Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ed Beat: Koch-snorters; Adept Adaptation; In Plain SIght; Boooooo!; Drought

 Waddaya Mean, "Trying?"

Koch-Sucking in the Academy: The Koch Brothers have emerged as the bifurcated head of the great serpent of voracious Capital, striking out to secure centers of power for their spawn and kin--all in accord with the Powell Memorandum, the most influential document you never heard of. They have "invested" in more than 120 universities--mainly in business schools, such as George Mason, in Fairfax Va. where they have gotten "Atlas Shrugged" made required reading for the "Business" BA and the MBA. They donate money, with strings which dictate school pedagogical and personnel policies in a MOST undemocratic way. 
If you can think of a LEGAL way of stopping them, I would welcome it.


School Daze: Back in his perfessin' days, Doc Woody always told his student-teachers, you cannot "teach" students to accomplish tasks or to do jobs which don't yet exist. That is a fool's errand. Today's "skills" could well be irrelevant in 10-15-20 years. To be successful, we must be able to adapt.
That's why 'subject-based,' or a 'skills-based' curricula which respond only to the demands of the present and immediate future--such as proposed by the corpoRats, privatizers and charterists--fail to "prepare" students for the nature of their future experiences...
In an age when change is emerging as rapidly as it does today, children do not need to learn specific things; they need to be able to learn to think--to observe, record, organize and analyze what comes at them when what is familiar becomes strangified.
Dr. Tony Wagner, of Harvard, seems to talk the talk quite comprehensibly (I had never heard of him until last week). These are the pedagogic principles he espouses:
- Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions)
-  Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Effective written and oral communication
- Curiosity and imagination
I don't know if he actually produces, or what. If you do, please contribute.


The Hidden Curriculum

High Stakes: This high-stakes testing shit is right in ol' perfesser Woody's wheel-house.
"Testing" is a part of what I call the "concealed" curriculum.
The testing regimes in place today are designed intentionally to impress on kids that their futures, their prospects, their lives are determined by forces beyond their control: irrational, capricious, random evaluations which need not have any connection to their knowledge of or competence with the subject matter--the "work" they do--exactly as it happens in "real" life. Here's Diane Ravitch, today's edition:
"Bill Gates is wrong. American education is not “broken.”Federal education policy is broken.Testing children until they cry is a bad idea. It is educational malpractice.
I, along with my dozens of like-minded colleagues, have been beating this drum for almost 40 years--back BEFORE Diane Ravitch had her recent epiphany and changed sides; when was still pulling the "Nation At Risk" train for Bill Bennett, Chucker Finn, Lamar Alexander, and the rest of the Raygun "reformers." 


Disrespect: Dept. of Education chief Arne Duncan spoke before a plenary session  of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) last week in San Francisco, and pretended that there was absolutely nothing wrong with his and Prez. LowBar's plans for American schools. He was roundly booed by many participants there in attendance. Which, in turn, caused no small amount of pearl-clutching and hankie-shredding from the up-tight quantoids who seem to have usurped all the power in the organization, especially one educational sociologist named Jennifer Jennings. Jennings felt the audience had been "rude" to Duncan, whose "Race To The Top" plan has been characterized by most progressive educators as "NCLB on meth." The ass-sucking Jennings apologized to Duncan for her colleagues' behavior, later, in Ed Week (another AERA publication), to the disdain of the aforementioned Prof. Ravitch, who excoriated the the Duncan apologist (literally) on her own blog. I posted a reply there: 
“Civility” is the feces-encrusted ball-gag the powerful insist on shoving down the discursive throats of the powerless, to deprive the latter of the only instrument they can still wield: their rage. The pleas for civility by oppressors from the oppressed is the height of victim-blaming. Ravitch should know, from her tenure as a willing, enthusiastic satrap to the Raygunista "reformers"–Bennett, Finn, Alexander, and others– that the officials will ALWAYS be intransigent with respect to the complaints of those whom they are tying to silence and/or eliminate.
 Though I think it got scrubbed...Gee...Will wonders never cease?

 Meanwhile, in the Land of Enchantment: The New Mexico State Legislature has so far refused to pass on the nomination of an ALEC-sponsored, Rove/Bush vetted, former Florida school official named Hanna Skandera. Skandera was named by (then-incoming) Gov. Susanna Martinez, the carpet-bagging, former Texan tea-bagger who was narrowly elected in 2011, but the Legislator has refused Skandera's nomination in three consecutive sessions. This hasn't stood much in Skandera's way, however, as she has busily begun imposing "reforms" on NM schools consonant with the agenda of the aforementioned power brokers. Skandera, who has been associated with notorious Washington, DC, former Superintendent and alleged fraudster Michelle Rhee. 

Even absent confirmation, though clearly with the blessing if not the insistence of her nominal boss, Skandera has wrought her corpoRat mischief (emphasis supplied):
Skandera has been running the department without the confirmation, generating great praise from the Right side of the isle and much criticism from the left. Skandera previously served as California’s assistant secretary of education under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and in a similar post under Jeb Bush in Florida—all without having been a K-12 classroom teacher or principal. She has implemented a grading system for all schools as she did in Florida, on an A-F scale, again, without consideration of the socioeconomic conditions that distinguish schools.
Last February Skandera overruled the Public Education Commission’s decision to deny an online charter school to open in the fall. The school has connections to a foundation that advocates for free markets and less government and will contract with the online, for-profit company Connections Academy to run it. It will serve students from K through 12 and is expected to open with an enrollment of 500 students. Connections Academy also contributes to Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, which supports school grading and virtual schooling. Concurrent with Skandera’s overruling the Commission’s decision, the non-profit In the Public Interest released thousands of e-mails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education and education policy makers in various states: many of these were between the foundation and Skandera.
 The educational drought threatening New Mexico under this regime is every bit as dangerous and damaging as the acute and continuing water shortages here.


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