#education #Foucault #SOSchat #OWS #p2
“The ideas of crime and punishment must be strongly linked and ‘follow one another without interruption… When you have thus formed the chain of ideas in the heads of your citizens, you will then be able to pride yourselves on guiding them and being their masters. A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly by the chain of their own ideas; it is at the stable point of reason that he secures the end of the chain; the link is all the stronger in that we do not know of what it is made and we believe it to be our own work; despair and time eat away the bonds of iron and steel, but they are powerless against the union of ideas, they can only tighten it still more; and on the soft fibres of the brain is founded the unshakable base of the soundest Empires’” (Foucault quoting Servan in Discipline and Punish)
In what ways does this link to education? Other institutions? The current state of things? Are we starting to peek behind the curtain?
0126: Why External Motivators are a Must, and why that’s a problem.
#education #edreform #SOSchat #control
(Please, if what you find below is a waste of time, skip to the *; don’t waste your time on a fool’s attempt to make sense of the senseless. Cheers.)
I want to begin by stating that I am a proponent of a critical internal locus of control for human beings— that would, of course, include students. It’s important to use ‘critical’ as a qualifier, as well, because so much of what we think is internalized has been conditioned and now seems internal. Additionally, ample argument can be made that every action is made externally. By that I mean we are constantly responding to stimuli no matter how we intellectualize it. I will not try to tease out these complications, frankly that would be a trite go at rhetorical masturbation for which I do not have the time.
That said, external motivators are a must for our current educational model of skill, drill, and test to be effective. Students, and teachers, for that matter are not working on anything truly stimulating provided by the state. The curriculum is cold and pointless, schools function more as prisons than places of curious exploration, any attempts to find glimmers of hope are subdued quickly by the pacing guide, the examples are endless. External control is required when forcing someone to be a something. Education, as it is (arguably education in general), seeks to alter the natural flow of curiosity. It seeks to apply discipline to the mind, and discipline is important. Change, growth, transformation all require a level of discipline, a great deal of it, in fact. Intellectual growth, the building of skills, thinking, and so forth all require discipline. But, discipline in itself is not the problem. The problem is, at least, two-fold. First, in our system of institutional function, the discipline, the locus of control, is not returned to the individual without rendering it less that operative. Second, the current system requires a form of external control that will prevent resistance— the content is so numbing, and the structure so dehumanizing that any soul will and rightfully resist. As a result, external motivators are a must in schools, then people can wander aimlessly through the remainder of their existence from institution to institution seeking refuge from any lack of structure. This is not a phenomenon caused entirely by education, but is simply a part of the function of western society. But, back to school. Testing especially has required motivation to be more and more external and punitive. If it isn’t then quotas won’t be made, curriculum won’t be covered (understanding is not a consideration), and testing will not boom. The industry would crumble of we had kindergartens crawling around playing with blocks, and 8th grade biology classes spending several weeks dissecting frogs. The test must happen. That is the aim. All of life is a test— a standardized test. With all this testing, the control can never be returned to the individual. What would they do? Would they rebel? Not if you’ve destroyed the will too. So while the gradual release of responsibility is present in word, if the responsibility was never developed and nurtured, then it may never appear without intensive democratic intervention that seeks to liberate the colonialized mind and being.
*I quite possibly got lost in the circles of rhetoric above, the problems of our education systems and society are multifactorial and interrelated. So, in summation, without extreme external control our education system, with its current goals, would not function. Tests would never be bubbled, remediation and remediation specialists would have no place, reformers would have to do something else, the industry would change. The means is an end in itself. Control people from as early as possible, and they will belong to their controllers forever. Hopefully, they will never even noticed they’re being controlled. I mean what would the world be like if people went around asking questions and making choices? Reasonable, perhaps?
0086: Thank God for Standardized Tests, They Help Us Know Our Place
#revolution #fascism #satire #edchat
The best thing about standardized tests is they take the guess work out of teaching. I know exactly what to teach and to what extent. I don’t have to worry about teaching in wasteful creative ways, nor do I have to worry about inspiring my students. All I have to do is repeat facts over and over, and give them four choices. It’s brilliant. I can even make it fun. I can use games that get them to choose the right answer. But, even if I don’t make it fun they’ll still get it. I just have to be repetitive and forceful enough. Some kids try to resist, but I have an array of Pavlovian mechanisms to prevent this. I just use classical conditioning, I call them procedures, but once they’re conditioned all I have to do is deposit the information and they’ll spit it back out onto bubble sheets. Some students try to ask questions, but I just tell them we don’t have time. Eventually they quit asking them all together. Thank goodness. Learning not to ask questions is probably one of the best outcomes of testing. It makes for compliant citizens. Think how much better out world will be when there are no more questions. The politicians who are smarter can just do what’s best for us. Testing and standardization helps end the search for answers. Students learn, they’re really trained, but learn sounds more educational, to accept facts from teachers. I’m right because I’m in power. It’s all so amazing the way students learn these days. As a teacher, even I’m learning not to ask questions. They’ll only get me fired. Questions are not for anything but tests. Companies are put together, benevolently, to ask the questions. All we have to do is recall the already supplied answer.
The best part of it all is we learn that all our hard work is futile. I can teach and teach and teach, and my students can work and work and work, and we’re always going to fall just short of success. It helps us understand that the wealthy kids across town deserve success, and we deserve strife. Classes are meant to be solid. All is futile. Hooray for standardization— not just in school, but society too!
I fear without tests and training a pesky revolution might boil up among the proletariat (what’s that mean?).
0077: #Teacher Training, Professional Development, and the Mysteries of the Hotdog Fold
#education #critical #edreform
I gave my students a quiz this morning and I asked them to fold their paper lengthwise and pass it in. They didn’t exactly understand lengthwise so I said “a hotdog fold”. They quickly made the correct fold and passed in the papers.
The term “hotdog fold” brought about a series of flashbacks to undergraduate education classes and useless professional developments I’ve attended that spend a disproportionate amount of time discussing and explaining the difference between a “hotdog” and a “hamburger” fold. I mean I’ve had this explained to me at least fifteen different times in different settings. I’ve been appalled every time. The instructors or professional developers have defended that teaching a common language for folding paper is important for classroom procedures. And, that instructional time was often lost because of things as simple as passing in papers. I couldn’t agree more. But, how wasteful and insulting is it to send a teacher, pre-service or in-service, to a workshop on folding paper. Additionally, the reason behind folding the paper is never explained without the presenter being asked. Wouldn’t it be better to help teachers learn to reflect properly about their practice? Or, teach them how to conduct effective discussions that foster critical thinking and dialogue. Teachers could be taught how to teach lessons in a way that allow students to arrive at answers on their own, or even how to design problem-based learning activities. They could be instructed on ways to properly teach and help build their learners vocabularies, so they can read, write, and think more freely. Instead, teacher training is often limited to a few principles of classroom management, memorizing the definitions of the elements of literacy, a class or two in how to write lesson plans, and of course a lesson or two in folding paper. These basic lessons are repeated in new teacher orientations and at schools PDs. They’re all focuses on standardizing teacher methods to produce a similar product. I had one professor in Undergrad who focused entirely on critical literacy and social justice. One three hour course out of who knows how many was the only reason I completed a degree in education. That combined with past study of linguistics and literature.
Teaching is not limited to coloring within the lines. Thusly, neither should teacher training or education or whatever you call it be limited to such narrow outcomes either. I am not suggesting that teacher education programs produce only activists and social reformers, that would be ludicrous. Such activity must come from passion, awareness of injustice, and deep reflection. But, programs should produce cognizant and critical teachers who understand that their roles go far beyond that of folding paper and writing plans. Teachers should understand their roles as advocates for their students and themselves. They should have the skills walking into their classrooms not after they’ve been struggling as a teacher or five years. There is an abundance of literature focusing on teacher training. It should go beyond preparation for the praxis and a lifetime of coddling children. That is in no way what teaching is. And, regarding PD, it’s seldom that it is more than an occupation of valuable time that results in blank stares and checking cellphones. If you teach paper folding, perhaps shake things up, and focus on the way the information and critical thought is going to be put on that soon to be folded paper. Teachers are dedicated and hardworking people who are far more capable of complex thought than they are treated. Give us some credit.
0072: Public #Education, #Schools from Hell, and the Dystopian Landscape
#SOS #revolution #teaching
I think my view of public education via my experience, micro- and macro-, has merged with my views of dystopian realities. The places I’ve worked give or take a few have filled me each day with that feeling of grayness that is delivered in Orwellian dystopias. Bells ringing each hour, students being herded through halls to their next box for training, a regimen so strict and insidious that it can’t even be escaped with outright rebellion, students occasionally disappearing to alternative schools who can quite cut the mustard, and finally the Test. Those are all environmental, but the worst part is the deadness in everyone’s eyes. Every pair is overcome with a great sense of ennui and spiritual resignation— every pair, teachers, students, administrators. We are all chained to our numbers, our scores.
I left the glorious field of algebra, to a kinder music for this reason. I get to try to rekindle a fire of some sort in those eyes. I, with my class, get to try and create another reality. But, it’s always cut short with the bell. And, I must also focus on the test, building vocabulary and the like, but I am free and crafty enough to do it in my own way. My chain is longer now than when I taught algebra. Surely, it will be tightened when we enter test review, but for now it’s a bit longer.
Freedom, stolen or perceived, in a public school is a rare commodity, and if it is to be had it must be stolen. That is tragic, and a travesty.
0067: Testing, the Existential Crisis, and Hope in #Rebellion
#testing #education #revolution
We’ve been back at school for less than a week and students are already sharing their dissent about testing. Of course, they came back from the holidays to benchmark testing. How could we begin the year without knowing where they are and how much we need to move them? These benchmark tests are a fine and expensive resource provided by a testing company to be predictors of success. They help us, the teaching faculty, “target” the specific “needs” of a particular student. These so called needs have nothing to do with true or basic or even academic needs; these needs have been defined by a corporate testing company and the creators of the state curriculum. The needs of our students are reduced to a certain score on a test. Are their needs so arbitrary?
I hate that we’ve all returned to a hornet’s nest of testing. Everyone’s already anxious. The state could take over if we don’t succeed. Jobs are at stake. The principal devoted 15 minutes on the intercom to explaining the importance of this target test and how it would count as a grade. He told teachers to watch for students who were just bubbling answers. They would receive Saturday school. It’s such a shame that we are subjecting human beings to such meaningless stress. The students above all aren’t learning anything of value. Simply stay in line, shut up, and answer the questions the way you were taught to answer them. The teachers have dead eyes because they know deep down their not really teaching, their just trying to, like the students, stay in line, shut up, and train people to answer questions in a certain way. There is no critical thought. We’re all chained to the test. The principals are terrified of losing their jobs, and are overwhelmed with discipline problems. Students don’t want to be tested. They’re bored and weary from years of testing. Many never move beyond basic and have accepted the futility of their situation. They give up with no one to stoke their curiosity.
Each school that has employed me has faced the same existential crisis. There is no hope in being trained for a test. There is no learning, only training. Learning requires curiosity, but curiosity is killed off in the early grades. And if there is no learning, then there is no teaching. Year by year we become more numb to our positions as teachers. We have been placed in little boxes just like our students. So where is the hope? Where is the light? Is it students’ rebellion? Is it in teachers when they choose to chase rabbits and follow students down paths of curiosity? Sure. Sure, hope is there. It’s in rebellion. It’s in the commitment to step out of line and get your job done so you can stick around, but really to redefine your job so you are really teaching. There is spring and life in rebellion. There is joy in revolution.
0011: Question of Education, Content Literacy, and Teacher Education— and more questions
Elementary Educators work to teach children to learn to read; that is, they equip them with tools to decode words, sentences, and so forth. With those tools hopefully children are stimulated with experiences and conversations that help kids build their vocabularies. Of course, the effectiveness of these grade school experiences vary according to myriad factors from class size to teacher experience. But, as children progress through school, the focus shifts toward content and reading to learn. Unfortunately, the learn to read part was often not fully mastered. The skills are not always easily generalized to other areas, thus the 4th grade slump. Kids who have been taught to decode words phonetically, and “read” as quickly as possible for various tests that calculate reading fluency in it’s simplest form (rate only) are suddenly expected to comprehend texts that are not predictable and have no root in their own experiences. It’s like teaching someone to read musical notation without every applying it to an instrument or even a melody. And, this slump can continue far into high school leaving kids and teachers alike absolutely disillusioned. The transition is so abrupt, and the teacher training is vastly different. Elementary and secondary teachers have had varying levels of literacy training. But, the “methods” learned are mere algorithms to be implemented through rote-like practice. For true literacy to become a reality, we must shift and expand our views of literacy to encompass so much more than just reading and writing. We must engage our students, teachers, community members, and whoever else in critical discourse about issues relevant to our lives. By engaging in these ongoing conversations (verbal, written, drawn, etc.) we will expand and connect out worlds. Thinking skills will develop that have been neglected, and are absolutely necessary to success beyond fourth grade. Content literacy encompasses much more than simply reading the words. It requires learners to glean concepts from texts and repackage them into smaller units sometimes referred to as vocabulary. To do this teachers must practice this.
So should teachers be trained in critical discourse? Should their training include methods for leading and facilitating complex discussions? Would this help students and teachers?