Posted on February 22, 201
February 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm
Indeed, the NCLB miseducated are coming to me wanting to teach English and wanting to teach it as it was taught them, for test readiness and little else, as readers who read (some of the time) what is assigned to find the answers in text that they think the teacher cares to have them remember, as writers whose duty it is to please but not inform or convince. Not their fault. And, I am hearing, not the fault of the teachers who taught them to be so passive in their learning that even the most provocative ideas cannot penetrate the aura of boredom. Not their fault and, as I am hearing, not the fault of the teachers who are also bored! Paulo Freire says that oppression can only be lifted through the will and actions of the oppressed. I read that teachers are not at fault and that what teachers did under NCLB was the fault of others, of administrators (who would also say that they too were the victims and not perpetrators) to superintendents, to people who were influential in shaping government educational policy. So, really, no one was responsible for NCLB and what those of us who spoke against it had to take our for 10 years of resistance, our miss-teaching of teachers because we were not teaching them to teach to NCLB.
I got kicked around by my colleagues and our administrators for my attempts to teaching the teachers to be thoughtful and to grow to be able demonstrate the potency of English language arts skills by calling upon teachers to use these abilities themselves to resist beyond terrible mandates. Like too many of my colleagues, and the teachers with whom they were assigned to work in internships, my students wanted to fit in, get the praise, reap the rewards for passivity, for capitulation and avoid punishment for standing up for sane practice. While a good many teachers in service and those in the process of becoming teachers knew what they were doing was not what should be done, they did what they were told to do—and wanted me to tell them that it was okay to do because that is what good boys and girls do, they obey authority no matter how idiotic and harmful what they are asked to do is..
To let teachers off the hook, to say they were not responsible is to degrade the already degraded stature of the teacher. Whereas the teacher should be the model of good citizenship, it is necessary for the teacher to understand what constitutes good citizenship and good citizenship in a real democracy has nothing to do with passive acceptance of authority. It has much to do with advocacy and, for English teachers, this is particularly important because it is in the English class that students learn to fight the good fight with words, with the proper words, with effective strings of words that are of a mindfulness that NCLB seemed intent on undermining. One only has to look at the final reports on Reading First to see how anti-thoughtfulness, pro-banking (method) NCLB was. Any real patriot would have understood that NCLB methodologies and NCLB means of assessment were not for the purpose of helping people grow up to be thoughtful participants in their societal duty to play a role in moving the nation toward union more perfect, ever more able to bring every citizen a reasonably good quality of life.
It is true that teachers were mislead by many of those in a position to lead, people of stature in the world of American education who, for whatever reasons, bought into and sold with “research” the virtues of a virtue-less agenda. Indeed, it shouldn’t be difficult for a thoughtful person to see that NCLB, or the methodologies receiving approval under the NCLB regime, were not intended to inspire individuals to think for them selves, to think critically and voice the results of that critical thought for the purpose of aiding the decision making process through which, in truly democratic nations, the institutions of the society are given orders as to how to operate. NCLB, tied as it was to the post 9-11 era of deceit shrouded in fear, was one part of a campaign to prove to people that they should not think for themselves because it was impossible for them to understand the nature of enemies lurking around every corner, and, too, to know that they were not able on their own to decide who their friends might be. The successful student in the context of an NCLB authorized curriculum was one who listened to what others had to say, what those in authority had to say without ever questioning who those authorities were or what their motives might be.
NBLB was about softening up an already softened public, a public already tuned out to nature of the world, already susceptible to the lies of advertisers and politicians who employed the tools of the advertiser to sell deceitful policies.
The teachers? Even before 9-11, were, as individuals and as a profession, probably not as critical and critically diligent as they should have been to teach in and for the society that was evolving before their eyes. Too many were using the texts provided them by school districts who bought from textbook publishers whose nature and prerogatives we rarely investigated, the force of the Texas textbook censors making sure that the nation would suffer no information that the Gablers (look them up) and their friends (evangelicals, right wingers, etc.) did not want them to have. How many teachers had their students do research into the biographies of textbook authors and how many had their students investigate the process by which textbooks were chosen and whose “truths” it was that those books were telling?
Please, let us let no one off the hook for the way students have been untaught thoughtfulness. Let us do such so that we may begin where the new beginning needs to start, with the miss-education of those who teach by the schools in which they were taught. This would be a first step in de-schooling, a necessary process to remove the clouds that obscure the real goals of education that is humane, that is truly humanizing. What we need after we cop to the charges is to recharge ourselves, to find again our imaginations so that we can think beyond what we think to be the possible, what we have been told are the limits (“peace is not possible, there must always be those who are poor…”). We need to rethink the research, all of it in light of the fact that “research” served as the foundation for NCLB and many other rotten initiatives that took the light out of the educational process. We need new goals and goals of a truly humanistic type, goals that take into consideration the value of our individuality, of our potential as creative, innovative, thoughtful, and, yes, compassionate beings with the capacity to change the world and not simply live in a world manufactured for us by those who pretend to know who we should be and become. Truth be told, they don’t know shit about who I am or who you are.
And that is a very good thing, if you really think about it!