Archive for December, 2011

2011 Ends

December 31, 2011 Comments off

As 2011 ends, I am beginning a blog that will offer my commentary on articles I glean from the two newspapers I get on line (The Boston Globe and the New York Times) and from various progressive blogs I read (Naked Capitalism, Truthdig, Common Dreams to name three) and from articles and/or monographs I read as part of my consulting work. I intend to launch this in phases— which means I would value any feedback you might offer in terms of format as well as content.

At this juncture I am not sure how often I will “go to press”… especially given some busy weekends ahead… but once I fully launch I will se some regular dates…

A big thanks to Mike Arauz who provided me with an invaluable tutorial as a Christmas gift…

Here are today’s links:

The NYTimes describes why the Commissioner in New York is upset that teachers and administrators aren’t buying into the Race to the Top evaluation model…  a predictable crisis…. indeed your humble blogger saw this one coming in 2009 (see October white paper)… The time and energy spent wrangling on this would be better spent developing ways for interagency collaboration for pre-school kids in need.

The Arizona state government wants to “teach oppression objectively” in an effort to improve the engagement of Mexican American students, according to an NYTimes article… and Howard Zinn is laughing somewhere— or maybe weeping…

Web-based learning intersects with sex education in the USA as reported in today’s NYTimes… and students are getting their questions answered on line instead of on the street… This could be a step forward if the search engines could be rigged to avoid having curious teens sent to pornographic web pages when they pose questions… but what will happen to us if we get, say, Rick Santorum in the White House? Or what happens when a conservative school board insists that Planned Parenthood web addresses need to be filtered?

The NYTimes editorial today chastised the 2111 congress for “The Damage of 2011″… but…  we’ve only begun to witness the damage done… because this year’s federal government shifted much of the burden of governing to the states who have neither the appetite or the ability to raise the money needed to sustain schools, medical services, or social services.

According to Pico Iyer in the New York Times, finding peace of mind for children of the future will require intentional disengagement from technology… something that applies to adults now!

In the global economy, this Bloomberg article describes how affluent Chinese students get a leg up on Asian immigrants… so much for working your way up the ladder!

The second section of this lengthy article from Naked Capitalism touch on public schools directly… but the “non-economic policy” sections also get at some of the social issues that create challenges for public schools. If only we could engage in the kind of intergovernmental dialogues the author envisions.

Changing our Minds About Public Education

December 24, 2011 Comments off

Discourse on public education is stuck in a rut because the public thinks of public schools as factories. When I shared this observation with some colleagues a few years ago, their response was “So what? Everyone knows that! What difference does it make”. Their rejoinder was partially true. First, NOT everyone knows that schools are modeled after factories. Secondly, the notion that school-is-a-factory is so ingrained that we cannot conceive of a different method for organizing education. Finally, it DOES make a difference because when we unwittingly accept the notion that schools can only be organized like they are today we avoid asking questions like:

  • Why do we group students in grade levels based on their age?
  • Why do we group students within a particular grade level based on their rate of learning?
  • Why do we group students at all?
  • Why does school take place in a limited time frame?
  • Why do we believe there is “one best way” to educate ALL children?

All of these practices are in place because they result in “efficiency” in the factory school… and until we change our minds about how schools are organized, until we replace our conception of schools as a factory with a new mental model, we will continue measuring “quality” by giving standardized tests to students grouped in “grade levels” and recycling “new ideas” and “reforms” based on ways to run the factory more efficiently.

This blog will attempt to change the discourse on public education by offering thought provoking responses to articles on public education. Some of my reactions will be to articles that address policy issues specific to public education: merit pay; vouchers; school choice; etc. I will also respond to articles that address social policy issues that affect children: before-and-after-school child care; health insurance for children; homelessness; etc. I will also respond to articles that either challenge or reinforce the dominant paradigm of factory schools and offer new ideas about how to educate children. Finally, I will share my perspective on other columns or blogs I read on-line.

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