"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Action expresses priorities" -- Mohandas Gandhi

Ghandi wrote, "Action expresses priorities". What priorities do you think are in the "Vision for Missouri Public Education"? We've written on the transformational plan put forth by the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and the Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA). The goals of this ambitious plan are to make every student ready for college and with the new curriculum, our students will become globally competitive. This is from the "Teaching, Learning and Assessment" group vision:

Schools must prepare all children for many choices through providing them the tools and attitudes to contribute meaningfully to our democratic society and to enable them to live successfully in a rapidly changing world. Students must be prepared to think critically, to solve problems, to collaborate, to foster relationships, to be flexible, to adapt to change, and to communicate effectively. Schools must be places where all children succeed, feel safe, and have their curiosity cultivated. Experiences must be customized to meet the individual needs of every student. Standards must be clear, attainable, and high enough to ensure that all students are intellectually challenged. Learning must be at the profound level.

These educational priorities are laudable goals and sound reasonable. How they are to be attained (the action) causes concern. There is an emphasis on attaining these goals via the "new digital learning environment". Translated that means we must spend billions on longitudinal data systems to track students' physical, mental and academic progress. We've questioned if the intrusion of government into documenting the personal lives of students is constitutional. These goals are also to be met through common core standards, which violate state sovereignty and are financially unsustainable.

I was somewhat surprised to read this sentence in the plan:

Experiences must be customized to meet the individual needs of every student.

I am curious to understand how this can occur as the standards are mandated and addition and/or subtraction to common core curricula is prohibited. "Individualized mandates" is an oxymoronic phrase. You can't factor in the individual in an equation when the formula is mandated and unchangeable. If you were truly interested in the individual needs of a student, you would throw mandates out the window, and allow curriculum that was truly tailored to a student.

As we've previously written, common core standards and "Vision for Missouri Public Education" are failures in terms of empowering local school districts and the state board of education. This plan takes control from the state and we are thrown into a grouping of other states to set curriculum. It can't possibly accomplish its goal of providing individualized instruction with the plan as written.

What can we learn from Gandhi that can be applied to the authentic goals of public education? Ed Kaitz in American Thinker writes:

On his recent trip to India, President Obama was lavish in his praise for Mahatma Gandhi. Obama maintained that Gandhi's message of being "the change we seek in the world" was instrumental in inspiring his own journey from community organizer to President of the United States. "I might not be standing here today," said the president, had it not been for the Great Soul's influence.

Knowing, however, that Gandhi's political philosophy included highly persuasive polemics against big government, the welfare state, foreign aid, affirmative action, identity politics, divisive rhetoric, and malice toward one's opponents, it's hard to imagine the president devoting much time as a student in quiet and humble contemplation with the great guru's writings.

Kaitz argues Obama has a profound misunderstanding on Gandhi's true guiding principles; one is freedom, and what drives that freedom. This administration is intent on controlling more and more aspects of our lives-even our educational system-but Gandhi feared increase of the state's power:

I look upon an increase of the power of the state with the greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all progress.

Review the "Vision for Missouri Public Education" and determine for yourself if it creates more power for the state and if so, then how can the state can truly offer "individualized needs of every student"? In a situation of increased governmental control, the individual's needs are not protected; protecting the system's structure is paramount. The proposed educational structure will tremendously expand in terms of size and power. Do you believe the individual will have a louder voice in a larger system?

Do you agree with Gandhi's wisdom and vision or do you trust the policies of MASA and MSBA? If a powerful state does indeed destroy individuality which allows progress, what does the Missouri Vision provide to students?

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