"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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Saturday, July 2, 2011

What Does Education Reform Really Mean? More Federal Mandates or More Local Control?

The article below is reprinted in its entirety from American Thinker. If you believe state and national legislators pushing school choice in its current form (charters, trigger options) is local control and reduction of federal involvement, read the article and see if you come to the same conclusion. It's time to ask our state and national politicians how the current "reform" allows local control and reduces federal mandates:

Americans today are well aware of the failure of their public education system. From Arne Duncan to Jeb Bush, the cry for "Education Reform" has echoed across this country over and over again.

Since President Obama took office, we've been apprised that putting states on a strict diet of curriculum standards prescribed at the national level is the new way to reform public education and prepare every student in America for the new "global economy." States may voluntarily adopt the Core Curriculum State Standards (CCSS), we're told, and the administration has made 100 billion dollars of stimulus funds (ARRA) available for a competitive grant process with the reality show title of "Race to the Top" to help states with their implementation.

This all sounds fabulous until you put it in the context of the history of public education in America.

Since 1965 when Lyndon Johnson prescribed the first Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) based on an inaccurate assumption that poverty caused illiteracy, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have been renaming and reauthorizing the ESEA, changing little of the original language while adding more and more federal regulation and handouts. This fact is especially easy to appreciate when comparing LBJ's ESEA and George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

It is unfortunate, then, that LBJ's legislation was built upon so many of the tenets prescribed by John Dewey, the Father of Progressive Education. Dewey, who studied with neo-Marxists at Johns Hopkins and was accepted by Marxists as one of their own, had radically different ideas about the education of children from the traditional, local methods, favored and secured by the Founders of this country. LBJ instilled many of these within his ESEA. For example:

  • The call for Universal Preschool. Dewey resented the changes in familial structure associated with the Industrial Revolution. He saw the changes in culture from rural/agrarian to urban/industrial as detrimental to the growth and development of children. Public schools, he reasoned, could supplant the instability of the family unit by providing for all a child's needs and provide the basis for the social unity he craved. As stated by William Brooks, "[t]he school would affiliate itself with the life of the child and the community. It would become an embryonic socialist community. The new school communities would become incubators for peaceful social revolution." Unfortunately, as noted by Rogèr in his article, "Preschools Are Using a Marxists's Theories to Manufacture Collectivists," Dewey's ideals are alive and well in pre-schools today thanks in part to every American president since LBJ.
  • The need for teacher training and development. School was to cater to all the needs of the child and allow them the freedom to explore and experiment with the learning style that suited them best. It was important, therefore, to train teachers away from their roles as "authoritarian" taskmasters, and develop their role as "guides." The rights of the child dictated the need for them to learn on their own by active play or creation of projects. It was important for teachers not to stifle this exploration through outmoded and antidemocratic ideas of drill, discipline, and didactic exercises. Teacher development courses today (now required as an employment condition) can help teachers transmit social or political ideologies within their classrooms through such offerings as "The Many Faces of Teddy Roosevelt," or "A Heated Debate."
  • Education within the public school specifically for the handicapped and poor. Education must now be a civil right in order to move as many children as possible into the "incubators" for social change. Matthew Spalding explains (p 205) that separation of people (children in this case) into "groups" (poor, religious, handicapped) promoted local communities with local ideas, preempting the promotion of the national ideals necessary to encourage national progress. This revelation was also consistent with Dewey's belief in Humanism, which allowed him to conclude that rights are based on the needs and practical demands of various groups (poor, women, black). Instead of an individual having inherent rights "endowed by their Creator," rights were "civil" -- applying equally to all persons across the constitutional process.
  • Programs to provide counselors and psychologists to schools. In order to treat each child as an individual and because the scientific study of each pupil's development was essential to direct social development within the community, the child must be studied in his "social' circumstances" -- the classroom. It was also necessary to study the child from a psychological standpoint in order for the teacher to understand and assume the rights of the child, as these could not be as easily expressed or understood by the child as an adult. Education was ultimately about growth, Dewey argued, so it was important to create an environment responsive to the child's interests and needs to allow the child to flourish.

Though Section 604 of the first ESEA made it unlawful to "nationalize" curriculum, states were unable to collect federal money if they did not first apply to the "Commissioner of Education" and then conform to the stipulations accorded in the grant. If the Commissioner deemed the state not to be producing the desired results, the Commissioner could remove granted funds. And so it was that Dr. John Dewey's vision of Progressive/Experiential education for America was firmly cemented into place.

It is interesting how the traditional education of our Founders produced a near-100% literacy rate, astounding visitors to our early nation like de Tocqueville (p 252), while Dewey's Progressive method in use since 1965 has produced adults today of whom only 13% are proficient in reading prose.

No matter what term (Marxist, Progressive) we use to identify the methods utilized in the federal government's initial intrusion into public education, the "reforms" since 1965 have been decidedly antithetical to our Founders vision for traditional education:

...the Founders proposed and strongly supported a system of general public education. As a practical matter, this meant establishing throughout the nation public or common schools at the state and local level, a process that had already begun in the New England states" (p147)[.]

Reform efforts guided from DC have produced categorically inferior results. If we are to rehabilitate our Republic, we must truly reform our public education system, returning not only to the Founder's vision for localized public education (p 250), but to the traditional methods shown to produce superior results.

Jenni White is an author of Common Core State Standards and Race to the Top - An Introduction to Marxism 101

Thursday, June 30, 2011

School District Allows Cell Phone Use During Standardized Tests

Why should students study facts for standardized tests when they can use their cell phones for information? Read this story about "school district first to permit cell phone use during standardized tests":

The Harper Valley School Board recently adopted a new policy that allows students to use their cell phones to search for answers on state-mandated standardized tests. "There's no doubt this new policy will raise student test scores district-wide but it will also improve our rankings statewide," said District Superintendent Carly Moore. Cellphones will be allowed for testing periods during the 2011-2012 school year, although there could be roadblocks ahead from state officials.

This is a satirical piece from the Green Onion News Network. I particularly like the "Harper Valley School Board" name and a father being labeled a "hactivist".) But it's probably not beyond the imaginable. While students wouldn't have to memorize facts for standardized tests, they would also not have to be subjected to being "taught to the test":

Her husband, Larry, a self-described hacktavist, convinced her that cell phones would help kids think of standardized tests as a massively multiplayer game, in which they were cracking secret educational codes. Mr. McMaster said that he would prefer to see standardized testing eliminated and he embraced his wife's idea as a means to that end. "If every kid in America could find the right answer to every question, maybe testing will just go away."

Perhaps the fine Facebook group "Parents and Kids Against Standardized Testing" would like to try this idea! They have some serious questions about standardized tests and how and what they test...and if these tests are truly important in the education of American students.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Lapse in Ethical and/or Professional Judgment?

Oh dear.

Is this an example of an oversight or outright plagiarism? Either way, it's probably advisable for a commencement speaker to write his own commencement address:

The principal of a middle school geared toward writers tried to pass off much of a well-known graduation speech as his work, parents and students told the Daily News.

They say Joseph Anderson, who heads the Clinton School for Writers and Artists in Manhattan, recited - without attribution - portions of an address penned by the late writer David Foster Wallace at Friday's eighth-grade commencement.

It would seem especially prudent for the speaker, the principal at a school for writers, to write his own speech. Wouldn't a parent who enrolled their child in this school believe the principal is capable of writing a speech and should offer his own speech at a commencement? There's a poll at the link so you can record your thoughts on the principal's actions.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do Bullying Standards Apply to Teachers? Can Teachers Bully Students for Freedom of Speech?

Should teachers be allowed to bully students? Should parents be advised their students are attending field trips in which speakers may be talking about issues contrary to the values in which they are raising their children? Should teachers be allowed to question children about their religious beliefs?

Whether or not you believe homosexuality is right or wrong, do you believe parents should have a right to know when this issue will be talked about in school and how it will be presented? Character issues are surrounded in diversity of thought. Should parents know what diversity teachings are present in their schools? Should parents and students have a right to question teachings they don't agree with and is it correct to hold them up to ridicule if they do not agree with speakers' and teachers' beliefs?

How is an in-school field trip about CHOICES (Creating Hopeful Opportunities in Children's Everyday Situations) helping students become STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) ready?

CHOICES is designed to impart character education information. STEM is designed to impart academic education. Perhaps the parents should educate their own children on character education and the schools should focus on the academic subjects.

When a student is asked a question and the student mentions the name "Jesus", should that land the student in the principal's office? Why isn't this diversity of thought protected? Diversity of thought is an issue public schools are advocating so you would think a student can answer a question without fear of recrimination.

Who and/or what organization created CHOICES? It doesn't seem to be a national curriculum resource. Should parents and taxpayers know who or what organization is designing the character curriculum for their districts? How are teachers trained to present this curriculum? Is it taught in opposition to moral and/or religious values taught at home?

If teachers demand to know students' religious beliefs, it only seems fair for taxpayers to know teachers' beliefs in character education. Is teaching "character education" becoming more of indoctrinating versus educating?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Are Tiny Bubbles Controlling Your News Content?

Filter bubbles. These are filtering devices created by software engineers based on algorithms so delivered content may not be identical to different readers on the Internet.

This is an education on how our news is becoming "information junkfood". News that was once screened by print editors (human gatekeepers) is now relegated to algorithmic gatekeepers. The speaker makes the point that software writers must have ethical standards (such as the print editors) in designing their algorithms.

One blogger wrote: "I knew Google searched on a region basis, but I didn't know it filtered on POV level. Interesting."

An arts blog (National Arts Strategies) put it quite well:

Eli Pariser, the former Executive Director of MoveOn.org and their current Board Chair, highlights the hidden and growing impact of online filters on Google, Facebook, and throughout the internet in this TED video. These filters give greater and greater weight to the information a person tends to look at online first. Over time the algorithms filter out less frequent interests, to the point that publications, people, and ideas are no longer presented at all.

What might this mean for the arts? The most passionate arts supporters should hear more and more about the cultural events and organizations they love. But for the much larger majority, for whom the arts, an art form, or an organization is an infrequent interest, the algorithms threaten to remove the art entirely from the information they see and their social landscape. These hidden algorithms are another piece of the challenge arts organizations face as they work to build relevance in their communities.

Substitute the word "education" for "arts" and you can see the danger of citizens not receiving the information on what's really happening in education and the use of their tax dollars.

From Technology Entertainment Design (TED):

What Should the Federal Government Do About Education?

This is one of the best discussions yet on the role of the Federal Government in education.

It's worth the 2:10 minutes it takes to watch it.
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