May 16, 2015 | by oemb1905
Misguided educators are often so overtaken by their own dogma that they fail to realize when they mention a hotly contended topic of research as a casual aside, they assume that no other educator in the room is aware of the sermon, therefore believing that everyone shares the same faith with their dearly liberal left. Thankfully, this is not the case and there is a quiet, determined, body of liberal thinkers who in their pursuit of freedom and happiness do not fail to see the current educational issues of the day for what they are. And the issue at the present time is not “High Stakes Testing” or the “Common Core” – although let’s be clear, those are issues to be concerned with. The primary issue therefore is to that the liberal left has simplified curriculums and instruction for a period of nearly 65 years. Conflating widely disparate and reified topics such as diversity with models of teaching – at large – has led to decades of social and emotional relationships being the primary (instead of concomitant) effort of educators, instead of the primary duty being to establish and provide rigorous curriculum development and effective instruction (regardless of the model). The reauthorization of the Secondary Education Act on or around 2000, commonly referred to as NCLB in that phenotype, was a penultimate attempt by well-intentioned post Nation at Risk educators and politicians to fight back at some of this dumbing down of education that had taken place. Unfortunately, however, the NCLB model was poorly thought out and based on a punitive framework, and unrealistic mathematical measures. Indeed, it stressed a going back to fundamentals, a demonstration of progress, followed by a method of accountability to be shared between the state and federal levels, whereby that accountability could be measured and observed. Unfortunately, this caused huge sub groups of students to be unmeaningly disregarded by psychometricians who evaluated the results, e.g., special education students, and once again, the statistical objectives themselves were flawed and based on goals that mathematicians, regardless of their political spectrum, unanimously agreed were impossible to attain. Thus, it is not surprising that the educational community soon after found itself in the wake of the era of NCLB waivers, exemptions, state developed measures of progress, etc., but albeit with a renewed effort to increase or maintain student achievement (more on achievement later), but to somehow manage this in spite of testing (insert dramatic irony here).
Enter the Common Core State Standards in 2010 and a renewed focus on the standards movement of the 80s and 90s. The focus left as soon as it entered, however, because no sooner than the standards were developed, two major consortiums manifested to begin to assess whether the standards were being met, namely, PARCC and Smarter Balance. Thus, the idea that somehow the standards movement would replace the testing movement, that is, the erroneous and misguided NCLB testing movement, was replaced with the notion that the same testing movement would in fact be augmented by this new and redesigned standards a la Common Core movement. Subsequently, in the State of NM, the wave of education “reformers” come in with their notions of adding the private sector values to the public school paradigm. Job titles from the most minute to the highest earned new names and new salaries (often quite nice salaries), new evaluation criteria were developed emulating their private sector cousins, and new laws were ushered in calling for highly detailed and bureaucratic testing architectonics to be set up at the state level, precursors to the federal tests, or at least the tests that are needed to demonstrate to the Fed that a district is worthy of Title I funding. Thus, just when the community was about to recover and refocus on content, curricular content, development of comprehensive curriculum (the natural first step after setting new standards), and then, of course, subsequently creating an undogmatic paradigm of effective instruction to ensure access to all minorities and poor masses to those standards, the issue nevertheless once again became muddied up and mangled, mingled and twisted with the testing debacle of NCLB and the prevailing and misguided zeitgeist. Outraged districts and educators began and continue to write op-ed pieces blasting the Skandera grading system and the Governorship of Martinez – never mind the fact that the Law mandating all of this predates her administration – and complain that minority and poor students are overwhelmed with tests and testing culture. The validity of the entire notion of a test is called into question once again, as it was during the height of NCLB and AYP, but instead of the issue being ‘how the metrics can be revised to evaluate progress meaningfully,’ the issue mutated into a radioactive degenerate, the idea that they were unfixable and that ‘those darn tests are worthless.’ Thus, a whole nexus of educators emerge that have no purpose in life but to destroy the entire testing movement (or more properly, they increased in membership). To be clear – these educators don’t want any tests, they don’t want to fix tests, they wan’t to get rid of them entirely. Outraged that schools are issued grades, arguing that grades – indeed evaluation itself – is an outdated modality of the Prussian, Capitalistic, and Seminary school systems blah blah blah. Would that there was evidence that the Prussians were wrong! Need it be mentioned that Frederik was referred to as the “Great.”
As if the onslaught and destruction of education and repeated attacks on minorities and poor people from the misguided left and multicultural movement needed reinforcements! Just when it appeared that Gates and his Title I hybrids, being both non-private and non-public, would stop (i.e, his horrendous endeavors in creating Charter schools), and that He would settle down and merely fund learning and instructional projects, e.g., Shell Centre and the Math Design Collaborative, behaving more like a normal nonprofit philanthropist instead of meddling with pedagogical matters that he knows and knew nothing about and spent an entire career not mastering, instead he is ushered back in as the monetary guide on the side (this time via PARCC, Smarter Balance, and don’t forget our pseudo non-profiteer Sal Khan). And now educators – abuzz with Ravitchitis – thinking that everything can be solved by abandoning testing entirely (never mind that Ravitch argues the opposite), go off attacking all the privatizing elements within education, regardless of merit (hmmm … DC Hope), and worse yet, they attacked the body of standards themselves. Writing about connections via capitalism between the NGA and the Gates and Broad foundations, misguided educators focused on the origin of the CCSS, not the content. With absurdity in full force, liberal left educators actually argued that the standards were yet another form of corruption, another high stakes agenda by the so-called conservative elite that was attacking public education. The irony is that the conservatives, especially Libertarians, were indeed and perhaps attacking public education for its folly benefit, but these ignorant teachers that fought the standards were, to be sure, attacking the innocent, the poor and minority children who according to all sources and due to de facto segregation attend public schools in increasingly direct variation to the privileged elite. Now, certainly, some standards need revision and some concepts are found too early or too late, or vice versa, but there has never been a more comprehensive and beautiful body of curricular content ever developed. In exacting detail, with appendices outlining clear transition plans and all of this material searchable digitally as a .pdf, the standards’ stand’ as erudite tomes of learning for the digital age, ripe with droves of examples of essential numeracy and literacy, annotated, canonized, and tabulated! Alongside the Next Gen Science standards, teachers have never found themselves more prepared to teach in the entire history of the modern teaching profession, of course the community still has a ways to go to match the institutions of Ancient Greece, India, and China (all of which independently had versions of the so-called “Pascal’s Triangle” in Antiquity). And yet amidst this dramatic moral of the story, educators are now trying to engage in conflation tactics and obfuscation once again, blurring the issue by blending the minute changes needed for refinement of the standards with the genuine criticisms leveled against the misguided elements in the revived and resurrected testing movement. Doing this by conflating the State’s adoption of testing criteria and its absurd pass or fail measures (and the loopholes) as somehow emblematic of the standards (despite being wholly unrelated). And by likewise conflating the Fed’s requirement for testing measures and demonstration of progress under the Secondary Education Act and its corresponding Title I funding coffer with both the CC Standards and the State’s laws and practices in one fallacious amalgam. It is thus how the liberal left collectivizes and reifies every one of these topics together in a gigantic uneducated conflagration and then attempts to lecture minorities and urban poor about “issues” and “civil rights,” while yet being nothing but dogma cleverly cloaked as altruism, embedded in dictates to educators in blogs, community forums, and op-ed pieces.
The poetic justice here is that the Standards are okay. Sure, they need some work, and educators should be concerned with this ever-lowering of content acquisition levels, for example, why is the statistical concept of “z-score,” which used to be taught in college, now taught in 9th grade. That seems strange, and perhaps educators should exercise their right to freely associate and create organizations to propose changes to absurdities such as these. After all, the crusade for primary texts should affect mathematics – not just language arts – yet I doubt many have read Gauss’ original publication on the probability density function, and therefore lack the necessary information (learned in college) to truly appreciate the concept of standard deviation, ergo z-score. But let educators not because of these sillynesses conflate the CC Standards with the initiatives of the State! Let educators know it is the State that requires the students to know Algebra II – not the CC Standards. The CC Standards are just that an arrangement of concepts, much like the posts set up during races as markers of where a rider had been, or not been. Indeed, even the Appendices to the Common Core, and notably Appendix A for Mathematics, are only meant to be suggestions, and not mandates. Thus, if educators did not want to teach “z-score,” for example, at such an early age, then they needn’t do so! At least, that was the intent – in fact, that intent is written right in the introduction to the standards themselves! Thus, the real issue is in NM at least (arguably tantamount to similar issues across the nation), is the graduation laws and testing mandates that were signed into law by the then Democratic Governor in 2009. This is why and when students were required to pass Algebra II, this is why 100 or more students at SFHS can’t graduate with a normal diploma (either due to the AII requirement, or due to EoC measures). It is not the Republican stewardship that caused this, or Skandera (everyone’s favorite punching bag because she dared to help us rate institutions of learning), but rather the implementation of the law that the interestingly enough Democratic dominated state powers and Governorship instated. Oddly reminiscent of the same irony that escapes the liberal educational paradigm and fad of the day, the same blindness that causes us to forget that Democrats started Eugenics, fought Civil rights in the south, and were the founding party behind the creation of the KKK. (The author digresses but the point is well taken.) And so the PARCC and Smarter Balance movements must likewise not be conflated with the standards and accompanying mathematical practices, but should squarely be associated with their parents, namely, the effort to secure Title I federal funding. It is strikingly clear that without State and Federal mandates, there would just be the CC Standards themselves, and educator judgment. Unfortunately, it is the very fact that education is not private – that there are laws and regulations requiring that the standards be distorted from their curricular intent and turned into a solutions manual for measuring student achievement. Without education being public, these demands and needs of students – especially of urban poor and minority students – would be directly controlled by their own demand. And yet this is where educators find themselves, forced by Federal and State regulations to utilize the CC Standards to secure funding through mis-guided testing initiatives, which is a manner of usage entirely foreign to their intent and design.
The worst part is that there seems to be very few educators focused on the core (pun ‘intended) issue. So-called reformers are trying to redesign schools and create charters and more … but what about just funding the public schools in the first place? (Unsure that this could be achieved, at least it could be attempted before we measure alternatives!?) The schools don’t have enough textbooks without dramatic intervention by individuals who care, don’t have enough teachers due to “FTE,” don’t pay the teachers they do have enough (yet the Union enjoys bargaining on ‘our’ behalf), and by the by the classes could certainly stand to be smaller. Granted these issues are far worse in inner cities, and the present author has no difficulties teaching within this framework (in fact the author was born IN this framework himself), however, the sad binary is that the reformers cite poor test scores and data as the need for reform, but the most likely reason those data look so poor – albeit relative paucity – is because the Federal and State driven monoliths are so crippling to budgets that they cannot even function properly! (Yet still … consider full funding!) Thus, would be reformers are using distorted data from underfunded public schools to rationalize the need for “reforms.” To be clear – reform is needed, but not instructional design reforms that the left proposes. Direct instruction works well. And so does project based learning. The Common Core textbooks are fine. So are the IB math books and curriculum. So is Singapore Math. Students wanting to learn art and only wanting to learn up to Algebra I is fine, and so is the student that wants to take Calculus III in High School. The notion that all students must fit an Academy lifestyle is absurd and is a noble lie. Good citizens need not be from the academy, and good teaching need not fit one model or style. Students need a variety of padeia, not a proscription and limitation of paideia to one fascist eidos. This notion that changing the model of instruction – the model of teaching and learning, as it were – will be a panacea for student achievement is nonsense worthy of Thompson and Vonnegut. To be quite plain about it, there are very good teachers who use direct instruction and there are very good teachers who use expeditionary learning. There are very bad direct instruction teachers and there are very bad expeditionary teachers. The liberal left, however, wants to force everyone to drink the cult kool-aid of PBL learning (and meet the same fate as those in South America), and for everyone to accept that direct instruction is to be conflated with old schoolhouse, or factory, teaching models, derived from Prussia to create soldiers, used in the United States to create workers, and yet despite the prosperity of both of those (indeed the so-called illegal immigration is due explicitly to their success) is somehow what got us to the current predicament! A predicament, according to this illogic, caused by prosperity. And yet there is no predicament because education is and always was a gatekeeper, not a social right or guarantee. Education is an outcome based on individual responsibility and effort, and for that reason, as are all outcomes, it is not inherently equal. But, it is fair, since fairness is what is right for everyone – not the same for everyone. The only equality in terms of education the US Constitution originally guaranteed was equality of opportunity – not outcome. To be sure, efforts to socialize the Great Document have been and will continue to be made, but that only motivates the right educator to fix the body of work. And of predicaments, it should be noted that graduation rates – on average – have soared since 1900 to unheard of high rates at present. The notion that there is a current educational predicament is a dangerous conversation because it is one steeped in relative gains and losses, not absolutes.
What one educator means by predicament is not the same as what another educator means. The liberal left defines the system predicament alongside many independents, libertarians, and republicans, and this effort could be most appropriately called group-think. It is a herd like mentality, akin to when students on the playground team up to bully the student who thinks for him or herself. The predicament according to this side is that educators are somehow forced to take tests, and that tests being obviously flawed and antiquated, and that the charter movement and the secondary education reauthorizations being obviously negative because they are capitalistic and free market based, have somehow threatened the very fabric of education. The hidden bias in this tablecloth however is that privatization is by necessity corrupt and that assessment is purposeless. And neither of those notions are correct – in fact – Milton Friedman and droves of other thinkers, including prominent Hispanic and African American economists, lawyers, and Congressman have proved otherwise. This idea that education was old fashioned until 1950 and that it has slowly improved, but has been hindered by the high stakes testing movement and the Common Core, is the reason the correct educator instead cites a predicament, to be sure, but for an entirely different reason. The correct educator notices the facts that graduation rates, NAEP achievement scores, and most other testing measures continue to demonstrate more yet relatively decreasing equity and achievement between the elite and the masses. The right educator recognizes that this trend has continued not because of, but in spite of the relative decrease caused by, to be quite frank, the multicultural education movement. They recognize that minorities and poor people have suffered for sixty years or longer because the liberal left continues to argue that minorities need specialized education, instead of fundamental and classical education. That minorities and urban poor are somehow not good enough for the good old fashioned three R’s that hegemonic society has enjoyed for its success for centuries. Sad untruth. And worse yet, authors like Dr. Duncan-Andrade masquerade all their own erudition in the form of a minority crusader. Would that this were the case, however, the true freedom fighters for minorities are the Dr. Thomas Sowells and Dr. Lisa Delpits of the world – those who dare to want to believe that everyone can benefit from classical education. And classical does not mean racist or white only, to be sure, classical includes classical female giants whether Sappho or Wolstencraft, or Eastern giants like Sima Xian and Lao Tzu. It is by studying all the classical greats that humans are most prepared to know their own history, and appreciate what it takes to think critically. To be sure, read Paolo Freire, but don’t fail to see that his notion of praxis was based on and derived from Husserl (as is often neglected in the spurious and abounding “Critical Pedgogies” of current flash in the pan). Do not be against adversity simply because it is adverse, be instead in favor of refinement of adversity of assessment because although not pleasurable, it is the good.
The correct educator thus realizes that it is in fact the current paradigm of Title I funding and state graduation requirements, which require districts to foist the equality of outcome of Academy erudition upon everyone and then likewise mandate tests to assess the efficacy of these efforts. The right educator realizes that the problem is that public education, that is modern public education, by virtue of the fact that it is and has always been public, is under-funded, because being public, it cannot earn not capital, but only spend it. The right educator realizes therefore that education needs to switch to being private. Yes, unequivocally private. No – not the pseudo Broad and Gates version of private or Charterized private institutions of today which are actually both private and public, beholden to both, and free from neither, but really private. The Department of Education needs to cease to exists as Milton used to argue. And then what minorities and poor students need, namely, what hegemonic elements have used for their own power for centuries, will then thereby be available to them by fiat; the free market and low-cost education where they have an equality of opportunity available to them. Now, until such a time as this privatization education movement subverts the prejudiced left, the right educator is bound to teach in public schools to fight for and to ensure that this very framework of racist hegemony is derailed. That is, it is the right educator who realizes this real binary and thereby binds him or herself to educating the people who receive the least education. Not for altruism, charity, or pity, but for breaking apart this continued and tiresome model of the oppressors passing themselves off as the saviors. And until this is fixed, the classically educated teacher guards the city’s knowledge and leads the students out of the cave of shadows, and helps those who need it most – minorities and urban poor – from being attacked by a liberal left that wants to simplify their instruction, curtail hallowed forms of instruction, and further beholden those whom they claim to represent to the system, the same system, it should be noted, that offers private education (simultaneously and unanimously recognized as superior) for the hegemonic elite. And also that everyone should be an academic, and that teaching is for social justice, to pursue a socialist agenda, and for the glory of the Democratic party is a tired old lie, and Booker T. Washington should have never been ignored, and if there are those who desire jobs, then in jobs they shall be instructed. Never forget to mind that educators are bound to teach, literally to lead out of the cave, the students in order that they know how to “think.” Do not let the liberal left dogmatize, or perhaps, doggy train the masses to feed the coffers of the Fed and the State. The vain conceit of intellectuals that they think they know best for everyone, and that if one disagrees it is because they have unknowingly bought into their own oppression – this is the prejudice of modernity. To not learn one’s times tables in order to do a project! To not learn a five paragraph essay in order to go march on City Hall! Examples of the liberal left choosing to not represent meaningful course curriculum and fundamentals in favor of the quick fix, the free lunch, and the false predicament. This then is the real false binary that Dr. Duncan-Andrade speaks of, not his spin on Dewey, but a spin on his own error whereby he found a means to rationalize away critical numeracy and literacy in the name of relationships, models, and engagement. To be sure, relationships, models, and engagement are important, but not at the expense of the fundamentals of classical education, but concomitant and alongside them from the first day of school. The actual predicament is that public education will never have any money. And that these underfunded schools are held to the standards of private schools, and that teachers are then attacked when these schools don’t match up, is inherently based on a socialist agenda that everyone will be an erudite scholar in all subjects and equal in everything. That classics and fundamentals don’t need to be taught any longer, that students don’t need to work hard to be better, and that the Horatio Algiers dream is a cheesy and antiquated myth instead of the real binary of hard achievement. To be clear, everyone “can” be an erudite scholar but not everyone “will” be an erudite scholar. But if our goal is to maximize how many urban poor and minority students become erudite, then it will not be because the educators favor conflation, fallacy, simplifying of curriculum, and camouflaged oppression, but rather because educators choose to give minorities and urban poor the same rights as everyone else. The right to a truly classical and rigorous educational opportunity. Be cautious yet bold in response to the prejudices of the left, especially if you are an educator. Although educators risk their careers by fighting for these natural rights, it has been said that there are certain truths held to be self evident, one of which is life itself, so let it be worth living.