Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'd resign, if I could

I want to follow in the footsteps of my hero, John Taylor Gatto, and resign from education...no, resign from schooling. To see his resignation, a powerful piece, go to http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/prologue2.htm

Anyways. I would resign if I could. I am so "done" with the current education system for more reasons than I can easily list. And yet...it is like a drug, no, Stockholm Syndrome, I sympathise with my master and ask for more. When I walk away,  I find myself crawling back, begging, whimpering "please sir, can  have s'more?"

What the heck is wrong with me? I am so a part of this nexus of subordination and control that I keep becoming a part of it, willingly. When I completed high school (four years of torture, begging to go to continuation school or other alternative ed to just get the **** out of school) I almost did not go to college. I ended up going and sure, college has its own institutional issues and controls yet it offered the tiniest slice of freedom and I loved it. I ended up in college for eight years getting different degrees and certificates, because my thirst for knowledge was so strong...and still is.  I was not blind to the issues in higher ed of course, or schooling for that matter. I went to college, swearing up and down to just finish my BA and do something- anything- that was as far removed from school as possible. And yet, I, a sick and addicted subservient being, decided to become a teacher.
I feel constrained and cannot actually "teach" how I want, with standards, testing, unions, the entire system which this entire blog is about. I am tired of students so beaten down by the system that they do not know how to have an opinion, create something, imagine, or predict...all they want s the "right answer" right then and there and easily. I am tired of being the black sheep in my philosophy, the only one really questioning things. I am tired of being so fearful of losing my job and being ostracised that  I too, keep pushing the system down children's throats. I'm tired of saying "no" or "Because the state makes me teach this".   And yet, I keep at it.

I am no angel here. I am no hero or leader. I am not a change agent. If I could, I would demand the school change its grading system and philosophy, and we would read 1984 and parts of John Taylor Gatto and articles from Alex Jones and I would open their eyes to challenge a system that expects them to misbehave, give up, hate learning, and really only learn what is required to be managed and not question authority or create one's own destiny. There is so much I would do, but then I'd be fired. No...they have to keep me until the end of the school year, but I'd be given the worst kids, no prep time, I'd have district officials in my classroom 24/7 writing me up. I'd have irate parents. Teachers would only speak to me to belittle me and physically and emotionally bully me until I was forced to quit. Quitting means no unemployment, and especially, no credential.. My permanent record would be tarnished for life and  I would literally never ever be allowed to teach again. I'd be in newspapers, my house would get egged, I'd get hate mail and death threats.

But, so what? Why don't  I do it? I mean if I am so sick of all of this, and want my voice heard, why not? Because the system has taught me to obey. Because I don't know what else to do to support my family, with no other skills or experience aside from teaching, a job at Mc Donald's won't cut it. Because I am afraid of failure. Because I am afraid I will not follow through. Because I am no angel.

dumbing down literature

One of the main reasons  I became an English teacher was for my own love and passion of reading and writing. So let's just say the Common Core Standards do all in their power to squelch this passion in myself and others. Suddenly, a window of discovery to other worlds and views, a look back in time and into the future (literature) is  shut. A method of expression and wonderment (writing, especially creatively or in narrative form) is stopped.

But on to my point here; even with "regular", pre-Common Core, literature has been stripped, white-washed,  dumbed down, and made into a dull and confusing piece everyone wishes to avoid.

No longer do students read Grapes of Wrath or Antigone, but excerpts of it, not even written by the original author but re-written by some textbook-bribed "curriculum committee" or what have you.

I am to teach a unit on myths and legends, and I got excited about Greek mythology.  I looked into the textbook, labeled "universal access" (Often used to "scaffold" ie dumb things down for those who may need it such as those learning English or learning disabled....but often used for all students) and I was filled with dread. The myth of Theseus, a 112 page novel, was concentrated, summarized, and butchered into a 7 page story, leaving out the flowery classical language, ambiguities, descriptive references, and engaging tales.

I am to teach this stupid version and even I want to throw the "Universal Access" version into the garbage and say, "teeeeacher, why do we have to read this? It's sooo boooring. I don't understand what it is saying."

An engaging story within a story- Medea, the Golden Fleece, the Minataur, and other legend references circling around Theseus are whittled down into mere sentences or paragraphs, so that if you don't already know the tales, you are  left clueless, and how would you know these tales when you're not taught them? The moral and historical lessons are summarized and whitewashed even worse than in an history textbook, and the "mini novel" transitions so quickly, summarized so strangely, that anything of value or worth s deleted and all is left is a dull story that makes no sense.

To illustrate, I must include some excerpts from the textbook version. And remember, this is pre-Common Core, so it can only go downhill from here.

It can be imagined how Greece rang with praises of the young man who cleared the land of these banes to travelers. When he reached Athens, he was an acknowledged hero, and he was invited to a banquet by the King, who of course was unaware that Theseus was his son. In fact, he was afraid of the young man's great popularity, thinking he might win the people over to make him King, and he invited him with the idea of poisoning hm. The plan was not his, but Medea's, the heroine of the Quest of the Golden Fleece, who knew through er sorcery who Theseus was. She had fled Athens when she left Corinth in her winged car, and she had acquired great influence over Aegeus, which she did not want disturbed by the appearance of a son. But as she handed him the poisoned cup, Theseus, wishing to make himself known at once to his father, drew his sword. The King instantly recognized it and dashed the cup to the ground. Medea escaped, as she always did, and got safely away to Asia.

Perhaps just I alone am confused here. I think, if I were a student new to mythology, I would have no clue who Medea and this golden fleece thing was...how does it relate to what is happening here? Why should I care? Why does Medea always escape? Why does Medea want to poison Theseus? She knows him from sorcery but that means little. Why does the king listen to Medea? Why dd she flee Corinth and why does she have a winged car? And so many more questions abound. I'm left just a bit confused, as the story progresses so quickly without detail, passion, or "buy in". I think, who are these characters and why do I care?

A classic, engaging tale, a story full of moral lessons and cultural-historical context, is tossed away. Now it is just some brief story, a mandatory read, where we read, answer the questions, and move on. You cannot easily even create an engaging lesson with essential questions (discussions on betrayal, heroism, societal values etc) because there is nothing to draw from. Read and move on.

And soon we won't even have that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Common Core: The New Big Brother

Ever see a rather bi-partisan interview, and with Glenn Beck? Yeah it exists, naysayers, and s pertinent for all parents, teachers, students etc to view...to get a shady view into the current climate and future of American Education, and how it is being dumbed down and becoming an arm of Big Brother. The interview given by Glenn Beck regarding Common Core Standards can be found at http://truthinamericaneducation.com/common-core-state-standards/glenn-beck-outs-the-common-core/ and I provide my own commentary. I am including my commentary and the moment in the video that inspired it

0:34- If indeed we are all judged by the same mediocre national benchmark (I 99% guarantee we will) then yes....no one can be "best", we will just aspire for mediocrity which will likely decline, so eventually we aspire for very little academically. Dumbing us down for sure, folks...right here right now.

1:19 True true true, by high school, 70% of content in Language Arts will NOT be "literature" in the sense as we know it. Already students read white0washed, watered down excerpts from great (and not so great) novels and the like; now they will barely even get that. Instead they get workplace documents and informational text. When I heard this I thought, wow, cool! I could teach a unit on Grapes of Wrath- we would read the whole novel, then I can bring in old and new newspaper articles about economic recession/repression, read blogs, skype, make blogs, do all this cool stuff with this addition of informational text. But, I am wrong. t really is looking at instruction manuals, phone books, resumes, and the like. Yes, that has a part in real life, that is not the argument. But how intellectually challenging and stimulating can an instruction manual be, especially since you aren't constructing a widget but merely answering multiple choice questions about the manual itself? How will this produce the next Einsteins and Steven Hawkings? Oh, it won't. It will just produce workforce drones. Part of the P-20 school to work cradle to grave pipeline, sponsored by the US government and big business.

1:51 Yes! discovery of content! That sounds like when you read something and get ah "aha" moment and start googling and researching and a whole other world of knowledge opens up as you read, experiment, test, and question. But instead, you are given the content. That's it. The Gettysburg Address does not delve deep into the societal issues of the time and a relationship to something today, it does not make it relevant. You read it because. Why? Because. Now answer the multiple choice question, kids. Let's move on. Anyone else flabbergasted by this? (Sadly I am NOT. Our schools today follow this model very often. Common Core just ensures it happens. always.)

2:37 Yep. Federal control of education. Which is, by the way, illegal, against the GEPA act, but surely they won't include that in the "informational text" taught. See the GEP:A Act here http://3rseduc.blogspot.com/2011/03/illegality-of-many-current-educational.html

2:47 Homeschooled students might not pass the SAT, because they did not "learn" the common core way. This means it's my way or the highway, public school common core or nothing. You WILL OBEY. And, since these SATs and other exams must change to reflect Common Core, guess who benefits? The ETS (http://3rseduc.blogspot.com/search/label/ETS) , the textbook companies (we need new tests and texts!), skinner style mind conditioning... and who does not benefit? The people. Our future.
And to reiterate the homeschool point, home school could be required to teach common core. There may be no escape. Resistance is futile.

6:32 yes....CCS (Common Core Standards) "sound' like they promote rigor, relevancy, real learning but they DO NOT. CCS serves as government getting an even tighter grip on, really, thought control. 1984, anyone?

Part II of the video, data, how  I love to hate you. Mentioned more than once is a data collection "wish list" which can be found in a blog post of mine, dated 2011 (so it's nothing new folks) at http://3rseduc.blogspot.com/2011/10/big-bro-knows-everything-thank-you.html I apologize for shoddy formatting but nevertheless feel it is important to view to really understand what Glenn Beck, his guests, and myself are trying to get at.

0:32 well how can you opt out? Every piece of paperwork you submit or fill out to enroll in school is scrutinized. A child's birth date and place, parents names, occupation, address, yearly earnings, languages spoken, level of education, social security numbers, government assistance enrollment, health and immunization records are all collected. Soon, they will be disseminated. You cannot enroll a child without such information. You must obey.

2:02 Heard that? Information at the student level will not be shared except...well...actually it will be, but shh! Don't tell!

2:25  yes FERPA has been altered (glad I'm not the only one to know) http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/parentoverview.pdf and http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-12-02/pdf/2011-30683.pdf can send you, the reader on a little quest to find how FERPA...our PRIVACY has been changed. And parental consent is no longer required to collect data. So a school, testing agency, or other "official" can ask your child anything they want without your knowledge. Teach your children to not talk to strangers or...really anyone it seems. Trust no one.

2:48 the 400 data points are mentioned above in my link right after the video.

4:12 Dd you get that? The "evil progressives" or "republican neocons" aren't behind this alone....all sides are rallying for CCS and control, Obama, Bush, everyone.

Part III

0:50 Part of me is all for new math methods as I am quite terrible with math. However, I look at the tens grouping shown a few times and it looks like more work and more room for error. It might work in simpler math, maybe, but more complex math? No. A few seconds past 0:50 Beck agrees, yes, this cannot be applicable to higher level math. But then again, my conspiracy nut side says, "they" don't want us to think at a higher level.

2:03 Yes...when why ends, so does learning and knowledge. But if I ask, why does a car move? And I go and pick it apart with no prior knowledge, I likely won't know what I am doing or learning, or be able to explain myself. If I get a basic knowledge, the dull rote learning that does build a foundation (but is NOT the end all to learning) I could apply that knowledge to an unknown (the car) effectively.

2:42 Wait a right answer doesn't matter? So to go back to my car analogy, I can fiddle with the car and try and put it back together. Sure, it can no longer steer and explodes when I try and drive it; killing my proverbial self and another vehicle I careen into, but what matters is I "learned" a process. I didn't get it right but who cares?  And isn't this "right isn't right" notion further dumbing down our children? They will suddenly have no clue how to even multiply in high school, and will be sent into the workforce, asking for a white board to draw Xs and ten-groups when the cash register goes out. And when they give incorrect change, they will pat themselves on the back, "I tried, and did a process. Gold stars for me! Good job! It does not matter if you got correct change." Wow. Just...wow.

My real question is, must it be "only the answer" or "only the process"? Why can't we teach both? Well, having a bunch of people, feeling good about themselves and mastering a process (but not getting the right answer) keeps the masses happy but underpowered, as knowledge is power. Having a bunch of automatons spitting out answers (and correct ones) with no clue of how or why means the masses Will never rise up, question, or challenge anything.

4:42 Human Capital should scare everyone. We are now just products. Also mentioned was the embracing of the "beautiful but bland" standards. The district where I work has adopted CCS early and my department has become the guinea pigs. I'm basically just teaching to the "old" standards (although I don't favor them much) because I don't have any information. No evidence of effectiveness, no aligned curriculum, the state tests are yet to assess CCS....but yet we have adopted them.

5:38 CCS...our students, our future, bought and sold. Dangle the money carrot and people will do anything to follow you and your propaganda. Therefore, to fight CCS you must fight the feds, state, district, PTA, NEA, chamber of commerce, Gates Foundation...the whole world is against you. So the government and big business will tell your child what and how to learn.

I want to thank Truth in American Education (also on facebook), Glenn Beck, and his guests for opening my eyes and yours.