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robertogreco : infividualism   1

We’re Having the Wrong Conversation About the Future Of Schools
"Despite the rhetoric, modern movements to reform schools have had a devastating effect on education"



"As a full-time teacher, I don’t have a lot of time to look up from the dailiness of the job to consider something as nebulous as the “future” of education. When I do, I feel a vague unease that too many non-teachers seem to have a lot of time to do this kind of thinking.

One thing in my favor is that education reform seems to take the same basic forms, year after year. There’s the standards and accountability movement and the ongoing attempts to give it “teeth.” Then there are the tech giants peddling autonomy and self-direction in lieu of soul-crushing activities like reading The Outsiders and using protractors. And though the latter reformers are often critics of the former, the two have a lot in common.

Both represent billion-dollar industries. Both frequently co-opt a rhetoric of liberation, autonomy, and empowerment. Both can barely disguise a deep disdain for teachers and schools, especially of the “sage on the stage” variety. And both are almost exclusively headed up by white men.

These are the kind of people setting a bold agenda for the future of education.

Admittedly, us unruly American educators would have a hard time coming up with anything coherent enough to compete with the brave visions set forth by the leaders of these two industries. The very fact that such an all-encompassing solution is needed testifies to their dominance in framing the narrative around American schools. Mired in the day-to-day challenges and complexities of actually caring for and educating children, many teachers exhibit a complete failure of imagination when it comes to sweeping monolithic initiatives with pithy acronyms, eye-catching logos, and font pairings that are straight fire.

But we do need to change. Beyond the usual Alice Cooper-type critiques, we teachers have been especially complicit in the widespread marginalizing, neuroticizing, and criminalizing of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we need to stop boring future white rockstars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. This is already well known. But, more importantly, we also need to stop harming children of color with our whitewashed curriculum, inequitable funding systems, and disparate use of punitive disciplinary measures.

Can today’s reformers help us make progress toward these goals? Or do they exacerbate, perpetuate, and contribute to the very problems we face?

Trying to pin deception, manipulation, and violence on this rag-tag bunch leaves me feeling petty and mean-spirited. After all, they’re often so upbeat and sincere, their rhetoric so humanistic and progressive. Ted Dintersmith, former venture capitalist and billionaire author of the book What School Could Be, recently teamed up with Prince Ea, who has made not one but two viral videos echoing the same message: schools must change. And on the standards and accountability side, David Coleman, “architect” of the Common Core and now CEO of the College Board, has boldly laid out a “beautiful vision” for American schools. In a field plagued by widespread mediocrity and entrenched inequities, shouldn’t we applaud any moves toward a more inspiring, inclusive future?

The problem is that, despite all the rhetoric and good intentions, both these movements have had a devastating effect on education, all while continually escaping blame for their outsized impact. Any negative outcomes are used to justify further expansion and dominance. Poor test scores and persistent achievement gaps aren’t seen as issues with the tests, but as misalignment and implicit bias on the part of teachers. Student attention deficit and boredom aren’t seen as a function of technology addiction, but rather an occasion to blast schools for their inability to fully capitalize on the promise of the digital age.

Not surprisingly, this seeming unassailable innocence reveals close links to the logics of white supremacy culture, especially the values of individualism, objectivity, and so-called meritocracy. They additionally amplify neoliberal beliefs in the absolute goods of privacy and consumer choice, thus shifting the blame away from dominant elites under the guise of “empowerment.” To borrow the central metaphor from Todd Rose’s The End of Average, they ultimately seek to style us as fighter pilots in the “cockpits of our economy,” where we must summon limitless initiative, grit, and resourcefulness just to survive.

Ultimately, their ideas are rooted in America’s original “solutions” to the problems of pluralism, wherein subtle self-effacement and silencing became stratagems for consolidating power. All of this is part of a long tradition in the United States, one that dates back to colonial times, guiding both the “Strange Compromise” of 1789 and the founding of the Common School. Although these roots may be less obvious in our day, they are arguably more powerful and moneyed than ever before."



"Ultimately, the several silences of education reform have proven a powerful gambit for privatization and profit. These industries implicitly offer themselves as neutral alternatives to our fraught political climate, much as Horace Mann’s enjoinder to “read without comment” secularized schools in a sectarian age. They also shift the onus of agency and ownership from themselves onto the student, who assumes full responsibility for finding and following their own educational path.

Whereas Mann, perhaps unconsciously, hoped to indoctrinate students into his supposedly doctrineless Unitarianism, these reformers peddle the so-called empty doctrines of individualism, personalization, objectivity, entrepreneurialism, and meritocracy—all while exacerbating inequities and deprofessionalizing teachers.

Resisting these trends starts by seeing them as two sides of the same coin. Anything that counsels and valorizes silence—before the text, the test, or even the individual student—may partake in this phenomenon. The primary effect is always to atomize: content into itemized bits, classrooms into individualized projects and timelines, and each of us into solitary individuals pursuing personalized pathways.

Among the many omissions implicit in this vision is the notion that each student has equal access to a pathway of choice. Once that false premise is established, you are truly on your own. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps, find your own personal road less traveled, dive headfirst into the entrepreneurial shark tank. Unfortunately, far too many smaller-scale reform movements espouse a similar ethos, often flooding Twitter with a toxic positivity that ignores intransigent inequities and injustices."



"None of this is intended to romanticize the educational mainstays of the past: lectures, textbooks, worksheets. But we should note how these more modern trends themselves often devolve into regressive, behaviorist, sit-and-get pedagogy.

Confronted by daunting challenges like widespread budget shortfalls, inequitable funding, increasing school segregation, whitewashed curriculum, and racial injustice, it’s no wonder we would reach for solutions that appear easy, inexpensive, and ideologically empty. At a time when we most need to engage in serious deliberations about the purposes and future of schools, we instead equivocate and efface ourselves before tests and technology, leaving students to suffer or succeed within their own educational echo chamber.

As appealing as these options may seem, they are not without content or consequences. Ironically, today’s progressive educators find themselves in the strange position of having to fight reform, resisting those who would render everything—including their own intentions and impact—invisible."
arthurchiaravalli  education  edreform  reform  history  invisibility  progressive  siliconvalley  infividualism  horacemann  2018  collegeboard  individualism  personalization  commonschool  us  inequality  justice  socialjustice  injustice  race  racism  whitesupremacy  reading  hilarymoss  thomasjefferson  commoncore  davidcoleman  politics  policy  closereading  howweread  ela  johnstuartmill  louiserosenblatt  sat  standardizedtesting  standardization  tedtalks  teddintersmith  democracy  kenrobinson  willrichardson  entrepreneurship  toddrose  mikecrowley  summitschools  religion  secularism  silence  privatization  objectivity  meritocracy  capitalism  teaching  howweteach  schools  publicschools  learning  children  ideology  behaviorism  edtech  technology  society  neoliberalism 
december 2018 by robertogreco

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