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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Public schools are the next strip malls of America?

We can stand by and pretend that the latest top down fads make educational sense. We can chose to believe that the state is offering teachers quality in-services about "good" instruction. We can just trust that federal and state legislators do their research and know what they are voting for before they vote. We can stand by and think that our kids may test well, so this doesn't impact us... But what we may not realize are the goals of the business people behind these ideas.


In this post, a reader has a few thoughts about ed reform: "Standardized testing has nothing to do with improving education–not for wealthy suburbanites in Westchester and not for needy children in the Bronx. It’s all about scale, and propping up a vast and growing “education industry” that’s only worth the trouble (money) of the likes of Gates, Murdoch, the Waltons, and the Bushes, and, sadly, Obama and Duncan, if it’s standardized and millions of customers–I mean children–are buying." 

I remember when I first began seeing colleges and universities with unfamiliar names in strip malls, between Subway stores and nail salons. It struck me as odd, and still does, yet we have gotten used to the sight of them. It still makes me shudder to see ads for on-line cyber schools. A few people I know seem to like them, but I want my kids in classes with their peers, with in-person teachers who get to know them, and in locally controlled school districts.



But imagining public schools as the next strip malls of America? Deeply disturbing.
Why so? Because it seems to fall in line with the same kind of thinking as strip mall universities & on-line learning.


"This testing revelation has resulted in the worst atrocities of curriculum-trimming, test-prep, and educational “disruption” being visited upon only the poorest schools and districts. The dawning revelation of social inequity makes a convenient defense when what you’re really trying to do is transforms schools into the next strip malls of America."




It is entirely possible that the "curriculum trimming, test-prep, and educational disruption" aren't being saved for the poorest of schools. What if they were just the appetizers?
 
It is highly suggested that we not accept any new educational ideas at face value. We must research everything and look for connections to Gates, the Broad foundation, the Koch brothers, ALEC, the Bushes, Obama and other anti-public education players. Even our most beloved leaders may be passing along questionable ideas and practices. Just because someone says something is a best practice doesn't make it so. If the goal is to turn our schools into strip mall schools, no one is safe. Question everything. There is no secret sauce.




Saturday, January 3, 2015

"I just can't handle the pressure..."

Does this sound familiar:



"I reached high school, where I could not handle the pressure.  I had suffered from minor school anxiety in middle school, but I did very well with the support of my parents and teachers.  And despite suffering from minor school anxiety, I still enjoyed going to school.  High school was a different story.  On my first day of high school, I walked in, froze at the entrance, and found myself in the counselor’s office. I  remember saying, 'I just can’t handle the pressure.'  This was the first day of school – we hadn’t even done anything yet.  All I had running through my mind was, 'Everything you do matters. How will I do on my SAT’s? What college am I going to? Do I have enough extracurriculars? What if I fail my final exams?' All through middle school I was reminded how scary, hard, and high-pressure/high-stakes high school was going to be, and it got to me.
Omitting the long, boring details, I ended up being diagnosed with severe school and separation anxiety. I was homeschooled for four months during my sophomore year, four years ago almost to the day: the very end of October, November, December, January, and February, and then slowly started attending one class a day until I was back in school fully around April/May. It was the absolute worst experience of my life and exposed me to the ugly side of 'schooling.' I remember sitting in the counselor’s office and having a school administrator say to me, 'I don’t get it. Why can’t you just go to school like everyone else?' I felt worthless, stupid, and I genuinely didn’t understand why I couldn’t go to school like everyone else. This experience destroyed my love of learning."

What the heck goes on in our country's middle and high schools that can make a child who formerly loved learning such a wreck? I have a guess or two...

The above quote is from this interview in a Delaware education blog called,
Exceptional Deleware: Helping Parents of Special Needs Children, Eliminating Disability Discrimination, & Understanding Special Education Rights.  The post reports, "College student, Melissa Katz, currently studying to be a teacher, is a public education activist, and writes a blog of her own. It is brave to be planning a career in education at this time. I am not sure I would allow my kids to do so, which is quite sad to me. I have already told my youngest daughter that if she wants to be a teacher, she needs a second degree as a fall back. That said, if the next generation of young adults is like Melissa Katz, perhaps we have a chance at saving this important American institution.