Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pull Ourselves Up By Our OWN Bootstraps!

Are there American Education historians who can reach in and define the core issues that plague American Public Education?

Yes, I believe there are! 

The two historians who immediately come to mind are Carl F. Kaestle and David B. Tyack. Their historical analyses of American Schools still resonate and relate directly to our current round of teacher bashing, while we're all "Looking for Superman."

I would like to recommend that you read Opportunity to Comment: Elevate Educators to Professional Status before you read this article. I believe it will provide a clear contextual background for our current dilemma in American Public Education.

June 4th 2008 - Is There An Imposter In My Booth? by Stephen Poff
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
The era of the EXPERT, aka HERO, is over. This is a relief. There are so many of us with wide-ranging experience and education, we can't turn our future over to the "pie in the sky experts". They will only disappoint us.

The teachers in the trenches are also experts, even if they haven't done some quasi-experimental research or written books, simply because they didn't have monetary backing to do it.

Because I believe that each one of us has expertise to share, I will continue to live by my mantra of research:
Case in point: My belief in Diane Ravitch, as a defender of American Public Education was destroyed several years ago, yet I'm just as much to blame for letting her slide back into the "role of the great expert".

I've decided not to let that happen. I've decided to make my heroes work for their label.
  • I can't believe in her expertise until I understand that she accepts her role as a power broker in convincing educators to go along with NCLB in the first place. 
  • I can't believe in her expertise until I understand that she has stopped talking the blame game and begins to be more assertive with the opponents of American Public Education.
Here is a sample interview that generally characterizes Dr. Diane Ravitch's viewpoint of her role in the NCLB fiasco.

This interview is OK, yet Dr. Ravitch still doesn't seem to recognize that many in Congress and early adopters were affected by HER initial, and unexpected, support for No Child Left Behind....

In response to her statements in this interview, I've answered some of her concerns:

Yes, I've read your work over the past three years, yet I will continue to have concerns about your recommendations in the future. Mostly because of what I believe is your grave misunderstanding of the real impetus of the NCLB legislation. The entire purpose was to begin the destruction of the American Public Schools.

My core concern is about your lack of understanding of your own power....I really WANT to believe that you didn't understand how powerful you were.

At the time of the first NCLB initiatives, your support was critical because Dr. Ravitch, you are an expert in our profession, at such a level of distinction, that your suggestions carried great weight with lawmakers and educators in our country.

It was such a shock, to me, that you didn't understand the serious consequences of your actions at the time, while many of us NON experts did. It seemed so surreal to me.

The consequences of the actions of this Pandora act will continue to reverberate throughout our American Education system for decades. I just hope a vibrant, American PUBLIC Education System will survive.


brian said...

Dr. Ravitch is a supreme example of how ideology trumps expertise and knowledge. Look at the right wing (freshwater) economists of the Chicago School, and how their influence on the right wing administrations has driven our economy into near oblivion. Dr. Ravitch's only saving grace is that she has recognized that she was absolutely wrong, and will come partway in admitting that fact.

As to referring to yourself and other experienced teachers as 'non-experts,' I will venture that all experienced teachers are experts. Teaching is a profession, exactly in the same way as medicine or the legal system, and now necessitates that recognition by our society. As with health insurance, an accident of history has encumbered the United States with an attitude towards teachers which hasn't changed since the 19th century 'schoolmarm' - and that is no longer viable.

Don't like our teacher unions? Then compensate and respect teachers as professionals, just like medical doctors and members of the lawyers' bar.
Thus endth the rant for this hour, anyway :)

Laura Gibbs said...

This is a great post. I find very little of value for me, as a teacher, in the big public policy debates, because I know that whatever happens, I still have students in my classes, and we have to make progress. In the past 10 years, I've learned a lot about how to make progress, and I put all my course materials online to share with anyone who is interested - - because I know I've learned some good things in the past 10 years and I would like to save other people the trouble and trial-and-error it took me! I think we would be so much better served by having all the teachers in this country sharing and networking online, benefiting from each other's knowledge and experience. If big government could just take a fraction of the money they are spending on the damn standardized tests, hire some computer geniuses away from Google and Facebook and Ning and Yahoo to build us an awesome teacher sharing network, with opportunities for all students to publish and share their work online instead of filling in the stupid bubbles on the stupid tests, that would be wonderful. My students love publishing their work online and they love looking at the work of other students - and they hate tests. Love v. hate - easy to see the difference! For me, that's all I need to know in terms of where to concentrate my efforts, trying to develop an expertise in teaching for myself and helping my students feel like experts, too, based no good learning experiences!