Bird Droppings August 22, 2014
The head of education in the US should not be an idiot
It was four years ago I was reading an article an interview with Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education. I selected a few choice quotes from his interview to savor and ponder for a few days. As I look at the words, he said, and his follow through with his actions we can see where he really thinks education should be. I have long argued that sports should not be priority number one in high school and colleges but who am I to challenge the status quo. Football ticket sales and all the hoopla surrounding sports is big money. With Duncan’s emphasis more recently on a push to private industry in public education, I found his words a bit confusing. At first I truly liked this statement and yet since these words were let loose he has gone three hundred and sixty degrees in another direction and supported in actions the making of money.
“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with post-season play” Arne Duncan
Over the past few days, I have been looking at how I see teaching and instruction, and I have wandered about a bit in my efforts. My style is somewhat radical to say the least. However in fourteen years in public education my craziness has worked with kids who are not supposed to graduate or succeed according to most. I happen to see this line from Arne Duncan our Secretary of Education, and it is amazing how we provide a sense of falsehood through athletics. I am not saying all athletes are poor students by any means. I know many who are honor graduates and scholars in their right. The greed and competition however at a college level become significant. A local college at home games can bring millions to the economy. Many staunch fans never went to college anywhere yet have season tickets and trucks colored in that schools colors and even have the same animal as a pet as the local mascot. A good college football or basketball program is a business not a learning program.
“I think we are lying to children and families when we tell children that they are meeting standards and, in fact, they are woefully unprepared to be successful in high school and have almost no chance of going to a good university and being successful.’ Arne Duncan
Not every child should be going to college, and why we have to advertise and promote this concept, I honestly do not know. In a recent faculty meeting, our superintendent discussed the excessively high dropout rate of freshmen. When you have an attitude of sending everyone to college those who do not want to be there quit that first year. We have eliminated technical training in many high schools ours included in favor of everyone goes to college. This trend ties in with our role in international education as well. We constantly hear on the news how we are behind in education other international programs and countries. Let me start with one of the measures which is the PISA, The Program for International Student Assessment. In 2006, we the USA were ranked fifteenth. I have never heard of or seen this test administered in Georgia. It is a two-hour test, multiple choice and essay. It is given every three years to rank countries internationally. Australia is ranked fourth. There are differences between us and them and significant differences. It was 1992 till Australia started inclusion into public schools for disabled students versus 1974 in the US. However, there is still a distinct difference between US and literally most of the world in terms of education. Our test scores, for example, as per NCLB include Students With Disabilities SWD as a subgroup, and they are included in the final tally of the population. A 2% allowance is made for Mentally Impaired students in the total population. Australia in scoring on High School tests, etc. does not include SWD in totals as European and Asian Schools do not include either. Most international school systems have in place a mandatory age cutoff 15-17 depending on the territory, for example, in Australia. At that point, choices are made and or mandated as to higher education technical and or college and or go to work. Throughout Asia, this is common practice as it is in many European educational systems.
“If you have great assessments and real-time data for teachers and parents that say these are [the student’s] strengths and weaknesses, that’s a real healthy thing.” Arne Duncan
“We would do away with examinations. They measure the inconsequential type of learning. We would do away with grades and credits for the same reason. We would do away with degrees as a measure of competence partly for the same reason. Another reason is that a degree marks the end or conclusion of something, and the learner is only interested in continuing the process of learning.” Cal Rodgers
In the words of the head of education and a leader in psychology in his time above, they are totally differing views. I agree with several of my friends that on some concepts Carl Rogers can be a bit off the deep end to a degree. But on this aspect I agree with him that competition as far as learning goes be that grades, test scores, can be inconsequential as to, has any learning occurred. This would lead to another line from David Purpel yesterday that truly hit me hard.
“Schools have been captured by the concept of accountability, which has been transformed from a notion that schools need to be responsive and responsible to community concerns to one in which numbers are used to demonstrate that schools have met their minimal requirement.” David Purpel, 1989, Department of Curriculum and Educational Foundations, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
We have stripped away that aspect of community from schools in order to have a clear-cut and definite number to score and equate whatever it is we want to measure in theory. One of the first things I learned in statistics is that they are at the mercy of the statistician. We can make numbers do whatever we want. Politicians like numbers and test scores and simply things so they can make policy and award lobbyists with nice contracts. Interesting how most educational research that is cited by the National Clearinghouse for research-based materials is primarily one hundred percent publishing and testing company’s research. Much of this is very limited demographically and in a true research situation would not be valid. Significant dollars are involved however, but that might be for another discussion, which sort of ties in with my idea of, is there ethical capitalism? Sadly industrial mentalities and capitalism drive education in US. Mass production testing and textbook companies rule along with various support industries.
“I know there are schools that are beating the odds where students are getting better every year, and they are labeled failures, and that can be discouraging and demoralizing,” Arne Duncan
I continue to try and understand how when students are doing better year after year they are a failure. As for US schools being behind are they really? All US schools in all states we are mandated through NCLB to have an exit exam that is within certain parameters for graduation and if not passed student does not receive a high school degree. This consists of Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science portions in the state of Georgia. Many subjects have End of Course Tests again here in Georgia. Even with this series of tests at our high school we have managed to raise graduation rate at our school from 71% to 92% over a five-year period. Sadly this comes at the expense of real learning, and the idea of teaching to the test is more than a catchword. Teacher’s jobs administrator’s jobs are tied to test scores and funding and state and federal intervention as well. I am not happy with the USA educational system as I am a supporter of students and learning which are totally being left behind in this numerical accountability competitive system.
“We are proceeding on with the intent of the Landmark – Leave No Child Behind Reform Act without political persuasion. The focus is the effective delivery of services in education by review, restructure, implementation for maximum student learning.” Arne Duncan
Arne perhaps used some words wrong here. It should have read for maximum student’s success in testing not in learning. I have taught in different parts of Georgia and Pa. briefly and while many will say education is not as difficult as in previous generations all I can say is pull a high school or college biology book off the shelf dust it off and compare to a biology book today. The cellular material is years beyond my freshmen college and even zoology and botany books of 1968 and 1969. Not just the research gains but vocabulary and demands of the material are voluminous compared to what we had in high school. Our system is flawed, and it will take radical thinking I tend to believe more toward Foxfire core practices and John Dewey’s ideas and Carl Rogers.
“Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my experience. No other person’s ideas and none of my ideas are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to the truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets — neither Freud nor research –neither the revelations of God nor man — can take precedence over my direct experience. My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way, its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.” Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person, 1961
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” Carl Rogers
As I close looking back on where and when and how I am still within my learning searching for what is my pedagogy. It is a continual fluid moving process as I teach and learn each day. I can say I am inclined to think this way but only till a better way comes along. With a morning nearing end and the new week ahead please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and your hearts and always to give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)