0154.5: Politicians, Politicos, and Pollyanna’s: How Futile Change Seems in Education
#SOSchat #p2 #education #revolution
Yesterday, I posed the question: what would education be like without politics? That was a far too general question upon second glance. Education as an institution is an almost entirely political institution. It runs likes a bureaucratic machine— of course, some parts are better oiled than others. I received a response that said education would be worse without the politics. Being that it is so much a political system, I agree. Without politicians, the system would collapse. In my questioning I made a terrible mistake/s. I made the assumption that all politicians are bad, and that all political systems are as well. They are not. Some people/systems have the best intentions and follow those intentions up with committed action. These would be politicians who function as true representatives of the people. My dealings with this group have been generally delightful, but only in the way sharing war stories is delightful. We share frustration with the slow rate of change, and nonsensical impasses to seemingly common sense legislation. As we see, things that need funding often aren’t, and money is often put into things it shouldn’t. When we ask “why can’t these funds be redirected” we’re met with mounds of paperwork, advocacy challenges, and so forth. I have, on the other hand, encountered politicians who are not at all sympathetic to the needs of teachers, students, people in general. They have what they need, so do their children and grandchildren. They share with me insincere condolences and general pats on the back for “all the good work in doing”, but have general disregard for anyone who isn’t allowed to walk in tunnels beneath The Hill. I’ve had ranges of experiences with politicians, politicos, and Pollyannas, but one thing remains the same and will remain the same: bureaucracy so often prevents progress (that’s stating the obvious in the worst way). Additionally, people make decisions as representatives for People who they will never know or understand. Education Systems, Prison Systems, Healthcare Systems, etc. all fall prey to grave inefficiencies, greed, corporate influence, nasty politics, and most important harming and neglecting just as many people as they “help”. Certainly, there is good that comes from all of the above institutions, but huge profits should not be listed in those lists of goods, especially if they’re not functioning in a helpful manner for all. So, I ask another question, hopefully a more focused question (with fewer “what-if’s” and more “how’s”): How can bureaucracy be eliminated or lessened from our institutions? How can services become more equitable? How can people be empowered to better sustain themselves? What will it take to make education more equitable for the children I teach? What will it take for the children of color I teach to be considered just as valuable as the kids across town?
I don’t know if these questions are better phrased or more specific, maybe just more honest. What can be done? Who can do it? Is it possible? Historically, Institutions don’t really change too much once they’ve been given life. So, if no change, what?
0153: Teaching for Change? #Revolution?
#education #SOSchat #occupyedu #OWS
The concept of teaching for revolution extends far beyond the classroom. Yes, teachers teach for change. We want the learners in our care to leave with skills and understandings that will enable them to succeed. We want to provide the opportunity to access keys to a better future. But what is a better future? Is it simply graduating, going to college, getting a good job? Is it enlightenment? Is it power? What? If we are preparing our students to be consumers alone then we are doing them a monumental injustice. It’s possible to view success as access to products and services. But, could success be viewed as a transfer of power from one entity to another? A shift in the status quo? An outright overthrow or disruption? An equalization of powers? I think we should seek to answer these questions. Certainly, teaching for social justice has a root or two in the understanding that there is an imbalance of power. People, the People, must always push against authority when it becomes oppressive, suppressive, and flat out greedy. I don’t believe education as a whole will go the way of this form of teaching, but it has it’s place among the people who are blindly crushed beneath the heel of a leviathan. If you see injustice, if you know it as constant force in our day to day existence, help us gather and continue sharing ways we prepare our learners for success.
0131: #Education for Suppression and Control or Liberation and Enlightenment? Our choice.
#SOSchat #revolution #p2 #OWS
If education is necessary for society to remain open or democratic or participatory, then what are we providing our students? Would it be too radical to say that engaging in stringently paced test prep, or test prep at all, drastically impairs the ability of a learner to grasp the concept of rule by the people much less participate in it? Education can function as a system of subversion or of liberation and enlightenment. A system that is built around a test can in no way be a system of liberation. I’m not sure that enlightenment can be standardized either. If we are aware of this, then why or how do we continue? Do we continue doing the same thing, the same bland test prep, the same churched up test prep? Do we continue to systematically disable the generation in our care (mind you we will soon be in their care)? If we remain passive, then we are the architects of their demise, and ours. We are building the machine that will destroy us.
If we, as educators, are believers in open, democratic, and participatory societies, then we must resist. We must survive, yes, but resist more. We must do everything in our classrooms to ensure learners learn to participate, learn to become critical, learn to smell and identify shit when shit abounds. We must enable thinkers and doers, not sitters and getters. We are not blameless if students leave our classrooms as passive automatons. Find a way to disrupt and resist corruption. We must find a way to affect things outside our classrooms. We must engage other teachers in resistance. We must encourage teachers to really teach. We must engage each other in dialogue that leads to informed and effective action. We must find a way to effect policy. We must disrupt and alter, for the better, the punitive top down measures that stand to prevent the possibility of liberating and enlightening education.
Most important, we must connect with and support one another. We must engage others. The change necessary cannot be implemented by a few, if it is we stand to see another version of the same system emerge, only with a slight twist. We, educators, parents, lovers of democracy and open society, must stand together and build support for whatever change we see as best. Power in education has been in the wrong hands for too long. The pendulum need not swing the other day. The pendulum needs to stop swinging all together. The paradigm has shifted, but the pendulum still stands swinging as a political seismograph. As long as education is dictated by those whose interests lie outside the realm of education, then the education that enables critical thought and participation will not be possible. If we’re fine with the current system, then we should let it stand. If we’re not, then we should change it. But, it will not change if we remain passive. It will not change if we or our neighbors are asleep. For now, it’s time to wake up.
0127: Can We Build a Grassroots Movement with enough Power to Really Change #Education?
Something drastic needs to be done to alter the course of public education. It has become a testocracy. Curriculums have been molded to dictate that instruction revolves around test prep, rather than best practices in education. The culture of education, teaching, and learning have changed drastically as a result of the testing industry. Regardless of the industries intentions, money is being wasted on testing. Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars have been and are being poured into this industry and related products and services. Many are being crushed under the weight. Ultimately, a generation has received an inappropriate and lacking education. How can we fix this?
I’d like to propose a grassroots movement and organization designed to educate and empower teachers, administrators, and the public about the disastrous effects of the propagation of this education debacle. Perhaps the organization could be called the Center for Teacher Empowerment, or maybe the National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE). The group/movement will work to empower education professionals to create and implement change in classrooms, schools, districts and in state and national politics. The goal will be to empower educator-activists and support them as they enable education communities to create sustainable change from within. Simultaneously, the group/movement will need to acquire and develop a powerful political voice that can influence and dictate policy change. Additionally, attention needs to be granted to changing public opinion about educators and education. The public needs to be educated. Propaganda needs to be countered.
National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE)
1. Empower and educate education-activists to implement and organize sustainable change within their immediate area (classroom, building, district).
2. Build a diverse and powerful grassroots network of educators, parents, communities dedicated to proper educational change.
3. Develop an influential political voice on local, state, and national level.
4. Correct public opinion of educators. Counter negative, show positive, and progressive.
5. Build support
It is important that we talk about making reflective and powerful change. Inaction and silence are not an option. We must carefully build support and take great care not to alienate supporters. I’d like this to be an open conversation. Is something of this magnitude doable? Help me define some goals, tactics, and options. Let’s look at what exists. Let’s join forces. Let’s continue working.
#revolution #education #occupy
All is lost, in spite of glittering appearances, if objects or social structures are formally altered but human subjects are left powerless as before. Denis Goulet’s Introduction to Paulo Freire’s Education for Critical Consciousness
0012: First, do no harm— right?
I’m struggling as a teacher, and we all struggle, but I think I’m dealing with a dulled motivation. I don’t know if I’m approaching burnout, or if it’s time to make a move from the classroom. I am heavily critical of the schooling takes place, and for good reason. I’m concerned that being a part of a system that equates children with a number and not as human beings is somehow unethical. Equally, I know it’s important to be in the trenches and try to be a humanizing wrench in the cogs of this machine. The kids seem so dull sometime. They’re not boring people, they just lack the vivacity that has been apparent to me only in glimpses when we are able to connect beyond the curriculum. And, I’m in a new area with new kids. Some exhibit a hopelessness that has been crushed into them over their educational careers. Others are rightly obstinate and untrusting. Many have not been treated well by teachers. And, I understand, to an extent, why things are the way they are. My concern is that I have lost my spark. I am deeply committed to the cause of education. I like working with the teachers at my school to solve problems of curriculum and other things. I like providing examples of ways to teach things in a more effective and meaningful manner. I just don’t feel that way in my own classroom. And, this is the first time I’ve felt like this I think. I feel like it’s time, maybe, to change my role in education. I don’t know what to think or exactly what to do. I know I need to approach my work with enthusiasm. If I’m not, then I’m doing harm. I entered this field to help. I want to reach my goal. We must be reflective if we intend to help more than we hurt.
0005: We don’t need a tune-up— we need a brand new car
In talking with teachers, administrators, and especially janitors (who hear and see all) the consensus is that the system is broken. I’m not hearing much positive talk; only cynical, false positive talk. Everyone is overwhelmed. We have this problem of motivating and educating a mass of people, but no one is trusted to do it. Building administrators are not trusted by district administrators; teachers are not trusted by building admins; students aren’t trusted. And, the lack of trust goes back to the top. Rather than working as a team toward the well-being of those who are forced into the leviathan that is public education, the body is fighting and destroying itself. Teachers want to leave, so do students, and I’ve rarely met a principal who hasn’t been beat down a bit. Education seems to lack altruism. I don’t know if that’s the way to put. I guess I perceive(d) public education to be a system designed to help learners become fully productive members of society. But, I see kids leave semi-literate and disheartened. They’re criminalized for not sitting down and paying attention to the boring teacher. The boring teacher is demonized for not inspiring bored, understimulated children with a curriculum and methodology that is 200+ years old. Principals are silently criticized by teachers for not trusting them to be professionals. The cycle is endless, and there is no team. Bureaucracy does not build teams; it makes them impossible to exist. And, it certainly does nothing for communication. Information, excrement, and misunderstanding all roll downhill.
So what would make it better? What does an effective classroom look like? I’ve been in some. I’ve taught some. The best have had an element of technology, and most important students were able to openly interact with each other and with me. Seemingly, the more freedom students are given, the better the class environment. And, the fewer discipline problems. But, when students are treated like numbers and criminals the problems escalate. Problems with behavior, learning, teacher motivation, and so forth. I spoke to a student today who moved from another district. Her school was a violent place with poor academics, but she was in honor classes. Small classes homogeneously grouped by academic ability. She said she always felt challenged, and everyone was focused. Everyone was challenged. She was completely separate from the regular student population. She went to classes with the same small group. They worked constantly as a team, and interacted with their teachers as equals not subordinates. They collaborated. But, is this only possible with small groups of “academically gifted” children. My first year of teaching was in a difficult school that had become the dumping ground for kids who just couldn’t measure up academically or behaviorally. Many of them had criminal records (these were eighth graders), and had established patterns of failure. Within that group I had several small groups of remedial algebra students who were wonderful. They were the “worst kids” in the school, and had records to back those reputations up. The classes were small though. We interacted as peers. It took a few weeks for them to become comfortable with a little freedom, but after we became partners, and no longer enemies, we made great strides. Equally, I’ve had some big classes that functioned the same way. The common denominator was the trust I had in the students. They equally trusted me. I tried to be honest and respectful, and human. If I made a mistake, I apologized. Thinking back, only one of classes had a lot of technology. A few of those classes didn’t even have dry erase boards, just chalkboards. The schools have all been in high poverty areas, some rural and some urban. School should possess elements of freedom, humanity, and relevant material infused into whatever is being learned. And, that should be widespread. It seems that to every one progressive and comfortable teacher there is at least five who are at their wits end. What can be done to help teachers and administrators become more comfortable in there roles? Would schools function better democratically, with every participant as a stakeholder? Could bureaucracy be eliminated or lessened in school districts?