Neoliberal education vs education

My post

Those who are educators need to think deeply about what in the approved curriculum is about indoctrination (America is great, capitalism is best…) and how to teach students to refuse to be indoctrinated. The person capable of independent informed critical thinking will challenge the status quo. The good teacher in a democratic society is a danger to the status quo and, thus, a teacher who is a critically important citizen, his or her work, to help develop the critically important person who is an able citizen.

Noam Chomsky:

“For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination.”

Response from She

If the delicate balance between freedom and responsibility is breached by renegade students who are all tracked in one classroom and want to get around a firm teacher, simply to counter their feelings of helplessness, it takes a mature, trained Admin. to team with the teacher to teach the students the discipline that leads to freedom. The institutional structure needs to be designed for the adults to teach responsibility. Otherwise, students just play the adults to get out of responsibility. They are good at this, but the adults need to stick together to prevent the lesson from being about power plays and control. The students need to learn to do their part by being honorable and aware of but not driven by the lower emotions such as revenge. Great lesson to teach.

To which I Said this:

A lot of seemingly authoritarian principles here that are predicated on the notion that the problem in classrooms is something other than the intellectual involvement of student in meaningful work for which they understand the value of doing because it produces meaningful outcomes. That “the adults need to stick together” signals an us versus them atmosphere that a lot of authoritarian educators believe is just the normal situation in schools. It is! But it is a product of authoritarianism and a sick behaviorist notion of the learner based on a sick notion of human beings and of the capacity of individuals to maintain their individuality while participating as good, contributing members of a community. Students will do their part to contribute to a community if such participation brings some kind of meaningful reward such as accomplishing something they understand to be worthwhile. Memorizing and obeying are of a category some wise educator called LABOR, effort to do what someone else wants one to do without the laborer having any meaningful reason to engage in the activity except to please whoever it is for whom he or she labors to avoid punishment or receive a reward the boss offers. The goals of the labor are not the laborers and, thus, there is little emotional investment in the labor. Students involved in meaningful work do the work because they understand the value of the work because they believe in the goals of the work. This is why we fought so hard to get interdisciplinary project based instruction into the schools. I saw the results of this in terms of individual growth on the social and emotional plane and academically in the most practical of ways, in ways the CCSS argue convincingly to be much better than those that are served by most current curricula. Maybe take a look at those standards and consider how the curriculum they suggest helps to eliminate what you believe to be the need for enforcing good behavior and “learning.” Also, buy a copy of my book, The Interdisciplinary Teacher’s Handbook, on line for as little as a dime. The authoritarian approach, based in behaviorism that hates individualism and freedom sucks and that sickedness (my checker wants to change that to wickedness) has made democracy dangerous, sane and humane democracy impossible, this for the sick and wicked desires of a sick and wicked capitalist system.

To which She said:

Some students reach high school barely able to read and unused to the word no. They are often placed in one classroom for English 9 (to protect the other classrooms from their known behaviors). They have failed but been passed on for many years. This particular population has been running the show for years. They gang up. It is all they know. Their parents have thrown in the towels. It is necessary to let them know that they will continue to lose unless they perform some academic tasks. Once they realize this, they can be lured into doing some key tasks in order to earn passing grades. Whereas projects can be executed with aplomb by the students at the other end of the performance spectrum, these students need to be baby stepped into doing anything at all. The trick is to motivate them out of their inaction, use the standards provided to teach them some modicum of useful skills, nurse them through a painful testing process, and tame their constant revolts among other things. I have dealt with this problem for years. I have found ways that work, in a modest way. 

If you would back off one upping and focus, you might be able to contribute. This is a complicated ongoing issue that can only be addressed by those with experience who have dropped their egos and want to help. The students are lost until someone can get them to listen.

My response:

This is an issue that is caused by an educational system that has little respect for student. Students will listen if those speaking to them show a proper respect by not forcing them to do meaningless tasks. They are active learners, most everyone, before they come to school and are told to do ridiculous things–ridiculous because they appear to have no meaningful purpose–like learn phonics in a mechanical early taught and tested way that cannot be applied in any way except to please the teacher and the test maker by answering questions correctly that no person pursuing meaning would care to answer. The first part of you discussion her is about the system failing kids by doing such things as making reading instruction and writing instruction about the mechanics rather than the communication of meanings. Same with mathematics, the mechanics of mathematics memorized before the practical application of mathematics is understood. The “unused to the word no” is a sensible response to an asinine principle of the authoritarian; do what I say and do not ask why. What idiot listens to and does what one who makes such demands do? Asks why and refuses to do anything until told why. What the writer here wants to do is tame students thinking that taming will allow her to teach. Teaching well by understanding how to make what is being taught interesting will do a sufficient amount of taming to allow the classroom to work effectively. As for this line “If you would back off one upping and focus, you might be able to contribute. This is a complicated ongoing issue that can only be addressed by those with experience who have dropped their egos and want to help,” there are those who have experienced what they have created to be and refuse to understand that they are the cause of that which they wish to be rid of.

Please all, do read SHE’s comments for they represent a particular view of students and an approach to education based on that view, the students as a human being who needs to be adjusted to fit into society rather than shape society, to be shaped by those in control so that they are controllable beings, easily used by those with power for the purposes of those with power. She holds in her mind a notion of superiority and, therefore, the authority to demand of others what her superior qualifications as a human being tell her is right. The school she wants, easier to teach in because students are obedient is reflective of a society in which such schools are needed to keep the majority of people in line so that a relative small minority can have their way with them, the superiority of that few having little to with anything more than an ability to keep others down. Those kept down are viewed as deviant even though what they struggle for is the kind of independence any intelligent human being wants and is willing to fight for.

From Henry Giroux, Neoliberalism’s War on Democracy” “In addition to amassing ever-expanding amounts of wealth, the rich now control the means of schooling and other cultural apparatus in the United States. They have divested in critical education while reproducing notions of ‘common sense’ that incessantly replicate the basic values, ideas, and relation necessary to sustain the institutions of economic Darwinism. Both major parties, along with plutocratic ‘reformers,’ support educational reforms that increase conceptual and cultural illiteracy. Cultural learning has been replaced with mastering test-taking, memorizing facts and learning how not to question knowledge or authorities. Pedagogies that settle common sense, make power accountable, and connect classroom knowledge to larger civic issues have become dangerous at all levels of schooling.”

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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