From Archives: Hidden Curriculum

Careful what you support?

On the Media, July 12, 2013

The NPR program On the Media is amongst my favorite sources of media on the media.  This particular story was of particular interest to me as I listened to it just after finishing the previous post.  The link is at http://www.onthemedia.org/2013/jul/12/tech-lobby-comes-age/.

Capitalism and religion and indoctrination by omission, July 12, 2013

My last post regarding Gulen schools ended with reference to indoctrination and the claim that it is not only the Gulen schools that administer a hidden curriculum.  In American schools, the public schools, much that is worthwhile, important, critical to opening minds to the full range of possibilities, is omitted and the omissions need to be made visible and a part of the conversation that shapes education and the conversation that needs to be taking place in schools serving democracies.  Amongst the most obvious omissions that are never discussed because the many have become so used to their being omitted that there presence would seem nothing less than out of place.  Amongst these omitted topics are capitalism and, even to a more hidden degree, religion, the first because it may be one of the most important forces in the daily lives of citizens in nations where it prevails, the second because few want to broach a subject so sensitive because it is allowed to hid under a shield of sensitivity.

Capitalism is mentioned in many ways throughout the curriculum, but few teachers really offer critical discussion of the matter, and the discussion would really matter if it were allowed to be discussed in anything resembling an honest way.  For the most part, most members of the American society know that the economic system of the American nation is a capitalist system.  But what the consequences of capitalism are for a democratic nation is hardly if ever discussed.  How it is that those who govern themselves decide to allow themselves to live in poverty or work harder for diminishing returns, insure that the very rich have considerably more than they really need, whatever way one wants to define need, and that the very rich are able to use their wealth to gain power, power that can and is used to manipulate the political system in their favor, is a question Americans should be asking themselves and asking those who educated them to be so oblivious to what is being done to them in their own name.

Certainly those who want capitalism to be treated in less than honest and reasonably critical ways have a right to say what they will and participate in the decision making processes of the society.  But all need to have the ability to understand what the consequences of such a system are for themselves and it is not very democratic when wealth controls the public discourse and, ever more, the educational system that should help all individuals develop skills related to fully participation in the process, in understanding where to find information and how to deliberate effectively upon the meaning of that information so that they can make decisions that are sensible.  If it really is that Americans are making sensible decisions based on good information effectively deliberated upon, then ignore this argument.  But, if a reader can find any signs in the society that citizens are not as well informed as they should be and that they do not engage in sense making deliberation, then the good and patriotic citizen will demand that the schools be commanded, by the people, to do what is necessary to change the system.

Religion has much to do with the problem of ineffectual deliberation because it allows individuals to treat the supernatural as real and, in our society, understandings tainted by reference to forces unseen for their validation, makes impossible the sensible conversation described above, one based in good information processed by critical minds to discover the truths upon which societal decisions should be made.  Anyone has a right to believe in anything they wish to believe in, perhaps, but, when those beliefs play a role in the way an individual comes to reality and such understandings become a part of the public discourse, become a part of the societal decision making process, than like any other kind of “reasoning” that leads to claims, claims and reasoning based on religious beliefs must be questions and believers who put forth religion based claims must answer those questions if what is said is to be taken seriously.  At this point in time, it is seen as impolite and worse to question religious beliefs even if they serve as the basis for claims that figure into decisions made that effect all.  If claims based in religion are to be allowed to play a role in the decision making processes then the basis for such claims deserves to be questioned.  However, the questioning of religion is not a school sponsored activity.  In fact, more often than not, whether overtly or through the kind of conversations that are and are not allowed in schools, religion somehow is make to be understood as a force of good in the world.  And it may be, and it may not be, but whether it is or is not is a topic that must be discussed by people free to offer claims, claims hopefully derived from a process of sensible deliberation using good information, the claim maker called upon and able to articulate a sensible explanation that would allow sensible individuals to see the truth value in the claim.

Does indoctrination by omission really exist and is this indoctrination of consequence.  I argue that it does exist, though omission is difficulty to see, that the omission is deliberate to an extent, and that it is very much of consequence for the way we live and the way we make decisions important to our lives in this society.  I think honesty is critical to sensible discussion and problem-solving in any society and, though honesty may produce results that seem harsh, citizens of a democracy need to remember that governing is never an easy thing to do.

From Archives: Addresses Neoliberal thinking

The future economy: No future in it? June 16, 2013

As an educator I constantly have to wonder what it is that schools are and should be preparing students to be able to do.  It seems obvious to me that helping ready them to face the world they will face is of critical importance.  It is also absolutely necessary to prepare them to know and be able to do what is necessary to have a say in their own destinies.  Such is the democratic form of governance.  While it is difficult to tell what the future holds job wise, as the stories linked below seem to tell us, it is not necessarily true that the future of work as portrayed in these pieces is inevitable or in any way enviable.  Robert Reich has written several books now about how capitalism has triumphed democracy as a force in the lives of citizens of the U.S. and as bad as this is, it gets worse when the form of capitalism taking the place of democracy is a pernicious one.  As I said in an earlier post, schools, for the most part fail to help students understand the economic realities they face and this is because schools refrain from pointing out the bad people, particularly when the bad people hold political power.  When economic power becomes political power, those without money have neither and their destinies are determined without their consent and for others’ benefits rather than their own.  The situation is getting worse and without an education that allows people to read the world and make sense of it for themselves, they are limited to hearing the truths others want them to hear and believe.  And what those currently in power want they to hear is that things are as right as they can be considering the reality that exists, a reality that serves those with power and money much better than those without either.  That those with power and money are the ones who are gaining ever more control over the educational system should chill the rest of us to the bones.  That state governments, many of them are allowing for the privatization of education, that educational programs are now delivered to schools in packages created by the big media companies, that the goal of education is primarily to insure the perpetuation of an economic system that works much better for the few than the many, that this is the best possible of possible situations is what students should know to be what is real and even good despite the fact that they are likely to be victims of the system.

It is a time that we, the people, take back what is ours by creed, the right to participate in decision making processes of our society and we need to demand that the educational system teach students how to get at what is real and how to become players in determining what the future of real will be.  The people are not to be treated as cogs in the economic machine that spits out the most of us to sustain those who have more than they can possibly need.  This is not about class warfare.  It is what is about what is just, right, and fair.

http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-surviving-the-new-american-economy/

http://www.marketplace.org/topics/wealth-poverty/more-people-need-second-jobs-fewer-can-find-them

From Archives:

 

Pushing my ideas on people has never worked, but not pushing for conversation about those ideas would be deadly.Untitled, April 13, 2013

Pushing my ideas on people has never worked, but not pushing for conversation about those ideas would be deadly.

The following is an exchange with the Diane Ravitch blog regarding the NY Times editorial to be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/13/opinion/teachers-will-we-ever-learn.html.  Her response can be found on her blog site at http://dianeravitch.net/2013/04/13/one-of-the-dumbest-ny-times-opinion-pieces-ever/.  “Dumbest ever,” I have to say tells us more about Diane R. than about the writer of the editorial.

 

To DR:

I read the reaction to the editorial and I am amazed that educators would respond in this way, as if a person should be suspect because he works at Harvard? And because he reacts to the current situation in education from the perspective he does, arguing that there is trouble in and with the system! Yes, poverty is one factor that exerts incredible force on students and the schools they attend. Is it then not possible to have excellent schools for these students? Is the problematic nature of their being the problem or is it that schools do not understand the nature and the nurture that lead to students who for some reason or other we cannot teach? And could the problem be that we are trying to teach them to be like “us,” to become well adjusted members of a society that we know is as right for them as it is for us? Do we study the culture of the poor? Do we take field trips into the neighborhoods and do what is necessary to help students understand better the world they think the know or do we do everything we can to deny a place in the schools for their realities. Do we talk about how poverty is a necessary residual of capitalism? Do we speak honestly about why, for instance, Chavez and, yes, Fidel too, are revered by large numbers of people in their countries and that large numbers of people in those countries hate America and have what a thoughtful and sensitive person would understand to be good reason for feeling as they do?

This editorial points to problems anyone with his or her eyes open would see, a school system that pushes ideas onto students and doesn’t ask much of them in regard to detecting the bullshit that may be coming at them. Are the teachers, all, most, capable of dealing with original thought and challenges to the material taught that should be coming from properly educated citizens of a democratic republic? If the schools are handling the teaching of citizens well, then why do so many make the choices that lead to policies made by policy makers elected by the public or appointed by those elected by the people get into those positions?

Teachers are not at all responsible with all that is wrong with the world, but they are participants in the educational system and, if that system is at all meaningful, then the teaching they do has an impact on the way people come to know, think, and make decisions. Teachers found a way to live with NCLB and too many of those who are now aware of the devastating effects of that legislation taught teachers how to teach as NCLB was meant to have them teach. There has to be some responsibility somewhere and the editorial should not be dismissed because it mentions Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee in a single sentence. Perhaps there is reason to see the two as having at one time agreed on the things they now disagree on?

I ask that the editorial be met first with the “believing game,” in which one hears out the argument and understands all that is legitimate about it. Then, the “doubting game” can begin, the questions asked of the information and the reasoning that is used to support the claims. What I read in the reaction to the editorial I just read way more of what one does when fearful of ideas rather than upset by the really value of those ideas for a sensible conversation about what is and what needs to be.

From Archives: Class size matters

 

Relevant because the Betty DeVos folk have had a hand in shaping education policy of a long, long while.

Ramble concerning the “logic” of “class size doesn’t really matter.” March 2, 2013

 

I just heard that our state superintendent of schools, once of the George W. Bush Institute, commented today that smaller class size is not an issue, that what we need are quality teachers.  I have to say that such a notion coming from our schools’ chief should not surprise as this is pure and unadulterated garbage rhetoric of the type that has forever come from those who want cheap education, not just education on the cheap, but cheap education of the type that is more likely to ruin good minds than help them grow.  And growing strong intellects, helping the people of a democracy acquire the skills, knowledge, and disposition that allow them to talk back to fools in positions of authority, is exactly what those of Mr. Guthrie’s kind do not want and for reasons already implied in this sentence.

Anyone dedicated to helping build schools that celebrate the power of the individual mind, interested in building a citizenry that is thoughtful and resistant to foolishness and the policies of fools knows that no one can do what is necessary to help students grow their minds if all that a teacher can do is hand out worksheets from curriculum packages developed by mass marketers rather than qualified curriculum developers, the latter always coming in the form of truly qualified teacher.  Good teachers, to be good, have to be incredibly smart and they have to be able to share their smarts with those they teach.  They teach students to think (not how to think) by demonstrating thoughtfulness.  When the Guthries of the world make statements concerning the irrelevance of class size, they show either ignorance of what constitutes meaningful learning for people in a free society or they fear the consequences for themselves and those like them if the society were to be populated with people aware of the power of their own intellects, people resistant to the idiotic ploys of those who hold power without holding the real credentials for properly dealing with power in a free and democratic society.

Please do note that I use terms such as fool and idiot here in ways that just might earn me criticism for lack of politeness.  But what has been allowed to happen in our society and in our schools, in the society as a result of what has happened in the schools, is beyond wrong and even beyond criminal.  What has come about as a result of the policies written and supported by people such as Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Bush, Mr. Rod Page, the creators of No Child Left Behind and those who supported it out of either wrong headed understanding of proper education for a democratic society, or malicious intend to kill off that that is essential to effective democracy, an informed and thoughtful citizenry (there is money to be made by doing this—a quick refresher on modern American economic manipulations would be helpful here), is an educational system that prepares students to blindly purchase goods that are not necessarily good goods, not good for health, happiness, well-being), politicians and ideas amongst these items for incredibly high prices (including loss of real citizenship, home foreclosure, decay of vital infrastructure, environmental degradation, and the like).  This is beyond tragic and, because of the severity of the consequences, those who are fools need to be identified as such so the power they hold can be redistributed.

By the way, I heard an economist say today that there need not be redistribution of wealth but, rather, more sensible pre-distribution of wealth.  I think I know what he means and, perhaps what we need, really need, is education that helps people rebuild society so that sensible pre-distribution can be the way we operate, people working to earn a decent wage that allows them to live a decent life in a very wealthy society that, by the way, really can afford good teachers and afford those good teachers an environment in which they can use their smarts to help others grow smarter.  Our worry should not be about what we cannot afford; it should be about what we cannot afford to do without and, if we are the people of a democracy, we cannot afford to be without people so well educated as to be able to engage in informed deliberation about the things affecting the society that is theirs.  Such a society would not tolerate power in the hands of fools and idiots and such a society would not be sold on stupid promises or on the absolute permanence of things that action based upon good thought could definitely begin to change.

Two very good programs kind of related to this ramble:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qw93v titled “Vulgar Keynesianism,” and  http://www.onthemedia.org/2013/feb/22/problem-with-saying-everyone-is-the-problem/?utm_source=local&utm_media=treatment&utm_campaign=daMost&utm_content=damostviewed titled “The Problem with Saying Everyone is the Problem.”

KISS, my arse.

The title of this piece refers to an acronym I heard for the first time today that, I was told, is told to students in college writing courses.  KISS is the acronym and it stands for Keep It Simple Stupid.  And I had always thought that a good part of what good writing was about was getting at the complexity of things!  I must have been a stupid.

On another subject which may be more closely related to the above subject than I want to spend time thinking about now, this:

The following is from an article by David Frum titled “How to Build and Autocracy,” that appears in the March 2017 edition of The Atlantic.  A very potent form of deception deceives by confusing notions of deception and truth.  The game is to make people believe that all is deception, even that which is true and, thus, nothing exists that can be considered to be true so that lies have the same truth value as that which has no basis in evidence, alternative fact a co-equal of actual fact.

Frum writes:

“Mostly, however, modern strong men seek merely to discredit journalism as an institution, by denying that such a thing as independent judgment can exist.  All reporting serves and agenda.  There is on truth, only competing attempts to grab power.

“By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath—and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters.  A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed.  The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reason of profit or ideology.  The New York Times becomes the equivalent of Russia’s RT; the Washington Post of Breitbart; NPR of Infowars.”

 

 

Another education related letter to the editor

Penalizing colleges for student performance isn’t the answer
Rick Trachok [chair, Nevada System of Higher Education] writes, “Under Nevada’s new performance-based formula for funding higher education our colleges and universities receive state funding for course and degree completion. Under the old formula, revenue was allocated simply for the number of students enrolled without concern for success or completion.” [“One View: Sandoval good for higher education,” Voices, Jan. 30].
Not so good if standards are lowered to accommodate. Not going to happen? It happened! I quit the university because I was being pressured to change grades earned – Ds and Fs – to Bs so students in the teacher education program could meet requirements for graduation and licensure. Penalizing colleges for poor student performance changes how colleges treat those who do not deserve to be passing; the significance of the degree is undermined and the “formula” is causing just this to happen.
Stephen Lafer, Reno, Reno Gazette-Journal, 2/18/17

Just me or part of a broader and very dangerous trend?

Chillingly, liberally illiberal

“In a Super Bowl Sunday interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump shrugged off O’Reilly’s comment that Putin is a “killer”: “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?” Now, how should those truly liberal of mind take such a comment from the president of the United States? I think that he speak truth here. What is actually problematic is what he is using this truth to support and not that he is stating something other than fact that can easily be validated, has been validated many times over by truly reliable sources. All hinges on how one chooses to see the meaning of the term “killer.” There is no denying that the United States does kill good number of people and it does so under both democratic and republic administrations. Some killing does not make a killer for some because it is killing for the right reasons–those who kill for such purposes are not killers! In fact, they are often said to be heroes. The thinking that gets one from killing to hero with no pause to consider “killer” is a psychology that deserves examination for it might help to reveal what happens when the politics of a democratic society is reduced to “parties” and the “membership” of its people in one or another party a good thing rather than what it really is, a democracy destroying phenomenon. A good member of a party, it seems, has to go along with what his or her party does and this places a good amount of pressure on the individual to find ways to justify what his or her party does, even if what the party does is reprehensible, would be condemned out of hand had what is done been sponsored by the other party. The fact that people are willing to elevate killer to hero without thinking of the true effect of the deed for individual killed and all of humanity is truly chilling.