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A Thought That Might Help Explain Public Denial

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Dear Diane,

Ah yes, miracle promises are dangerous.

In the bad old “decentralization” days, we were told local “corruption” ran rampant—thus the need to centralize. Your account of the Al Sharpton/Joel Klein deal, not to mention all the no-bid contracts under Klein, the high-paid consultants, etc., makes the bad old days seem pretty good. It’s true that for me 1975-95 were heady times: I thought we might break the mold! The innovative work going on in District 4, District 2, and the Alternative High School division were the result of a lively teacher conversations occurring all over the city. We mistakenly thought we were on a roll toward serious bottom-up change made possible by some classy top-down superintendents.

I’ve been rereading work published by the old CUNY (City of New York) education department, where I first learned to think deeply about education. “Building on the Strengths of Children,” published in 1981, collects the work of some wonderful teachers—of children and adults. “The child learns to recognize objects only by working with them, that is, by transforming them in one way or another,” notes science educator Hugh Dyasi in an essay on Jean Piaget. The central role of childhood is constructing a “picture of reality,” they note. This in turn requires time of a sort which schooling rarely allows author after author reminds us. The alienation of learners from their own learning that results from trying to speed up learning is profound, they argue. Every essay is a gem.

I’ve tried over the years to practice teaching in ways that respect a child’s prior picture of “reality.” But harder still has been to transfer that mindset to my fellow adults. I’m much quicker to label them, with all the stereotypes such labels carry with them. I’m much quicker to try to overwhelm them with expertise, rather than struggle to understand where they are coming from. I get madder at them. But building a good school means to remember that teachers, like students, need the time and power to explore alternate realities.

I am truly having a hard time “getting” it when it comes to public gullibility about NYC's Bloomberg/Klein. But it’s there. Ditto for the public’s innocence about test scores, or the theory that poor kids of color need military school discipline while privileged kids learn best in open and respectful settings. I just don’t “get” why so few of my fellow New Yorkers can’t see through the false data that their mayor is presenting them.

I shouldn’t be so shocked. After all, I’ll bet most educated people still believe in Rod Paige’s Houston miracle notwithstanding exposure to the truth. Ditto for Paul Vallas in Chicago. He was acclaimed the hero of another miracle, was briefly exposed, and then went on to lead school reform in Philadelphia (where he failed) and now in New Orleans. And on and on. Arne Duncan enjoys the same PR glow, with equally dismal real data behind him. Michelle Rhee will be next.

One thought that maybe helps explain public denial:

When I came back to NYC with three school-age children in 1966, friends told me that “no one” sent their children to public schools anymore. Do the 1.2 million children attending public schools come from some other planet, I asked? Of course, you and I, Diane, know what they meant. And, this fact—which is true in D.C., Chicago, Houston, and New Orleans—helps explain the flim-flam. Those who “make” the news have only the PR data concocted for them to write about. They have no “reality” with which to check it out. It makes them dumb in much the same way as children are made “dumb” when they have no experience with the realities we want them to believe in. The media has constructed its own reality with the help of some powerful players.

The enormous disrespect for practitioners and education scholars—and ordinary parents with kids in our public schools—makes it easier. They are written off as less than the “best and brightest.” Plus “self-interested.” Some combination of Harvard and Wall Street smarts are seen as all-purpose disinterested expertise, fit for any purpose. The master key. While disregard of educators has a long history, and demonizing of teacher organizations is hardly new, it has reached new heights. A mere 20 years ago one could not imagine school systems would be run by people who never practiced or studied schooling or education. The assumption that “smarts” based on hands-on knowledge is valuable has lost its historic place in our view of reality. Law and business and finance smarts have ruled the day for this generation. At a cost. And not just in schools.

We have forgotten that we were once a nation of do-ers, makers, creators with ingenuity and perseverance and respect for “manual” labor. That’s what distinguished us from “the old world.” The aristocratic disdain for getting one’s hands dirty was “un-American.” But we have lost that special American strength. There is, as Mike Rose and Jean Piaget remind us, no conflict between “hand” smarts and “mind” smarts. They go best together. Our schools and our economy—and, above all, our democracy—require us to restore the balance.

Where, Diane, do we start on this journey? Perhaps with “the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” What have the past 10 years of mayoral control actually produced?

Deb

P.S. How about our setting up an easy-to-read chart: What the mayor says and what the real data say?

39 Comments

Deb, Good morning. I guess.

You ask about "While disregard of educators has a long history, and demonizing of teacher organizations is hardly new, it has reached new heights."

For an example of why, one need only look at the removal of vouchers from 1700 DC schoolchildren.

Those kids were not learning in DC schools, voluntarily transferred to other schools, learned there, and are now being tossed back into the worst public school system in the country. Why? To satiate the unending appetite of the Education associations for every last dollar possible flowing to unionized teachers and the organizations which represent them. Have you a better explanation?

Jay Green today takes on the war of teachers organizations against anything which competes against them, takes away from their monopoly power over the children of the US: The Union War on Charter Schools.

If teachers and their organizations are to get respect, one step is for them to start respecting others.
- Start learning a little about the worlds of finance and national security and organizational economics before using trite and offensive phrases in forums like this.
- Start opening up to the possibility that one size does not fit all.
- If you believe that public schools are the best, prove it.
- Start to respect the judgment of parents who choose charters, vouchers, homeschooling, etc.
- Most of all, if a few kids' parents feel they are learning in alternative schools in Akron or Chicago or DC, leave them alone. Spend your energies not on attacking those competing institutions, but on raising the standards of your own. Be graceful for a bit. We've enough to do without fighting each other.

You cannot imagine the disgust we feel for your tossing those 1700 kids back into DC schools. 'Tis the very depths of petty self-interest.

Deborah, well said. Very well said. I think this is the best blog post you've written here to date.

Ed: I suggest you take some of your own medicine and try to find something constructive to offer. We terrible educators are people with whom concerned citizens such as yourself will have to work in order to improve schools.

Yes, people in schools do do dumb things--just as do people outside schools, may I remind you. Self-interested things. I've done the occasional dumb thing myself. But condemning us wholesale and a priori, judging in advance that anything we might say regarding our own profession or work is ipso facto purely self-interested and therefore false and to be written off and ignored--that is not a basis for a constructive relationship.

You have challenged "educators" repeatedly to come up with constructive suggestions instead of just complaining about what's wrong. I'm challenging you in return to offer some positive suggestions, not for what "educators" should be doing, but for how people like yourself can work constructively with educators.

Jean, I'm sorry you're still missing all the constructive things I've voiced on these pages. I try. All I can say is that I was not taught any rhetoric in school public or private, and I'm winging the presentation aspect here. The constructive ideas are there; tried and true.

(Here's another I just picked out of the mail that would make my personal helping easier: "Make Federal innovation grants available to for-profit education companies--in particular grants for companies that focus on language acquisition and middle grades mathematics'. (Paul Vander Ark - AEI Future of American Education Project))

On these pages, I've said teachers deserve more pay, fewer work hours, more deep support; and I've suggested paths to getting all of these.

But perhaps you don't like them; you want some different sort of 'work constructively with educators'?

Hi All.... hope this finds you well.

Here is one for the list:

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/education/42725267.html

Posted on Thu, Apr. 9, 2009


Study: District-run Phila. schools top manager-run ones
By Kristen A. Graham

Inquirer Staff Writer

City schools under Philadelphia School District control outperformed those run by outside managers paid millions of dollars to run them, according to a study released today.

The research - which echoes three previous studies - comes at a crucial moment for Philadelphia's privatization experiment, the largest of its kind in the country.

The contracts of 18 privately managed schools run by six companies are up June 30, and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has publicly stated that she will not support schools that don't work.

Conducted by Johns Hopkins University researcher Vaughn Byrnes and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Education, the study found that students at Philadelphia's privatized schools made strides on state exams but that pupils at district-run schools made bigger gains.

Byrnes looked at test scores of sixth, seventh and eighth graders at 88 city schools from 1997 through 2006.

"By 2006, the achievement gap between the privatized group and the rest of the district was greater than it was before the intervention," Byrnes said.


Ed Jones,

How does someone become so corporatized in their vision of society as you seem to be?

Could it have anything to do with your own stock portfolio perhaps?

Just asking.


The business appraoch to Education is a national failure by any fair, accurate measure.

All the "sucesses" are created by cherry-picking, deception, or dumb luck.

I have seen the business mentality up-close and personal in the running of schools, and it is a sham.

The Corporate Businessman has no clothes.

And no ethics, patriotism or honesty, either.


This is empirical.

Ed makes terrific comments and is one of the few rational voices on this blog.

Ed, I hope you will keep on blogging!

Yes -- make the chart!

We seem to have lost sight of what public schools are for. The original reason for public schools was to preserve democracy in the United States, create citizens who participate in government, and to give all a common foundation in the basics (reading, writing, and math). The United States was a nation of immigrants and public schools gave immigrants a common language and background on what made the U.S. what it was. We have gotten so far away from our roots that we have lost sight of what is best for our students.

We are still a nation of immigrants that need a common language, that need to understand what citizenship is, and that need basic tools to be a successful citizen.

Yes there are achievement gaps because we have lost sight of the basics. We learn critical thinking skills by studying history and science. We enhance our creative skills by learning about music and art. We become better people by understanding the words of others through various kinds of literature, and we learn fairness through the physical activity of games. Most of these things are no longer in public schools because we are focused on testing.

We need to change our focus. Accountability is a good thing. Measuring growth is a good thing. Creating critical thinkers is a good thing. Standards are a good thing. Social promotion (still occurring) is not. Merit pay is not. High stakes testing is not. The fact that our new president and his education pick are focused on test scores really scares me. I was hoping that the focus would change from high stake testing to growth. I was hoping that funding for education would change. I was hoping for a lot of things, but Arne Duncan is not what I hoped for.

Deb, once again you inspire with great prose and thoughts. I'm writing from San Diego, at the almost-end of the AERA Annual Meeting week, and it's been very discouraging. Lots of crazy quantitative research and not much to give hope to those of us working on the ground in schools with real problems. One point of light was Nilija Sun's brilliant performance of her one-woman play, No Child. Former AERA presidents were even in attendance, and I found myself deeply moved at the prospect that maybe, just maybe, the message she so powerfully conveyed about children in dire circumstances, literally life and death ones, in the South Bronx high school where she works as a teaching artist, would get through to that audience of smart people. Let's all try to be hopeful that art can do its magic where journalism has failed. After all those mind-numbing research sessions, Sun's electrifying presence on that big stage must have broken through what Maxine Greene calls "the crust of conventionalized and routine consciousness."

Again, I'm following Deb's suggestion in posting some notes from recent conversations I've been having. Where she writes here about the lost "nation of do'ers" is what I try to sift through in HOW LINCOLN LEARNED TO READ. Please forgive if I add these reactions:

HOW LINCOLN LEARNED TO READ in NEW ENGLAND

PART TWO

When you’re doing readings for a book about learning and education, it tends to color how you see what’s around you.
Up in Hanover, New Hampshire – on the bottom floor of a Dartmouth College library – the walls sing with the murals of Jose Clemente Orozco’s “An Epic of American Civilization.”
They’re biting, less structured and less optimistic than Diego Rivera’s roughly contemporary murals in Detroit. Orozco is more sensual, more sarcastic and spiritual. So, the mural showing the departure of Quetzalcoatl, the ancient South American king of gods, has him in an ocean of fist-headed black serpents. And the depiction of a risen Christ shows him just after he’s chopped down his own cross, his skin golden and peeling to reveal a new man.
There are two striking education images. A mural called “Gods of the Modern World” depicts what amounts to a graduation. Six personages in cap and gown stand in the background. Except they’re all skeletons. And the foreground is filled with a sprawled skeleton, legs wide, wearing what looks like a George Washington wig and giving birth to a tiny skeleton fetus, also in cap and gown. Quite an image for the process and results of higher education. And painted, remember, on the wall of a library; just outside co-eds tossing Frisbees on the first spring day and professors looking solemn on their bicycles.
The second education moral is maybe more damning. It’s called “Anglo-America” and is a companion piece to “Hispano-America.” The latter shows a caricature of a revolutionary (Zapata?) being knifed by a drunken military man while other dignitaries fight for and drown in great mounds of money. That at least is full of passion. “Anglo-America” features an old, blank-faced schoolmarm, giant, standing in front of a white schoolhouse and red barn, a geometric field of corn in front of her. Massed at her knees is a circle of blonde school kids with blue-eyed zombie stares. And behind her is a circle of adults in what looks like a New England town meeting – that symbol of democracy – made equally catatonic by the education they’ve received.
Orozco painted the murals 1932-34 in the rage over inequality which that depression brought forth -- and this one has yet to.
**

The reading/discussion that night was at Gibson’s bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire. We went over Jack Kennedy’s privileged and confusing school days: how the point seemed less to learn the material than to acquire a certain style. School was a way, as his father said, to meet the Saltonstalls, the old money.
Afterwards, a white haired retiree said she’d grown up Irish-Catholic, then gone to a prim Protestant school in the area. Had it distanced her from her working class parents? Not at all. (As a topic of discussion, so far, class distinctions seems like a bit of a non-starter. Maybe it would lead to Orozco-like rage and, so, is ducked? Or maybe folks don’t think it’s applicable.)
From the audience members came the opinions that 1) their parents were the first and most important teachers, 2) and that for this audience of now middle-aged folk, their parents had grown up in the depression, had believed in education as a way to “move up,” and it had mostly worked for their kids. We didn’t discuss whether that was because of a generally rising economy lifting all.
And some of the questions that the Kennedy story asks – of privilege buying its way to privilege, for example – were left mostly untouched.
A twenty-something said she was going back to UNH to learn some “skills;” the bad economy demanded it. (Education as an alternative to Orozco’s rage?)
A retired woman banker said her single mother’s main lesson had been to make sure her daughters could fend for themselves.
That night in the Days Inn, I marveled again at how strangers can come together and launch into a discussion of ideas. And at the myths that haunt How Lincoln Learned to Read.

Nikto: Ed, corporatized! That's an amusing accusation to level at a guy who's a public official, works at education 1/3 his time, and would trade his stock portfolio for a pickup full of pork bellies. :-)

Actually, I'm pretty darn close to the center of the body politic. A bit more liberal (in the classic sense). For example I support immigration reform that lets most workers become legal without going "home" to Mexico. And I think the US needs to help out in the world probably more than the average citizen would have us sign up for.

The variance here is with the views of this audience. Those are pretty far to the left of the general public. Or, of the educated public.

There's a really cool map of US voting, by county. It shows that the closer you are to the land, the more you will vote R, the more tied you are to big city living, the more you'll sign up for big government promises.

The notable exception is teachers, who vote big D at near 90% - anywhere, anytime.

And yet still find that President Obama doesn't meet their definition of Progressive!

--
Deb writes of a disdain for getting hands dirty. One of the things that bothers me constantly is that when we get together to build community here - whether its a group hammering up the new school football stadium (volunteers all), hosting a fundraiser for scholarships, celebrating a community leader's life work, planning a arts or recreation fundraiser, church stewardship,...we don't see many teachers involved.

I understand that teachers have tough time constraints--so no blame here.

Yet I worry constantly that their absence from such community building alters their perception of how (as Lincoln knew) progress really occurs.

Some thoughts vis a vis "doing." This occurred to me a while back during my morning wake-up or drive time listening to NPR (just to say that the details have gotten blurry). It began with an account of a medical professional treating a child who had been abused or neglected. I forget the nature of the injuries. What haunted the worker was the response of the mother who, on breaking down as her child was being removed, asserted that she had been a good parent. She never burned her child with cigarettes, never beat her with an electric cord--and where were all the professionals during her childhood when SHE was experiencing these things.

Zoom forward and the medical professional has worked to begin some kind of adjunct professional services--parenting, prevention, I forget exactly what--aimed at getting to kids and families earlier. Again--I regret that I do not recall the details.

But I recall my reaction--that this doesn't happen in education today. We have lots of educators, particularly urban educators, willing to applaud Nilija Sun's performance. She really knows where its at. She understands our kids. Those numbers people ought to be paying attention. What it comes down to is a profound tendency to admire the problem, rather than engage in solutions.

In my years in social work, and as a grant writer, I have come to be adept at both--the moving story and the concrete, factual enumeration of the problem. As a political reality--the moving story doesn't move much in the way of funds or action any more. As an emotional reality, it can draw attention to an elaboration of a well-supported case of need. But either one without action is like a "the tale of an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

All those "smart people" that Alexandra decries may very well be on the same page as the artists who express the plight of children in another way. But unless they can unite, and use what they know to spur action--to respond to the needs that they see--what good is it to know--in either terms--what the problem is?

Yes, unity would be good, wouldn't it? How do we move past the divisive politics of NCLB, and repair the unintended consequences of policy makers' actions? Believe me, there are plenty of smart people taking action; the question is, to what end and with what kind of care? That is my point about the power of the artist to awaken us to more profound reflection than what occurs during the week of conference sessions at AERA.

I am not sure, Alexandra, that I view the politics of NCLB as being necessarily divisive. On the contrary, there is much in NCLB that defies traditional divisions. I have generally assumed that the focus on accountability for the progress of disaggregated groups (including students with disabilities) was something that snuck past Bush's notice--but ought to be taken full advantage of by the people who champion the right and need of the downtrodden to participate in American life and education. It mystifies me that instead convoluted conspiracy theories have popped up to explain that the concept of leaving no child behind was merely a trojan horse to destroy public education and make it a business enterprise. The answer, of course, is to throw rocks at the horse to see if it will go away.

Deb has couched this within the concept of public denial. In mental health, denial is a powerful protective factor when confronted with overwhelming difficulty. Kids who grow up in dysfunctional homes (and I mean really dysfunctional, as opposed to low-income, single-parent, or otherwise simply different than the majority), develop systems of denial as protection against the need to try to fix what is obviously wrong, but which they are powerless to impact. This protection, however, eventually serves, into adulthood, as a means of perpetuating problems. Adults who grew up in such situations go unwittingly forward into replications of the same because they are conditioned not to see the problem. And they have highly developed skills when it comes to surviving the problem. Generally the ability to see the problem emerges with the ability to solve the problem. As the analogy goes, first, you learn to climb out of the hole that you fall into every time you walk down the street. Then you learn to walk around the hole. Eventually you learn to walk down a different street.

Right now, we have too many teachers sitting in deep holes trying to tell the rest of the world how dark it is down there.

For a number of years now, a well-financed and highly-skilled propaganda machine has been churning out anti-public school teacher and anti-public school fodder. They’ve cleverly been using the mass media to feed misinformation to the public. This is why there is so little public interest in the facts.

As one example, the public has heard extended presentations about KIPP and TFA on 60 Minutes, Oprah, The Colbert Report, and on various PBS shows like the Merrow Report and Charlie Rose, just to name a few. In addition, the popular news magazines have covered these two particular edu-entrepreneurial organizations a great deal. Each time, the American public is exposed to the phrasing “failing public schools.” They are told how “terrible” the schools are, and the explanation is always because of the inadequacies of the teachers and their unions. The anti-public school message has been reinforced repeatedly.

Other perspectives, like those of Ravitch, Rothstein, Berliner and others don’t get much media play. An aggressive, well-financed publicity campaign isn't working overtime to spread their message.

Pro-charter school organizations send out press releases to announce new “reports” which reveal charter school “successes;” newspapers blindly comply and print the results on front pages. Eli Broad, strongly pro-charter, underwrites a series of Charlie Rose discussions about “the crisis in public education,” but his guests are all in the same anti-teacher union/pro-charter club (Rhee, Kopp, Duncan). Jay Green calls himself a professor of education reform in his WSJ article (mentioned by Ed), but he is so much more.

As the department head and endowed chair in education reform at the U. of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform, Green is the mouthpiece for an institution created from a record-breaking private gift from the pro-charter Walton Family. This family has spent hundreds of millions on pushing their pro-school choice, pro-voucher, pro-charter school agenda. See http://www.waltoninfluence.com/influence/news-archive/the_wal_mart_effect. This “institution of education” will claim to be objective to the end, but only a simpleton would believe that.

Janelle Scott, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley, recently released an article called "The Politics of Venture Philanthropy in Charter School Policy and Advocacy." It explains what is going on.

She describes the policy network that has been built and is being sustained by the “Billionaire Boys Club” and their elite, business class ilk. The network has six loci: 1. individual charter schools, 2. charter school management organizations, 3. charter school real estate development organizations, 4. charter school advocacy groups, 5. alternative leadership and teaching development programs, and 6. research units.

These elements are working hard in unison to exterminate the current structure of public education. The benefactors of these organizations want to see it replaced it with a structure of a privatized nature. This country is remaining passive as a minuscule group of astronomically wealthy business people (Gates, the Walton family, Broad, Dell, Fisher, etc.), who consult very little with traditional educators, are well on their way to purchasing their own narrow vision for what the US public education system should be.

Pondoora:

You won't find anyone likely to be more on the pro side of public education than I am. In fact, I am both pro and public on a number of issues that get me into hot water frequently.

But, I am also a parent--and a parent who believes strongly in acting on my convictions. Were I wealthy, I would very likely still have sent my kids to public schools. As it is, my choices were limited, but even so, chose to live in the inner-city where I could afford to buy a house for less than I could rent an apartment in most of the surrounding suburbs. So--it is based on this experience that I agree that American education has serious deficiencies. Resources are distributed based on influence far more often than on need. Journalists may wrongly insist on calling schools identified as "in need of improvement" failures--but teachers are no less guilty of this.

I have encountered a full range of qualities in my experience of my children's teachers over the years. A few were quite good. A few were really pathetic. Many were simply mediocre. Some were simply young and in over their heads with nowhere to turn for help. None of these individual qualities, however, could stack up against a school culture that insisted that teachers knew what parents did not (and administrators did not), and that no one could possibly offer any assistance to them because no one could possibly understand what their lives were like.

Frankly, I am not a big conspiracy theorist. I don't think the Waltons are sitting down with Bill Gates, Eli Broad and Oprah to figure out how to blow up American education so that they can gain control of the pieces. Most revolutions don't happen in that way. Nor do I believe that Ravitch, Rothstein, Berliner and Hirsch are conspiring to keep the rabble down by denying access to education to traditionally excluded groups.

I do think that the folks who are major employers have a major stake in the quality of American education, and whether students graduate with needed skills--whether those skills are legible penmanship and the ability to figure sales tax in one's head, or the ability to forge a deal with a company whose language and culture are significantly different from our own. Those folks may in fact have legitimate reasons (in a capitalist society) for providing funds that tend to influence the quality and content of schools. It certainly is not unheard of that wealthy capitalists assuage their considerable guilt at the end of the day through the justification of philanthropy.

I don't know that it is necessary for anyone to launch a propaganda campaign to discredit teachers, given the frequency with which teachers seem to volunteer for the spotlight. It is not possible to discuss any possible improvements (or even changes)in education without some teacher raising the flag of teacher-bashing. We cannot seem to be able to confront with any honesty that kids who go to some schools have a very different experience from the kids who go to other schools. Further, there are kids within some classrooms that have a very different experience from kids in other classrooms. By almost any measure you want to use: average age of the building, experience of the teacher, ACT scores of teachers, number of students in the classroom, reading level of peers, number of books in the school library, number of computers per student, test scores as an absolute or as an indicator of growth. And whenever we compare what's in the classroom with what's outside (out there, in the community, in the great realm of what the schools cannot control), the kids who arrive at the door with less get less on the inside.

There's no conspiracy except the one of which we are all a part, as we who have options choose the best for our children and merely hope the best for all the others. Denial. It's a tough one.

"The center of the body politic"
has moved disturbingly to the right in America in recent years, and can no longer be trusted as a true "center".

Others have written on this subject with great eloquence, and arguments to the contrary are not convincing to those who see the big picture and know the facts on the ground.

Too many Americxans are clueless about this and still have an "80s" (or even a 1970s) mentality.

Well-intentioned, but naive, people can actually do as great harm as "evil connivers" in some cases, and I suspect this is happening right now in America with NCLB and The Privatization Movement.

Folks who bend over backwards trying to be reasonable and compromising, can be seriously detrimental when facing a truly grave crisis caused intentionally
by an implacable adversary.

Perhaps jews and nazis can live in harmony with each other, just like African-Americans and the KKK.

NO?

NO!

The fair-minded compromisers dance on the head of a pin, while Public Schools
are parceled-up and sold-off to for-profit concerns.

Compromise is not possible here because the privatization efforts are not organized with a public dialog, but by cynical Elites who set up special, and deviously clever, political/financial arrangements to steal local control from schools for profit.

SOME PEOPLE may want to compromise with THAT, but I see only destruction in
that direction.

If someone wanted to come to your house, steal your money, rape your daughters and force you out of your home, would you really want to compromise with such people and conditions?


I guess the answer for some folks
is, uh...yes.


Good luck with that.

But I'm going to keep opposing NCLB and privatization, writing and speaking against it, because it is morally WRONG and goes against my values.

Slam-dunk, that.

The fact that Public Schools have faults does not blind me to the wrongness and
immorality of what is being done to them by private interests who only care about kids in some folks' self-imposed, tranquilizing fantasies.

The politics of NCLB are divisive, but complexly so. NCLB shows that there is a difference between a coalition and a consensus. NCLB became law because supporters were able to form a coalition around the law, not because there was a consensus about its primary effects would be. Those concerned with educational equity saw the disaggregated test score accountability as way to finally force schools to look seriously at their treatment of people of color and the poor. Those of a get- tough-back-to-basics bent, saw a way of getting tough on lily-livered-liberal-John Dewey-new math-ed school-progressives that had been running schools (in their view) into the ground. Thus people were able to agree on a policy, without necessarily agreeing about what the primary effect of that policy was going to be.

The problem with the coalition/consensus issue is that as the reforms play out, some members of the coalition often gets more of want they wanted/hoped for than others. Those that get what the want celebrate the "consensus" about how well the "new" way of doing things is working. All the while, the original coalition erodes, as some members find that are not getting what they bargained for. I suspect that there a whole lot of people out there with NCLB buyer's remorse, who would never thought it possible that the law would push such absurd reliance on high-stakes testing. I know that there are plenty of conservatives who are still deeply uneasy with such a large role for the federal government in education. (One of the weird ironies of politics: I don't think a sweeping federal education law like NCLB could have ever passed under a Democratic administration. The only reason some conservatives could swallow this huge expansion of the federal role in education was that it happened while they were in charge of the DoE.)

I don't think that the story of NCLB is one of conspiracy, as much as it is continuation of education's long story of unintended consequences. Which, of course, is one more reason to listen carefully to Deb and Diane's experience and knowledge of educational history.

As for the role of big business in education reform. The question is not whether employers' have a stake in education, of course, they do. The question is whether, in a democracy, their deep pockets ought to buy them greater influence than all of the other stakeholders in education. I don't have to be suspicious of their motivations in order to believe that their influence should be limited. I just have to believe in Lord Acton's aphorism about the relationship between power and corruption. (Which, of course, goes for unions, mayors, and school boards as much it does for corporations.)

Deborah,

I'm so glad people are beginning to come to their senses about mayors taking over public schools. This is what I witnessed, and what I brought to Arne Duncan's attention, during my one year at a Chicago charter school:
Three female students strip searched
No (as in absolutely none)special ed or ESL support
Indiscriminate grade changes
Disappearance of attendance records
A revolving door of teachers
Two principals during the year

And what did CPS and the Office of New Schools do once they substantiated my claims through an internal investigation? They RENEWED their charter.
I was also fired for whistleblowing (although I have a degree in my content from Northwestern U., a master's and I'm pursuing a reading endorsement - they kept the uncertified teacher with a foul mouth and a Bluetooth glued to her ear).
Chicago corruption is like a virus and it has spread to our schools.

Deborah,

I agree with you that the leaders of our school system show disdain for practitioners. On the other hand, they worship their own version of concrete results (test scores). Whatever doesn't bring results, doesn't matter.

Our mandated pedagogical methods emphasize "accountability": having results to show for every classroom activity. It is not enough to have a great discussion. There must be a graphic organizer to prove it. And invariably the graphic organizer activity dumbs down the discussion. The chart becomes the goal.

Such graphic organizers are deemed "hands-on." They are deemed "evidence." They are pushed at PDs and required on classroom walls. I don't mean graphic organizers are bad--but they are mandated where they do not necessarily belong. They are on every test. They are on the checklists that administrators use for "walkthroughs." They are valued above thought.

I shudder slightly at the thought of "an easy-to-read chart: What the mayor says and what the real data say?" Of course, such a chart could be made, and it would be effective within its limitations. But some of the more important points require more detailed explanation, more complex sentence structures. We must resist the pressure to make a chart or a PowerPoint presentation out of everything.

Diana Senechal

Ed,

Hmmmmm...... respect...... the depths of self-interest.... and "one size does not fit all." Sending a child to a charter school, using a tax-payer funded voucher, and home-schooling ARE selfish acts.

Children are the responsibility of the ENTIRE community. Childless citizens, and those who have completed rearing their children, STILL pay taxes for the public school. As members of the community, parents with children who are attending some educational program/institution OTHER than a "failing" public school, equally share in the responsibility for its "failure."

The U.S. Constitution guarantees equal rights.. NOT equality of condition. The community provides a structure, equipment, and teachers. If, for your child's sake, you want it to be BETTER than it is.... GET IN THERE AND GET BUSY !

The Constitution is our social contract between the citizens and their government. One of the six agreements is to "promote the general welfare." That is the duty of the government AND of EVERY citizen.

Public schools must now attempt to teach students the values of community service because the current generation of adults (who came of age in the late 1980's - now THERE is a selfless period in American history - jeesh!) are failing miserably. It is not likely they are capable of effectively passing on the concepts of civic responsibility to their offspring.

If, while other children continue to languish in a "failing" public school, some lottery winners are provided with an alternative at the taxpayers' expense (be it nominal).... well... that is not only a selfish decision... it is a violation of one's social duty and Contract with America.

One cannot endorse the virtues of organizational economics AND rightfully criticize "One size fits all" in the same argument. Capitalist America is the epitome of "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" and "BREAK OF BULK POINT" and "LEAST COST THEORY." Visit any shopping mall in the country.

Public School: Let's put as many kids as possible in a "warehouse-like" store. They are all the same age, NOT of the same abilities. Let's "buy in bulk" and see how big we can make the student:teacher ratio. Let's squeeze all the colors together in a box, even if they are not all the same dimensions. Then, we'll make it look exactly like the store down the road.
Sure sounds like BJ's vs. Sam's Club to me.

Corporate America WANTS the choices to be limited... it keeps the cost down. It appears Charter school companies want to accomplish the same... to mass-reproduce a successful business model, even if it does eliminate uniqueness. Wow.... does anyone live in one of those suburban communities where all the houses look exactly the same.... where the contractor got a deal on a consistently SAME package of materials. Fixed cost. One size fits all.

Does anyone know the "Blueberry Ice Cream" story about the capitalist who was going to teach those teachers a lesson?

In a nutshell: Charter schools and truly public schools both strive to produce the world's best blueberry ice cream. They each take a shipment of blueberries. A charter school takes the blueberries it is provided, but has the ability to throw back the blueberries which look good on the outside, but are rotten on the inside. The public school has to try and turn any and all blueberries, regardless of their condition (especially the ones discarded by the charter school), into the same quality blueberry ice cream the charter school produces. Not likely.

Charter schools often REQUIRE highly active parental involvement - not just in monitoring the child doing homework - but required participation at frequent school events.
Hmmmmmm.... why didn't WE in the public schools think of that? .... Oh yeah... the Bill of Rights prohibits us from doing so.

Public school teachers need to stop being so reasonable, meek and mild. Instead of a "Tea Party," we should simultaneously hold a nationwide rally of our own. Talk about a national security crisis.... think about all those kids with nothing but TIME on their hands.

How about respecting the teaching profession by finally, after more than a century, providing us with salaries equivalent to our private-sector peers? Respect that teachers are NO LONGER the 2nd income earners.

I certainly have my criticism of unions. I do not hear the cries of outrage from members of other AFL-CIO organizations (like the National Football League) protesting that their children's teachers wages are too low. Hmmmmm... maybe we SHOULD become free agents and hire Jerry McGuire to negotiate our contracts.... SHOW ME THE MONEY !!
(Maybe some lucrative product endoresements for Office Depot????)

It is quite possible the teachers' unions would not be so entrenched and "digging in their heels" if the politicians did not keep dragging out the tired old adages "but its for the children" or, "but you did not choose this profession to become rich."

Once, maybe just this once, the policy makers will NOT take advantage of the fact that most of us made the choice to teach with our hearts and not our ego-maniacal wallets. We DO NOT spend our days trying to figure out how to financially "get one over" on the competition.

We SHOULD learn from Wall Street and Haliburton. Teachers are ALWAYS spending way too much time working and not enough time rubbing elbows with the well-connected. We can convince the government to give us "no-bid" contracts. We will promise to deliver the highest yields EVER. We will quietly overcharge the government and skimp on every "teachable moment." If caught, we will have enough money by then to hush the media and get the story buried on page 20 in the local paper. We do this long enough to make ourselves rich and then leave nothing behind but junk.

Yes, let's trust the judgment of people who LIKELY voted for Marion Barry. Typical, American, spoiled-brat behavior... believing you are entitled to something without having to work for it.
Instead of rolling up the sleeves and putting some elbow grease into the neighborhood school ..... RUN !

RUN as fast as you can to where the grass appears to be greener while you point the finger of blame at those you left behind. OH.... WAIT.... I thought it was NO Child Left Behind.

Charter schools may be a TERRIFIC solution... but not until, and not before, they have figured out how to serve EVERYONE.

Diana,

What is a "graphic organizer"? (Please, please, please don't let it be a faddish name for a poster!)

Your phrase "having results for every classroom activity" reminded me of the "sponge theory", the idea that a child is like a sponge - you have to put a lot in before anything starts coming out. I think this is very applicable to both parenting and teaching. For optimum results in the long run a lot of groundwork must be laid down, groundwork whose benefit may not be realized for a long time. It is easy to imagine how an over-emphasis on accountability could be counterproductive. Teaching to the test that's coming in a month may compromise laying a groundwork for understanding of ideas that will come only in years.

Diana,

I share your dismay about the higher-ups wanting everything in the classroom rendered visible. Next week we have open house at our school. My colleagues are busily plotting what student products they're going to post on their walls. Posters, graphic organizers, model castles, etc....these are the only things that garner a teacher credit for the hard work he has done. But the truly important accomplishments of good teacher are invisible: in rewired neurons --and often this accomplishment cannot be adequately reflected on a chart, Venn diagram, or poster. We need evaluators/administrators who are wise enough to detect when this is happening in a classroom and when it is not. They shouldn't have to rely on graphics-on-paper --in fact, these artifacts can easily deceive. I can imagine GOOD standardized tests that did a decent job of showing neural rewiring (a.k.a. real learning), but, in California at least, such tests are not administered to my students. Can you imagine a standardized test that would register (albeit imperfectly) what you've accomplished with your kids? Are you OK with the sort of content-linked English/reading tests that E.D. Hirsch advocates?

Hi Deb:
Yes, miracle promises and gullibility about schools or anything else are dangerous. But they are also normal in the world of politics. After all, who do you vote for, the politician who promises to do something with/for nothing, or the one who lays out the long-term costs and risks of a new policy? Who do you vote for, a dream weaver, or an actuary? This is the case not only with schools, but many other types of public policy: Witness today the simplified debates about immigration, taxation, criminal justice, bank-bail outs, poverty, or a host of other hot-button issues.

Done well, schooling does, at least in theory, provide a partial antidote to the gullibility you describe. After all, facts and sound reasoning are still stubborn things. But even people with doctorates give into the temptation to believe the charlatans among us, particularly when it comes to their own self-interests. How many well-educated doctors vilify the well-educated insurance actuaries, and they both vilify the equally well-educated lawyers. The root problem, I fear, is that politics, and democracy, is inherently a business which is dirty—it requires self-deception, gullibility, and illogical compromises to work. The deceivers with their doctored data, false claims, etc., thrive in this environment. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight it; the fact checking should continue. By all means make up a chart comparing Klein's statement with the facts he purports to represent. But we shouldn’t be too surprised when the deception is simply forced into a new direction.

The biggest danger of course is that despite the frustration that this system offers, we become cynical and stop calling our politicians on their deceptions. Ultimately, this is the only check they have. They will probably publically ignore the critique—after all the lies are already out there—but the fact that there is a critique makes them more careful the next time the pander to us with the miracle promises based in false data.

Tony Waters

All this talk of posters and graphic organizers reminds of young lady I taught about ten years ago. She was in my English class one day when she asked me to look at a poster that she had made for an assignment in her U.S. history class. The students were asked to go a local museum and create a poster about what they had learned while they were there. She wanted to know if I thought he project deserved an A. I glanced at it briefly as she showed it to me. It was a very sharp looking project, and included all of the elements that the rubric for the assignment required, including a picture of her standing in front of the musuem. Compared to other projects I had seen like this, and considering the 1-2 minutes that History teacher would have to grade this assignment, I knew that she would, in fact, receive an A. Before I answered, however, I turned the poster face down on my desk, and looked this young lady in the eye and asked her, "What did you learn while you were at this museum?" Without a moment's hesistiation she said, "Oh I don't know, it was closed when I went." The next year I hung a poster of Magritte's The Treachery of Images on my wall, and the first day of school I discuss with my students the difference between what something is, and what something looks like.

This is big news: the largest teachers union in the UK has voted to boycott testing?

http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2009/04/want-to-see-future-of-nclb-look-to-uk.html


Wow! Is this really happening? Could the US be next?

Brian,

A "graphic organizer" is a combination of shapes, lines, and words. The shapes and lines are there to organize and contain the words (which may represent details, ideas, or both). A Venn diagram is an example of a graphic organizer. Other examples include the "character web," "fishbone," "T-chart," "four-square chart," and "K-W-L chart." They exist in great abundance in New York.

They are useful when used as shorthand for a more complex picture (or sentence structure). They make trouble when they define the limits of the subject, language, and thought, when they are there for appearances, or when they are unnecessary but mandated anyway.

Ben,

Yes, everyone is scrambling to decorate the walls, as you say. I have seen too many posters of the sort that Keith describes: beautifully arranged, with all the rubric requirements met, and zero learning about the subject.

As long as we (teachers, administrators, schools, school systems) grade students on the surface appearance of their work, we encourage both gullibility and cynicism. Yes, we could do better with tests. If we base them on a strong curriculum, then we can test students not only on their knowledge but on the depth of their understanding and the logic of their arguments. Those tests would not measure everything, but they would be fairer and more challenging than what we have now.

Administrators and outside inspectors also have to accept that not all of learning is immediately tangible. The comment made in class discussion should not have to be “captured” (via videotape, graphic organizer, conference notes) in order to count (just as we should not have to catch a dolphin to prove that we saw it leap in the sea). It should be enough, at least some of the time, to have a great discussion that we carry around in our minds afterward.

We cannot trust entirely in the invisible, of course, or we will be courting deceptions of a different order. But we need to acknowledge both the visible and invisible aspects of learning, both the immediate and the gradual.

Diana Senechal

P.S. Brian, you can see an example of a graphic organizer in my "21st Century Skills" parody:

http://www.geocities.com/rainyvines/notimetolose.pdf

Very clever parody, Diana. It really brings out the depressing fatuousness of these futurist leaders' glorious alternative to a traditional liberal arts education.

And you make a good point about the need to obtain at least some visible proof of learning.

Brian, I like your sponge theory idea. There is a time for everything. I believe my 12 year old students should be spending most of their time ABSORBING (they're very good at this). They should create learning artifacts periodically only to make sure that absorption is going on, or if this artifact-creation helps promote absorption (I do believe that some graphic organizers are actually useful for this purpose). But we've got it backwards now: production dominates; absorption takes a back seat. I doubt Dante would have become Dante if he'd been in American schools --he'd have been drafting and redrafting persuasive essays rather than reading the copious amounts of Virgil and other texts that made him what he was.

America is suffering from EDD: Education Dissociative Disorder. Our opinions about education no longer match the facts.

This short study compares two accountability systems. One system holds all schools to a more rigorous standard than the other. The less rigorous system is also biased against high-poverty schools.

http://www.wcpss.net/evaluation-research/reports/2009/0911evaas_index.pdf.

On this blog, parents argue in favor of the less rigorous, biased standard. They think those data are more accurate and should be used to make decisions about individual students. They accuse administrators of not caring about students.

http://blogs.newsobserver.com/wakeed/wake-to-audit-individual-schools#comments

Facts. Opinions. No connection.

Margo, Thanks so much for the discussion of denial. It was such a relief to start Monday morning with a calm, succinct and accurate summary of the situation.

I spent this weekend with a close family member who Thursday made the first trip to AA. Our entire family likes our beer. So it is a tough thing to accept that for his sake we can never look, talk, or act the same about that subject as before. We wonder whether the campfire at the cottage will be in our future; see all the times we gathered at the wings places; are afraid the change might drift us apart.

I am guilty of not feeling the fear teachers have of change; being less than gentle in response. For all their aspirations of being progressive, anyone who signs up for a 30 year tenure is hardly enamored with change. It makes it makes it so much tougher for them to deal with what we need most: experiments to find solutions.

You and I can see in this very thread entreaties not at all unlike 'I drink whiskey because beer makes me fat'. Trying logical argument with this doesn't work. The urban kids deserve big change fast, but it won't come in argument or debate. We need a groundswell of revelation among teachers, but how? How to tilt that mass group think to being more open? More educated in breadth and depth? More informed about how things work?

Hearing Rory above...an agile mind, bringing in many related concepts, working to tie them together into a unified argument against allowing competition into education; certain that he's defending both child and teacher. Definitely projecting passion, which we all want to see. Is it denial or just lack of a fundamental education? Both?

Surely Rory understands why we have team competitions instead of just calisthenics, running, swimming in our PE programs? He understands what government control of farming did to bakeries and families in the Soviet Union? He has read the story of the Pilgrims, and followed the freeing of markets in China and India? Realizes the value of expanding competition as a learning tool beyond just sports to include speech/debate programs, academic challenge, History Day, etc.?

And yet, cannot tolerate the idea of any sort of public/private completion when it comes to delivering education.

Funny, it took me an hour plus to realize that Rory here justified the removal of the vouchers for the 1700 DC kids on the idea that their parents were stupid enough to vote for Marion Barry, thus they are too stupid to know that their voucher school doesn't work as well as a good DCPS!

(Sigh.) I know there's hope. But where?

I was interested in the thread running through the comments re: visible vs. invisible outcomes of education. Contemplating a couple of nuggets along these lines has been very productive in my own teaching life.

1) "Good teaching makes the invisible visible". I'll let y'all make what you will of this one; I've found it very a rich and productive way of thinking about what I do (and should be trying to do) both as a math teacher and as a teacher of teachers.

2) Thinking about grading way back when--a vexed subject in its own right, but one we don't talk about all that much anymore, what with the dominance of standardized testing--I came up with the notion that we tend to grade based on three things: effort, learning, and product. Effort--someone tries really hard, works really hard--is somewhat directly observable and also relatively easy to infer from products (though we need to be careful about that--more than we are sometimes.) Learning, being contained inside the skullcap of the individual, must be inferred from what we see/hear students do and from their products--it is not directly observable. But it is theoretically the primary point of education. Products have the virtue of being directly observable, and hence evaluation of products can be the most "objective" evaluation.

All of these, I think, have their legitimate place in grading (assuming we are going to continue to use grades at all--someday someone is going to bring this into question, I predict.) But the invisibility of learning and the visibility of products results in various problems throughout the system. Some people--teachers, administrators, citizens at learge, policy makers--have a harder time than others thinking past the visible product to consider the learning of which it does (or does not) give evidence. Observers may infer very different degrees or kinds of learning from the same products--the process has inherent limitations regarding objectivity. (So does any evaluation process, including judgements regarding products, but judgements about objects seem, and perhaps often are, more objective.) And yet learning is, or should be, the dominant consideration in evaluating students, or our success as educators.

But the relationship among effort, learning, and product is complicated still further by the fact that as adults, in our jobs, much if not all the time, it is the product that matters. As a teacher, I may pose my students a "real world" problem to solve, but everyone knows it does not make any real difference to the rest of the world whether or not they get it right--it's a school exercise. However, it makes a huge difference whether or not an engineer or architect gets it right when designing a bridge or a building. So at some point we want students to "get it right" on their school exercises as a predictor that they can and will get it right when it counts.

We therefore need to consider not only balance among effort, learning, and product when evaluating students', and our, success in schools, but we need to adjust the balance among them under different circumstances. For a student who has given up and stopped trying, perhaps we want to consider primarily effort for a time; for a kindergartner or first grader, learning (I would strongly argue) should be predominant, with products being judged in terms of what they tell us about the students' learning; for a prospective engineer's senior project, product would be the primary consideration.

It seems to me that this could be applied to our thinking about NCLB and school policy in general. Tests, and the numbers they generate, are the products, and as such have a role to play. But are they the point? Or is something that is not directly visible the point? I would hope we could get widespread agreement on the latter. But the relative visibility and apparent "objectivity" of the tests swamps our perceptions and replaces our focus on learning and on the outcomes we (theoretically) actually consider to have inherent value: competency at work, good citizenship, meaningful lives as individuals. So we argue about tests and numbers. We need, I think, more focus on the invisible.

Ed,
Let's talk about rhetoric. In particular, let's talk about what is sometimes called the ethical appeal. Essentially it includes attempts by the speaker to convince the audience that he is fair and reasonable, and thus, they should trust his judgment. Now, I know that you think that charters and vouchers have been "proven" by unimpeachable evidence and inexorable logic. I remain agnostic, finding the evidence neither unimpeachable nor the logic inexorable. Now, finding the logical case for charters and vouchers inconclusive, I ask myself, does Ed seem a fair and reasonable guy. Does he seem like someone whose judgment I should trust? Then I look at your comments about my profession, teaching. Despite claiming that you want to support and empower teachers you have said that my choice of professions implies that what I care most about is my job security, that I am not proud of my own education (which I assume you think is not very good), and that my reluctance to accede to your view of charters and vouchers implies that I am either in denial or fundamentally immune to logic. I am no huge fan of my own teacher's union, I can easily imagine ways in charters and vouchers could improve education (though I worry deeply about the harm they may also cause,) and I tend to be suspicious of slogans, simple solutions, and the status quo (not to mention premature enthusiasm for next big reform that will solve all of our problems.) In brief, I'm just kind the of teacher that is most willing to give you benefit of the doubt with regard to this issue of trust. But, just when I am tempted I ask myself, the key question about trust and sincerity. Could this person admit that they might be wrong? More than anything, your perfect confidence that you know the way, that Rory's perspective must be wrong, that rest of us who haven't seen the light must be in denial makes it hard for me to answer yes to this question. Shall we put this to Karl Popper's test? What kind of evidence could convince you that costs of competition/vouchers/charters might outweigh their benefits? I'd be more than willing to specify what kind of evidence would assuage my fears about the dangers these reforms might pose.

Keith, And indeed it is the overgeneralizations that I'm trying to combat here! :-)

Look, we know very, very little about what charters can do in education, and even less about vouchers. Yet, you can see in this thread people who are completely convinced that it has been proven that they don't work, or at the very least that their progress is over-hyped.

What I'd ask you to see is that charters and voucher programs are merely one of a series of experimental efforts (and young ones at that) to bring graduation rates in cities up from as low as 16% to something closer to reason.

Personally, I've never seen anyone make any claims on the overall effectiveness of charters. All we ask is to let them experiment, watch the results, don't tie their hands too much, and see what can be done.

Meanwhile, we can see some exciting experiments going on in the public schools in response to the competition being offered.

Ed,
I would laugh at the don't tie their hands too much, but I can't pull the gag out of my mouth because of the 20 years of red duct tape around my extremities. Let public schools do what charter schools do and we'll have the same results they do.

I support the idea of charter schools and vouchers as experiment. So far the results haven't proved any hypothesis. Perhaps if we made an effort at some appropriate Physical Therapy we could avoid a heart transplant. Unfortunately most of those getting press won't even consider a second opinion.

Ed,

I fear you have misinterpreted my views (or have intentionally misrepresented them).

1. I understand the effectiveness of competition when used as a driving force for creativity and innovation. I use it frequently as a "motivator" in my classroom. However, I do not use it as a means for my own PROFIT.

I am not against ideas found in charter schools. However, they are not "New," nor are they "Innovative." The government tried this already. They are called "magnet schools." Charter schools are repackaged at best.

What I DO have a problem with is that Duncan and Obama are parading these schools before the public and touting them as the epitome of the two words mentioned above. Why do business people who are opening these schools not just take their ideas directly to the schools already in existence? Simply, because they know a profit cannot be made. Most of these upstarts worked in, and were equally the causes of, the system they cry is "broken." Their claim is that they "were so stifled they just HAD to get out." Again, I point to my previous message of "RUN and BLAME" vs. "STAY and FIX." Charter schools, in their way, are attempting to turn a profit on the backs of their "select" worker bees.... the children.

So.... don't make a profit from my tax dollars by stacking the cards in your favor, proclaiming the limited results prove your way is better, and then call it all an "experiment". At best it can be called an exercise in yet another "boondoggle."

2. The Soviet Union is hardly the example to use to prove a point. No revolutionary, nor future Communist leader in that country, ever had the intention of creating a government that truly looked out for the people.

As dismal a prospect as it seems these days, our government is the only protection citizens have from corporate greed and what one person will do to others for the sake of making a buck. In a democratic republic, the citizens at least have the opportunity to shake up the politicians on a periodic basis.
Again.... true reformers come from WITHIN.

3. I know that the Pilgrims came to the New World for several reasons. One being that they felt the British government was TOO LENIENT when enforcing religious doctrine/practices. They came to the New World, set up the Plymouth Plantation (colony), and then INSISTED everyone practice Christianity AS THEY saw fit. Those who didn't were banished from the colony. Hence the creation of Rhode Island. Any parallel that may be drawn to these current educational "reforms" is exclusion... NOT inclusion

4. Yes, China and India are emerging world-class economies - largely due to competition in a free (or partially free in the case of China) market. However, as countries which, due to globalization, are moving along the Demographic Transtion scale without having struggled through the three major revolutions (Industrial, Agricultural, and Medical), their citizens will experience a certain improvement in living standards, but are not ever likely to fully experience the same standard of living as those in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United States. They fight to hold onto their cultural norms (identity) while they reap the benefits of the three revolutions without paying a price. Their crude birth rates continue to rise along with a drop in crude death rates. Thus the are, and will continue to experience, a population explosion which could prove Malthus correct in his prediction: Even with the continued advancements in technology, the World will not have enough resources (particularly food and fuel) to sustain the needs of the massive population explosion, thus creating class warfare between nations. A new world war. Plain and simple, capitalism does not work without an underclass. So far, charter schools are an experiment in creating a middle class which will be burdened by both, the upper and under classes.

5. My point with the DC vouchers is that the people who are screaming the loudest about WHY they need vouchers to send their kids to private schools are the same people who elected the officials who allowed the DC public schools to become what they are. One cannot cry "foul" if one helped create the problem. One cannot "get out" of the problems in the community and still claim to be a member of that community. Therefore, public tax dollars are being used unconstitutionally for vouchers to private schools.

Hey, Rory. Cool!! We get to discuss some real solid basics here! Sorry I have only time for an intro. :-(

OK., first off, there’s hardly any room in the charter funding profile for much profit, but lets skip that detail for now.

Lets just look at profit, a word burdened with much emotion. We are brought up to think of it as an evil sort of thing, a way that rich men perhaps steal from the poor. Indeed, in our culture it goes back to the middle ages and earlier. Christians were forbidden to charge interest (usury) so only Jews could lend money at interest. No wonder we built up a bit of a complex about the topic!

Still, you would, I imagine, feel ill-used today if you were expected your entire life to stock away savings for retirement, etc. and never earn any extra on the money. This extra you earn, in fact, is corporate profit.

And, thankfully so. If teachers socked away your retirement savings under the pillow, who would invest in foundaries to build Intel processors, telecom facilities to make the Internet work, plants to forge ball bearings for wind turbines in India, research on drugs to cure AIDS and plant strains to reduce hunger? Your 'profit' is the price you extract for loaning this capital, and thank you for it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, were you an Ohio teacher, you and your cohorts would have collected $8.2 billon in (mostly corporate) profits each of the past 5 years! Still, that’s a piddling 11% profit; Ohio teachers were pikers compared to their CALPERS friends who in '07 earned 19%, or $40 billion in profits!

So, are you still proposing that the government intervene to ‘protect citizens from corporate greed and what one person will do to others for the sake of making a buck’ ? Should we start with the 'greedy profits' raked in by the nations’ teachers? Or is that not such a hot idea upon reflection?
__

Meanwhile, that's a lot of money you made. How did you invest it? US teachers together have, what, a trillion dollars in retirement savings? Did you loan any out to help build the infrastructure of education?

Would you be more proud of a yes answer or a no?

Charters are a public school that is generally funded less, may not require 100% licensed teachers, and are run by a local group/non profit/for profit.

Here is an interesting article with (I thought) brilliant research design:

http://www.carolinajournal.com/articles/display_story.html?id=5299

Ed --
Keep the faith. Your words are right on, and not tainted by union (read: self) interest.

Our schools are failing. And reform is needed. And the unions and the local governments haven't been able to figure it out. More charters. More experiments. More accountability. More customized teaching. And let's move to a year-long school session with 4 week breaks each quarter while we're at it.

Go Michelle Rhee and Peggy O'Brien!

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The opinions expressed in Bridging Differences are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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