Teaching and learning from preschoolers.
The bottom line is clear: In attempting to change the mission of public education from one focused on educating kids to one focused on generating private profit, corporate leaders in the "reform" movement are pursuing a shrewd investment strategy. Millions of dollars go into campaign contributions and propaganda outfits that push "reform," and, if successful, those "reforms" guarantee Wall Street and their investment vehicles much bigger returns for the long haul.
In the bait-and-switch of the "Great Education Myth," then, the corporate "reformers" get to pretend that they care about poor people and brag that they are benevolently leading "the civil rights issue of this era," when what they are really doing is making sure America doesn't talk about the macroeconomic policies that make Wall Streeters so much money, and impoverish so many others in the process.
Teachers unions' self-interest means advocating for better teacher salaries and job security -- an agenda item that would, among other things, allow the teaching profession (as in other nations) to financially compete for society's "best and brightest" and in the process help kids. The unions' self-interest also means advocating for decent workplace facilities, which undeniably benefits not only the teacher, but also students. And it means pressing for curricular latitude that doesn't force educators to teach to a standardized test, a notion that would help actually educate students to think critically, rather than train them to be test-taking robots . . . Neither side's self-interest is perfectly aligned with the goal of bettering our education system. But one side is clearly far more aligned with that goal that the other.
The movement to privatize education is so heinous. Not only is it motivated by profit, it is dangerous from an ideological standpoint.
I agree that privatizing schools is absolutely the wrong way to go, as is union busting. Our teachers need all the support we can muster! However, I hope that your article is not arguing to keep the status quo: our schools nationwide STILL need to be constantly worked on and reformed. We need to move from an industrial model to one that encourages critical thinking, much like your own preschool does. Whether we "like" our own schools or not has little bearing on the fact that our schools are statistically behind much of the rest of the world. Opinion (and Gallup polls) is a very subjective measure: we still live in a nation where over 75% of our adults are of the opinion that they are above average in intelligence! Naturally as a people we believe the best of ourselves and our local institutions: it's the rest of the country that needs to fall in line! Until everyone is a long hard look at our own back yard, and willing to improve THAT, our schools and our political process are never going to change.
Oh wow. I am so glad I read this piece. I am in school to become an English teacher at the secondary level, and all my concerns over the potential job market stem from concerns addressed by this very informative post. I appreciate someone out there putting out the good word and keeping a positive light shining on public education!
I love the water beads Tom:)
I have been shuffled to like four schools in a district when I was younger before I was landed in a special ed class (this all was in California by the way) then I got into a regular sixth grade class, was behind on math because a teacher in special ed didn't let me go on to learn division, she just told me I could stop there, THEN I was moved from one school to the next, my dad kept going to where he could make more money. I went to one place I was started at middle of seventh grade, graduated from there then started HS but got moved so I lost all my friends and HATED the school I was at, grades dropped and I was depressed. started junior year at that place but moved again, this time to Washington state. It wasn't too bad. But because I had so many schools under my belt I came up with my own conclusions, many schools SUCK, or else I just didn't fit in in that kind of school setting. When I read of other HS with great art programs that involved parents actually fought to keep, I wished I had gone to those places. For me and my highly creative brood and individualized education is so much better.
I agree with you Gyan. We should always be working toward improving our schools in the ways you mention. At the same time, I think it's important to acknowledge that things are not so dire that we need to blow the whole thing up as the "reformers" would have us believe. We're not in a horrible place right now, and many teachers are doing outstanding work within the current system. I'm encouraged that parents seem to understand, perhaps not specifically, but at least in general terms, what quality education looks like. As I see it, that's where the push for real reform has to come: parents and teachers working together.@Akemanartist . . . I think you once mentioned that you were Aspergers. Our current model really doesn't do a particularly good job educating kids on the spectrum unless parents have the time, energy and knowledge to really get in there and advocate for their kids. This would not be the case if more of our schools took a project or play-based approach to education.
There are some wonderful schools and teachers, but there are also those who seem to focus on putting kids in a rigid box. I withdrew my son from public school after kindergarten due to practices such as: the children had to write and draw in their journal each day, the subject matter always had to be real, no fantasy or imaginative ideas. Once they had written about a subject once, eg their pet, they could not choose that subject again. When they went to the library, four children were seated at each table and 4 books were placed on the table. They were to choose one of those books to check out. There was no freedom to explore the library or express a personal literary interest. It was a frustrating experience that had a negative impact on my son's interest in writing and reading.
I've been doing this a while, teaching for about 15 years in a great public middle school, with Southern California teachers in my family going back to the '20s. I was still shocked yesterday by the term "for-profit charter schools" that I heard in an announcement about Magic Johnson hopping on board the corporate "reform" wagon. Like the for-profit hospitals that came before them, they are contrary to what their basic function in society is about.
I sent this post to my husband yesterday since he's currently studying education and play-based curriculums in particular. As of now, he's reading Ken Robinson's books on not educating the creativity out of our children. He also says we don't need to reform our schools but to transform them and give the teachers the latitude they need to instill in our children a love of learning and discovery and also to avoid learning the mentality that to every question there is only one right answer (and it's in the back of the book, but don't look because that's cheating) and that to be wrong is a horrible, horrible thing.
I happen to live in Wisconsin, there seems to be a misguided comment about the teachers unions primary objective being the facilities that they work in. Here at least, the primary objective has been more benefits for the teachers. I had the opportunity to work within our public school system, while I did meet some truly lovely & good teachers. I also had the opportunity to see some of they ugly truth. There are some who seemed either completely overwhelmed or in the wrong profession. I do not agree with the cuts made in the education of the children for the benefit of the teachers. Then the propaganda that goes out states how "we" the tax payers/voters are making that decision. We are already one of the highest states in regards to taxes.Currently I send my daughter to a private, non-profit school in which she is nutured and loved as well as educated. She is being taught that she has choices and is in control of her life. Children are respected & the older children play a role in mentoring the younger children. While MPS is not horrible by world standards for the challenges they are dealing with - there is a lot of room for improvement.
great post, tom. forwarding it now :)
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