Even Harvard? Crap.

I decided to explore the Harvard Graduate School of Education website this morning for some good best practices research , maybe a well reasoned critique on educational reform, and I wanted to check out their amazing teacher education coursework as a possible alternative to Arne Duncan’s weird standards.   Instead, I saw this, “Dean James Ryan has announced a $5 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation that will fund fellowships in the Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program.”  Oh, well, back to Ravich, Schneider, and Edushyster…

Thank You to a Few Teachers

I was reading about corporate educational reform in the middle of the night, as usual, when a contributor challenged readers to recognize the teachers who made a difference in their lives as a reminder of how many great teachers there are out there.  I thought that was a good idea since the rich and the powerful are trying to ensure that those kinds of teachers become extinct- to be replaced by the ones that keep everyone quiet preparing kids for unethical, invalid, poorly written tests that will judge their worth- both child and  teacher.  So, here’s a few:

Mr. Kastelic- changed the way I think about the world and for some reason, saw me as someone who could change it; I am the teacher I am today because of him.  (11th grade American history, student taught for him 6 years later, mentored by him for years after that) RIP

Mr. Hawk- treated me like an olympian though I was just an above average cross country/track runner with some heart; He cheered me on in my first (and last) marathon; he said he admired me, which means a lot to a shy invisible kid (11th, 12th grade p.e., coach) RIP
Mrs. Hunt- taught me a love for music, art, and literature by making it accessible  and by making us feel like it was there just for us, and we were worthy to appreciate it.   (11th grade humanities) RIP
Mrs. Clayton- gave me permission to love to read and to read anything I wanted to, no but’s or even though’s. (11th grade reading, 12th grade t.a.)
Ms. Figuerelli– liked me even though I sucked at Spanish; I could be just okay at something and still be likeable, at least in her class. (11th grade Spanish)
Mrs. Adams- treated me as a special girl, came to my house for lunch, my inner world said “I am no one,” she said louder, “you are someone.” (2nd grade)
Mrs. Krause- for letting us act out Huckleberry Finn instead of just sitting there pretending to read for a whole year; it’s literally the only thing I remember about 7th grade! She obviously knew child development. (7th grade English)
Mrs. Boylin– for asking me if she could enter my essay into a contest (9th grade) RIP
Mr. Smith– for letting us give presentations in front of the class and make a huge deal out of it; I’ll bet I’m not the only one to remember most of my speech; mine was on the digestive system (5th grade science)
Dr. Papalagos- for rocking my world about political theory and appearing to be delighted by me, as a person, too; though that was my partying year in college, he didn’t seem to notice the lateness or the truancy, just my presence. (political science, undergraduate)
Dr. Margolis- for letting me become a thoughtful reflective teacher, pushing us go deeper than we thought we could, wanting us to dialogue about our readings, writings, and thoughts; for letting me write the thesis I wanted and appearing to be very happy with the result. (education, graduate)
Kris Boggs- my dearest friend and colleague; for inspiring me to stay true to myself as we taught next door to each other for so many years; so different from me as a teacher, but embracing and honoring my practice, when even I wanted to throw in the towel to those who wanted me to conform. You’ll simply never know how good of a friend you’ve been. (colleague)
Scott Jacobs– my other friend who I will think of until I die; we pushed each other further than we could go by ourselves; I wonder if together, we would make a perfect teacher..probably not. 🙂 may we re-unite again someday to complete the conversation. (colleague)
All the teachers I read in the blogs these days- who are fighting the good fight for kids to have a meaningful and worthy education, despite all forces working against that end. I was too busy all these years teaching and fighting my own battles to realize there are others like me out there. They inspire me, too, though I never met them.

And the countless great educators– who I was privileged to be required to read in college, who were hopefully the driving force behind most of what I did in the classroom.   I always knew the moments when I wasn’t doing the right thing for all sorts of conformist reasons, but in those moments, I had a conscience that nagged and nagged because of these great teachers and educators.  My greatest wish is that every one studying to become a teacher would get to read them, too.

 

We have got to fight to preserve the institution that brought us these  lifelong educators who know what they’re doing and why they are doing it.  They care for the students and our society so deeply that teaching is their calling and their life’s work.  Let’s change the tide before history blames us for allowing Teach for America and Kahn Academy to replace the American public educator, who once upon a time, helped kids tap into their power, their potential, their importance- who, once upon a time, taught American youth how to freely choose to use their power, potential, and importance for the betterment of all.

The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling

so good to hear these words and recommendations; don’t feel quite so lonely!

Deborah Meier on Education

Dear readers,

I just finished a book published in 1997 edited by John Goodlad and Timothy McMannon. I could quote every page. But… Read it! Title: The Public Purpose of Education and Schooling, Jossey Bass Publishers. Especially Parts Two and Three which are a dialogue between some wonderful and thoughtful participants. (Part I consists of six essays by some of the distinguished crew.) Who? Benjamin Barber, Theodore Sizer, Linda Darling-Hammond, Gary Fenstermacher, Dona Kerr and Roger Soder. The second conversation included as well Don Ernst, Mary Ellen Finch, Susan Ropert and Mark OShea

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These conversations came right at that height of the onslaught of the “new reformers” which wiped out so much of the work described here by Goodlad and Sizer’s —NNER and CES. Their optimism about the work they were doing was hard for me to read—knowing as I did the future. Sobering. But my “half-full” brother’s…

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If Public Schools are Dying, Ailing, or Thriving; So, Too, is America

The undemocratic federal and corporate control over public schools has become nothing short of fascist. The attempt to malign and eliminate public schools is a vile treasonous act that will destroy our democracy quicker and in a more sustained way than any terrorist group. Moreover, our complacency within the public schools that brought about all this reactionary behavior has been just as destructive. Americans’ highest priority as a nation must be to democratically create schools that are truly committed to an education that results in independent, enlightened, critical, caring, self-aware, self-actualizing individuals who will be active participants in our democracy.

I have been so heartened by the grassroots activism of parents and educators across the country to preserve and protect public schools.  I get goose bumps as I read the hundreds of blogs so intelligently and vehemently exposing the false assumptions and bad data espoused by supporters of standardized testing and corporate influence in our schools. I am moved to tears every time I hear of a teacher walk-out or a student walk-out, standing up for our precious children and our fragile democracy. With all this determination and courage, we may just win this.  But make no mistake, if we win, our work will have just begun.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the recent standardized testing insanity has not caused radical changes in our schools. Radical change is what I imagine may have occurred in places like a Deb Meier school or a Ted Sizer school. What a sacrilege.  But for the most part, what the “reform” movement has done is simply locked the shackles we already had imposed on ourselves.  But by locking those shackles, “reformers” have raised the ire of two groups of educators whose voices are finally being heard.

First, there are the educators, good teachers, who basically follow the factory model and do what is expected of them, so the shackles don’t chafe them when they teach. But they are conscientious, caring, effective, and pure in their motives. They love the kids, and they care about the students above anything else.  When the shackles were locked, though, they realized how important even small deviations from the norm really were, to them and to their students, whether it was the field trips or the circle time or the plays or the projects.  And as though those kids were their very own children, this group of teachers, one by one, saw the damage that was being done, and their wrath would not be appeased, and hopefully they won’t allow their voices to be silenced.

The second group of educators who have been forced to join this fight to preserve public school are the thousands of subversive civilly disobedient educators, who choose to walk to the beat of the drum that leads their students toward the true aims of education.  And throughout their march, they rarely were praised, often were reprimanded, and they never fit in.  Somehow, they stay as true as they can to the noblest aims of education- to self-actualize, to become caring people, independent thinkers, and democratic citizens.  They try to follow the research and evidence based practices written in scholarly journals and presented at conferences and their master’s courses.  They reflect on and try to follow the great educators like Nel Noddings, John Dewey, Jane Roland Martin, Deb Meier, Ted Sizer, Herbert Kohl, Jonathan Kozol, and so many others.  They teach with grace as though the shackles aren’t tearing their flesh and weighing them down, as though they aren’t being shunned by administrators and colleagues. But to these unsung heroes, it is still worth it because they are reaching kids, making an impact, and following their principles as best they can while remaining in the system. But, again, just like the first group, when the shackles were locked, they became trapped like caged animals, with no room to follow principles and keep their jobs.  This group can no longer be silent, either. If we do achieve a critical mass among educators, it will be because of these two minority groups.

As Howard Zinn has taught us over and over again, it is not the Constitution that protects our rights or our democracy.  We, the people, breathe life into our democracy.  We, the people, have to be willing to fight, tooth and nail, for every lofty ideal that this country stands for.  If we don’t, our democracy will be overtaken.  Our rights will be taken away. The single greatest way we can protect our democracy and our rights is to care for our public education system. The heart and soul of our democracy is our public education system. We should sacrifice everything to preserve and improve it.  With that much power, comes just as much responsibility.  And we should be held accountable for the fruits of our labor.

American public education can be credited for the protests against Eric Garner’s death and the outcry against the use of systematic torture in Afghanistan. We can also be blamed for perpetuating institutional racism and torture.  Public schools are responsible for the minds that create our society. It’s that simple.  Not for the ridiculous test scores- how absurd and short-sighted, not to mention self-serving and oppressive! But public schools are responsible for the generational changes for the better and for the worse in this democratic society.

When this battle is won due to the heroic voices and activism of educators and parents across this nation, we must remain vigilant in that activist stance when we return to the classroom unbridled by standardized testing.  We can create schools that can take credit for the elimination of institutional racism, that can take credit for the highest voting participation in the world, for being the human rights champions of the world, not just in word but in deed.  We can create those schools.  And I would welcome being evaluated on that kind of criteria.

It is time to reclaim the true purpose of education, re-commit to our public education system, and re-vitalize it to fulfill its wondrous potential.  We owe that to our children and the generations to come.  We all need to remain conscious of how heavily the survival of our nation’s fundamental principles rely on the sacred institution of the American public school system.

Those 24 Common Core 2009 Work Group Members

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In May 2009, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former State Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This CCSS MOU would become “Appendix B” for the US Department of Education’s (USDOE’s) Race to the Top (RTTT) program.

In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA), in conjunction with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, announced that 46 states were already signed on for what would become CCSS.

The formal document, the CCSS MOU, outlines in detail the different groups of individuals and what their roles would be in “developing” CCSS.

The document signed by Jindal and Pastorek in May 2009– the CCSS MOU that would become RTTT Appendix B– is the same document I wrote about in this post.

The CCSS MOU makes it clear that the chief decision makers for CCSS were the individuals on the…

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