June 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
for Shipnia, Brittany, Dane, Becca, Christine, Chris and Amanda and Taylor and Annie — and the countless other young souls that will call themselves new teachers
There is a lot of talk, politically and otherwise, about education reform, but there is little conversation about what teaching actually is — and who the teacher is. What are the elements of teaching?
There is a singular demand on education today, namely that it develop producers — students that will mature to be workers and consumers. This single demand is blind to the sources of this production model, the teachers, and the nature of human culture. Of course, citizens have to be productive, engaging the world creatively, we hope, but this is not the first criteria. There are other requirements. In order for education to be productive — produce productive individuals — it must preserve the health and welfare of teachers and, in so doing, it must sustain students in the process. For this to happen, teachers must know themselves well, must have a full understanding of their students, and, just as significant, teachers must have a complete understanding of the context in which the teaching and learning happens. Teachers must be well motivated, active learners that engage the environment in which students reside; likewise, teachers must also know the relationships that exist between their subjects, pedagogy and the environment in which s/he is teaching. What is the place of my knowledge in the context of our culture? This question teachers must ask themselves over and over. Then teachers must know how to use this knowledge well. Teaching cannot take place except in culture. We seem to be unaware of this vital fact.
The appropriate measure of teaching is the culture’s health. We can look around and realize that our culture is not healthy, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Education, we hear in the talk, is in trouble; it has broken down. It’s limping along, even declining, we hear. A central reason for this breakdown has to do with our lack of understanding concerning the elements of teaching. We recognize the potential — and place — of the teacher, but we have strapped the teacher down in a system that privileges competition rather than cooperation, homogeneity rather than diversity. We falsely believe, now, that a single test can determine excellence — for teachers and students. This is far too simple a standard because it’s focused solely on production; it enslaves those in the system — administrators, teachers and students. This is an economic standard that parallels the current economic standard that has taken our welfare to the brink of disaster. We are beginning to see — only in some circles — that this standard is very expensive and, while it has solved some immediate problems, it has, overall, failed on a consistent basis to address the ills of our culture. Education has worked by confinement, concentration and separation; this design has lead to the industrialization of human experience. We, who work in schools, have been responsible for this move towards the factory model of education. It’s synonymous with the factory model of agriculture, which has lead to making our food vulnerable that, in turn, makes all vulnerable to all sorts of problems and diseases.
This is to say, then, that we have to re-describe the elements of teaching so that we can create better, more meaningful measures that comply with the art of teaching. Many like to say that teaching is an art and a science. It is not. It’s only an art. The science — the data, the verifiable knowledge, etc — only exists in the disciplines — Mathematics, English, Literature, Geography, History, Philosophy, Foreign Languages, and so on. The application of these knowledge fields to excite a student’s imagination is not a science; the synthesis of discipline knowledge and pedagogy is an art. This is why current, high stakes testing cannot measure, with any meaningful results, the teacher’s practice. We need another way of doing this; these measures must be layered and multifaceted — observations, journals, video, dialog, and so on, along with tests. I say along with tests because by integrating a variety of diverse measures we will be able to (a) experience the rich and layered practice of a teacher, and describe it, and (b) come to understand the limitations of the factory model, high stakes test.
So let’s just talk about three elements of teaching (in the weeks to come, I’ll describe others). I want to do this to show what I mean by the need for diverse measures that defy the factory model of education.
The first element of teaching is love. A teacher must love. She must love herself, but more importantly, she must love experiencing herself as a node that engages others in the healthy creation of culture. Love requires that the teacher be healthy, personally and in her practice. Love, therefore, leads the teacher to care about the well being of her students; this measure — the health of students — leads to atonement between the teacher, her students, and the world they are engaging. It proposes conscious, careful recognition of the ecology of learning. It also demonstrates knowledge of the interdepence between the teacher, students, the institution and the culture. These interdependencies always exist; however, in our current factory model of education focused solely on production, we categorically reject these connections, begin separating, confining and concentrating on diffused knowledge that is without context, without purpose. Teachers love, first and foremost, because it is the only way to get to a student’s heart; without the heart, there is no learning that’s possible. We can measure this quite easily by simply walking into any school and observing disinterested students. Disinterest comes about because love is not practiced in the classroom. Either a teacher doesn’t love her discipline or she doesn’t love the conditions for learning or she doesn’t love her students because, perhaps, they represent insurmountable challenges that she imagines cannot be addressed.
Teachers that begin with love are easy to find in schools. They are the most exhausted. This is the direct result of a dictatorial or totalitarian form. The teacher is always fighting an uphill battle against political demands on her identity, measures that don’t make sense, dictates that come from “on high,” usually boards of education — the Federal Government included — that have no idea who the students are. On the other hand, this teacher knows that the right approach to teaching and learning is more consistent with a conversational model; it proceeds directly to serious thought — inquiry — about our condition and our predicament. In conversations you always reply — and here is where we can measure. If a teacher honors the other party, namely students and their identities, she thus becomes reliant on a secondary element of teaching faith. The teacher has faith that the other will reply, though sometimes not in expected ways or in ways that the teacher may like — but this is, in fact, a healthy environment that begs for a third element, freedom. The teacher must always transgress constraints and boundaries to expose the work required, by a citizen, to be free. The teaching and learning act is to inspire the quest for freedom, creatively, personally, politically. Transgressing boundaries for freedom excites the imagination, which can be measured in actual work — writing, calculations and their applications, art and music, and so on, right to the effective uses of languages to communicate deeply felt emotions to an Other. Faith that the Other will reply fosters the quest for freedom, which is the sole purpose of education.
Love, faith and freedom, we can rightly see — and imagine — are easily measured, in teachers and students, by closely examining their practice, not by standardized tests, but, rather, by observation, close examination of texts and testing; the multi-layered approach, as I mentioned above, enables us to distinguish between individuals, rather then assuming that all individuals are the same, one. It allows us to apply what we learn — and what we have learned about the factory system that has gotten us nowhere — to our culture. We can then, slowly, begin to measure whether our culture is moving towards healthier ways of being since, right now, we’re not.
For a long time, we have dreamt that our systems have been taking us towards some Edenic future; we’ve convinced ourselves that our constructions, completely reliant on human ingenuity, are the key to our health and happiness. Now we realize otherwise. We have forgotten that everything we do resides in Nature; that everything we do affects Culture. Nature and Culture are hurting. We can turn to science, technology, medicine, history and philosophy, as well as the Arts, and see that this is absolutely true. All these disciplines are pointing to our troubled ways– to the troubles we’re facing. Might it not be time to take what we’ve learned and turn this ship around?
June 24, 2011 § 10 Comments
It’s uncanny, but it’s very difficult to keep up with the numerous examples of inverted totalitarianism appearing daily in our popular media. That these events are routinely covered by the popular media without question and concern should give us pause.
Yesterday, in Nothing Will Change: the 2012 Presidential Election, I gave the following example:
The NRC (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission), that boasts it’s “protecting people and the environment,” in an unprecedented move, voted 3 – 2 to advise the Obama Justice Department to intervene on behalf of Entergy Nuclear in the company’s lawsuit against the state of Vermont. Vermont wants to shut down Vermont Yankee, the aged nuclear power plant. A government agency that is solely responsible for the nuclear safety is extending its sphere of influence and advising the Federal Government to intervene in a state’s negotiations with a private entity.
Today, we learn that the US Supreme Court has given pharmaceuticals twin wins:
In one case, a First Amendment decision, the court, by a 6-to-3 vote, struck down a Vermont law that barred the buying, selling and profiling of doctors’ prescription records — records that pharmaceutical companies use to target doctors for particular pitches. And in a second, the court ruled 5 to 4 that the makers of generic drugs are immune from state lawsuits for failure to warn consumers about possible side effects as long as they copy the warnings on brand-name drugs.
The US Supreme court ruled that the State of Vermont was infringing on the pharmaceutical’s first amendment rights. “The amendment prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion“, impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.” This is untrue, the State of Vermont is not trying to restrict the first amendment, rather they are trying to restrict pharmaceuticals from getting private information concerning different drug protocols doctors use for specific patients.
“Basically, it’s going to allow the drug companies to have more influence on doctors’ prescribing practices, to manipulate their prescribing practices, and to promote the use of more expensive drugs. Almost certainly, health care costs are going to be driven up,” said Dr. Gregory D. Curfman, executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Information privacy experts also criticized Thursday’s ruling. “One of the practical consequences of the court’s decision will be to make it easier for pharmaceutical companies and data-mining firms and marketing firms to get access to this very sensitive information,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “The states are going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Ever since the Bush v Gore election, we’ve learned quite a a bit about where the US Supreme Court stands. The Court is aligned with right – wing conservative government and big business, this we know. The appointment of Justice Roberts, adding to the Court’s extreme conservatism, demonstrated a move to activist justices for the right. The Court thus becomes the legal thread essential for big business to control government. The Court is the “bag man,” if you will.
In Eduction a story from the mainstream, Republican Challenges Administration on Plans to Override Education Law. I’m no fan of Arne Duncan and Obama’s education policy, but what we find when we look under the hood of Representative John Kline’s, the Republican chairman of the House education committee, forceful attack on Duncan policies and maneuvers is an attempt to move closer to the privatization of education.
“He’s not the nation’s superintendent,” Mr. Kline said of Mr. Duncan, who assumed powers greater than any of his predecessors when, in 2009, Congress voted $100 billion in economic stimulus money for the nation’s school systems and allowed the secretary to decide how much of it should be spent.
Kline wants control of outcomes and we know that the outcome sought by the right is privatization. This move, by conservatives, is linked to a greater effort for student vouchers, creationism and an anti-gay agenda.
Imagine if all these efforts are also supported by the US Supreme Court.
And now we can look at the Obama withdrawal from Afghanistan proposal — 10,000 soldiers this year (roughly 7 percent of the occupation force) by the end of the year. No one in the main stream press is covering what’s likely to happen:
“There’s going to have to be an accompanying increase in private security for all the activities of the new soldiers going in,” says Jake Sherman, a former United Nations official in Afghanistan who is now the associate director for Peacekeeping and Security Sector Reform at New York University’s Center for International Cooperation. ”It’s ludicrous. It’s completely implausible.”
The mainstream media is stuck wondering why the usually war hungry Republicans — except for McCain — is going along with the withdrawal. The real story is that as we withdraw — and as the French and the British withdraw as well — there will be a void. Private sector security companies will fill this need — and they’re the darling of the right, a pay for service military force.
Up and down the economy and culture — pharmaceuticals, energy, education and defense — we see the big reach of business; more importantly, though, we can readily see how government is stepping in and doing the bidding for this new world order. That it’s happening right in front of our eyes and that the mainstream media is simply going along suggests that the media is yet another arm of this move. The media is not, as pundits would argue, a liberal enterprise; it’s just the opposite and simply looking at who owns the media should tell anyone that story.
March 16, 2011 § 4 Comments
“You have to see what we do here,” Maria Ortiz, the literacy coach at Miller Street, said to me. “Only by experiencing their frustrations can you possibly understand. You have to get involved. It doesn’t take much to care.”
I was there to chronicle the Miller Street struggle and lend a hand. Maybe she was right, and this is what it will take – more of us, PhDs at schools like Miller Street. Nothing else is working – not high stakes testing, not the approximately $84 billion in Education Recovery Act grants, not Obama’s Race to the Top, which unfortunately links “race” with “learning.”
Learning takes quite a bit of time, especially when we consider the developmental stages of children – it’s not a race. And learning is not about getting to “the top,” but rather, about understanding one’s place in the world, about finding an emotionally and spiritually satisfying place to work so as to give the imagination full use. Race to the Top is the antithesis.
I wasn’t sure how to begin to unravel the disorder I was experiencing. On my first visit to Miller Street in March of last year, 10 out of the 39 teachers were absent, and most hadn’t bothered to make sure a substitute covered for them, a contractual requirement. If an absent teacher doesn’t replace herself, then an automated “subfinder system” is supposed to kick in. But the system was broken – and it remains broken. Office personnel had to go to the phones to find last minute subs, and Principal Shakirah Miller had to orchestrate new class configurations, pairing two grades into one, for instance.
Amalia Dejeno, one of the absent teachers, was scheduled for observation that day. Ms. Dejeno, a stout Puerto Rican woman in her early 50s, told me that she was “legally sick,” meaning that “illness” – flu, a sudden cold, fever – is an acceptable excuse. Amalia Dejeno is “Tier 1,” a final stage after all other reviews – Tiers 2 and 3 – had already been exhausted for her and she was consistently found “unsatisfactory.” Tier 1 is where teachers are about to lose their license. It can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to dismiss a teacher, if documented properly. In Amalia Dejeno’s case, it’s taken over 20 years, which is more along the lines of how this really works. Some unsatisfactory teachers are never dismissed, but rather, moved from one school to another and never given an unsatisfactory rating. Critics of education blame the teacher’s union for the collusion, a “blue flu” – an internal, never discussed protectionism. For twenty-nine years Amalia has received “satisfactory” ratings – until she came to the Miller Street School. She’s been marred by a system that’s refused to qualify her “unsatisfactory” early on when she might have been able to turn her performance around; she’s never been given guidance either, she told me. Instead, she’s just been moved on. Ms. Dejeno is harsh on the kids, always short and angry, scolding them at the slightest infraction, like speaking while walking in line to lunch. She knows very little about teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), her presumed area of expertise. In personality and knowledge of her stated field, she is unqualified to be in a classroom.
“She’s trying to get rid of me,” said Ms. Dejeno, in a halting English, referring to Miller Street’s principal. “I’m fighting it.”
When I first looked into Shakirah’s office, prominently displayed on her desk was a long wooden plaque that read: John 3:16: For God so Loved the World that He gave His one and only Son. Shakirah lost her father to a drunk driver when she was thirteen, which in part has made her who she is – strong, driven, intense, physical. (She plays basketball, volleyball, runs track, and goes to the gym several times a week.) Her mother became a drug addict soon after her husband died, relinquishing all responsibility for her 13-year-old daughter. A car hit her mentally handicapped younger brother at the age of ten. In four months, Shakirah lost five members of her family – a father, an aunt, her brother and two male cousins, 19 and 22, shot dead in the streets. Yet her fondest memories are of Newark, growing up in the 17th Avenue projects and attending the 18th Avenue School. Although life in Newark was not easy for her, she did well in school.
“I guess you could say that my mother was in the house,” Shakirah said. “Some of my aunts helped me then.”
Now Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, New Jersey, is her respite; prayer gives her clarity, a sanctuary that gives her peace.
“The job is emotionally draining,” she told me. “I take on everyone’s energy.”
She spends endless hours documenting poor performance — probation, withholding pay, no advancement—and creates teams for each grade, pairing weaker teachers with stronger ones and moving weaker teachers to lower grades from the higher ones where higher order thinking is required. It’s like a military operation. She estimates that 10-15% of the school’s teachers are incompetent. Maria Ortiz, Miller Street’s literacy coach, estimates much higher, more like 30-40%.
“Dejeno isn’t going to make it,” Shakirah informed me. “We have all the documentation we need. Now I can turn to others. “
March 14, 2011 § 5 Comments
The Miller Street School is a racially segregated school in a racially segregated community in a racially segregated city – post Brown v the Board of Education. All evidence – high stakes testing that can change the fiscal nature of a school, as well as its teaching methods, including the elimination of teachers and administrators, standardized testing, an increase in charter schools and home schooling, privileged students attending private schools (all this occurring while illiteracy rises) – suggests that, in practice, Plessy v Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court ruling of “separate but equal” – meaning, the acceptance of a dual system of education – is more appealing to the dominant class.
A “separate but equal” education system restricts access to social mobility; it strengthens a hierarchical socio-economic system controlled by few. The gains of the Civil Rights Movement are long forgotten in education. Privileged African Americans along with white Americans have given up the struggle for integration, receiving undeniable benefits from private academies. “Separate but equal” has become a rationale for a dual system in American society – the privileged succeed and the underprivileged must find what works, though always one step behind. We then call attention to the infrequent victories coming out of challenged communities, but we never bring up the obvious: the lack of adherence to Brown v the Board of Education. The truth is that the Miller Street School is the result of “separate but equal.” I represented a potential voice that could speak of the despair caused by indifference. But I sensed the parents also wanted me to address its cause – and my role in it. This is beyond what I had planned – research was all I was after, as we in academia like to say. But I was being pulled into something larger, the dynamics of which I didn’t understand. I was being led into a reimagining of myself as an educator.
I was deep in thought, reflecting on my predicament, when I spotted Juan Ramos across the street. He nodded hello from a distance and gave me a smile of recognition. Juan and I immediately took a liking to each other. He was a lanky, long-limbed, fifty-seven-year-old Puerto Rican born in the United States, who walks with a cane because his knees are arthritic and weak. Yet he takes his grandchildren to school on foot every day because their mother Sara—his stepdaughter—works long hours. There isn’t a father around. Juan sees to the children’s homework, gives them dinner, puts them to bed. He is a diabetic on Medicare and looks much older than he is, beaten down. He can’t work, so he lives on social security. (Juan went through a period without insurance that landed him in the emergency room because he couldn’t afford the prescribed medicine, and his blood glucose level rose to 800.) He is nearly blind in one eye, having sustained an injury when he was hanging a billboard; the vinyl edge of it snapped his eye in a strong gust of wind. As vulnerable as he is, Juan is the backbone of this small American family.
“Anything happens, you know, I try to be involved. I give something to everyone,” said Juan in accented English. “Kids need watching. There is no village to raise a child here. I take my kids to school feeling desperate, you know. I don’t know what’s there for them tomorrow. Maybe nothing. Gotta keep’m safe. Is all I can do, you know man. All I can do.”
He lowered his head and shook it back and forth. Then he pulled out a letter from his jacket pocket and handed the tightly folded square to me while leaning hard on his cane. It was from the Newark Board of Education.
“Look,” he said. “What’s it mean, man? I don’t understand what they’re saying. Whata they saying about my kid?”
We went into the school nurse’s waiting room, a quiet, private place, and sat side-by-side in gray plastic chairs. I read the document, which said that one of his kids, the oldest, Julio, needed special education because of his problems with reading. The Board of Education was informing Juan that they were going to provide his son with a special class to work on reading skills. The Board was willing to test Julio for “learning disabilities”. I reached for Juan’s shoulder and leaned in and told him that this was a good thing because the Board was acting on teacher recommendations that his grandson needed extra help. I looked him straight in the eye, my forearms resting on my thighs as if I were an athlete sitting on the bench waiting to be called into the game. Julio had been identified and would likely receive a modified education plan that would include additional reading classes. But I realized, having deconstructed the letter for Juan, that I was cast unexpectedly in the role of ad-man and apologist for the education system, explaining the best-case scenario, the ideal, in an environment that couldn’t possibly meet all the special needs cases it has. Julio would be added to a list of names and may or may not receive any adequate help at all. Or he might end up in a dull classroom with an unqualified “specialist” and spin his wheels. He might even be worse off – but I insisted on a better picture, doing the system’s bidding, erring on the side of hope not logic. I couldn’t locate the truth. I felt inadequate, something we may all feel when confronted by such despair. I was an “institution man,” not a teacher.
“I can’t get the kids away from watching TV,” he said, as if somehow Julio’s learning challenges were his doing. “They like to stay up late. Man, I know it’s no good. I don’t know what to do.”
Many parents blame themselves for their children’s lot in life, a mystifying narrative that is leveled by those who seem to think that simply pulling hard on the bootstraps will do the trick. Work harder is the mantra of a new racism in America that is subtle and profound. We did it, says this narrative, why can’t you? It must be that you’re not working hard enough, that’s what it is. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a sociologist at Duke University, in his book Racism Without Racists, calls this “racism lite”: “Instead of relying on name-calling (niggers, spics, chinks), color-blind racism otherizes softly (‘these people are human, too’); instead of proclaiming that God placed minorities in the world in a servile position, it suggests that minorities are behind because they do not work hard enough; instead of viewing prejudice against interracial marriage as wrong on a racial basis, it regards interracial marriage as ‘problematic’ because of concerns over the children, location, or the extra burden it places on couples.” This is the latest reasoning for man-made poverty and segregation.
“Why don’t they teach us how to help our children?” pleaded Juan in frustration. “This stuff is hard, man, you know. I don’t get the math. If they helped us, we can help them. I can help him read. I can. I just need some help. What can I do, man? Tell me. Give me something.”
“Well, one thing you can do is turn off the TV,” I said, unsure of how to begin to answer him. “We did this a long time ago in my house, and you’d be surprised how things change.”
“Oh man, that’s hard, you know. They ain’t going to like it. I sit with them and try to help them with the homework, but some stuff I don’t get. That’s what I need, help with understanding what it is they’re doing.”
I didn’t know how to help Juan, except to translate Board of Education letters. Education has changed; it’s more complex, subjects more sophisticated. But Juan has remained the same. The Math his kids take in school, the books they read are beyond Juan. No one helped him when he was younger so he doesn’t have the ability to help his family. It’s an endless, destructive cycle. Public schools such as Miller Street are barely able to provide for students, what can they do for the families of the kids, for Juan? The challenge is that schools in neglected communities, by default, become community centers, a hub. Families come to the school for answers. They see education as a place with answers, a place where knowledge is center stage. Families come to Miller Street to demystify the challenges they face. In our current zeal for education reform, we fail to understand that, in some places, community reform is needed if education reform is the goal. One can’t happen without the other. The insurgency from the mean streets is too strong.
Juan Ramos is in Miller Street every day – as are other parents – lending a hand where they can. They go on field trips, ask questions, and want to know how best to help. A sense of powerlessness comes from having to deal with confusing bureaucracies – education, health care, welfare, human resources. It also comes from having to walk the hazardous streets of the South Ward. In this complex square plot of earth, parents have limitations, as we all do, but the greatest of all is lacking the language of social mobility – a missing professional class that communicates about opportunities and has the means to fund them. Education is not providing the means for social mobility to the people of the South Ward. The problem in school begins and ends with the teachers.
March 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
Five Irvington New Jersey teens are charged with dragging an eighth grade math teacher, Muideen Oladoja, from his classroom and beating him. A month ago, the Crips gang marched on to the campus of the Rafael Hernandez Elementary School, in Newark, New Jersey, and beat up a student who had allegedly said some words to a child of the Crip leader.
In Providence, Rhode Island, 2000 teachers serving mostly African American and Hispanic students — approximately 90% — are about to lose their jobs. In Wisconsin, the same. In Indiana and Ohio and New Jersey, here too, the dismantling of education is taking shape. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg, taking control of the Department of Education, began the break up — and break down — of education some time ago, moving towards charters and privatization.
And yet, it’s uncanny that as violence in our schools is a daily occurrence — mostly unreported by mainstream media — and our infrastructure deteriorates and our schools are carefully and forcefully being dismantled, American eyes — one million last count — are on Charlie Sheen, and Kim Kardashian’s, arguably the most popular reality TV star, release of her debut single, Jam.
What’s wrong with this picture?
According to the Economic Policy Institute, one in five American children lives in poverty and nearly 35 percent of African-American children are living in poverty. And the figures are getting worse: In 2008, 39.8 million people were in poverty, up from 37.3 million in 2007 — the second consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty. In 2008, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (8.6 percent in 2008 — up from 8.2 percent in 2007), Asians (11.8 percent in 2008 — up from 10.2 percent in 2007) and Hispanics (23.2 percent in 2008 — up from 21.5 percent in 2007). Poverty rates in 2008 were statistically unchanged for Blacks (24.7 percent). The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (19.0 percent in 2008 — up from 18.0 percent in 2007).
When we venture into politics, we find that no political figure of color comes from any social movement. These political figures have usually joined their party of choice during college; they have moved quickly up through the ranks, and they are not race rebels, as we witnessed about 40 years ago. This is Obama; it’s also Corey Booker of Newark, Michael Steele, Alan Keyes, Deval Patrick and others. None of these politicians represents a threat to the power structure of America. These politicians, as are all, black and white, male and female, are beholding to a new paradigm: a corporate – government alliance.
What am I suggesting?
I am following the notion of “racism lite,” found in Racism Without Racists, by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva. Instead of relying on name calling (niggers, Spicks, Chinks), and lynching and black/white bathrooms, color-blind racism “otherizes” softly (“these people are human, too”). It suggests that blacks and minorities in general have fallen behind because they’ve not worked hard enough. This form of racism, a new ideology, which is in compliance with inverted totalitarianism — the corporate – government alliance — aids in the maintenance of white privilege without fanfare, without naming those it subjects and those who it rewards. In this world, whites can even claim, “reverse racism.” The Tea Party Movement, small as it is, is replete with this kind of language.
Where are we?
Kenneth Clark, back in 1965 – that’s 45 years ago – in his seminal work, Dark Ghetto said the following: “The dark ghettos are social, political, educational, and – above all – economic colonies. Their inhabitants are subject peoples, victims of greed, cruelty, insensitivity, guilt, and fear of their masters.”
This is the world we’re still creating, not realizing that the resulting tragedy of this always-ongoing story is that fellow citizens – fellow Americans and in some cases immigrants, legal and not, lured by the promise of prosperity – are disenfranchised and relegated to a life where hope is indeed on a tightrope. What’s more, children, by the thousands, have no cultural armor to protect them while navigating the terrors and traumas of daily life.
Even an extreme conservative doesn’t seem able to understand how fiscally costly this is, never mind the human cost. In fact, it’s cheaper to send a student to an elite liberal arts college, costing over 45K a year, then it is to send this same person, usually Black or Latino (but mostly Black), to prison.
President Obama in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, December 11, 2009 said the following: “It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.” He was speaking to the world about the world outside the United States. He was speaking as the Commander-in-Chief.
Yet closer to home, in the communities in which I work and learn – Newark’s South Ward and Washington Heights, Providence, R.I., Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, Compton – families and their kids live in “despair,” which is a word that parents and teachers share with me to describe their condition. Young people need a community to sustain them, and these days, we’re in deep trouble because we’re dismantling education, ensuring deep divides in our society based on access to the language of social mobility — some can still find hope, while other are relegated to a bleak and dark future.
In the beginning of his powerful work on American Education, The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, Jonathan Kozol sits and talks to an elementary student, Pineapple. In this exchange, Kozol is drawn to Pineapple’s use of “over there” when she points to the Manhattan island:
“What’s it like,” she asked me, peering through the strands of her cornrows that cam down over her eyes, “over there where you live?
“Over where?” I asked.
“Over — you know …,” she said with another bit of awkwardness and hesitation in her eyes.
I asked her, “Do you mean Massachusetts?”
She looked at me with more determination and a bit impatiently, I thought, but maybe also recognized that I was feeling slightly awkward too.
“You know …,” she said.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Over there — where other people are, ” she finally said.The moral of the story is that Pineapple has little contact with white people, Kozol explains, except for her principal and teachers. Racially, kids like Pineapple are totally cut off; they have “little knowledge of the ordinary reference points that are familiar to most children in the world Pineapple describes as ‘over there,’” says Kozol.
The violence in Irvington New Jersey and the Rafael Hernandez Elementary School is, in part, a consequence of this lacking in reference points — desperate acts always follow.
The dismantling of education by proxies of corporations, as are the governors of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and New Jersey, is the dramatic sign that the way business has been done in the past is over and that a new world order, beginning here in the United States, is taking shape. The dominant class — those closely aligned with the corporate state — marginalizes class and race , breaks up collective bargaining, and dismantles education because the last thing inverted totalitarianism needs is an educated class, so our focus is kept on Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian. What a world.
July 28, 2010 § 1 Comment
It’s uncanny, but one quick view of the headlines can make anyone’s head spin — Afghanistan is a chaotic shambles, a fog, Wall Street gains, Main Street loses, education is heading in the wrong directions (NY just reported record low test scores) and many schools opting out of the dubiously title Race to the Top.
WikiLeaks, the Russians want more biotech corn, an 88 year old former Nazi is charged with the mass murder of Jews, health insurance is in disarray–everywhere–and states want Fed help, no energy legislation, muscle flexing — South Korea and the US began their largest joint war games, Sunday, which includes a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, and North Korea threatens retaliation.
And less we forget, Sheryl Sharrod’s story — the bogus notion that we’re somehow in a post-race America, whisked in by Obama’s magic carpet ride.
No one can make this up! This is who we are.
It’s no wonder we want to put our heads in the sand — or into a tall Vodka! There are no jobs and Americans continue to suffer. There is no future, and Americans are worried sick. There is no leadership, and congress continues to bicker, schoolyard kids arguing for who gets to control the swings, each side trying to bully the other. A great example being set by our alleged leaders.
We are definitely and assuredly spiraling downward.
The first to make us aware was Paul Kennedy, in his The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987!). Readers balked, but, nevertheless, were glued to his chapter, “The United States: The Problem of Number One in Relative Decline”:
the United States … cannot avoid confronting the two great tests which challenge the longevity of every major power that occupies the ‘number one’ position in world affairs: whether, in the military/strategical realm, it can preserve a reasonable balance between the nation’s perceived defense requirements and the means it possesses to maintain those commitments; and whether, as an intimately related point, it can preserve the technological and economic bases of its power from relative erosion in the face of ever-shifting patterns of global production.
Of course, the United States has not been able to adjust to the “ever-shifting patterns of global production.” This is obvious. As Kennedy points out, the “decision-making structure that permits a proper grand strategy to be carried out” has to be robust. It’s not, we know this now too. Why? Because, historically, the United States has relied heavily on the mechanisms of “piracy” and protectionism in its development, ensuring the world view of the United States as a predator. It’s not by chance that the single most problematic piece of military hardware is the predator drone.
What we are experiencing in this global paradigm shift is a crisis in Education, writ large. That is, we are having problems synthesizing information, siphoning through the wreckage that is mass media induced information, communication, and, most importantly, we are having great difficulty analyzing and putting into practice our historical antecedents. We forget them, toss these out. We are therefore in a global crisis of knowledge, lead by the United States — we shun it. I mean, let’s be real, Sarah Palin is a character that can sway people, even perhaps elections and she doesn’t even know Geography, for God’s sake. How can we blame children for not succeeding in school when someone such as Palin can become a mouth piece for democracy (lower case) and our political system?
In Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Chris Hedges, says that, “The multiple failures that beset the country from out mismanaged economy to our shredding of Constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the door of our institutions that produce and sustain our educated elite.” Elite institutions do only a “mediocre job of teaching students to question and think”; their focus, instead, is “on creating hordes of competent systems managers.” All creativity vanishes and hierarchies with clear parameters and highly rewarded specialists blossom. “It destroys, the search for a common good,” says Hedges. In this world, we want TV wrestling and pornography, a reality based on illusion and the notion that consumption is an inner compulsion. The corporation has won.
In 1995, John Ralston Saul already saw this, too, in his The Unconscious Civilization: “What is more contemptible than a civilization that scorns knowledge of itself.” Saul told us that, “The result of such a denial is a growing imbalance which leads to our adoration of self-interest and our denial of the public good.” Historically, then, we have shifted from an American culture of production to a culture of consumption; with it, our values and philosophy — community, self-reliance, equal rights and justice — have vanished and we find ourselves in a new a quite harrowing world that embraces, as Saul says, a dominant ideology: corporatism — junk culture and junk politics.
Where do we go from here?
June 3, 2010 § Leave a Comment
5-5:45 (Potomac Ballroom A and B/Convention Center, Level 2)
Afternoon Conference Pleneray Session
“Teach the Children, Free the Land: The Political Economy of Public Education”
Mari J. Matsuda, J.D., Professor of Law, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawi’i—Mãnoa, Hawai’i ( pioneer in critical race theory; top, most influential Asian Americans)
• Loves coming to the conference – she can tell it’s NCORE. It is a convention of people who are dedicated to the heart and spirit of the country, rich in its diversity. It’s not a convention in Arizona
• Currently working on a book on the state of public education – history, economy, race and subordination and class
• 3 worlds: (1) greed is good: plow orchards and build macmansions to people that can’t afford them; bail out too big to fail ponzi schemes that are too large to fail, the $ coming from the workers; experts say that this is not suppose to happened; (2) greed is good lite: a modest national health care system, leaving all intact –pharmaceutical, hospitals, etc; business as usual; give cash for clunkers; what you can pull together for yourself will be yours – up and down and malaise: (3) just beyond our grasp: expected to work hard, but the market does not make rules, we do it under the Constitution and build a democracy – we choose how to regulate markets; we will impose reasonable regulations on the food industry; we will propose reasonable regulations on oil and coal so that they can’t kill our oceans and our land.
• Topic: if we could take hold of our government, we can start investing in our needs – education, health care, homes, etc., everything that’s as important as militarism. This place is imperative, because our nation’s survival dependents on an educated citizen that can build our future.
• We’re losing minority enrollment because of the economy. As a critical race theorist, I ask what race has to do with it and I consider all forms of subordination intersecting in our schools.
• No more orchestra, no glee club, no more play – it’s all gone from public schools.
• What happened?
• In DC, in public schools, mouse feces in closets, no heat, so students have to learn to write and ware mittens
• To avoid social problems (critical race theory) is to place them on the shoulders of a disenfranchised group
• Reagan cut social investments using images of poor, homeless people of color, although most recepients were white
• What does it mean when we say, “They just can’t learn?” We have to keep “our” students from “their” students
• Most schools are “black”—black teachers, black students, etc. – all coding, encompassing all ethnic groups of color
• Derek Bell – when people say urban, we mean “black”; it happens at the uncoscious levels: “We can’t just throw money at the problem because it will be waste. The problem is waste and inefficiency.”
• The presuption that they will fail is racist—they don’t have what it takes to succeed
• No form of subordination is without cause: everyone can read, write and succed
• Where is the interconnection of forms of subordination that cause this
• Gender is less obvious: look for gender where it’s hard to see: we swim in the objectification of women. Where is gender of subordination in education?
• Second wave feminists were involved in practice, though what they asked for became theory, one such area is public vs private, so women originally entered the public in private sphere jobs
• Ideology of separate spheres carried over, after the second wave
• Post New Deal Era marked a sharp decline in women wages – short paying women and unfunding schools; we have decreased the total amount of money put into the infrastructure
• Broken systems generate costs, inefficiencies generate costs – it sends a message to students, which is education is not important. Feminist take: education of children is woman’s work; in the middle class, women still pick up the work. Women are doing the job that the state is suppose to do.
• Well endowed private schools do spend money on infrastructure, things are fixed
• Poar New Deal generation have the same sense of entitlement, but now the parents have to pick up the slack: what will it take to stop accomadating and resisting all efforts to divest the public sector
• In deep economic era, there is no public outcry at the abuse of the working class
• Capital will make consessions to the worker if it has no choice; it responds with just enough to quiet it down
• During the last depression, people did fight back – people marched, 20,000 strong, on to capital hill (unemployed veterans of WW1, run out by tanks and Army personal on horseback) – this image gave us the New Deal (note: we never hear this narrative)
• Three decades later, poor women, stood up demanding demanding for their children
• Power concedes to the demands of the poor; we have models of multiracial divesting and as educators we need to retrieve them
• Now we see public education as expendable: the country belongs to us and we have the power to make the country strong
• We need a new deal for education
• DuBois: a deep hunger for learning among those we consider the outcasts
• We have protoypes of multiracial, small schools that work
• We know what works; it’s not a mystery, so it’s proof that we are making a deliberate choice to have urban schools fail. Charters, etc., words that supplant the kind of integration that’s needed
• We have become unknowing survilists in terms of education; we’re taking on education as a personal problem. But people must be called back to the table to re-do what we’ve left behind
• Every child is our own – feed, teach, shelter, embrace every child with the love human beings are entitled. This is when we’ll see peace. An investment has to be made – and it’s a big investment
(note: we do make this investment, but it separates those that can afford it from those that can’t; standardization is what we do when we’re aiming low)
October 10, 2009 § Leave a Comment
I’m taking a slight break from revisiting my schooling past to address what just happened in Chicago: Chicago Targets Teen Violence After Teen Brawl (and death). Earlier, in Education Stimulus Package: In Duncan’s Hands, Hope is on a Tightrope, I wrote that,
If the rest of the stimulus package proposed by the President and approved by Congress (the Senate is debating the package) is handled the way Secretary Duncan discussed the $140 billion increase in federal money for education we are in for a difficult ride. Duncan (University of Chicago Laboratory Schools / Harvard) is long on hyperbole, short on any understanding of the challenges facing education.
The recent violence in Chicago demonstrates that at its core the way education has been managed (in Chicago) needs to be revisited since Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 project to improve public schools. Renaissance 2010 converted several failing high schools into smaller specialized schools. The goal was to improve learning and boost test scores. But it forced thousands of students to attend schools farther away from home and across dangerous gang and neighborhood turf boundaries.
Chicago education officials support Renaissance 2010, saying that “deeper” problems promulgated the violence in Chicago that ended the life of a young man. The tragedy in Chicago is a convergence of 2 American tragedies: (1) The Renaissance 2010 project is an ill conceived method of management based ONLY on what Freire has called the “banking system of education,” meaning that Duncan’s concern is solely management, the herding of students and teachers into a hierarchical — and quantifiable — system, rather than thinking about the creation of learning spaces that are both safe and invigorating; and, (2), the ongoing work by the US Government, since the stimulus package, to cut the education budget, which then converges with the decline of support in neighborhoods throughout the country–the South Bronx, Newark’s South Ward, Compton, in LA, and, yes, Chicago.
We cannot address problems in education unless we likewise address problems in our communities — unemployment, health care, and the malaise brought on by hopelessness.
In The Uneducated American, Paul Krugman, writing for The New York Times, says that, “Until now, the results of educational neglect have been gradual — a slow-motion erosion of America’s relative position. But things are about to get much worse, as the economic crisis — its effects exacerbated by the penny-wise, pound-foolish behavior that passes for ‘fiscal responsibility’ in Washington — deals a severe blow to education across the board.”
Duncan and Congress are entrenched in a mission to increase efficiency by “busing” students into massive schools focused intensely on standardization, while paying absolutely no attention to the decay that is so evident in some of our communities. Since the Reagan years, the gap between the haves and the have nots has increased. We are now seeing the results of the same old policies that have, through Bush II, ensured that the gap has remained, obvious in the way we’re handling education and health care.
The lack of creativity, the lack of a future looking agenda that taps some of the best thinkers in education, community development and health care means that we’ve not seen the end of this tragic approach. More students will die. Of course, many more students do, perhaps not as dramatically (meaning: getting media attention) as they have in Chicago (last spring, working in Newark’s South Ward, 2 children were shot in a playground — a drive by shooting and the children were collateral damage).
If we don’t take stock of our blindness, we will continue our downward spiral.
February 3, 2009 § 3 Comments
On January 30, 2009, CNN’s Campbell Brown interviewed Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the President’s $140 billion increase in federal money for education.
If the rest of the stimulus package proposed by the President and approved by Congress (the Senate is debating the package) is handled the way Secretary Duncan discussed the $140 billion increase in federal money for education we are in for a difficult ride. Duncan (University of Chicago Laboratory Schools / Harvard) is long on hyperbole, short on any understanding of the challenges facing education.
Duncan begins by trying to mirror Obama’s own rhetoric. “This is an extraordinary opportunity and if we want to become a strong economy again, the best thing we can do is have an educated work force.”
But how do we do this ? How are we going to meet the needs and challenges of our diverse society?
Says Duncan, “So the stimulus package is going to do a number of things. It’s going to help us [word missing in transcript here] a tremendous unmet capital needs and so it’s really going to be a huge opportunity to invest in infrastructure and several ready projects that we want to get to work on very early on, late spring and through the summer.
We want to save literally hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs. We’re very, very worried about tremendous cuts, devastating cuts in school districts and states around the country. We want to stay those off going into the fall. We want to continue to raise the bar academically, raise standards, raise expectations, and there’s opportunities in the stimulus package to do that.”
Wait. Capital needs, invest in infrastructure, ready projects, raise standards and expectations–what does all this mean?
It means that the Obama Administration is assuming that what we have to do is pour money into existing buildings, programs and the old ways of doing business in education without first spending some needed money to try and create an atmosphere of inquiry and critical assessment. We have to save teachers’ jobs, even if some of these teachers, like bankers and Wall Street types, don’t merit the jobs they hold. That is, the early money for the education stimulus package is going to be spent on bolstering what we already have without first trying to understand–and realizing–that what we have has gotten us into the pickle we’re in now.
When a society is in crisis, as is ours, it means that education has been in crisis for far longer.
Let’s not forget that highly educated people created the mortgage crisis, the disintegration of our financial systems and two wars. The educated people in our society argued for Weapons of Mass Destruction that didn’t exist–and they new it. Never before have so many highly educated people in America been without work and there’s none to be had in the not so distant future.
On the other end of the scale, in New York City, for instance, less than half of its students graduate high school. I asked New York City teachers why and the most resounding answer is that for over 50% of the students, the curriculum is totally irrelevant. They can’t identify with it at all. Add to that segregation, rampant in urban schools, family problems, health care problems, unemployment and no investment in capital needs is going to alleviate the suffering and move these people from a cycle of self-doubt, depression and hopelessness.
When Ms. Brown asked Duncan about No Child Left Behind, something he says he knows quite a bit about, he was tongue tied, unable to respond in any meaningful way about either the pluses or the minuses of the law.
“Well obviously,” said Duncan, “I’ve lived on the other side of the law for the past seven-and-a-half years so I have lots of strong opinions about it. But what I want to do is really get out this and travel the country, and I’ve about frequently as has President Obama [word missing from trranscript] that the philosophy behind it makes a lot of sense. We need to raise the bar, I would argue, we need to raise the bar even more and have high expectations. We want to hold people accountable.”
Is Duncan kidding? This is Bush rhetoric disguised in the Obama aura. Ms. Brown pushed harder. She asked Duncan to be specific.
CB: But be specific. I mean you certainly know about it, about No Child Left Behind and what it entails to have formed an opinion on whether it’s the right way to go.
DUNCAN: Yeah well again, philosophically, directionally, it’s the right way, but there’s many things in the invitation that we think we can improve on moving forward.
CB: Like what?
DUNCAN: There’s a number of things. I’m very interested in graduation rates, and we want to make sure more of our students are graduating from high school and prepared with college-ready, career-ready skills. I’m interested in raising the bar and having high standards. I’m also interested in growth towards those standards, how much a student is gaining each year. But again, I really want to get out…
Duncan here shows incredible hubris, appearing on CNN totally unprepared, reliant solely on the notion that the Obama magic carpet would carry. This tack is right out of the Bush White House playbook.
Campbell Brown was clearly frustrated and insisted. “Let me stop you because there’s specific complaints here, and the President has talked about them. He certainly did on the campaign trail. We have teachers saying that the reality of No Child Left Behind, is that because it uses testing to grade a school’s performance that many teachers find themselves teaching for the test. And again, the President has talked about this. Now, I assume that’s not what we think is best for the kids so how do you fix that?”
This was a unique opportunity for Duncan to address at least one reality of No Child Left Behind: for children in schools in socioeconomically deprived areas, the conditions set forth by this law stack up against success. For instance, in the past ten years we’ve moved aggressively against Brown v. the Board of Education. Schools today are more segregated than they were in 1954. Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, on Amsterdam Avenue in New York City, in the prestigious Lincoln Center neighborhood, has not attracted a single student from that community. They all go elsewhere so the high school is completely segregated, a hub of color among the affluent who walk around it and ignore it.
How do we raise standards and create an environment of accountability where the odds are always already against the most vulnerable? Secretary Duncan doesn’t demonstrate any understanding of this very real problem.
What we are in fact doing continuing down this mindless path, as cogently and elegantly discussed by Jonathan Kozol in The Shame of a Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, is returning to 1896 and the “separate but equal’ rationale found in Plessy v. Ferguson. Blindly and without much imagination, Duncan is advocating a rationale “for the perpetuation of a dual system in American society”(Kozol 34). This goes all the way through to college and beyond, to how we live in our communities deeply divided by the haves and the have nots. A segregated education system creates a segregated society, regardless of the color of the President. We are far from a post-race America.
“Higher standards, higher expectations, are insistently demanded of these urban principles, and of their teachers and the students in their schools, but far lower standards certainly in ethical respects appear to be expected of the dominant society that isolates these children in unequal institutions,” Kozol reminds us (34).
This is the heart of the matter, the most profound challenge facing our culture today. Isolation causes a feeling of inferiority and disenfranchisement. Kids and their families learn that the world of the Other is not their own. Different standards are in place. Children in the South Bronx, Newark, Washington Heights, areas of Brooklyn, as well as the South side of Chicago or Boston or Compton and South Central feel that they are not a part of the world around them; that they are indeed different, less capable, expectant eyes on them. The tools for success, as we measure it today, are hidden from them.
But Duncan has a solution, at least partially, he says. In Chicago they used money to motivate students, a program that pays kids for good grades: $50 for an A – $20 for a C and a straight-A student could earn $4,000 a year. Imagine the audacity and the extraordinary blindness of such a program. Teaching kids–and enforcing quite powerfully–the notion that the end result to all things is money. Isn’t that why we’re in the mess we’re in now? And what’s $4,000 a year? To a doubting, unmotivated young boy, for instance, existing among other cynical young boys (and I’m using boys purposefully here), watching for cops on a street corner or going down the block to pick up a nickel or dime bag will earn him three times that. So this kid finds himself in a bleak world where everyone is trying to buy him. He’s simply a means of exchange, not a young person with dreams and aspiration. He’ll never be able to find out what he’s good at; he’ll never be able to pursue a dream. (on teens and money attitudes )
On the other side of the socioeconomic scale, affluent parents will spend $4,000 dollars on character building summer camps for their sons already in good, solid schools; perhaps they’ll spend even more money and have their sons go abroad, study a foreign language, gaining an advantage in the global market place of ideas.
For the children from socioeconomically challenged communities, the solution is always the same: pull up your bootstraps, work harder.
Secretary Duncan is facing daunting problems and, so far, he is clueless as to how to proceed. He isn’t even showing that he understands what the problems are.
We have crossed a threshold into an age requiring new methods of collaboration–cooperation, collective action and complex interactions. This new emerging narrative is a transdisciplinary approach to getting things done, to learning, to knowledge production. But we are stuck in a 19th Century education model facing 21st Century problems and challenges.
Education is the key for a successful and fulfilling life. Education opens doors. But the world has changed and we have to determine whether education is ready to meet the needs of tomorrow. America is no longer dominant. New powers, Brazil, China and India, will continue to grow. Challenges are evident around every corner—global warming, terrorism, and limited resources. For the first time in human history, more people live in and around urban centers. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing exponentially. The key for negotiating all these challenges depends upon global cooperation focused on knowledge production, transaction, and exchange. Education, though, is still mired in an ancient silo approach—insular departments, idiosyncratic and narrow studies, the privileging of work done in isolation. The school isolated from the life of the community. We need new methods for training the next generation of leaders, our students.
If every institution is going to be scrutinized, education must be also. Here are the areas we must redefine (nothing Duncan is talking about):
- segregated communities and schools that lead to self-doubt and isolation must be challenged; revitalization of Brown v. the Board of Education
- teachers unions that in the past have provided great benefits to teachers now also provide protection for incompetence and tie the hands of those who would discipline and re-educate and dismiss; if in other sectors of our society we can get rid of the garbage, in education we have to do the same
- technology, lacking in all schools but which should be ubiquitous, should not merely be for communication; technology must be used to create and develop new forms of knowledge construction; OpenSource and OpenCourseware must be utilized to their full capacity, developing new ways of collaborating across disciplines and across populations
- the role of the teacher can no longer be defined by a 19th Century model; the teacher has to be versed in new technologies, psychologies of learning, sociology and economics and how these create social constructions that pre-define our communities and our students–and be able to speak to these and challenge these in collaboration with students, community leaders and families
- community problems need not be left outside the school’s door, but rather, be at the heart of a curriculum that is inquiry based and whose outcomes are measured not by a standardized test, but by the community’s implementation of solutions students and teachers provide
- in many communities suffering because of disenfranchisement, the school has to be the community center; that is, it must be the community organizing hub, the health center (emergency services, routine physicals, administration of prescriptions), job center, the place for social networking and spiritual support, this way the entire community is involved in the production of knowledge
- the production of knowledge cannot continue to be done in silos, divided into disciplines as if the problems of a community and the identities of its citizens are somehow outside the domain of knowledge construction; teachers must collaborate with each other, team teaching in many cases, exploiting the benefits of a transdisciplinary approach that requires the uses of technology
- the only true test of knowledge is application–tests, particularly high stakes standardized tests are absolutely opposed to this truth; in the 21st Century, the era of cooperation and collaboration, knowledge production that requires technologies, the standardized test is obsolete, like trying to cross an ocean in a canoe
- colleges and universities have to adopt school districts and work jointly to address the needs of their respective communities; colleges and universities have to put down their ivied walls and embrace their communities
- the disparity in salaries between those teachers working in socioeconomically challenged communities and those that do not has to be equalized because this is one of the most profound moral inequities in our culture today
These are only some of the challenges facing us today that, I would argue, require that we in education engage in a process of re-evaluation and re-definition because continuing with the same rhetoric we’ve heard for the past 10 years, and which now Duncan is continuing, will guarantee that we not move one step forward in meeting the complex demands of the 21st Century. And if we don’t like what the Education Department is doing, then our moral imperative, taking a page from bell hooks, must be to teach to transgress.
Education is the last vestige of hope we have for a healthy society. But hope is on a tightrope.