Saturday, May 29, 2010

Original Articles on John Dewey Sought

We are seeking original articles on John Dewey for our upcoming issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on "The Education our Children Deserve." The issue will include some of the most significant progressive writers of our time and we would like to include an historical piece on Dewey. The controversy posed for that issue is:

"The politicizing of education at the national level has centered on issues of standards, accountability, global competitiveness, national economic growth, low student achievement on worldwide norms, and federally mandated uniformity. There has been little discussion of the public purposes of our schools or what kind of education is necessary for an individual’s development and search for a meaningful life. There is a paucity of ideas being discussed at the national level around topics such as: how school practices can be aligned with democratic principles of equity and justice; how school practices can promote the flourishing of individual development as well as academic achievement; what skills and understandings are needed for citizens to play a transformative role in their society. Without conversation at this deeper level about the fundamental purposes of education, we cannot develop a comprehensive vision of the kinds of schools our children deserve. We invite authors to contribute their conceptions of the kind of education our children deserve and/or the kinds of schools that serve the needs of individuals and of a democratic society."


Charter School Campaign Report: Wall Street Journal tells "A Tale of Two Students"

The Wall Street Journal has published a very touching article -- one might call it the perfect propaganda piece -- in its campaign for school privatization.

The story depicts two similar kids -- two Latino "baddies" -- who were already going off in the wrong direction in middle school. Ivan, the young man, then goes to a charter school and at 18 is attending a flagship university and aiming to be the first Latino Governor of Oklahioma. His former running buddy Laura, a spunky Latina who went to the public High School instead, is now going nowhere.

It's a good conversation starter, and could be valuable in an Introduction to Education course to begin a discussion about charter schools.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Race to the Top: Is the AFT Losing the Race?

Steven Brill, in a comprehensive article in the New York Times, details the impact that Race to the Top is having on education legislation at the state level.

As states compete for portions of the $4.3 billion dollar Race fund, legislatures are passing new laws eliminating or reducing teacher tenure and mandating inclusion of test score results on teacher compensation, in order to conform with the demands of the Race.

Gradually, the national AFT and the local unions are loosening their long-held demands regarding both issues. If the states have not achieved the Race goals, they must submit memoranda of understanding (MOUs) in their Race proposals regarding agreements to achieve them. At this point some of the states claim to achieve these goals, but the MOUs include clauses such as "as consistent with state laws" that in effect nullify them. Nonetheless, the pressure on the unions is severe.

Brill appears to me to be a cheerleader for the Reformers, a tightly organized group of political and business elites. So the article must be read with some caution.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Federal Support to Save Teacher Jobs

Steve Benen over at the Political Animal has an interesting post about federal funding to prevent teacher lay offs.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), with the "enthusiastic support" of the Obama administration, are leading the effort in Congress to send 23 Billion to the states to avert the lay offs of 300,000 teachers. Meanwhile Republican John Boehner labels the proposed legislation a "bailout" of puiblic education.

The comments in the post are fascinating and appear to include all shades of opinion about public education.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Colo. District Boots Traditional Salary Schedule

An article in the current Ed Week features the new merit pay system in Harrison District 2, in Colorado Springs.

The Superintendent Mike Miles has instituted a pay system for teachers based on a large number of "spot" observations and student achievement test scores.

Teachers who score high on the new merit pay system like the system. Many who score at a lower level are leaving the district voluntarily. Miles, however, says that his goal is not retention of teachers but rapid improvement of teaching.

Harrison 2 is not unioinized, and Miles grants that the kind of system would take a very long time to set in place in a district with collective bargaining. A former military man, Miles consults with selected teachers but makes decisions unilaterally.

In Britain The Tories and Lib Dems Fight it out over Education

In the negotiations over forming a new government the Tories and Lib Dems are struggling to find commong ground on educational policy.

According to the BBC, the Tories' platform sponsors a "free school" plank in which families and groups can start schools and claim government spending. The Liberals claim that this would destroy educational standards.

The Lib Dems have also called for a "premium" in the state supplement for schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods, funded by increased educatonal spending. The Tories have not committed themselves on any additional spending and have on the whole favored spending cuts and lower taxes.

This is another battle in the war over the state's role in maintaining "society", or buiilding any common basis of experience and loyalty among its diverse citizens.

Americans might want to keep an eye on these negotiations, as developments in the UK often offer insight about possibilities here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Death of Schools and Society

Dick Morris, a self-serving commentater who has managed to advise both the Clinton and Bush White Houses, is now pushing an apocalyptic vision for public education. The states, he claims in a new book, will shift strongly to the GOP in 2010 and will assert their 10th amendment constitutional rights. Their Attorneys General will take action against all Federal encroachments on State powers in domains left to the states under the reserved powers clause.

As a federalist I also think this is long overdue. Connecticut, my adoptive state, contemplated a 10th amendment suit against NCLB. California has been struggling to assert some control over its natural environment and has been blocked by weak federal environmental protection laws that pre-empt state legislation.

Morris's claim is that once the states successfully get out from under federal educational policy initiatives they will open the spigots on charter schools, vouchers, and homeschools, and will completely tear down the public school system.

This movement to replace the public schools with charter schools is already a trend, as witnessed in New Orleans. If this spreads it will be on a regional basis; some states will lead and others will be very reluctant to follow.

Marc Lilla has a fascinating article in this week's NYRB on the Tea Party and the New Jacobins. He says that the current political climate is the outcome of two successful revolutions: the 1960s revolution of individual self-expression and the 1980s Reagan revolution of privatisation. Combined, these two shifts have left individuals to act as they choose and to free themselves from large institutions, now discredited as corrupt and ineffective, to do all manner of things for themselves that they don't have a clue how to do -- including, educate their children and care for their own health.

I am not as dismissive as Lilla about the capacities of ordinary people, and I am not nearly as enamoured by the institutions whose collapse he fears. maybe I am just an unconscious product of this double revolution myself.

But Lilla has a very important point: once these institutions are de-composed, then given the double revolution it will be difficult to put them -- or successor institutions that we will badly need --back into place.

A few charter schools and homeschools is one thing; a nation state without the means to create society is quite another.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Philanthrocapitalism comes to Cuba: More fun curriculum ideas from the World Bank

I’ve already written one post criticizing Urgent: Evoke—an online “alternate reality game” (read web-based curriculum) funded by the World Bank that is saturated with the ideology of social entrepreneurship. Lately, though, the Evoke team has been posting some interesting new updates to their site, so I think another post is warranted.

Each week, the Urgent: Evoke site features a new comic in which the Evoke team, a group of social entrepreneurship superheroes, solve world problems through the power of philanthrocapitalism. These comics are supposed to teach African students about important social entrepreneurship concepts.

In a recent episode, the superhero team is visiting Cuba. In the alternate Urgent: Evoke future, communism has fallen and Castro is dead. The economic system is in chaos, but this merely highights exciting opportunities for our team of eager social entrepreneurship superheroes:
Actually, despite the claim above, it would seem that money is the key ingredient for social entrepreneurship. However, according to our superheroes, another important ingredient is, apparently, belief in the future of Cuba. And who holds the future of Cuba dearer to their heart than the Cuban exile community?According to Evoke, the Cuban exiles represent the promise of the future. Unjustly dispossessed, just like the white farmers in Zimbabwe, they will carry Cuba forward to a bright future:
As the comic closes, the Evoke team takes time out to reflect on their triumph in
transforming Cuba:
The Cuban exiles are back in charge and all’s well in the new Cuba, but it’s still important to put a “Havana Peso” in the musicians’ cap. After all, as good philanthrocapitalists, we need to use our wealth to support the hardworking folks that are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. There’s nothing like “a nudge in the right direction” to get people moving!

So much for the latest iteration of this World Bank curriculum. In my previous post, I wrote a longer analysis of the problematic ideology behind it. Also, if this curriculum intrigues you, you should also check out the parody of Urgent: Evoke, which you can find at Urgent: Invoke. Instead of using the original panels, the Invoke team rewrite the comics to reflect what they see as the World Bank’s actual agenda.

Friday, May 7, 2010

One Book, One World

Nancy Pearl, the book commentator on NPR, has a great claim to the title America's Librarian. Her "Booklust" radio columns are classics, and have been collected in two wonderful volumes. I discovered so many books in these classic book lists that I now read in Nancy Pearl's shadow.

A while ago Pearl conceived the brilliant idea of encouraging cities, through their public libraries, to choose a single book for all citizens to read. The concept, Pearl argued, was a tool to get all citizens, regardless of their differences, regularly to share at least one significant experience in common.

One Book One City has spread like wildfire.

Enter Jeff Howe, a contributing editor of Wired Magazine and author of Crowdsourcing, one of the great books of 2009. In Crowdsourcing Howe argues, in passing, that we are all now surrounded by very cheap, hyper-powerful, mobile, easy to learn and easy to use tools that put all of the world's knowledge in everyone's hands, robbing the schoolmaster of the power to distribute and control it. IMHO Crowdsourcing is one of the most important books for contemporary educators.

Howe argues in a post from April 23 2010 on his blog, also called Crowdsourcing, that because geography is no longer in the age of the Internet as salient a feature of group formation as is affinity, Pearl's One Book, One City concept is dated. With Global tools like Twitter the contemporary concept would be One Book One World.

With that grandiose vision, Howe has started a global book club, called One Book One Tweet, or #1b1t (note the Twitter hashtag). Yesterday's blog post spells out the rules for the discussion group on Twitter.

I am of the 'think globally act locally' school, and am hardly convinced that a global Twitter book club makes sense. Further, I think Pearl's project contributes to local community life in just the right way; it gives us something to talk about with our neighbors: our barbers, tree doctors and the folks we run into at the book store or cafe. Twitter keeps us home in front of the computer cut off from these folks.

I am, however, a pluralist and an optimist and I wish Howe's project well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

" Bridging Differences" is Must Reading

Everyone reading this blog will gain insight by following the current dialogue between Diane Ravitch and Deborah Meier about Obama's Race to the Top initiative in their joint blog Bridging Differences.

The current discussion is about the "phony consensus" behind race to the Top, and the process by which the RTT money was alloactaed -- the end run around Congress.

I admit that I am not a huge Diane Ravitch fan, but I am learning much from this exchange.