Sunday, December 12, 2010

These Truths Are Self-Evident

There was an interesting discussion on Brian Lehrer on NPR the other day with Eric Snyder, the parent who filed the first lawsuit on the Cathie Black nomination. Snyder was challenged by Lehrer that Snyder  was interested in his own children who have a parent for a lawyer. What about the poor children of color who perhaps don't have the advantages and need the structure and standardized tests?

Snyder was eloquent in his reply. It wasn't about his kids, who would thrive under any system. Poor kids would suffer more from being branded by a test score and the kind of narrow education it takes to get there. Right on Eric. I hope to thank him for that personally if I go to Albany on Dec. 23 when the court case is heard.

People ask me how I know market based ed deforms won't work - even though it will take a generation of ruined children - and ruined teachers I might add - for us to find out - and when we do, that information will be suppressed by Gates and his clones.

I don't need no stinkin research to tell me. My instincts as a teacher who worked closely with children and as a human being tell me. I think of the way my principal tried to stop the teachers from taking trips until all the tests were completed - I continued to defy her for 5 years until she made teaching a self-contained class so distasteful I became a cluster. About 4 years ago a former student from the late 70's got in touch. She told me she used to take her own kids to the very same Central Park playgrounds I took her class to. When they asked why they didn't just go to Brooklyn playgrounds she told them, "You don't know how much those trips meant to me." Years later they told her how tired they were of hearing about "Mr. Scott's trips."

I thought about how kids from wealthy private schools - and I got to know lots of teachers from these schools from various computer user groups - has such a totally different education than the kids in the poorest areas. How the NYC museums were often filled with them while poor kids remained trapped in their neighborhoods.

I heard the same comments almost word for word from my principal in the early 80's and Joel Klein over the last 8 years: Kids need skills before they can absorb content. Of course I take the view that content will drive skills. I think of the time my kids found a book on a trip with sexual content - it was a much higher level than they were reading at. Somehow they got the comprehension. I would use anything that interested them if I could get away with it to get them to see reading as useful.

An excellent piece by Steve Nelson, head of the private Manhattan Calhoun School, has been floating around. I remember we used to meet at that school with the LOGO users group in the late 80's. One time the host teacher had to leave and she was the last one in the building other than us and a bunch of kids working on a project. She told us just to leave when we were done and they would lock up. I was astounded.

Excerpts from Steve Nelson's The Disservice of a 'Rigorous' Education
Tests, standards, accountability, economic competitiveness, managers, vouchers, data, metrics... does anyone actually care about children?

While multi-billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates and Eli Broad talk about tough management and data-driven reform, real children languish in abject poverty. That's unfair enough, but then we also rob them of their childhoods. Everything is about money, even their small lives. Social scientists talk about poor kids' education as an "investment" and act as though the worth of children is in their development as resources for the competitive marketplace.

Jean De La Bruyère, a 17th century French moralist and philosopher, once wrote: "Children have neither a past nor a future. Thus they enjoy the present -- which seldom happens to us." In the South Bronx or in Grosse Pointe, children are too often deprived of the present. At each end of the economic spectrum, we are pressing children harder and harder in the service of a "rigorous" education. It is not mere semantic coincidence that the word "rigor" is most often paired with the word "mortis."

As De La Bruyère wrote, the present seldom happens to us. But the present is all that children have.

It's heartbreaking to hear administrators and politicians talk about children as raw material to be crafted into productive cogs in the global economy.
Read it all:
Yes, I am a proud teacher who worried about the present my students, many of whom did not have the best lives, had to deal with. I know I would be vilified today but I tried my best to make the year they spent with me the happiest year in school they could have. Naturally part of their present was getting them promoted (yes, Bloomberg. we did NOT have social promotion) so I did what I felt I had to do to get them test-ready - within reason. Funny, but when test time came and we did do some prep for a few weeks, it was the most miserable time of the school year.

Susan Ohanian commented:
I don't know anything about the Calhoun School of which Steve Nelson is the head. But I like their mission and philosophy, which you can read at the bottom of this piece. It's nice to know that there are some rich people who want their children to have a progressive, non-competitive education.
Steve Nelson for Chancellor: Hear, Hear!

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