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Blinded by Reform

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Posted on Oct 21, 2009
AP / Rich Pedroncelli

A third-grader wraps his mind around the president’s education speech.

By Mike Rose

It’s gotten lost in the splashier news, but big things are going on at the U.S. Department of Education.

Following on the unprecedented federal reach of No Child Left Behind, the Obama administration is extending further and putting serious money behind its education initiatives, inviting states and districts to compete for federal dollars. The department wants to increase the community college graduation rate. For K-12, it wants to stimulate the production of better state standards and tests, measure teacher effectiveness, turn around failing schools and increase the number of charter schools. Through a third initiative it wants to spark innovation and scale up the best of local academic programs.

This is a moment of real promise for American education, from kindergarten through college. It has even created the season’s oddest political couple: With the Department of Education’s blessing, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the Rev. Al Sharpton are about to tour the country for educational reform.

Reform is in the air. But within many of these reforms are the seeds of their undoing.

For example, the Education Department is putting a lot of stock in charter schools as “engines of innovation”—in fact, it will not consider a state’s proposal if the state has a cap on charters. Yet a number of research studies—the most recent from Stanford—demonstrate that charter schools on average are no better or worse than the regular public schools around them. Some charters are sites of fresh ideas and robust education, but so are magnet schools, and career academies, and—we seem to have forgotten this—regular old schools with strong leadership and a critical mass of good teachers. But the reformers’ overvaluation of charter schools seems to dim their view of these varied manifestations of excellence.

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Another example is the department’s attempt to link evaluation of teacher quality to student performance. (Merit pay could also follow.) And, again, the department will not consider a state’s proposal if the state outlaws such linkage of evaluation and student performance.

This linkage has a common-sense quality to it, especially what is called “value-added” analysis: that is, the degree to which a class’ test scores improve from the beginning of the school year to the end. Yet among experts in educational testing and measurement, there is a good deal of disagreement over the legitimacy of using these techniques to judge teacher quality. There are a host of factors that can affect scores: the non-random mix of students in a class, the students’ previous teachers, the lobbying of senior teachers for higher-scoring classes or the assignment of such classes to a principal’s favored teachers. There are also technical issues with the analysis of the test data. And there are significant conceptual concerns about exactly what the tests are measuring. In fact, the National Research Council, the prestigious, nonpartisan government agency, has just issued a statement reinforcing all of these concerns.

The Department of Education champions “evidence-based” and “data-driven” practice. Why, then, does the department espouse approaches that warrant scrutiny?

I think there are three interrelated reasons.

Given the immense pressure in politics for a quick result, there is a tendency in social policy toward single-shot, magic-bullet solutions, solutions that are marketable and have rhetorical panache but are simplified responses to complex problems. Charter schools will transform American education, or the linking of student test scores to teacher effectiveness will pressure teachers to change the way they teach and their expectations for what students can achieve.

This magic-bullet thinking is enabled by the paucity of schoolhouse-level knowledge of teaching and learning in the formation of educational policy. Not many policy analysts have taught school and, with few exceptions, those who have taught spent only a youthful year or two in the ranks. More troubling is something I have witnessed over the years: On-the-ground, intimate knowledge of teaching and learning is not valued, and is seen as an imprecise distraction from the consideration of broader economic and management principles that lead to systemic change. It’s like setting up a cardiology clinic without the advice of cardiologists.

The third element involves the rhetoric of reform. The advocates of the current model of test-based accountability have been very successful in depicting their critics as “anti-reform traditionalists,” as “special interests” or, the kiss of death, as members of the “education establishment.” 

There is a lot to say about the accuracy of this depiction, for many who are tarred as establishment traditionalists have a long history of challenging traditional school practice and working to change it. But for now I want to focus on the way this demonizing rhetoric can jeopardize the work of the reformers themselves.

Take, for example, the concern expressed by teachers’ unions about linking student test scores to teacher evaluation. It is easy to characterize these concerns as special-interest pleading, but some of the evidence cited by the unions comes from researchers with no vested interest in teachers’ bread-and-butter issues. (One such researcher is a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.) When legitimate concerns about reform techniques are easily dismissed as “anti-reform,” then you have a closed policy system, one shielded from self-correction. 

It is good news indeed that school reform has become a top national priority, that the ways schools are structured, children are taught and teachers evaluated have become issues worthy of federal attention. But for reforms to be effective and sustained, they need to be grounded on the best we know and examined carefully and from multiple perspectives. 

Mike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and author of “Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us.”


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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 31, 2009 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

Well, of course Illich is utopian.  There are a lot of critiques of the educational system which are non-utopian, but the closer they get to the actual theories and practices which are permitted under the present ruling class and its ideology, the drearier they are, whereas Illich, being the last of the great medieval thinkers, is a real kick in the ass.  It’s like the difference between acid and aspirin.  You need to have some fun now and then—remember, the first rule of revolution is “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

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By Folktruther, October 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Quite right, Anarcissie, about the Educational system which I am not fond of either.  And a good point that, like the medical system seeks to make itself the sole purveyer of health, the Educational system seeks to make itself the sole purveyer of knowledge.  And I real Ilich’s book long ago, which I thought a wee bit eutopian.

  Still, a classless form of systematic enlightenment and edification may someday be possible historically.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 31, 2009 at 10:10 am Link to this comment

Folktruther:
‘Anarcissie, there is nothing INHERENTLY authoritarian in Education.  Look at the TD commenters where there is conflict but no one to say, ‘do it this way.’  And what we are doing is Educating each other, such as it is.  this kind of Education is inherently messy, but not necessarily despotic.  Maybe a few more rules, a referee, whatever, but the participants themselves can set the limits and decide the curriculum.  Why not?’

Educationists like to fictively conflate their industry with learning and teaching along with intelligence and knowledge, just as medical practitioners like to fictively conflate medicine with health.  What people usually mean by education, however, is the highly stratified, highly authoritarian system of the education industry, a critically important organ of the state, often directly controlled by the central government with such goals as military, political and economic power in mind.  In the education industry’s official model, truth, learning, intelligence and knowledge are imparted by greater authorities to lesser authorities, and by lesser authorities to the unwashed ignorant masses, hence the paramount interest in professional status and credentialism within the system and the general absence of influence from the working class who pay for the system and are its chief raw material.

There have been any number of radical critiques of the education system, but the classic is probably still Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society which you can read about in Wikipedia at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deschooling_Society
or, read the book itself:
http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/chap1.html

And now, back to our regular program of instrumentalism….

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By ardee, October 31, 2009 at 7:30 am Link to this comment

Blackspeare, October 29 at 7:34 pm #

ardee…

I appreciate your ardor, but you are just citing AFT and NEA claptrap!

*****************************

One persons “claptrap” is anothers’ truth. You may be unable to read and comprehend an opposing and rather truthful objection to your own, simply personal, belief system, but that is, in the end, only your problem.

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By Folktruther, October 30, 2009 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, there is nothing INHERENTLY authoritarian in Education.  Look at the TD commenters where there is conflict but no one to say, ‘do it this way.’  And what we are doing is Educating each other, such as it is.  this kind of Education is inherently messy, but not necessarily despotic.  Maybe a few more rules, a referee, whatever, but the participants themselves can set the limits and decide the curriculum.  Why not?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm Link to this comment

The problem with a teacher-owned school, or a student-owned school (consumers’ cooperative) is the authoritarianism inherent in the idea of education, which I think is very likely to infect its political and economic structure.  Ostensibly non-authoritarian educational enterprises like Black Mountain College seem to have been held together only by the charisma of their leaders, and have fallen apart when those leaders departed.  Perhaps this problem is not insoluble, however.  If a sense of the desirability of autonomy became more widespread, perhaps the possibility of recruiting non-authoritarian participants would be enhanced to the point of viability.

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By Folktruther, October 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, did you see where the US steel worker’s union has united with Pendragon, the anarchist collective, to perhaps collectively owning a steel mill.  Your idea of beginning cooportives in the middle of capitalism may be feasible.  But they have to unite politically in some way to fight capitalism when they come after them.  Internationally, as Pendragon has done.

A teacher owned school might serve as a good example.  Indeed, now that I think of it, it could serve as a greaat example.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 30, 2009 at 8:16 am Link to this comment

I think I’ve already made adequate fun of Blackspeare’s ideas about improving teachers’ performance by reducing their incomes and influence over their working conditions, which is what “no union” means.  However, since we’re talking about unions and such, once again I’m going to suggest workers’ cooperatives.  I think these might work in even so authoritarian an area as education.

Basically, though, until people decide what they want, and unless it is more or less logically consistent, there is nothing any system of education can do to provide satisfactory results.  In most cases, providing an environment of self-fulfillment will not bring about a good supply of adequately trained, happily subservient wage slaves.  In most cases, it will be very hard to construct tests that will measure actual teaching performance or predict later ability or accomplishment in life, because what most tests do is measure a person’s ability to take tests.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 29, 2009 at 8:33 pm Link to this comment

Charter schools get special financial benefits and choice of students and that gives them a leg up over the gov’t schools most of us went to. So how come they still can’t do better?

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm Link to this comment

ardee…

I appreciate your ardor, but you are just citing AFT and NEA claptrap!

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By ardee, October 29, 2009 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare, October 29 at 3:07 pm #

Dora and Anarcissie…

Charter schools generally do substantially better than public schools and the major reason is “NO UNION.”
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Oh my, where oh where is the beef Clara Peller?

Firstly, where is your proof of said better performing charter schools…Here’s my proof you are, once again, talking out your hat ( OK I cleaned it up):

http://www.saveourschoolsdc.org/pdf/ChartersSchools_vs_PublicSchools.pdf

How well are charter schools doing?
? Last year, only eight of the 31 DC public charters subject to No Child
Left Behind (NCLB) made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Studies by
the University of Illinois and the Department of Education show that
public schools out-perform charters. Even charter advocates agree that
low quality remains a problem in DC charter schools.
? Many charters have low retention rates. Students who enroll in a
charter school and don’t fit in can be expelled or encouraged to leave.
The churning enrollment between charters and DCPS contributes to
high truancy and dropout rates and leaves many of our most vulnerable
young people on the streets, without an education or hope for the future.

and…
http://almaer.com/blog/public-schools-vs-charter-schools-facts-not-myths

Underperforming charter schools…..

Lest we forget, Unions cause declining school performance…well, considering that charter schools are far from what you claim I guess we can also discard that rubbish as well….

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 29, 2009 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt,

“From what I have seen they do not do any better. The research shows they don’t after all even with the benefits other schools do not have.”

SAY WHAT?

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By Night-Gaunt, October 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

From what I have seen they do not do any better. The research shows they don’t after all even with the benefits other schools do not have.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 29, 2009 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment

Dora and Anarcissie…

Charter schools generally do substantially better than public schools and the major reason is “NO UNION.” As I said before the unions and money destroyed public schools.  Of course, varying student abilities will skew some of the overall results.  However, the same class taught in a charter school rather than a public school will perform significantly better.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 29, 2009 at 10:20 am Link to this comment

Dora: ‘http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

I totally agree with the author of this article.

Many parents and educators in the Seattle area are having these same discussions.

See the website above and find out additional information on this subject.’

Looks to me, from a very light reading, like one side of the same confluence of issues.  First of all, there is the conflict or at least tension between the upper-class self-fulfillment idea of education, and the lower-class need to produce well-trained workers.  There is serious dissatisfaction with the education industry’s product from both points of view.  Since every self is theoretically unique, there is no objective way of ascertaining whether it has been fulfilled, and if one were upper-class this might not matter so much, but since most people are actually lower-class fulfillment in the form of well-trained, well-indoctrinated workers getting good jobs is very much desired, and whether this is happening is what the tests are supposed to discover.  Of course, once they understand the testing system, the teachers will be strongly motivated to game it, since their careers depend on it, rather than on their actual results (which may not appear for years, even decades).  While all this is going on, the rhetoric of self-fulfillment continues to be draped about, confusing the issue, which from the point of view of the ruling class and most of the population is to maximize production-consumption, or rather, the numbers which supposedly represent them, and not to fulfill the mysterious self, unless the self happens to be fulfilled by the aforesaid prod-con.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 29, 2009 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

Ardee…

Don’t be so thin skinned.  I only misspell the poster name because we have a running battle over such spellings.  As for wasting time let me tell you right now I am a 100% socialist that believes in re-distribution of excessive wealth.  If you should, by chance, see a post from me extolling the virtues of conservatism please disregard——I’m just after somebody’s craw!

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By ardee, October 29, 2009 at 3:00 am Link to this comment

Blackspeare, October 28 at 3:45 pm #

Farktrooper….

I’m only a ranting rightwinger when I want to get a rise out of the ultra-liberals who tend to infest this site.

So, then, what you state here is that you post false positions to get a “rise” out of people? What a waste of time, yours and ours.

How childish to misspell a posters name….Are you a precocious fifth grader?

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By Dora, October 28, 2009 at 11:39 pm Link to this comment

http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

I totally agree with the author of this article.

Many parents and educators in the Seattle area are having these same discussions.

See the website above and find out additional information on this subject.

Report this
Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 28, 2009 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

Farktrooper….

I’m only a ranting rightwinger when I want to get a rise out of the ultra-liberals who tend to infest this site.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 28, 2009 at 11:39 am Link to this comment

Blackspeare—the classical definition of socialism, the idea of the people who invented the concept, was worker ownership and control of the means of production.  Marx did not invent the idea but accepted it; he saw it as a stage of development between capitalism (private ownership of the means of production) and communism.  Of course, you can use the word socialism to meaning anything you want.  I find the classical idea to be the most interesting.  It is pretty obvious that Lenin’s version (socialism as state capitalism) didn’t work out very well.

You seem to me to be advocating a Rawlsian form of liberalism.  I’m not sure because (1) you haven’t fully explicated your theories, and (2) I haven’t read much of Rawls’s work—I’ve mostly read about it.  It didn’t appeal to me so I didn’t persist.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 26, 2009 at 8:03 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie…

“You may be a socialist, but you don’t describe where you see the workers’ ownership or control of the means of production coming in, so I don’t know.”

WOW!——what you describe is Marxism.  My version of Socialism is much more enlightened and is a true form of democratic socialism where wealth redistribution is practiced for the ultimate benefit of its citizens.  That doesn’t mean that individuals so inclined can’t become wealthy——they just can’t become “filthy rich” at the expense of the general public.  Remember——“Do the most good for the most people.”

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By Folktruther, October 26, 2009 at 6:11 pm Link to this comment

I appaulogize, Blacksphere.  I assumed you were a cynical rightwinger.  It now appears that you actually believe some of hte sfuff that you say.  That didn’t occur to me.  Clearly, Anarcissie’s approach is more effective.

Anarcisse, the Prog radio station in LA is KPFK.  Coming home in the car a radio truther discribed the US as a ‘plutonomy.’ good conceptons travel fast.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, October 26, 2009 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare—You may be a socialist, but you don’t describe where you see the workers’ ownership or control of the means of production coming in, so I don’t know. 

In regard to what teachers get, perhaps the happiest outcome for you and the teachers would be to have Microsoft take over the education industry from top to bottom.  That would combine master entrepreneurism with education.  Microsoft may produce lousy software, but they are terrific at maintaining a monopoly and befuddling the people, and their greed compared to that of the teachers’ unions would make your head spin pleasantly.

This is not to say I don’t like your communistic idea of paying all those who work a pittance.  Remember that, in Genesis, man was cursed with work as a punishment for sin.  We should certainly treat anyone exhibiting an attraction for it with considerable suspicion and not let them get their hands on too much wealth at one time.

They’d only go down to the mall and blow it anyway.

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By dihey, October 26, 2009 at 2:54 pm Link to this comment

Education is a terribly vulnerable activity/service. Unfortunately every administration/congress since JFK seems to have had an irresistible urge to “reform” education producing predictable disasters. Throughout the history of education in our country the most successful reformers have always been local. Reform should therefore remain local and the main task for “Washington” is to protect/enforce the constitutional protections of teachers and students against political encroachment/abuse everywhere in the USA. Will the result be some unevenness between states and within states? Sure but the “nationwide unity-soup” advocated by, for example, former Senator Kennedy, is far worse.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 26, 2009 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment

ardee…

Please bear with me——it’s not easy quickly writing these posts while appearing to be busy at work!  I stand by my comments that those that create wealth, produce jobs and take risks are entitled to reap the rewards.  However, being the good socialist that I am, a tax structure must be in place that returns a sufficient part of that money for the general good.  The philosophy I go by is “Do the most good for the most people.”  In the first part of the 20th century a tax structure was in place that accomplished this though loopholes were used very few were making hundreds of millions of dollars——tens of millions yes.  And as far as I see you can live pretty well on $10 million even today.  Now we read about the late Mr. Picower recouping $7 billion from Madoff’s scheme.  I suspect that number is a bit inflated, but nonetheless it shows something is wrong when his tax bill will be disproportionately less than someone from the middle class.

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By ardee, October 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

Blackspeare, October 26 at 1:35 pm

A rant directly from the rabbit hole I fear.

After extolling the “virtues” of huge accumulations of wealth for the capitalists, and demeaning the most essential professions to our society as unworthy of reward, this poster states he is a socialist…in what reality would that be true…certainly not this one I think.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

Hey Flaketruther…

I guess the other posters are right about you!

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By Folktruther, October 26, 2009 at 11:52 am Link to this comment

Bravo, Anarcissie.

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Blackspeare's avatar

By Blackspeare, October 26, 2009 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie…

You hurt me to the quick!  Perhaps I was a little too emphatic in my cynical comments.  People who are salaried in non-competitive environments should not be receiving excessive wages and benefits when paid for by the general public and that includes all governments workers, civil servants, and politicians.  The only entities that should be entitled to lucrative earnings are businesses, entrepreneurs, and others who create jobs and take risks.  Doctors, lawyers, and teachers don’t create jobs nor take risks they live in a capitalistic US society that encourages greed and has lost its way——a correction is needed.  While teachers and other civil servants will continue to extort wages and benefits from local governments my main beef is not the fact that they get such rewards (good for them) but rather the fact they refuse to provide any productivity gains without additional compensation.  And yes I am a socialist, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!

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By Anarcissie, October 26, 2009 at 7:25 am Link to this comment

Blackspeare:
‘What ruined teaching in the US are the unions and money.  In the beginning teaching was a relatively poor paying career that was populated by people that really enjoyed teaching mostly women who supplemented their husbands earnings.  As the unions gained power and had dominance over town and city administrators with threatened and actual strikes money began to flow to the teaching profession attracting less qualified individuals to the field. ...’

I’ve heard this theory before—that if teachers are poorly paid, only people who love to teach will be attracted to the work and thus we’ll get better teaching. 

Obviously, it could be applied equally to other professions.  If we pay doctors and nurses badly we’ll get better medical care.  If we pay lawyers badly, we’ll get better lawyering.  If we pay bankers badly, we’ll get better banking.  Same for auto repair, plumbing, carpentry, investment, bus driving, ditch-digging, diplomacy, hairdressing, drug-running, dog-washing, prostitution, computer programming, farming and so on.

Basically, we can set up a kind of communism where everyone who works gets subsistence wages, and does superior work because they’re doing the work for love of the work rather than filthy lucre.

The only question now is what we’re going to do with all the value created by these happy workers.  Since we’re returning very little of it to the workers, it’s going to pile up and will need to be used.  As far as I can see, since paying people well destroys their ability to work, we must confine payment to those who won’t be harmed by it, because they do no work—the idle rich and the idle poor.  But only as long as they promised not to do any work.

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By Blackspeare, October 26, 2009 at 5:58 am Link to this comment

Hey Fucktruther——

You’re much to kind.  But I did leave out one thing about the extraordinairy lucrative career known as ELHI teaching and that is the benefits among which are a plethora of holidays and days off, practically unlimited sick days, full health care including dental and optical, and last but not least is a retirement plan you could die for!  But not to worry——talk to a teacher and they wil have a story prepared about how difficult the job is——just remember brer rabbit and the brier patch!

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By ardee, October 26, 2009 at 3:47 am Link to this comment

Folktruther, October 26 at 5:29 am

Aside from your crotchety and pessimistic unending bull, what in the way of constructiveness do you offer?

I fail utterly to see what the fuck good your pissing and moaning does to make things better. If your aim is to make people give up, curl into a fetal ball and await the end then you seem on the right track.

Your apparently purposive misspellings and constant bleating about how bad optimism is is both ridiculous and rather tiring. Get a clue, get a plan or get the hell away from me.

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By Folktruther, October 26, 2009 at 2:29 am Link to this comment

” I do understand how the American people ( and many around the world as well) have been brainwashed into being docile little consumers but I think we must take the good and build upon it… ‘

  Like your mentor, Ardee, little Pollyanna.

Backspore, and I san this with all due respect, you’re full of dung.

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By dorainseattle, October 26, 2009 at 12:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Merit Pay
This is an issue that is closely associated with charter schools and is a reiteration of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Basically, it requires that teachers pay be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. For our students, it could be the WASL or a similar test. With the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and staff were pressured to teach much of the class work to the standardized tests. With so much focus on the test, many other parts of knowledge building, creativity and understanding of subjects and their synthesis with other knowledge had to take a back seat. For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.

No one wins in this situation.

Part of the fallout also is that if a teacher’s pay is based on how well their students test, many teachers will want to teach in a school where they know that the students will perform better. Those schools are, for the most part, not the minority schools.

Some students do not perform well on standardized tests for many different reasons and yet a teacher’s pay can be tied to that student’s performance. High stakes testing also puts pressure and stress on the students who become burdened with the thought that they need to perform well on one test. The test becomes a focus with little opportunity to explore and have fun learning, creating and synthesizing new thoughts and ideas.

If we are to have merit pay in Seattle, it needs to be based on many factors and not just what is indicated on one standardized test.

For more information on merit pay and how it relates to charter schools and Arne Duncan, see:
http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

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By Blackspeare, October 25, 2009 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

What ruined teaching in the US are the unions and money.  In the beginning teaching was a relatively poor paying career that was populated by people that really enjoyed teaching mostly women who supplemented their husbands earnings.  As the unions gained power and had dominance over town and city administrators with threatened and actual strikes money began to flow to the teaching profession attracting less qualified individuals to the field.  Now, we have husbands and wives in the professions and when you consider the money they earn and the hours worked——not bad work if you can get it.  Granted, a new teacher or one with less experience do work hard and may put in additional hours, but once you’ve been on the job around 5 years, things get much easier.  The major problem is getting teachers to accept increased productivity through longer teaching days and after school child care.  But ask a teacher to do this and the first words out is “who’s gonna pay us?”

P.S. I talk from experience——my first wife was a HS teacher in NYC and she had a racket going and she knew it——she was a devotee of Albert Shanker.

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By SusanSunflower, October 25, 2009 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

“Education reform” is no more about education than “welfare reform” was about welfare ... its about money and to a great extent “the undeserving poor” ... with a lot of anger, resentment, and not-well-concealed racism and reactionary “social darwinism” thrown in.

Like “welfare”—it’s seen as out of control spending for nothing in return, administered by fat and lazy teachers this time, rather than social workers—more overpaid do-gooders, I guess ...

As Giroux and other articles illustrate, there’ appears to be plenty of money and public support for guards and metal detectors (hey, they’re necessities), and for building more prisons (NIMBY) and trying (some) children as adults and zero-tolerance policies ... It’s very much “I’ve got mine (I can afford to send my kid to private school), fuck you.”

I was stunned a few years ago to find that several of my co-workers were “affording” private school because of their fears of violence (usually from “lower class” minorities).

I don’t know how schools got so “out of control” but what is so often described is a landscape unrecognizable to me and my memories of school. Have parents opted-out? Is latch-key-ing kids part of the sea change?

Hey, I don’t know. But no—I don’t think “everyone wants education to succeed”—not by a longshot—every failure, every scandal is grist for the Reaganist conservative social darwinism mill.

IMHO, the analogies to “welfare reform” are staggering ... and we all know what a glowing success that has been for America—or do we?

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By ardee, October 25, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

Sixty years ago, I believe school was a kind of anteroom to the office and the factory: in an office- or factory-like setting, children were taught to perform meaningless tasks and to endure severe boredom, just as they would most likely have to do on the job once they got out of high school.  The upper classes might go to college, and the incorrigibly dissident became criminals or artists, or fell back into the lower proletariat.  It made a kind of sense.  Now, however, with the country being deindustrialized, militarized and bankrupted, what is supposed to happen in the schools?

Oh Anarcissie,
As I think back those sixty years you emphasize I bring to mind any number of brilliant and innovative thinkers who “suffered” through our deplorable system of education. Most of us, I think, can list a sizable number, you included, so I wont bother.

You have placed me in a position wherein one might think I see nothing wrong with our current system due to my being forced to defend what you seem far too harsh in condemning. This is not at all true. I do understand how the American people ( and many around the world as well) have been brainwashed into being docile little consumers but I think we must take the good and build upon it rather than ripping the whole damn thing down for the sake of our egos and our (well not your) testosterone.

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By Folktruther, October 25, 2009 at 8:28 am Link to this comment

I don’t understand your cocern, Anarcissie.  Americaqn Education has been a brilliant success. One of its major functions is to prevent the young from thinking ideologically illegitimate thoughts.  Vigorous discussion is sometimes permitted within narrow constraints, as long as in the end the studtent comes up with the Correct Answers on the examination.  The implications of these Answers always support plutocratic power.

The American people are clueless, deluded and braindead because we are Educated, Informed and Entertained to absorb the underlying indoctrination of the American Dream.  This prevents us from understanding how we are ruled and how we can change that rule.  More important, it prevents us from understanding ourselves and from understanding our relations to other people.  Especially non-White Foreign people.

Although the current US mainstream truth consensus is wildly irrational, excluding the reality-based truth, the prevention of deviant thought goes back to our beginnings.  Alexis de Tocqueville, who came from France to help make Democracy safe for aristocracy, said nearly two centuries ago in his famous DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA:

  ” I know of no country in which there is so little inedependence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.  The majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within those barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

This American truth consensus is largely a function of American Education.  Instilled under the banner of teaching Creativity and Originality.  Resulting in Education’s greatest success, Americans being afraid to think at all when the thought is incompatible with the mainstream truth. 

This is especialy important at the present time in history when the Cons pervey Faith-based truth and the Progs Hope-based truth.  And then they Compromise to reach a Golden Mean between these two Extremes.  An EDUCATED Golden Mean.

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By Outraged, October 24, 2009 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment

Re: SusanSunflower

Your comment: “Currently, under NCLB emphasis is on quite young education which may well be the “right” emphasis to the extent that later dropping out and behavior problems often seems to relate to students whose skills ever NEVER developed.”

I doubt it.  The younger the student, the less the testing should be the rule.  Young children when empathetically treated, respond accordingly.  Testing of the youngest students, has RELATIVE BEARING upon potential.  Testing the younger students, especially under approx. eighth grade or the age of approx. 13,  (depending upon the student) can be more detrimental, than it is helpful.  While these “tests” might appear to show competence, they do not NECESSARILY…... although SOMETIMES they can.  More often than not, they are not utilized in this manner, this is one source of the problem.

Your comment: “I don’t think school is for “everybody” but—as part of the promise of “equality”—the opportunity for education, adequate enough to take a child from elemetary school through high school and into college, imho, is national obligation to parents and children alike”

The problem is the SKEWING of the meaning “the opportunity for education” to it’s opposite, the REQUIREMENT, even if by police/court action.  Orginally, these laws were instituted so that no child would be denied an education simply because others/parents/ideologues…etc. thought it “unnecessary/evil”.  This however has been SKEWED and misinterpreted to be: “you are required by law to be here, if you don’t show up—it’s kiddie jail for you.” 

Your comment:  ”(parents suffer too when their children run wild while they perform their own wage-slave duties).”

I’m not sure what your premise was for making this comment, but it is stupid.  It implies that IN FACT, “children run wild” when supposedly their “parents are performing their own wage-slave duties.”  Come again.

Your comment: “I have no idea what the jobs of the “future” will be much less what skills they will require.”

Maybe not.  However, others do and there is a great deal of research regarding quite PRECISELY what needs will be, therefore a good gauge of what skills would be required.  A common source would be the Occupational Handbook.
http://www.bls.gov/OCO/

The Occupational Handbook is only ONE source, but there are others, although one needs to be cognizant of the source.

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By SusanSunflower, October 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment

Education and educators have been poked and prodded and second guessed to death ... everyone who have any vague memory of their own school days is an “expert” or has an “informed opinion.”

Currently, under NCLB emphasis is on quite young education which may well be the “right” emphasis to the extent that later dropping out and behavior problems often seems to relate to students whose skills ever NEVER developed. My dyslexic younger brother was one of those whose utter boredom and frustration with problems “concentrating” led him to be a class clown and very very popular for a while ...but repeated “failures” and “disciplinary problems” (this was all in elementary school) set the stage for all-but dropping out before middle school ... he was kept—barely—in “alternative”
until old enough to be allowed to escape.

I don’t think school is for “everybody” but—as part of the promise of “equality”—the opportunity for education, adequate enough to take a child from elemetary school through high school and into college, imho, is national obligation to parents and children alike (parents suffer too when their children run wild while they perform their own wage-slave duties).

The highly uneven performance by charters schools is worth careful study ... charter schools were supposed to remedy problems like bored and lazy teachers and class size problems.

I recall the promise that “Head Start” and school lunches would make a difference, and doubtless they do, for some children sometimes. ...

My impression is that things “fall apart” badly in middle and high school ... like Tolstoy’s unhappy families, I suspect the story of each failed child and each failing school is unique.

In the 40 years since I graduated high school, it appears that like the military, education has been occupied with playing the “let’s redefine success” game….

I have no idea what the jobs of the “future” will be much less what skills they will require. I have read that in Europe, kids are apptitude tested and vocationally counselled and employer “understand” that after graduation new workers will need a few years of on-the-job mentoring ... (the old fashioned way of getting a well-trained workforce)

Many American industries have quite deliberately redesigned jobs for the least skill set possible, dead end, cookie cutter, brainless anyone-can-do-it McJobs out of which only a tiny percentage are offered anything in the way of “advancement” (or benefits).

American Capitalism out of control, with little to no reinvestment in the community or infrastructure ... it’s all about the dividends.

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By Anarcissie, October 24, 2009 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment

Ardee—I had all kinds of teachers.  I have a great variety of school anecdotes, like anybody else.  But those are just anecdotes, and my personal experiences may be atypical.  Fortunately this discussion is not about me.

Sixty years ago, I believe school was a kind of anteroom to the office and the factory: in an office- or factory-like setting, children were taught to perform meaningless tasks and to endure severe boredom, just as they would most likely have to do on the job once they got out of high school.  The upper classes might go to college, and the incorrigibly dissident became criminals or artists, or fell back into the lower proletariat.  It made a kind of sense.  Now, however, with the country being deindustrialized, militarized and bankrupted, what is supposed to happen in the schools?

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By Folktruther, October 24, 2009 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment

Whachumean, Ardee.  I’m a naturally optomistic person.  I enjoy the present because I know the future will be much worse.

I sometimes, Night-Guant, don’t intentionally set out to create a word, it just happens.  a natural talent.  I think ‘sunguine’ is a much better word than ‘sanquine.’  I like ‘truthdip’ too.  When I do crate a word intentially, like ‘ziofascist,’  It turns out to be taken up by anti-semites.  There is an anti-semtic blog now called ‘ziofascism.’  If it weren’t for the honor of the thing I’d just as soon there weren’t.

The inadverant neologisms occur because my wife bought me a really crappy computer that takes forever to edit comments.  so I don’t.  But I think neology is quite an honorable profession. 

And while I’m at it let me compliment you on your speling, how I admire your putting one letter so brilliantly aside another.

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By ardee, October 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, October 24 at 4:21 pm

Speaking of feeling sorry, I am sorry that the ‘sun’ apparently ‘guined’ on your head.

Why do you put pessimism in a superior place to optimism? How the hell do we make things better if we have such a dismal view that action becomes impossible…Stew in your won juices pal, I prefer to think a difference can be made.

I am not sanguine, by the by:

a.  Of the color of blood; red.
b. Of a healthy reddish color; ruddy: a sanguine complexion.
2. Archaic
a. Having blood as the dominant humor in terms of medieval physiology.
b. Having the temperament and ruddy complexion formerly thought to be characteristic of a person dominated by this humor; passionate.
3. Cheerfully confident; optimistic.

mainly because this place makes one increasingly less cheerful. I will choose to remain optimistic, I cannot presume to understand how one can be an activist without that quality.

Hell, without optimism one might turn out to be…...you. wink

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By ardee, October 24, 2009 at 5:59 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, October 24 at 8:19 pm

We apparently had a quite different educatory process. I had my share of poor teachers, or at least those who couldnt reach me. But I was quite blessed to have teachers who really,truly cared, not agents of govt or ideology as you seem to lump all such.

I am sorry for your loss.

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By Anarcissie, October 24, 2009 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

ardee:
’... There are teachers who manage to instill a love of learning in their students. Those far too rare ones shepherd their kids into a life of intellectual pursuit and a constant need to inquire. ...’

From the point of view of the established order—of any established order—such people would be troublemakers.  According to the Giroux article, and my own experience and observation, schools, especially public schools, especially K-12, are primarily seen as places whose purpose is to confine and control their inmates, not inspire or provoke them.  Troublemakers would not be wanted.

So I think in order to discuss education, one would have to ask, as I did, what education is, and what it is for.  Since no one engaged those issues, my conclusion is that people do not actually want to discuss education.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

“Sunguine”? I bet you meant sanguine didn’t you? I know haste makes waste. I do it too sometimes. Unless you are one of those creative unconventional types that likes to create new words. “Are you one of those types?”, he said accusingly. Then join the club of illustrious neologists! If there is a thing, or feeling or other without a word to describe it, then the local neologist can have that word for you! Made to order for just $19.95! Now I seem to be channeling Garrison Keillor and his radio show. Sunguine must be a more positive way of looking at things, without as much blood in it. Or a blood red sun maybe? What must be meant by someone with a sunny disposition.

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By Folktruther, October 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm Link to this comment

Ardee, sometimes I worry that Pollyanna has pooped on your brain nodes.  but this passes and I am as sunguine as before.

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By ardee, October 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm Link to this comment

Folktruther, October 24 at 1:39 pm #

Eduction bullshit is perhaps dumber than any other type of social bulshit; more insipid, vacuous, irrelevant and evasive. Other social theory ocasionally has some misleading factoids that are interesting; I usually don’t find any in Education.

...and then you launch into a discussion of that which you just professed hatred for…..

I find discussion about education little different than those about economics, or politics, or war, or whatever. If we do not discuss them then how do we improve them?

There are teachers who manage to instill a love of learning in their students. Those far too rare ones shepherd their kids into a life of intellectual pursuit and a constant need to inquire.

When discussing education, or rather Education, one must separate the teacher from the bureaucrat. I am very familiar with that separation I assure you. Our system of public education may be lacking, may even be as agendized as you claim it to be, may be a tool of rampant consumerism and unfettered capitalism even….But it is a pat of our lives that we need addressed and improved.

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By Folktruther, October 24, 2009 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

Eduction bullshit is perhaps dumber than any other type of social bulshit; more insipid, vacuous, irrelevant and evasive. Other social theory ocasionally has some misleading factoids that are interesting; I usually don’t find any in Education.

The economic indexs of economic theory, such as the unemployment index, for example, are fabrications, but give an indication of how the power structure is deceiving the people.  Political science, it is true, is largely irrelevant to practical politics, but Education theory in my oppinion is the most divorced from reality.  In this piece professor Rose is in the forefont of his profession.

The Bushite approach to Education, continued by Obama, is to produce workers who can do their jobs but have no ideas outside those needed for Free Enterprise production.  Standardized tests are ideal for this purpose, pinpointing the young precisely where they should be in competition with their comrades.  Charter shcools, especially profit ones, can be relied on for this task, and can be used as well for the military as Obama’s Education minister, Arne Somebody,  is known for.

One of the functions of Education is to make a Dangerous social discipline so boring, useless and vacuous that the young never want to think about it again. History is a good example, illustrated by James Loewin in LIES MY TEACHER TOLD ME. 

History is presented in huge texts as one disconnected factoid after another, imposible to remember in this form without an ideological background to give it meaning. So the student forgets it after the examination and never wants to think about it again. The American Educational system has been very successful in completly disorienting Americans about historical tendencies, which is why Gore Vidal calls the US the United States of Amnesia. It allows American political leaders to look forward, not backward.

What is necessary in the US at the present time is to de-Educate and de-Inform the population, since what is learned in schools, universities and other learned brueacracies, and in the learned and msss media asw well, is largely a tissue of misleading lies and partial truths. 

Equally important, the EMOTIONAL truths that the young learn prevent them from understandting the reality-based truth about people and power.  The reason the American people are so clueless, deluded and braindead is because we are Educated to be so.  This diseducation, along with the disinformation of the media, inculcates emotional identifications that make it extremely difficult to unite the population around our common power interests.  And this of course is one of the primary purposes of American Education.  To prevent us from understanding ourselves and from understanding our relations to other people.

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By ardee, October 24, 2009 at 6:13 am Link to this comment

Shift

Your comment: ”There is a ninety percent chance that your school principal is or was a coach who majored in physical education and minored in an academic subject.”

As a former data processing manager for an Office of Education,responsible for all financials and reportings for 14 schools districts, a job I simply detested and left despite an extremely nice pay and benefits package, I assure you that this comment is absolutely made up and completely false. The requirements for such a position as you belittle are stringent indeed, run by academics who would never, ever approve someone without credentials similar to their own.

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By Outraged, October 23, 2009 at 11:21 pm Link to this comment

Re: Virginia 777

Your comment: “Public Education needs support by the Liberal press, and while I applaud Rose’s article, I would hope that its negative tone, does not merely serve the (considerable!!) opposition to public education,

which is unbearably present.”

The negativeness which YOU claim to be “unbearably present”, I’m afraid is MISINTERPRETED.  Everyone WANTS PUBLIC SCHOOLS to succeed, the problem is that they have been undermined by ideologues.  They need to be RE-OPENED to their benefactors and beneficiaries, not marginalized by stupidity and arrogance.

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By Outraged, October 23, 2009 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

Re: Shift

Your comment: There is a ninety percent chance that your school principal is or was a coach who majored in physical education and minored in an academic subject.” (emphasis mine)

Can you qualify your assertion…?  Please, provide the link.  Obviously something so prevalent in our schools (as you claim) would have DATA to back it up.

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By Virginia777, October 23, 2009 at 8:00 pm Link to this comment

Public Education needs support by the Liberal press, and while I applaud Rose’s article, I would hope that its negative tone, does not merely serve the (considerable!!) opposition to public education,

which is unbearably present.

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By Virginia777, October 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

While I think Rose makes some very good points, I applaud the investment in public education, this is so important!

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By Shift, October 23, 2009 at 1:27 pm Link to this comment

Would you trust your child’s education to coaches?  No?
That’s exactly what is happening.  There is a ninety percent chance that your school principal is or was a coach who majored in physical education and minored in an academic subject.  Both principals and superintendents are almost exclusively chosen from a pool of coaches. 

Now we have Arnie Duncan, a coach, and Barack Obama, a jock, attempting to reform our schools.  Hubris!

In business, when a business is doing poorly management is replaced, not the employees.

In education when schools are doing poorly, superintendents and principals are not blamed, teachers are.  What’s up with that? 

The first thing we must do to improve public education is to put academic’s, not coaches, in the positions of principal and superintendent.  Without this one fundamental change little will improve.  Private schools learned this a long long time ago.  Principals in private schools are almost exclusively academics.  Why do you think people who can afford it send their kids to private schools?  They get a better education in private schools! 

If the same principle were applied to business we would have lawyers managing grocery stores and doctors flying airplanes.  It’s crazy…

Let academics run our schools and put coaches back in the gym.

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By Outraged, October 23, 2009 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment

The issue of measuring teacher effectiveness is important.  It seems grossly unfair to match it to student performance.  Why not by student and parent survey?  The problem in education is that with the exception of affluent schools, students and parents haven’t any avenue to address their concerns.  Sure, you can go talk to the teacher, principal or professor but if the problem isn’t solved there, then what?  Why is it that the people with the MOST to lose have no valid voice?

Schools are mainly closed systems.  The idea that simply because children are “in school” they are learning is false, and we’ve known this for years.  The system needs to be opened up to its users, charter schools are not the answer.  Charter schools do the same thing, they are closed systems and disregard disappointing criticisms and attempt to skew results because they can, just like their counterparts.

There are some good people in the system, just like any workplace.  But because the system has become so protected, good teachers are as confined as the students to the system.  The system needs to be opened, to ALL.  Teachers protect the system, because the system protects their job, a measure of this is certainly valid, but the degree to which it been taken is obscene.  How would charter schools change this…?  It won’t and doesn’t, I’m trying one now…. just about ready to jump ship on the deal, its terrible.  Same shit, different pile.

I agree with Arne Duncan that teacher training is an important factor.  A degree of plausiblity that candidates for teaching degrees have the ability to deal with people is necessary.  Many times the opposite is the case, people enter teaching because they they are dictatorial, its easier to perpetrate their inadequacies on unsuspecting children than it is mete out these same “standards” to adults.  Parents are in direct opposition to their children being treated in this fashion, so most often these types are relegated to the poorer schools.  Where they exacerbate already fragile situations.

Invaribly, the end result of every debatable argument when issues arise quickly devolves to, “Well, that’s the way we do it here.” and “You’re the only one who’s ever complained about it.”

So I ask, why should they complain?  You don’t take it seriously nor care for any opinion other than your own, do you? (although to be fair I have had a few who seriously couldn’t grasp my point… scary)

Everybody loses.

Have you ever noticed how many “debates” you DON’T have with good teachers?  Have you noticed how your child never talks about some teachers?  Have you noticed that the only way to meet the good teachers is to make a point of doing so?  There’s a reason for that.  I thought it was sad but hillarious how easy it was to “get a slot” on conference day with the good teachers….. the schedule was empty!

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By Mestizo Warrior, October 23, 2009 at 7:52 am Link to this comment

What must be acknowledged is the fact that much of the so-called reform is nothing more than opening the door for private interests to sell their snake oil. Charter schools at least in Texas are NOT superior and forcing them on us smells of cronyism.

In my hometown of San Antonio we have 16 separate and unequal school districts! Inner city schools are falling apart, there is less money for inner city kids, children in the more affluent, more white neighborhoods continue to have far more extras like computer labs, etc. What exists is in essence continued segregated and unequal schools for inner city children of color.

The educational systems in our nation are in bad shape by design. There is a growing movement to destroy what little we have in order to justify privatization of our schools! Along with this obsession for privatization exists the fact that inner city children who tend to be African American or Latino still get inferior education and conditions to learn in. The cherry on top of all this is the blatant drive to destroy teacher’s unions in order to reinstate “employment at will”, less benefits for teachers as well as less pay!

If the Obama administration is serious about “reforming” public education it needs to listen to the voices of our teachers, the students and the parents of our public schools! People who have minimal or no experience in education, bean counters and cronies with ties to the private sector should NOT be the ones that the president pays attention to! This is an issue of justice and our children deserve much more than empty talk and fancy theories!

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By Anarcissie, October 23, 2009 at 6:24 am Link to this comment

There is not much point in changing or reforming something unless you know what it is you want it to do.

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By Henry Braun, October 23, 2009 at 4:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A Curriculum

For the crown
of their high
school learning
may it be
enough for our scholars to sway
with the meanings of one whole seeminly endless
sentence of S.T.C.,
say,    (or Homer, say, or Dickinson…..)
and simultaneously
  a     c
d     n     e
waving their hands
knowingly toward the stars.

May our happy heirs at proms
cavort in this way together, leaving
not one child behind.

            Henry Braun

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By oldog, October 23, 2009 at 3:21 am Link to this comment

You are correct that there is no ‘magic bullet’ to
education reform. However, it often takes the shock of
a ‘bullet’ to effect change.

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By Outraged, October 22, 2009 at 11:12 pm Link to this comment

Re: SusanSunflower

Your comment: “yes, definitions do matter ... we have too many kids who effectively drop out of school extremely young—middle school, earlier (missing out on both school’s “educational” and socializing benefits) I have read that socializing and extracurricular activiies actually are a significant factor in keeping kids IN school.”

I agree with Anarcissie, great link.  However, the bogus mantra of the “socializing” benefits of public or private school has NO QUALIFICATION.

If in fact, there truly were “socializing benefits” to attending the schools available, our country would be incredibly social.  We’re not.  The proof is in the pudding.  Society reflects absolutely NO VALID PROOF that this is the case.  I consider it not only the epitome of lame excuses for the incompetence of teachers but telling of administrators as well.  Generally, teachers care more about their petty indulgences than the education of their students.

I could give you at LEAST fifty stories regarding this, and that would be using ONLY my immediate family.  If I were to engage the totality of it….. seriously, I try NOT to go there, even marginally.  To me… the disease has succumbed the patient and its not a pretty sight.  In my own “education” and my childrens’ (outside of the home environment) the “rule” is, as far as they are concerned, WE are important, and what WE say matters, WE know best, WE have studied these things.  I find little use for educational institutions other than “a job”...ie…“credentials”.  For the most, the whole beast is a truth morphed to a lie, I’ve entertained more relevant definitions of factual “truths” on youtube by dropping a mentos in a pespi.

I don’t relish these diseased individuals hooking their claws into my children.  Right and left, its a scam, a game… and realistically merely a political construct moreso than an educational reality.

I had to endure this BEAST we call education like many, I wasn’t impressed then and I’m not only LESS impressed now as an adult, I’m sickened.  Don’t misunderstand…. I’m not claiming NO ONE cares, I am claiming that for the most part they worry about their own ass FIRST, not my child and not me as a parent, validity means NOTHING.

The mantra is: Get with the program, WE’RE RIGHT and that’s the end of it.  We don’t give a shit about facts, we give a shit about ourselves.  Understand…?

In the tenth grade, “I got it”, the experiences I’ve had regarding my children, overridingly says, sure man… “I STILL get it”.

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By gerard, October 22, 2009 at 9:23 pm Link to this comment

American anti-intellectualism is a very interesting subject.  Nowhere near enough room here, but anyway ... the idea of “too much education” equals “elitism” is as old as the ocuntry.  To conquer and build up a vast wilderness required more brawn than brains, so that was the beginning.  Cleavage between the North and the South emphasized it, the South seeing itself as “gentlemen farmers” (thanks to their slaves!) and inheritors of “gentility,” whereas the North developed heavy industry and mining and glorified the “self-made man” who “lifted himself by his own bootstraps” etc. etc.
  Politics has always been overloadrd with this idea of cleavage (remember George Bush and John Kerry as the two recent icons of the great divide).  It is amazing that propaganda playing on this notion still gets attention and wins votes. One reason may be that this country from the beginning has admitted and absorbed migrants from different cultures, though not without the class struggles, competitions and heirarchies that go with it. (The east coast still thinks the west coast is the end of nowhere, except for San Francisco.) City people generally think of themselves as “better educated” than country people.  Country people insist that they are the true patriots who carry the real “American values.”
  All these differences are manipulated when necessary to keep people divided against each other in order to avoid unity and close scrutiny at what is really going on in the centers of wealth and power.

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By Anarcissie, October 22, 2009 at 4:17 pm Link to this comment

I don’t believe the word education should be used as a synonym for either “learning” or “teaching”, but to the specific assemblage of training, indoctrination, socialization and credentialization explicitly and intentionally performed by schools.  This is what we are usually talking about when we refer to “educators”, “educated people”, and so on—the education industry.

I have plenty of horror stories about what I would call negative education—these are situations in which children are taught to associate literature, mathematics, science and so forth with boredom and uselessness.  I don’t know if these are relevant; they are just examples of poor techniques that could be corrected.  What I am more interested in is what the education industry is doing when it’s doing what educators and other officials think it’s supposed to do (besides give them jobs and social status).  I thought the Giroux article was pretty relevant to that issue, although it’s only one aspect of the situation.  No, we don’t talk about class, do we?  Thank you, SusanSunflower!

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By SusanSunflower, October 22, 2009 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

yes, definitions do matter ... we have too many kids who effectively drop out of school extremely young—middle school, earlier (missing out on both school’s “educational” and socializing benefits) I have read that socializing and extracurricular activiies actually are a significant factor in keeping kids IN school.

On the other hand, we have declining SAT score, notorious failure rates for COLLEGE students on their English proficiency tests in places that require them—we have Jay Leno-esque embarrassments wrt “general fund of knowledge” in all spheres—inability to find LARGE IMPORTANT countries on a world map, for instance.

Then, we have stressed out 2-working parent families whose desire and/or ambition to have their kids graduate high school, maybe get some college is in serious competition with making ends meet ... The unruly teen (again) who drops out of school and leaves home to get a job and have “real” spending money (all often in dramatic 1-2 sweep) represents another challenge.

Anyone who has ever known a drug dealer has witnessed the social power and standing of being the man with the product ... and then there’s the money ... “harmless” “victimless” crime of selling stuff to people who want to buy it.
==================================================
Actually education beyond the 3R’s gets controversial quite quickly ... hell, evolution remains controversial ... and while your parents may delight in their well-read, well-educated child, there are plenty of parents who are NOT so thrilled at the “attitude” and having their authority challenged and who may genuinely worry about “unrealistic expectations” and “getting above your station.” See also the various common sneering prejudices about all sorts of civil services (i.e. EOCC) and other entry-into-middle-class jobs in law enforcement, health care or—cough—teaching/education.

There is actually much more grass-roots negativity towards “higher” education than is commonly recognized, much less acknowledged. Related are the various masculine/feminine “Real jobs for Real Men” stereotypes.

So, we have poor results among those who actually qualified to get to college as well as all those “lost” along the way and we have notorious American anti-intellectualism ... and I hear a lot of under-employed college graduates who feel increasing anger about their college loans, etc.

yes, TPTB want us dumb and broke ... desperate and fearful… unable to find the door.

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By gerard, October 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment

For the moment let’s just use the word “schools” instead of “education.”  People will argue forever what “education” means, and never agree.  But everybody goes to school, knows the various kinds of schools for various purposes, more or less, and the agreement is pretty general that in this country we are talking about trying to prepare all young people to take their place as intelligent, curious, and if possible creative citizens in the full meaning of that term.
  There has been rather broad agreement on that for more than a century.  Sure, we fall short, we shift and disagree and change. But that’s life.
  The vast majority of children go to public schools, and here the aim is to encourage “average” kids to learn necessary skills to join with others in meeting problems as opportunities, and, by using their minds and hearts to explore, to work out decisions and solve problems.  This requires freedom of thought and open discussion—not a characteristic of many schools in other countries.
To some degree we try to help kids analyze what is going on in and around them, but this is apparently not our strong point if one judges by current behavior in general.
  For kids who have “special needs” we try to do our best, but their situations are more complex and their needs are harder to meet. 
  To the degree that we succeed or fail these broad goals, the country prospers or decays.  It’s that important.

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By Mary, October 22, 2009 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

On paper a merit based system looks fantastic, but there are too many variables that factor in. Personally, I agree with Roberts notion of state funding and state management.

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By ardee, October 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

I would ask Anarcissie for examples of when education is a bad thing? Undoubtedly one may receive a bad education but one can overcome such if only the thirst for knowledge is instilled.

More such ramblings:

from WIKI :                 
Education in its broadest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character or physical ability of an individual. In its technical sense education is the process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills and values from one generation to another.


Definitions of education on the Web: 
 
 
  * Education in its broadest sense is any act or experience that has a formative effect on the mind, character, or physical ability of an individual (e.g., the consciousness of an infant is educated by its environment through its interaction with its environment); and in its technical sense ...

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By Anarcissie, October 22, 2009 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment

As I read the article and the comments, I notice that education is treated as a sort of amorphous, indefinable, but undoubted good.  This is the popular view.

On bumper stickers, it is sometimes treated as the equivalent of knowledge or intelligence: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”  However, it is pretty clear that one can be educated and yet ignorant or unintelligent, and vice versa.

It seems to me that before one can discuss education one needs to know what it is and what it’s for.  I have an idea that it will look different to different points of view.  neilkevin suggests, for example, that independence is a desirable outcome, although he does not explicitly connect it with education.  But the ruling class, especially employers, sellers of consumer goods and military leaders, could hardly see the inculcation of independence as a desirable outcome.  Such people will carry a lot more weight with the government than a collection of earnest but uninfluential ordinary citizens.  And the government is certainly being rung in here in a big way.

On the other hand, the ruling-class folks would probably agree with many among the lower orders that children ought to be taught to read, if only to read their operations manuals, even if reading opens the door to various kinds of undesirable subversion.  There is inevitably a sort of contradiction, a tension between outcomes, which our lords and masters will have to resolve. 

So, to begin with, what are we all talking about?

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By Jolimont, October 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment

Several issues with the American educational system:

1. Funding should not be tied to local taxes because
it guarantees that rich areas have rich schools and
poor areas have poor schools. All school funding
should go into a Federal pool and be distributed
according to the number of students enrolled, each
child gets the same amount.

2. There are too many school districts in America.
One district per state, fire all the other
administrators.

3. Podunc county doesn’t need to mandate what belongs in the textbooks and what doesn’t. Curriculum needs to be decided at the Federal level by wise old guys and gals who don’t believe in UFOs or have extreme religious views but rather are PhD folks who are proven leaders in their fields.

4. College costs are out of control. Get rid of the
football teams and the marching band if you need to.
Make it cheap.

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By SusanSunflower, October 22, 2009 at 10:40 am Link to this comment

This article really needs to be read in conjunction with Truthout’s Schools and the Pedagogy of Punishment by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Feature

link: http://www.truthout.org/10200910

By which many schools and the “dangerous young people” they warehouse are become arms of the “police state”—a sort of stepped program leading to “early admission” to the prison industrial complex ...

the poorly performing or “difficult” become “criminialized”—- on the “up side” their explusion means they are unlikely to damage their teacher earning potential or mar their sense of professionalism, just “unmanageable” doncha know.

The horror stories of trying to actually get around to teaching (much like “The Wire”) appear to represent various “geographies” —I suspect, however, there are recognizable commonalities to their feeder communities—cough.

Even more than race, discussing class issues is pretty much taboo.

I was shocked to read a few months ago that Hispanic drop out rates match or even exceed those of African-Americans. Let’s worry about them too.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 22, 2009 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

One of the main problems is this eugenic/IQ test based environment where the test is more important than the course itself. Whole school systems now spend time teaching for the test then for the course for the children. And if you don’t take tests well? You get either artificially raised grades to pass or removed so the school gets a higher rating instead of being closed. But the fundamental question of actual education is lost in the miasma of NCLB. A throwback we don’t need. The same with SAT & PSAT’s which really count far more than they should. What happened to just your grades for all those school years you put in? Isn’t as important in the scheme where the test makers get big bucks and a captive audience of takers. Not the best way to run education is it?

If they really wanted to make it more “practical” and more intrusive the various corporations could filter their influence and money into high school and elementary school as they have at colleges and universities. At least there might be a better chance for some to actually have a job waiting when they graduate college. If they can ever afford it that is.

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By SusanSunflower, October 22, 2009 at 10:08 am Link to this comment

Not all students, nor parents, nor families, nor communities are “created equal”—pay for performance is likely to incentivize labeling marginal students as “special needs” and created even more teaching “specialization,” each with its own baselines and pay for performance ... costly red-tape, bureaucratic embellishments ...

After how many years of NCLB, there should be data (the only legitimate rationale for this bean-counter reform movement, imho, is the collection of this national standardized DATA—to whatever degree it has been survived local modifications).

Real educational reforms are going to take a couple of generations—they always were going to take a couple of generations—to hopefully provide each child with at least one reasonably educated parent or grandparent.

yes, efforts to generate those “seed crops” that will turn around and create those “next generations” will likely “pay off” ...

instead we get what appears again to be top-down “politics as usual”

(I’m still waiting for my welfare reform dividend, though I’ve given up on my “fall of the evil empire” end of the cold war rebate).

Ironic so much emphasis on educating a population who will likely then “cost too much” and be “over qualified” (not to mention have “unrealistic expectations) to be hired and suceed at the crap domestic jobs remaining.

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By gerard, October 22, 2009 at 9:38 am Link to this comment

I’ve taught at both elementary and college level, in both public and private schools, and from my experience I can say that the problems of schools are both complex and natural—complex because human beings are complex, unavoidable because every unique person, no matter how “different”, deserves an education that will help him or her live a full life. The idea of perfect schools is Utopian, but poor schools are a hell for many kids.  We go for the median as best we can, but one thing is a huge disadvantage for public schools in poor districts—the practice of so-called “local control,” which means money comes mainly from local taxes and taxes in such districts are necessarily low (vicious circle) plus local control by school boards made up of local people means that some school boards are vastly more educated than others.  If this situation were leveled out some, things would improve, I believe. Otherwise, injustice is built into the system, and the result is the perpetuation of class differences between rich, middle and poor.

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By Robert, October 22, 2009 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The restructuring for education simple needs to be a change in funding and management. Instead of country and city funding and management of schools, it should be done on a stateside basis. This would substantially reduce replication of administrative services across the state and more effectively enable the effective establishment and maintenance educational standards across the state. It is not the whole system that is failing, it is specific communities within each state that have difficulties is properly managing and funding their educational systems.

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By ardee, October 22, 2009 at 5:25 am Link to this comment

I am a staunch advocate for public education. I think it the place wherein our “melting pot” society functions best, bringing all in physical contact with the concepts of diversity and good citizenship, as well as providing the best education for the most children.

This system was under attack by the Bush administration for his full eight years in office and was in dire need for a long time prior to that frontal assault. “No Child Left Undamaged” was a test based disaster that forced teachers to teach answers to tests instead of providing a foundation for children to seek means and methods for solutions. The best education instills a life long desire to continue to learn throughout ones life.

It starts and ends with good teachers, find them, create them, and let them do their jobs. I fear that there are forces in this country that do not want an educated public, only a succession of fast food workers, docile, and dumb.

As to the post of Mr. Kevin, I am in agreement that our welfare system is in need of reformation, but wonder what his diatribe against “dependency” has to do with the rebuilding of our public education system?

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By Howie Bledsoe, October 22, 2009 at 3:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whoa, wait a minute. I thought we were bankrupt. Who´s gonna bankroll this big idea, the health insurance industry?

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By joedee1969, October 22, 2009 at 2:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe the teachers should teach how bad Czars are to a free society:

http://americaspeaksink.com/2009/10/wall-street-the-president-and-the-rest-of-us/

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