Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let’s get serious about education in America and the strike in Chicago.

Let’s get serious about education in America and the strike in Chicago. There are those in America who really don’t care what happens in the classroom so long as their off spring receive passing grades and they don’t get called in or a reason to even attend parent-teacher conferences. For these folks schools are a convenient place to send the kids so that can go to their jobs and teachers are considered baby sitters, and with these folks; they are paid too much for the service. That’s one group.

In states where there is a reliance on property taxes for educational support, schools are held hostage by those who feel: “If you have kids in school; you should pay…and them”. Of course they don’t want to answer the question of who paid for their education! It also provides a safe haven of /for indignation and self-righteous on the part the cheap bastards who hide behind a professed “no new/no more taxes. A quick reminder for those folks; good schools increase property values. That’s a real catch 22 for those idiots. That’s another group.

Enter the Standard testing crowd who believe religiously that schools can be judged evaluated and ranked with those wonderful “scientific instrument”.  Generally they are called performance evaluation or proficiency tests, tests created by corporations who haven’t the first notion of what a real world classroom matters not as they have sold a bill of goods to politicians and the political forces that want to reduce teachers to little Casper Milk Toast and Mr. Peepers obedient public slaves. Oops, but then those nasty teachers unions get in the way with their demands that teachers be treated and paid as professionals. 

These tests aren’t worth the paper they are printed on other than to generate revenue for those who print, score and charge for them and give the political world one more “diverting whipping boy” to demonize in the name of serving their local constituencies.   Let’s examine my statement. 

Some testing corporation designs a test and then supplies sample training test materials for teachers who quickly determine the nature of the test and begin teaching for the test at the expense of everything else that ought to be and can be taught.  

I am not going to pick on any particular state, though I am greatly tempted, but instead we shall refer to the states, hereinafter as (anystate).  Anyway; Anystate is a microcosm of America. It is totally racially diverse. 

It has Urban areas flourishing or decaying as the case may be. 

It has affluent suburbs some of which are “bed room communities” to the urban areas.  

It has rural areas where the primary consideration is plowing the ground, getting the crop planted, praying for rain and good weather and harvesting the crop…and the kids might have to miss some school to help the family. These are communities where knowing your Bible verses is far more important than some Algebraic formula.  Going to college some day is a minority concern.

It has quaint old towns left over from centuries past where local history is more important than joining the real world, and they like it that way.

And you may feel free to identify any other category of community as you see fit. Anystate has its Democrats, Republicans, Independents, intellectuals and lunatic fringe components.

And now we are going to administer the same standardized tests to each and every child in the state…the same test…a test that doesn’t, cannot take into account the diversity of the study population, the differences in the student population, the differences in the socio-economic make of the variety of communities and locales within the state. 

Oh My; we are expected to believe that students who come from an Urban Ghetto life or blighted environment, with dysfunctional families, broken families, welfare families, areas with a massive drug culture, families riddled with poverty and alcohol problems, communities where carrying a good knife or firearm at knife is a matter of survival…etc., are going test, coming from schools that ought to be condemned and torn down, are going to test just as well as any other community and segment of society that is better off, more fortunate or privileged? Let’s get real.  

Don’t you believe for a moment that kids from those settings are going to test with equal acumen as those from affluent suburbs and communities populated by upscale homes and Doctors, Attorneys,  Scientists, Architects, Corporate CEOs,  etc., …and you get my drift. These kids know “the good life”. They enjoy all the technological toys and don’t have to kill a neighbor kid for his/her tennis shoes or iPhone. They travel, are exposed to the cultural enrichment of theater and Museums; they take gymnastic lessons, tennis lessons and they know what a private club and a golf course are all about…and they are taught at home what it takes to get there themselves. They parents who are well-connected and the big name Colleges and Universities are on their shopping lists. They will test very differently from other students. Not only because they have parental guidance and demands. Their value systems are different, their life experiences are different and their schools are new, well equipped, financial flush they can hire the best of teachers and provide them with the environment and small class sizes that guarantees success.

In communities that are suspended in old molds and agrarian in nature everything is different and test results will reflect this. Teachers here, more than in other settings will try their damndest to become “Teach To The Test survivors” simply because the parents don’t want their schools and kids to appear to be the bottom of the barrel…but.

But; this standardized testing syndrome does some very culturally violent things, some horrendous evil to the teaching process. It reduces children to raw materials upon entry who are then processed along the educational assembly line by testing demands and curriculums that are so devoid of humanity, genuine intellectual development, curiosity, thinking inquiry skills and attitudes as to be little more than tools of the state and corporate America, ultimately to be spit out as finished products for the work force or flunked out as scrap…and where scrap is too frequent the answer is to break the union, fire the teachers, close the school and put a corporate charter school in place…something that is more controllable and something that will look better and certainly more profitable to the corporate world.

 America needs to understand that the corporate world does not give a damn about public education in this nation because they can hire the talent from anywhere in world with educations paid for by someone else. There is point in this scenario where there will created a totally uneducated class of Americans in the years ahead because Charter Schools will be beyond the reach, financially, of a large portion of our society, but then I guess we can simply build more prisons to warehouse our society’s scrap…privatized for profit prisons.

The violence done the diverse curriculums of this nation’s school in a simple first statement is that of stripping them of the special gifts that teachers can and do bring to the classrooms of this nation. 
How do you teach a uniform national curriculum in let’s say literature when it has been sanitized of all offerings that do offend someone on the basis of content of a book or the discussions and inquiry that result in a healthy classroom. You cannot.  If we control, sanitize, censor these classrooms to where well versed erudite teachers can deal with J.D. Salinger, Tennessee Williams, Malcomb X, etc., what do have left…the classics…well not really because some of them are loaded with controversial subject matter…yes even Shakespeare…but then with a uniform curriculum we can direct how that matter should be taught with demonization of that which should not be discussed or debated, questioned or explored. 

What if you have a History teacher with special preparation in European History, Russian History, Latin American History, African or Middle East history, etc., is all of that knowledge, insight and sharing of historical developments and interrelationships with today’s world events to be simply banned because we don’t have any other time other to than to teach to the test? 

It is the same in every area of the curriculum. What is being imposed upon America’s schools is a framework dictated by testing for survival than guts the very best that our teachers can bring to the classroom, their special gifts, talents and training sacrificed on the altar of corporate America that wants nothing more than an obedient, brained washed product that believes every myth of American History as they would have us all believe and accept. Do not question, do not think.   

Why is it that this nation is not prepared to accept teachers as professionals and what can be done about it? The first question I choose to ignore as it wells up from the worst corners of the dark angels of the American mind; the second issue I have made my peace with in a solution.  

It is time for America to experience a paradigm shift in its priorities. It is time to place education, healthcare, infra structure rebuilding and the building of a new economy at the top of the priority list as opposed to dominating other nations in the name of our national interests, surrendering to a corporate takeover of this nation’s government and judicial system.  It is best high time to put our money down on our kids and this nation’s future as opposed to killing everyone we disagree with. 

Many of the threats from abroad we have caused; the threats from within in terms of one failure after another are our own, and we seem willing to demonize anyone, anything that places that fact in the headlines. 

Let us establish a national teacher’s salary schedule, albeit, I would accept some tweaking to reflect real living costs in any given area. 

Let us establish a minimum national per pupil expenditure for education with any community willing to ante up more in terms of local taxation/contribution… just fine!  Again; I would not be opposed to tweaking those figures based upon local costs. 

Now if we cannot do this; then I suggest that we provide legislation that permits teachers to set their own professional salaries as do Doctors and  Attorneys and reduce Local School Boards to managers of the physical facilities with the duty of securing local financial support them. Teachers could alter their fees unilaterally to accommodate families with income problems but who demonstrate a genuine commitment to involving themselves in their off spring’s education.

And once again let us face the fact that parental involvement in the education of their children has been nearly totally lost. 

The bottom line: Do I support the Chicago Teachers? Yes I do! Further I would support a Nation-wide teachers strike to bring all of the nonsense to  a head. It is time for teachers to hit the bricks, and after all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about hurting the kids; if parents wake up, join the picket lines, multiple unions to follows in the uprising, campuses affected and rise up in resistance demanding a return to educational sanity in this nation the establishment which would dictate to us will fail and be defeated. The time lost would well worth the future that could and would be created.            

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