Monday, November 5, 2012

WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking, Bogus "Reforms,"

 WWH/CJE Education Beat #4: Critical Thinking; Bogus "Reforms;" Tennessee; Assisted.

Critical Thinking: All parents would claim they want their kids to think critically...Just not til the little bastids leave home!

Probably the one person who has had the greatest impact on the development of a "radically" critical curriculum in the USofA was Paolo Freire.

Paolo Freire ("Frer-rey") was a Brazilian educator who developed and tested theories of the relations among pedagogy, learning, and social conditions in the barrios and favelas of Rio and other Brazilian cities in the days--beginning in the early 60s--when Brazilian authorities were offering bounties on street kids. The titles of his two earliest publications to see light in the US were "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and "Cultural Action For Freedom," reveal his inclination towards a "liberational" theory of education; both in different ways were landmark (weighty, albeit slender) volumes in the emerging field of critical educational studies and critical pedagogy.  Freire was the point-man.

These were followed by a plethora of further books, articles, institutes, and seminars, as Freire's ideas caught on among guys like Bill Ayers, and Henry Giroux, and Peter McClaren and scores of others.

But what is Freire about? Prof. Shirley Steinberg, an early and ardent acolyte of Freire's from near the begining, produced this video, which is both explanation and testimonial.

My old Curriculum Theory pal, Bill Reynolds, down at Georgia State, found and posted this. It's WELL worth the 15 minutes or so that it occupies.

Seeing Through Paulo's Glasses: Political Clarity, Courage and Humility
Directed and Produced by Dr. Shirley Steinberg, and Dr.Giuliana Cucinelli

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Reform Rubric/Rubbish:I don't know what you know about Race To The Top, the Common Core Curriculum, and the rest of the CorpoRat juking and weaving the Obomber/Duncan Ed. Bureaucracy are trying to pull off, in plain sight, under the rubric of  "modernizing." But a lot of it has to do with the plunge into standardized, corpoRat, test-based schools the purpose of which is the production of complacent, incurious, uncritical, consenting drones. And it is being led, by and large, by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested almost 100 MILLION dollars in the corpoRat take-over of public education.

Schooling has ALWAYS contained and conveyed an orthodoxy, but hitherto, regionalisms, and localism, and other, often ethnic variations kept the control more in local hands. The corpoRat "reforms" would virtually erase ANY significant local variations. PLUS they are already huge sumps with which greedy corpoRats already suck BILLIONS of dollars of public money for dubious services:
"The corporate imperative has hijacked the narrative--and the substance of public education. It's about herding teachers and students into obedience.
And money. James Arnold reveals: The June, 2012 Georgia State Board of Education minutes listed over $25,000,000 in state contracts for testing and test development for 2013."
Twenty Five MILLION dollars for TESTING, alone. In Georgia, alone. By the way, do you know what business Neil Bush got into, after Savings & Loans? That's right. Education and testing.
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Tennessee? You Couldn't PAY Me Enough: From the desk of one of the most assiduous critics of all things educationally assinine, Susan Ohanian, here is this account of the indignities and professional humiliations to which teachers in Tennessee must suffer, all the while the number of homeless kids in Tennessee's schools has grown by as mych as 75%.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee saw the number of homeless public school students increase by 74 percent between 2007 and 2010.
That number was well above the national average of 38 percent, but the true number may be even higher.

According to a report from the state Comptroller's office, several neighboring states have a larger percentage of homeless students. That could be a clue that Tennessee's numbers are an undercount.

Also, some districts in Tennessee with high foreclosure and jobless rates did not identify any homeless students.

The comptroller's report says the dramatic increases in Tennessee �" from 6,565 in 2007 to 11,458 in 2010 �" may be a consequence of job losses and the economy. They may also be the result of some school districts' improved efforts to identify homeless students.

But what do the state's and regions major news sources focus on? Teacher evaluation, of course.
I defy you to read this through and try to persuade a young teacher to take a job there.

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Computer-Assisted:I was doing my graduate work in education in the mid-late 80s, when computers were still pretty much new technologies both in the university and in the classroom. I wrote my dissertation on an Apple IIe. I was an early and enthusiastic flame warrior on Use-Net. I finished ALL my degrees before there were computers able to scan millions of documents in three-tenths of a sentence. I walked to school. Barefoot. Up hill. Both ways.

One noted educational critic said (at the time, in the 80s) he'd rather have a working automatic transmission on his desk than a computer, that the transmission would be a more useful pedagogical tool.

So we learn, now, that the measurable effects of using computer-assisted research are evanescent.
The teachers who instruct the most advanced American secondary school students render mixed verdicts about students’ research habits and the impact of technology on their studies.
Some 77% of advanced placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) teachers surveyed say that the internet and digital search tools have had a “mostly positive” impact on their students’ research work.
But 87% say these technologies are creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans” and 64% say today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.”
According to this survey of teachers, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in collaboration with the College Board and the National Writing Project, the internet has opened up a vast world of information for today’s students, yet students’ digital literacy skills have yet to catch up.
While I am unsure precisely what is meant by the term "digital literacy skills," I do not doubt the finding about the attention span.

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