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Mon, 28 May 2012 21:27:49 -0400
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The States: More Bully Politics of Education Reform 

by P. L. Thomas

CommonDreams.org Published on Monday, May 28,
2012 by Schools Matter blog 

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/28-8

From South Carolina to New Jersey to Wisconsin--and all
across the U.S.--universal public education is under
assault by the bully politics of education reform.

In my home state of South Carolina, Governor Haley and
Superintendent Zais, neither of whom have experience or
expertise in education, are seeking to attack unions
(although SC is a non-union, right-to-work state),
increase education testing through adopting Common Core
State Standards, deprofessionalize teachers through new
accountability and merit-pay schemes, and cripple
public schools by endorsing expanded choice
initiatives.

Tractenberg details a similar pattern in New Jersey:

"Gov. Chris Christie wastes no opportunity to trash
Newark's public schools. His assaults continued
recently at a national school choice conference, where
he and odd-couple partner Mayor Cory Booker were
featured speakers. "Aside from Christie's well-known
penchant for confrontation, there are two big problems
with his attacks. "First, he insists on citing "facts"
that are either flat-out wrong or cherry-picked to
emphasize the worst in Newark's schools. An education
expert recently questioned why those promoting school
choice often use the best charter schools to
characterize all charter schools and the worst regular
public schools to characterize all those schools."

The situation is even more grim in Wisconsin, home of
the relentless Governor Walker:

"Walker is the archetypical bully. He has plenty of
insecurities as a possible suspect in a John Doe case
and as a college dropout--which necessitates his
attacks on the 'liberal' academics. Self-esteem issues
explain his need to repeatedly remind us how
'courageous' he has been and how he is like Ronald
Reagan. Walker, like most bullies, yearns for
status--which explains his national speaking tour. Most
blatantly bullying is Walker's 'divide and conquer'
management style (openly advertised to one of his
billionaire campaign donors)." "No group is better
skilled at handling bullies, like Walker, than public
educators. Teachers have much experience managing
bullies in schools. We are trained in anti-bullying
tactics. We have intervened in bullying situations and
we advise our students on how to counter bullying. It
is now time for Wisconsin's teachers to embrace what we
teach our students."

Steve Strieker, then, calls for a response in Wisconsin
that every educator should heed: "Public educators must
not be bystanders to Walker's bullying." Part of the
action educators must take is to identify the hypocrisy
and lack of credibility coming from the current leaders
in the call to reform schools along "no excuses" and
corporate ideologies.


Bully Bravado Masks Inexperience, No Expertise, and
Hypocrisy

Presidents, Secretaries of Education, Governors, and
State Superintendents of Education historically and
currently have used their bully pulpits to speak to and
directly influence public education in the U.S. and in
each state. In the twenty-first century, billionaires,
millionaires, athletes, and celebrities have
increasingly joined those political leaders by adopting
education as their hobby. Among all of these elites,
several patterns expose their combined failure to
understand the problems facing and solutions needed for
education--despite their elitist status that allows them
power and prestige in the education debate. Those
patterns expose these leaders' hypocrisy and lack of
credibility and include the following:

* Most of these leaders experienced educational
advantages unlike the schools they hope to create by
dismantling public schools. Bill Gates, Arne Duncan,
and Mitt Romney, for example, enjoyed the luxury of low
student-teacher ratios, but claim class size doesn't
matter (although class size does matter). The hypocrisy
of the "no excuses" reformers reveals that these people
living in privilege have a different standard for other
people's children.

* Most of these leaders have never taught a day in
their lives, and have no background in education other
than their appointments and self-proclamations as
educators. Sal Khan--like Duncan, Gates, and the
governors across the nation--for example, has been
anointed "educator" and "innovator" without having ever
taught, without holding any degrees in education.

* Most of these leaders have either a weak or
nonexistent grasp on the current knowledge and
research-base for teaching and learning. Further, like
Christie, when these reformers call on evidence, they
either cherry-pick, distort, or misrepresent the data.
Recently, Superintendent Zais (SC) discounted paying
teachers for years of experience or advanced degrees
since, as he claimed, those two characteristic do not
correlate positively with higher student test scores.
But Zais does endorse merit pay, value-added methods of
teacher evaluation, charter schools, and
vouchers/tuition tax credits--all of which have the same
correlation with higher student test scores as his
claim about experience and advanced degrees.

With these patterns in mind, educators must consider
directly the situation in Wisconsin, where a recall
highlights the power of action, and possibly highlights
yet again the negative influence of passive educators.

Wisconsin, along with SC and New Jersey, is not just
one state in the union, but a very real crucible of
democracy. Educators and citizens across the U.S. must
not ignore that an attack on public schools, public
school teachers, and public school students is an
attack on democracy.

Democracy is not just an ideal, it is an act of the
individual fully committed to the community.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org Source URL:
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/05/28-8

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