Reposting archived posts that I took down in a huff one day.  I am putting they up again with hope that they may encourage some down and dirty honest discussion of post-election reality and ways to reshape that reality so that humane treatment of all is the basic premise for all of our societal decision making.  Those who read the stuff will find that several of the posts are responses to what was posted on the Diane Ravitch blog site.  I felt compelled to respond because Dr. Ravitch’s is a very important voice in the educational community and beyond and one that, in the past few years has captivated those who identify themselves as liberal in their thinking.  While Dr. Ravitch defends teachers in a most vociferous fashion and, through her support of teachers has won many over to her thinking, her thinking is hardly different than the previous incarnation of Diane Ravitch, a person who was supportive of some of the most conservative ideas regarding instruction and some of the most vocal proponents of conservative approaches, including many who supported direct instruction methodologies and argued that teachers need not be very smart because, with programs of the direct instruction kind, the thinking teacher interfered with the efficient transfer of direct instruction right answers to students.  The role of the teacher, and you can find support for this idea at the direct instruction websites, is to deliver what the program commands, do as one is told without in anyway making determinations for oneself (as teacher or student) as to whether the program’s right answers were, really, in the broader scheme of things, actually right.  The ideas Ravitch supported were ideas of the right, those advocating for those ideas in no ways liberal in their thinking, that thinking of the authoritarian rather than the well studied authority willing to fully explain motives as well as the reasons for their promoting that which they were promoting.

Ms. Ravitch could say only good things about teachers and nothing good about the Common Core initiatives that were coming into play in 2013.  She argued that the CCSS were, indeed, anti-student and anti-intellectual freedom, this soon after she supposedly saw the light and became an advocate for teacher and curriculum autonomy, this after having served as a powerful force in the No Child Left Behind Movement, an educational juggernaut that took learning into the pits of intellectual hell and caused good numbers of students, and their teachers, to drop out of school, if not physically, certainly mentally.  It needs be noted that the architects of NCLB were University of Oregon education professors who were the foremost proponents of direct instruction and who did what they could to prevent those who found direct instruction far less than desirable from having any voice at all in educational policy discussion.

The work of these NCLB leaders was discredited by studies that took place long after a substantial amount of damage had been done.  Several article in such publications as the New York Times and Washington Post described the investigations and the findings, some of these cited in other articles from the archives that I will be posting soon.

More from Posts to Diane Ravitch Blog

Posted on February 22, 2013 | Leave a comment | Edit

Stephen Lafer

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. 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! 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 they did under NCLB was the fault of others, of administrators (who would also say that they were the victims and not the perpetrators) to superintendents, to people who were influential in shaping government educational policy. So, really, no one was responsible for NCLB and the crap I had to take for 10 years of resistance and alleged mis-teaching of teachers because my teaching called upon them to be thoughtful and to demonstrate English language arts skills of value by using the tools of language to resist the 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 and not do the work of advocacy for sane practices. While they knew what they were doing was not what should be done, they did what they were told to do because that is what good boys and girls do, they capitulate to authorities no matter how odious or stupid those authorities may be.

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 the notion of good citizenship and good citizenship 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 to be 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 the methodology and the means of assessment were not in the best interests of the more perfect union citizens were to strive for as participants in their society’s decision making processes.

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 virtueless 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 to have a say in how the institutions of the society were 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 ever corner. NCLB was about softening up an already softened public, a public already tuned out to nature of the world surrounding them, 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 probably not as critical and critically diligent as they should have been to teach in and for the evolving before their eyes. Too many were using the text provided them by school districts who bought from textbook publishers whose nature and prerogatives we rarely investigated even though the Texas textbook censors were doing their best to make 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?

Come on! 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 mis-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 charges is to recharge ourselves, to find again our imaginations so that we can think beyond what we think to be the possible. 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 foisted upon 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!


By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

Leave a Reply