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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Einstein in '29: Standardize Cars, Not Humans

Okay, it is almost embarrassing to admit another intellectual crush on this blog, but I think I am not alone on this one. 

 Yeah...it's Albert.
Here is the thing, we have a problem in public education....and it is not the kids, the parents, the teachers, the administrators, the superintendents, or the school boards (Though all of the above are often blamed for the "problems").
Although "We" didn't actually create these problems, it is very important that "We" make sure we are using different thinking from the folks who did create them. "We" want our children to have an outstanding public education like kids in elite private schools get. Families in my home district know that "We" have extremely successful schools. Our kids are the some of the lucky ones, and "We" want to keep it that way. The time has come for us to speak up for our kids and for all kids everywhere.
There is a national movement to "prove" that public schools are failing. This bipartisan movement is trying to make families believe that vouchers (taking our school tax dollars out of public schools and using that money to help pay a fraction of private school tuition) and funding charter schools with our public school tax dollars will be better for our children (They market this as "Choice"). And this is where my business background comes in handy...



In addition to my Master's in Education, I also happen to have a Bachelor of Business Administration from the highly respected Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University. 
And although I am proud of my degree and all I learned at Hofstra, I can see why business and education just shouldn't mix. I majored in marketing, which is really about using psychology to get people to want something, to believe they really need it, and hopefully to get them to act on that desire and make a purchase. It seems to me this corporate education movement (also called the school reform movement) is outstanding at marketing (A+ for you, corporate reformers). 
Another priceless principle of business is that the customer is always right. Readers, you wouldn't believe how many of us there are who do not want this "product." We want to stop the attempts to "prove" our schools are failing when they are not. We want schools that value humanities, art & music programs, foreign language, recess, physical education, critical thinking, and the absolute pleasure of inquiry and intellectual pursuit.
....And you know we are right.
There are just too many standardized tests being pushed on public schools by this movement at this time. The schools have no say, these laws have been passed. That is why "We" have become more important than ever.
We must channel our inner Einstein. He knew what he was talking about: 


"I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture. . . ."
    — Albert Einstein, Saturday Evening Post interview, 10/26/1929"

I don't think anyone would argue that  Einstein was a genius, and not just at physics. Our politicians are great at creating reform rhetoric, where language is turned inside out to disguise reality. 
Listen for terms like the ones below:

Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review and public scrutiny by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements.

College and Career Ready (adjective): This refers to the school of thought that children born into privilege can be skimmed into top-tier schools and allowed to explore a broad spectrum of interests, while 99% of children should be prepared to work for those other children someday.  College Ready refers to raising assessment scores enough to get students into college, provide photo opportunities for reformers and simple graphs and charts which suggest student growth for the media.  Career Ready means willing to accept a life of minimum wage labor in the service industry, without the false hope that a better future is possible, all while fighting for policies that enrich one’s bosses at the expense of one’s self interest.

Data Driven Assessment (noun): A test made by a corporation and protected from peer review by intellectual property laws and strict confidentiality agreements whose purpose is to provide numbers too complicated and nuanced for the general public to understand, but vague enough that they can be molded into a variety of purposes as the need for “data” to support reforms arises.

 I can't really delve into the corruption of the test companies and their "interest" in our children and tax dollars, that needs a post of its own. Below is a tidbit from this watch dog site.

" (Test Company) Pearson is one such entity that as of late always seems to be at the right place and precisely at the right time. In other words, just as new legislation is passed, as new educational mandates are set, Pearson is suddenly able to provide the legions of educators and school systems clamoring for some kind of answer with just the right product. How can this be? In recent years, this once relatively small publishing house turned itself into a massive provider of a range of educational products, from traditional print materials for the K-12 sector, higher education resources and technology solutions for public school systems. It is one thing to have various products to sell and to allow the marketplace to judge their success or failure. It is another matter to reorganize the rules so that Pearson products are all one needs to buy to satisfy a range of emerging Federal and State education mandates."

Read the article at the link. You won't believe everything they have their hands on.

In addition, our children are losing instructional time (class time) to take "field tests" for these test companies. Field tests have no educational value. The tests don't count for our kids. Basically, our kids are taking the tests so the test companies can learn which questions they want to throw out. In my marketing experience, corporations had to ask parent permission to get minors to test their products. In addition, they got paid for their time. These practices are being questioned in this article.


"Doing a field test is to the point where it's abusive to students..."  "You're putting kids in the position where they're guinea pigs."

Again, what may be good business, is not good for our children.
And again, Einstein knew it:
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
I think we know it, too.

 What are we actually allowing the test companies to "teach" our kids?

One last gem for the road:
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."
– Albert Einstein
Let's do something about it.
 Oh, Albert....wish you were here.

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