Rainbow over Galileo Lane, Tucson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Political incursions into education

During the years of the so-called reading wars I learned that I had lied to my California eighth grade students. The state required that all eighth graders had to pass a test on the state and federal constitution. And one of the things I taught was how a bill becomes a law.  I left out the work of the lobbyists. And I left out the work of the movement conservatives who have developed tactics for using the institutions of democracy to destroy democracy.

No child left behind was a brilliant example of the work of the movement conservatives. They rewrote the elementary -secondary education act which was the major law that brought federal money into the nation's schools with the goals of equalizing educational opportunity. Their rewriting gutted the original act, redirected its resoursces, took control of  curriculum and policies away from the local districts and the states and mandated methods, materials and texts. And it specifically marginalized whole language broadly defined as anything other than synthetic phonics in literacy instruction.

And it disguised its purposes so well as reform that it was supported by both parties and the major minority

Diane Ravitch says that under NCLB, the federal government was dictating ineffectual remedies, which had no track record of success. Neither Congress nor the U.S. Department of Education knows how to fix low performing schools. The intent was not to fix the schools it was to destroy public education and put in its place
a privatized system like that of third world nations where anybody with means sends their kids to private schools , public schools serve only the working poor, aand the non-working poor are forced out of school at an early age. 

They accomplished this by using the federal money as bait to force the changes they sought in state educational policies and local application. In his campaign, Obama took advice from reputable educators such as Linda Darling Hammond but he also listened to the same people who had created NCLB.

In fact his administration discovered that you could force change without actually giving the states money.
Under the bad sports metaphor of "Race to the Top" states were required to change such important policies as teach tenure to appply for a grant and then they only give the grant to a few states.

NCLB- still  the law of the land n education- has a time bomb ticking, By 2014 all children are required to be proficient in reading. If not all schools will be labled failing. In Lake Wobegone they only have to be above average.

Now the two parries each have a plan for modifying NCLB. But in the spirit of this Congress they differ sufficiently that no change will actually pass. Which leaves the schools of america caught in the limbo
of enforcing a law nobody wants with less money. And that means teachers losing jobs and pressure on those who still  teach to be faithful to bad programs out in place by massive conflicts of interest under the past administrtaion.

Maybe what we need is teachers occupying the DOE in Washington like they did in the state capitol in Wisconsin. Or how about occupying both political conventions this year? Wouldn't it be great if we shut down all the schools while the two parties were nominating their candidates?

That would be a  lesson from the teachers.

1 comment:

  1. Love this Ken! We are on the same wavelength - we indeed will Occupy the DOE in DC from March 30th to April 2nd. It's time.
    Peggy Robertson