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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.

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