Sunday, October 21, 2012

Daily Kos: The Polonius Chronicles: The Invisible Hand and the King Imperative

Daily Kos: The Polonius Chronicles: The Invisible Hand and the King Imperative

Against Obedience, Susan Ohanian

Ohanian, S (2012). Against obedience Critical Education, 3(9). Retrieved from

from page 13:

"Of course some professors are leading the resistance. Rich Gibson and E. Wayne Ross have shown me that “The Education Agenda Is a War Agenda.” I have their book and stacks of others sitting at my elbow and piled at my ankles—books I referred to when writing this piece, books with titles like Neoliberalism and Education Reform (Ross & Gibson, 2007); Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (St Clair & Frank, 2012); The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education (Carr & Porfilio, 2011); Reading Wide Awake: Politics, Pedagogies, & Possibilities (Shannon, 2011); Power, Resistance, and Literacy: Writing for Social Justice (Gorlewski, 2011); Ignoring Poverty in the U. S.: the Corporate Takeover of Public Education (Thomas, 2012), Free Voluntary Reading (Krashen, 2011); Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education (Noble, 2003); Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare (Turse, 2012); The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan (Hastings, 2012); The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work (Fernández, 2011). And I know I’ll buy more—probably tomorrow. But if my own royalty statements are any gauge, not many people are buying these books. I once told a Heinemann editor about my theory: “There are roughly only 3,000 teachers who buy books. They buy a lot of books. But they are the only ones buying.” The editor did not reply, but she got a very funny look on her face. I think my one good seller sold about 15,000 copies. Clearly not enough to spark a revolution."

Becoming and Being a Teacher: Lang catalogue

See page 4 of the Fall 2012 Peter Lang Catalogue

Democratic Education

Becoming and Being a Teacher:
Confronting Traditional Norms to Create New Democratic Realities

Edited By P.L. Thomas

PB | 978-1-4331-1650-6
HC | 978-1-4331-1686-5

Critical Studies in Democracy and
Political Literacy; vol.2

This volume unmasks tensions among
economic, political, and educational
goals in the context of becoming and
being a teacher. Chapters frame
becoming and being a teacher within
commitments to democracy and
political literacy while confronting
neoliberal assumptions about
American society, universal public
education, and education reform. A
wide variety of teachers and scholars
discuss teacher preparation and
teaching through evidence-based
examinations of complex problems
and solutions facing teachers,
education policy, the public, and
students. Teaching is embraced as a
political act, and critical subjectivity is
endorsed as a rejection of objectivity
and traditional paradigms of teaching
designed to create a compliant
teacher workforce. The book honors
and celebrates voice as well as
collective voice that speak to and
from the inexorable fact of becoming
and being a teacher as one and the

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the Chalk Face: Progressive #edreform talk 10/14 by Chalk Face | Blog Talk Radio

At the Chalk Face: Progressive #edreform talk 10/14 by Chalk Face | Blog Talk Radio

October 18, 2012: Poverty Is Destiny: Ignoring the MLK Imperative in Corporate Education Reform

Poverty Is Destiny: Ignoring the MLK Imperative in Corporate Education Reform

[Access PowerPoint HERE]

• Introduction/Context

Working class background

Father, junior college, paternal grandfather owned town gas station, Upstate SC
Mother, dropped out of junior college, maternal grandfather died yarn, mill worker, hills of NC

Home town, rural poverty

Came to recognize privilege inherent in white, male, working class roots

Privilege should equal humility and seeking equity for others (gained from work of Kurt Vonnegut):

“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Eugene V. Debs, September 18, 1918

Taught in rural SC high school 18 years; not in a union (live in right-to-work state)

Critical educator/scholar, FreireKincheloe, hooks, Foucault

“Thus, proponents of critical pedagogy understand that every dimension of schooling and every form of educational practice are politically contested spaces. Shaped by history and challenged by a wide range of interest groups, educational practice is a fuzzy concept as it takes place in numerous settings, is shaped by a plethora of often-invisible forces, and can operate even in the name of democracy and justice to be totalitarian and oppressive.” (Kincheloe, 2005, p. 2)

Claims framed against DEMOCRACY, EQUITY, and AGENCY (not college or work “readiness”)

• Claim 1: Poverty is destiny; so is privilege. (But poverty should not be destiny.)

(A) Not school to prison pipeline, but schools as prison.

White males outnumber Latino and Black males about 3 to 1 in U.S.; Latino and Black males outnumber while males about 10 to 1 in prisons.

"The practice of placing individuals under 'observation' is a natural extension of a justice imbued with disciplinary methods and examination procedures. Is it surprising that the cellular prison, with its regular chronologies, forced labour, its authorities of surveillance and registration, its experts in normality, who continue and multiply the functions of the judge, should have become the modern instrument of penality? Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?" Michel Foucault. Discipline & Punish (1975), Panopticism, III. Discipline, 3. Panopticism

“These findings show that urban youth get subjected to levels of surveillance and repression that are not the same as long-term incarceration, but nonetheless, as the school merges with an ideology of street policing, the courts, and even the prison, a particular culture of penal control becomes an aspect of everyday life at school and beyond….

"Despite the trouble it caused students, there was an important ideological dimension to their refusal to comply with law enforcement. Their contestations during interactions with police and agents contained within them a decisive critique of disciplinary practices. Policing practices, especially the demand to see ID, conflicted with students' sense of justice and fairness and their imagined ideal of schooling." [Kathleen Nolan. Police in the Hallways: Discipline in an Urban High School (Kindle Edition)]

Pre-kindergarten expulsions mirror incarcerations by race and gender:

Gilliam, W. S. (2005, May 4). Prekindergarteners left behind: Expulsion rates in state prekindergarten systems. Yale University Child Study Center.

(B) Educational opportunity reflects community and home: ZIP code is destiny.

"A Rotting Apple: Education Redlining in New York City" from the Schott Foundation for Public Education

Brookings report, "Housing Costs, Zoning and Access to High-Scoring Schools

(C) Economic mobility data contradict meritocracy myth, notably what Americans believe is equitable v. what exists in U.S. (Sawhill & MortonNorton & Ariely)

(D) High childhood poverty compared internationally (UNICEF 2012):

Iceland             4.7
Finland            5.3
…Norway       6.1
USA                23.1

(E) International educational outcomes, school, teacher, student “quality”—all strongly correlated with poverty rates and other out-of-school factors:

ETS 2007 and 2009

• Claim 2: “No Excuses” Reforms (NER) perpetuate status quo of inequity, classism, racism, and failed universal public education.

(A) NER argues to reform schools in order to change society. Logic problems: If children enter schools unequal, then schools must be UNLIKE the society in order to change that society, and then students must receive DIFFERENT educations that address that social inequity. Traditionally, public schools label, rank, and sort students, and then give those students from poverty the least engaging and challenging educations (NER doesn’t confront that, but perpetuates it).

(B) Contradiction of NER argument: NER policies reflect and perpetuate inequity:

New/different standards suggest problem is poor standards or lack of standards; masking that children of color, children from poverty, and ELL students receive reduced educational opportunities BECAUSE of standards/testing movement.

Standardized testing remains race, class, and gender biased; thus labeling, sorting, and ranking by tests data perpetuates inequity.

Commitments to Teach for America (TFA) continues failure of teacher assignment now common in traditional public schools: students in poverty, students of color, ELL students, and special needs students have un-/under-certified and inexperienced teachers.

Charter schools have a similar range of student outcomes when compared to traditional public schools, and charter schools are experiencing similar re-segregation of schools compared to community-based public schools.

“No Excuses” discipline policies are racist and classist; imposed on “other people’s children” (Delpit) but not implemented in schools unlike “no excuses” charters attended by reformers (Gates) and their children (Duncan, Obama).

• Claim 3: Social Context Reform calls for social reform that supports the meritocracy necessary for children to learn on a level playing field; while education reform must reshape entirely universal public education to address equity of opportunities for all children regardless of their status.

“As a consequence, fragmentary and spasmodic reforms have failed to reach down to the profoundest needs of the poor.

“In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, the programs of the past all have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income….

“We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” Martin Luther King Jr., Final Words of Advice, 1967

(A) Social reform needed to address childhood inequity; create social meritocracy to support education for democracy, equity, and agency:

Universal healthcare (including eye care, dental care) for children (and families with children)

Childhood food security

Stable and well-paying work for families (reform healthcare so jobs and healthcare are not linked); increase worker’s right and empowerment

Re-commit to fully funding and supporting universal public education; seek universal public college access for all successful students

(B) Genuine public school reform committed to democracy, equity, and agency:

End high-stakes testing and accountability; implement teacher/school autonomy and transparency (what schools offer and how v. student outcomes)

End labeling and sorting students

Insure equitable teacher assignments (no child receives consecutive years of un-/under-certified, inexperienced teachers)

Confront inequitable discipline policies and outcomes related to race, gender, and class

Reject the traditional deficit perspective driving public schooling that reflects cultural deficit view of people in poverty.]

Honor and support school, teacher, and student AUTONOMY (current accountability culture is about compliance, anti-democratic)

• Concluding comments:

Ralph Ellison, celebrated author of Invisible Manspoke in September 1963 at a teachers’ conference “…to discuss ‘these children,’ the difficult thirty percent. We know this very well; it has been hammered out again and again.” Ellison was addressing the educational failures of African American children in U.S. public schools, including drop outs.

Rejecting the prevalent deficit perspective of his era, Ellison bravely asserted, “There is no such thing as a culturally deprived kid.” In his confrontation of stereotypes about race and poverty as well as the historical failure of public education to challenge the racism and inequity of mid-twentieth century America, Ellison concluded with:

“I don’t know what intelligence is. But this I do know, both from life and from literature: whenever you reduce human life to two plus two equals four, the human element within the human animal says, “I don’t give a damn.” You can work on that basis, but the kids cannot. If you can show me how I can cling to that which is real to me, while teaching me a way into the larger society, then I will not only drop my defenses and my hostility, but I will sing your praises and help you to make the desert bear fruit.”

(A) There is no “crisis”

(B) There is no “achievement gap”—“achievement gap” is reflection of “equity gap”

In Ursula K. LeGuin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” she presents an allegory of privilege, a narrative that exposes how privilege exists upon the back of oppression:

“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.” (Le Guin, 1975, p. 282)

NER in education maintains the delusion that privilege can somehow be separated from inequity. SCR, however, seeks to pull aside the myth in order to pursue the dream of King in which we continue to seek equity in society and schools in the U.S.—by genuine social reform then wedded to educational reform.

Recommended: Two Lives Diverged, David Bamat

Schools Matter: Save Unsuccessful Charter Schools (SUCS), Now!

Schools Matter: Save Unsuccessful Charter Schools (SUCS), Now!

Daily Kos: Save Unsuccessful Charter Schools (SUCS), Now!

Daily Kos: Save Unsuccessful Charter Schools (SUCS), Now!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Red Shirts, Blue Suits: The Strike May Be Over But the Relationship Continues | Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Red Shirts, Blue Suits: The Strike May Be Over But the Relationship Continues | Andrea Kayne Kaufman

Schools Matter: The Great Charter Charade

Schools Matter: The Great Charter Charade

10th Period: EdWeek Column Re-Print, Expanded Version

10th Period: EdWeek Column Re-Print, Expanded Version: Last week, a column of mine ran with three other education policy experts in EdWeek . However, while the EdWeek editors did a fine job boili...

Writers Reflect on Chicago Strike (EdWeek)

Writers Reflect on Chicago Strike

Education Week

Stephen Dyer (Expanded)

Andrea Kayne Kaufman (Expanded)

Missing the Forest for the Trees (Expanded below)

The Chicago teachers’ strike has sparked even more debate over the role of unions and the importance of teacher quality in public education. Yet, arguments and policy associated with teachers’ unions and teacher quality share one serious problem—missing the forest for the trees.

Carefully examining the debates themselves, in other words, pulling back from the trees to consider the forest, offers an opportunity for the public, educators, and policy stakeholders to reframe those debates and thus improve the likelihood education reform can achieve what it has failed to accomplish over the past thirty years.

Debates about teachers’ unions and teacher quality share a pop culture problem, captured in the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’” and the feature film “Don’t Back Down.” In both, unions are portrayed as powerful as well as detrimental to needed educational outcomes while the influence of “bad” teachers is linked to those same protective unions.

If we pull back, however, from these repeated and enduring narratives (the public eagerly accepts them both in pop culture and the mainstream media), the evidence fails to support the claims.

For example, the union narrative—that unions are primarily to blame for school failures—falls apart once a few facts are examined. Unionized states tend to have higher test scores than non-union states (such as my home state of South Carolina, a right-to-work state that regularly is ranked at the bottom of traditional test data). But this fact is not pulling far enough back itself.

Unionization, poverty, and measurable student outcomes are so deeply interconnected that focusing solely on union influences on student outcomes misses the central obstacle facing public schools, teachers’ unions, and political leadership—poverty.

Next, the teacher quality debate exposes a nearly identical pattern if we focus on how to hold teachers accountable (arguments such as value-added methods of teacher evaluation) instead of asking whether or not teacher quality is a genuine problem in student outcomes, and if so, to what magnitude does that problem exist.

Like union influence, teacher quality is nearly inextricable from poverty and student test data.

The current education reform debate, then, captured by the Chicago teachers’ strike, represents a self-defeating problem of focusing on the trees (solutions and policy) without consider the forest (problems, goals).

The solution to education reform is not trying to win the trees arguments, but stepping back and addressing the forest; for example, consider the following:

What is the broad purpose of universal public education? If we reach back to the founding of the U.S. and consider seriously Thomas Jefferson’s commitment to public education, we can identify enduring goals for public schools, goals linked to a thriving democracy and the need to focus strongly on people and children trapped in poverty:
“The less wealthy people, . .by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government; and all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen. (p. 50) 
“The object [of my education bill was] to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind which in proportion to our population shall be the double or treble of what it is in most countries.” ([1817], pp. 275-276)
What are the influences of unions across the U.S., and what are the essential roles unionization should serve in public education as a force for democracy and equity? The education reform debate must separate arguments about the failures of union bureaucracy and the importance of workers’ rights, collective bargaining, and teacher professionalism.

What is the proper relationship between teacher autonomy and teacher accountability? Possibly the greatest failure of the teacher quality debate has been the absence of a public recognition that accountability policy has removed teacher autonomy while imposing accountability for outcomes beyond the power of teachers to address. No educator is calling for no accountability, but educators are seeking the professional autonomy they deserve while rejecting test-based accountability as not valid. The first step in teacher accountability and education reform is teacher autonomy.

Who is designing and mandating education policy? What are their experience and expertise in education? Too little attention is being paid to the historical fact that educators have had little to no direct influence in education policy, most powerfully linked to the political process. In the past three decades, political leadership has intensified that reality.

The education reform debate is no longer a partisan political battle because Republicans and Democrats are nearly indistinguishable in terms of education policy. Yet, the reform debate remains a regrettable failure of ideology over evidence.

The Chicago teachers’ strike exposes that political leaders are starting with solutions without defining the problems, and then promoting those solutions without grounding them in the wealth of evidence available to them. Claims about “bad” teachers, protective unions, teacher evaluations tied to test scores, “miracle” charter schools, and the “missionary zeal” of Teach for America recruits resonate until the right questions are asked and the evidence is considered. Then, these so-called reforms fall apart.

We all need to pull back, start with clearly established problems, and then pursue solutions that match those problems in the context of building universal public education that fulfills its role in supporting and achieving democracy and equity.