Frederick Hess and Chester Finn Defend “True Reform” and Data Driven Instruction Against “Wokeness”

December 6, 2019 Leave a comment

Frederick Hess and Chester Finn have been vocal supporters of “school reform” for decades so it was no surprise to see them co-authoring an essay in the National Review that views “wokeness” as the enemy of “true reform”. In their laughable opening to the essay, Mr. Hess and Mr. Finn write:

The damage inflicted on our educational institutions by the onrushing tsunami of wokeness is starting to worry even a few prominent progressives. Former president Obama himself recently fretted about young activists who are “as judgmental as possible about other people,” cautioning that they’re “not bringing about change.”

As a hyper-judgmental, hyper-sensitive mindset washes from colleges into our nation’s schools, however, change is indeed being brought about: The wokeness wave is destroying unblemished reputations, driving admirable people from the field, and undermining sorely needed efforts at school improvement.

First, the notion that former President Obama is a “prominent progressive” is absurd We’re talking about the President who had a once in a lifetime opportunity to reverse the emphasis on high stakes testing and the data collection that accompanies it and instead doubled down on it. If Mr. Hess and Mr. Finn cannot accept Mr. Obama as one of their greatest advocates, any conclusions they draw about “true reform” are suspect. Secondly, it is not “wokeness” that is destroying “unblemished reputations” or “driving admirable people from the field” or “undermining sorely needed efforts at school improvement”. It is the very test-centric data-driven movement that Mr. Hess and Mr. Finn advocate!

When tests are the primary metric for measuring “school success”, reputations can be destroyed by cheating on tests or by driving students who do poorly on tests out of schools or by denying access to students based on pre-tests. Cheating scandals destroyed far more reputations than those destroyed by “woke” parents or activists.

And when teaching-to-the-test using pre-scripted lesson plans is the method advocated by data-driven “reformers” it is no surprise that admirable creative and independent thinking teachers are driven from the field.

Finally, nothing undermines efforts at school improvement more than underfunding… and underfunding has occurred for at least a decade in public education.

Mr. Hess’ and Mr. Finn’s gaffes are not limited to the first paragraph. Their essay touts KIPP and TFA as successes and blames the de Blasio administration for creating “a vast, Kafkaesque system” that was actually established by one of the darlings of school reform: former mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Mr. Hess and Mr. Finn conclude their article with a call to arms against a preposterous and imaginary threat to their “reform” movement:

There is now a loud, punitive-minded cohort of “reformers” who honestly believe that data is a tool of white oppression and that leaders who champion academic rigor should be fired as bigots. The many of us who abhor their nihilistic doctrine — and believe that improving our children’s schools is far too serious a cause to be undone by their shenanigans — must stand up and be counted.

Their suggestion linking teaching-to-the-test and gathering meaningless data from the tests to “academic rigor” and moral principal is as absurd as assuming that only those with a “hyper-judgmental, hyper-sensitive mindset” oppose the existing test-an-punish model or “reform”… and as absurd as believing that the Obama administration did not endorse the same model. Sorry gentlemen, school reform has been in play for nearly two decades and the test scores they focus on have not moved an inch. Maybe the “woke” people are onto something even if their logic is questionable.

1,000,000 Students Will Go Hungry if GOP Plan is Fully Implemented

December 5, 2019 Leave a comment

The NYTimes Lola Fadulu reported today that a recent change in regulations in the Trump administration will result in “hundreds of thousands” losing access to food stamps with a like number of students losing ready access to free or reduced lunches. As critics of this change note, this change is the result of the GOP’s mindset that hundreds of thousands of people want to be dependent on the government for food stamps and they are unwilling to work the hours needed to improve their lot in life. As for their children, they are, in effect, collateral damage.

The article describes the GOP’s desire to curtail these government programs in the name of eliminating dependency. Of course one way they could eliminate dependency on “costly programs” that “handout food to lazy individuals” seeking a “government dole” would be to increase the minimum wage to a level where fewer people would qualify for the program… or compel businesses to schedule workers to long enough work shifts that they would be able to earn living wage… or ensure that people have sufficient money to afford housing and food. But such actions would cramp the profits of corporations (or in the favored parlance of the GOP “hurt small businesses”) and require government regulators. Better to punish the “lazy” than reward hard work with a living wage.

‘Flat-Out Corruption’: DeVos Accused of Scheming to Stop Next President From Canceling Student Loan Debt

December 5, 2019 Leave a comment

The cancellation of student debt has all of those who made loans weak in the knees. The fact that “… the DeVos family is heavily invested in the student loan industry” AND the fact that her proposal to hand the government loan program over to a “stand-alone government corporation” could prevent the next President from forgiving loans reeks of corruption. But in the current administration, this kind of blatant corruption in the name of “efficiency” and “eliminating needless government regulation” is unsurprising.

Source: ‘Flat-Out Corruption’: DeVos Accused of Scheming to Stop Next President From Canceling Student Loan Debt

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Here’s What’s Happening in SOME American Teenage Bedrooms— And It Isn’t Good News to this Geezer

December 2, 2019 Leave a comment

I just finished reading a recent NYTimes article by Taylor Lorenz titled “Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage Bedroom“… and I am in despair if this is the way American teenagers are defining “success”. The article describes a 15 year old suburban Philadelphia teenager named Rowan Winch who is making $10,000 a month through various on-line entrepreneurial undertakings. But, as the article notes, Rowan Winch is not interested in money.

Rowan, like most teenagers on the internet, wasn’t after fame or money, though he made a decent amount — at one point $10,000 a month and more, he said. What Rowan wanted was clout.

On the internet, clout is a social currency that can be used to obtain just about anything. Rack up enough while you’re young, and doors everywhere begin to open. College recruiters notice you. Job opportunities and internships come your way. Your social status among peers rises, money flows in. Even fame becomes a possibility, if that’s what you’re after.

The description of Rowan Winch ceaselessly entering posts on his phone brought to mind scenes from the movie Social Network, based on the “life story” of the role-model of all tech geeks Mark Zuckerberg. And based on what I’ve read about Mr. Zuckerberg, he, too, was after clout more than he was after wealth or fame.

I find the quest for clout even more distressing and disturbing than the quest for money or fame… for “clout” seems to be an anodyne tech term for POWER… and those who seek clout— like those who seek power— are not interested in the ends of power, only the acquisition of it. And the notion that someone who spends hours on end staring at screens, searching for memes that attract clicks from others, trying to accumulate “clout” strikes me as a soulless undertaking.

One of the story lines in the article was how Instagram suspended one of Rowan Winch’s most popular sites, leaving him temporarily bereft. He showed resilience, though… with a plan to replace his blocked Instagram site with a YouTube site. Here’s his explanation of why, which concludes the story:

“With YouTube I want to get big enough so the people that inspired me are my friends. It was like that with my meme pages,” he said.

“The more followers you have, the more voice you have,” he said. “The more clout you have, the more power you have.”

When a teenager believes “followers” are “friends” it is evident we need to increase social-emotional learning in schools.


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CNN Report on Gun Violence Shows Sad Statistic: US is Leader in Children’s Gun Deaths

December 1, 2019 Leave a comment

This headline from a March 2019 post from a CNN article by Ray Sanchez got me to click:

More US school-age children die from guns than on-duty                                           US police or global military fatalities, study finds

The American Journal of Medicine study had other gems as well:

“It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms,” said Dr. Charles Hennekens, the study’s senior author and an academic adviser at the medical college…

Of the deaths, 86% involved boys, the study found. Black children accounted for 41% of those killed, though in recent years they’ve comprised just 14% of the US population, US census data show

In the 5-to-14-year-old age group, accidents accounted for 12.8% of cases (830 deaths); suicide, 29.6% cases (1,912 deaths); assault, 54.8% cases (3,545 deaths); and undetermined, 2.7% (177 deaths), according to the study…

The United States led the world in 2016 in the rate of firearm deaths in youth among countries with available data. The rate in the US was 36.5 times higher than in a dozen comparable high-income countries around the world; the rate of firearm deaths was five times as high compared with a sampling of low- to middle-income countries.

Our test scores might be declining, but our gun deaths continue to edge upward.


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In China CAI Disrupts Schools. Displaced Human Interaction

December 1, 2019 Leave a comment

China is ripe for disruption through CAI because of their test-based admissions to higher education, their many remote and overcrowded schools, and the desire of parents to help their children get into high paying jobs in the future. The question is, what kind of education are children getting when they have limited interaction with other children and teachers. An algorithmic based education designed to prepare students for a single test might be delivered more efficiently by a computer… but it is soulless and devoid of humanity.

A Short, Blunt Case Against Philanthropy

November 30, 2019 Leave a comment

Axios offers a succinct explanation of how philanthropy is undemocratic. After reading this it is not hard to connect the dots between “charitable giving to charter schools” and profiteering billionaires.