Chemtchr was rather riled by the post reposted here yesterday. I think there is something more to to the “no Stephen” than straight denial. That kind of response I expect because so few who are and have been involved with education over the time of my career have been willing to ask why it is that there are so many failures and so many responses to failure that offer little in the way of success. I know that I constantly play into the hands of those who want to rip public schools to shreds by offering criticism of those public schools. This is impossible to avoid. But it does bring up an important point concerning strategies for bringing about meaningful and necessary change, for building a public school system that is about helping students to grow smarter, more independent in their thinking, and more capable of making good judgments when confronted with the task of participating in the democratic decision making process. That good numbers of students are denied this kind of education is, I think, rather evident in the way Americans conduct themselves in regard to self-governance.
That the schools are to blame should be a no-brainer. If not for that, then for what and if not capable, then where besides the schools should they have gotten it?
So, yes, when I read that opening to the note, I wanted to hook Chemtchr and cast him aboard the ship of good reason and honesty. Are Americans science literate? Not from the data I have seen. Are they able to tell their representatives what representatives need to hear in regard to policies affecting our health our the environment and sane human interaction with the environment? Why is Imhoff tolerated and how can it be that in our congress there are so many others who would deny what good science tells them is true?
We really need to do something about those such as Chemtchr who stand in the way of meaningful change in order to protect their egos, fragile as they are.
He or she asks me if I am qualified to speak as I do and my response is rendered to serve that purpose.
February 11, 2013 at 6:23 pm
No, Stephen, I’m not on your hook, and neither is Ken, and nobody needs to let us off. Does “deschooling” mean just walking away from the children in the actual schools?
I didn’t do any of the things you want me to cop to, and neither did many other teachers. We’ve been in classrooms these past decades, teaching and learning with our students, against the tide.
There are some deep questions we could address, about the dialectical role of teachers in delivering the heritage of academic continuity as well as the intellectual strength to smash through it when needed. To frame the issue, though, I’d need to know more about your own perspective. Where have you been, yourself, for the past 20 years?
Reply by Stephen Lafer
February 11, 2013 at 6:43 pm
You ask a very good question concerning where I have been for the past 20 years. Nowhere good is my answer and not good in so many ways as to have kept me at the level of an associate when others were climbing past me toward full professorship. I don’t mean to present myself as having done only what was right and moral, but I must say that I did fight like hell with all the tools I had at my disposal and with more energy than I really had. I pushed real hard against the research paradigm that has been so instrumental in guiding (misguiding) educational “reform” and wrote articles that tried to argue for schools and classrooms that excited students as well as their teachers, integrated, interdisciplinary team taught schools with classrooms engaged in projects where students could see firsthand both the power and elegance of the tools the disciplines offer. I worked with a program here called the Image Classroom project that put three grade levels of students in a single interdisciplinary project based classroom before working to set up the first real middle school program in the region, a middle school where interdisciplinary, team based instruction helped students to want to be doing school at all hours and during all seasons. I tried to spread that model but hit up against NCLB and such and then, frustrated with the mainline schools tried to start a new kind of school using charter school moneys. That school, Rainshadow Community Charter High School is in its tenth year and about to close its doors.
I teach teachers in teacher education courses and I try my best to help them develop the kind of love for education that might prevent them from giving into the forces that wish them to be something other than they know they should be to serve kids well. I fail regularly because the classroom where my students go for internships and then for paying jobs look nothing like what they know schools and classrooms should be. My problem. I too miseducate! I publish, I teach, I write to blogs such as this and present at conferences. I am a bit of trouble to most and a lot of trouble to many.
Am I better than? I try damned hard to be true to what I have come to understand to be right and I work to encourage others to come to what they have studiously come to understand as being right for individuals and for the good of the whole that serves individuals.
If I seem scornful, I am, and not of real victims but only of those of US who want to place blame in places where nothing can come of doing so except placing the blame. Yes, I do believe that schools have taught to conformity and I have seen this as an eye witness to my own children’s education, education I insisted take place in public schools. Did the schools do right by them? I think not, but they did well enough with the counter balance we provided, the questions we asked of the right answers to the quizzes and tests they took. Yes, we got them ready for the vocabulary and spelling tests and the multiple choice tests in math and science and history.
Do i support public schools? As I do the American democracy. With a critical eye to deficiencies and a dedication to moving things toward perfection.