise needs, wants, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, of each child. It is virtually impossible. Yet, so many parents just blindly believe teachers. They do not inquire into what a child is exactly being taught, what they are absorbing and believing, what they are forgetting or finding worthless. Many parents just figure that if the child passes the school year or course, and isn't getting into major behavioral or academic trouble, that their child is succeeding and that what they are succeeding in is valuable and indicative of the quality of education. Just because a child is getting a decent grade, does not mean they are learning either skills to use in adulthood, or knowledge to help transform the future, allow a new age of intellectual enlightenment. I know of teachers, far and few between but enough that each child has had one, that grades very liberally, giving "As for effort", meaning, if you show up and act the part, you get an A, even if you gain nothing from the experience. I've had students with As and Bs who cannot even write a paragraph at a 3rd grade level, in high school. The solution is not a stronger reliance on test data, because memorization of isolated facts is but one method of evaluation, one type of knowledge. How often do we, as adults, rely on what we do know, but ask others for advice, research it, try it out before making our decision? This is not "data driven instruction/information" as schools see it. Education is an ongoing, in-depth partnership. Attending one parent conference a year does not make a partnership. Parents know their child more than the teacher, since they see them more often and have raised them. They know what makes their child "tick". Educators know how to educate. Together, they can help discuss and collaborate to help a child academically. A parent can also supplement education at home- so many parents rely on education to only happen inside school doors, and most education should actually occur outside of school, school being the supplement or support. Relying on education from a teacher only also means that certain things, due to the standards and curriculum only teaching certain things, make it so that a student/child only learns biased, limited facts and opinions. Parents should ask what is being taught, how, and why. Just like the food pyramid includes different "categories" to lead to health, education has its own "categories" where school is just one piece of the whole picture leading to one's "education", and if someone eats just meats, and only pork without question because it is what some "expert" says to eat, they will end up unhealthy, with deficiencies. So is education.