From the Archives 2

A great many educators rejected the current sets of standards. Here are statements from the standards that are intended to explain the basic notions of meaningful outcomes in the disciplines. I find them to be compelling.What do you see in these standards?Math: These Standards define what students should understand and be able to do in their study of mathematics. Asking a student to understand something means asking a teacher to assess whether the student has understood it. But what does mathematical understanding look like? One hallmark of mathematical understanding is the ability to justify, in a way appropriate to the student’s mathematical maturity, why a particular mathematical statement is true or where a mathematical rule comes from. There is a world of difference between a student who can summon a mnemonic device to expand a product such as (a + b)(x + y) and a student who can explain where the mnemonic comes from. The student who can explain the rule understands the mathematics, and may have a better chance to succeed at a less familiar task such as expanding (a + b + c)(x + y). Mathematical understanding and procedural skill are equally important, and both are assessable using mathematical tasks of sufficient richness.English:As a natural outgrowth of meeting the charge to define college and career readiness, the Standards also lay out a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century. Indeed, the skills and understandings students are expected to demonstrate have wide applicability outside the classroom or workplace. Students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature. They habitually perform the critical reading necessary to pick carefully through the staggering amount of information available today in print and digitally. They actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews. They reflexively demonstrate the cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic. In short, students who meet the Standards develop the skills in reading, writing, speaking, and listening that are the foundation for any creative and purposeful expression in language.Science from Next Generation Science Standards:1. K-12 Science Education Should Reflect the Interconnected Nature of Science as it is Practiced and Experienced in the Real World.“The framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in scientific and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.”1 Currently, most state and district standards express these dimensions as separate entities, leading to their separation in both instruction and assessment. Given the importance of science and engineering in the 21st century, students require a sense of contextual understanding with regard to scientific knowledge, how it is acquired and applied, and how science is connected through a series of concepts that help further our understanding of the world around us. Student performance expectations have to include a student’s ability to apply a practice to content knowledge, thereby focusing on understanding and application as opposed to memorization of facts devoid of context. The Framework goes on to emphasize that:“…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K–12 science education.” 1 2(2011). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. (p. 10). Washington, DC: The NationalAcademies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=131

From the archives 1

A letter to colleagues to set me free to teach teachers how to be teachers in and for and of a democracy:Today’s meeting convinced me that the best thing I can do for those who are taught by the teachers I help to teach would be to move the English education program to the English department. The purpose of English as a secondary school discipline is something other than teaching basic literacy skills, or, better put, it is about teaching literacy skills that really are of significance to human beings who need to be able to figure out the meanings of messages sent them or messages discovered as a result of awareness of the fact that there are many involved in the making of meaning and the meanings made have varying degrees of effect on the decisions individuals make as individuals and as individuals participating in the decision making processes of the society. This is the type of literacy I understand to be a proper literacy and the literacy to which all of the teaching in every one of the disciplines should be dedicated, literacy that allows one to engage with the ideas that are relevant to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.Keeping the English education program in the College of Education works only to perpetuate a literacy that is poor literacy, a literacy that is about being told of things that are to be treated as valid and meaningful for no reason other than these things as one is told them constitute the right answers on tests, high stakes tests that are mechanisms of the kind of control a good education, a proper literacy would help to undermine.It is horrendous that what is wrong is so often what should be what is right and that so many of the educated cannot distinguish well one from the other. Here we are in a college that teaches other how to teach and how willing we are to teach them to teach what is wrong using methods that are wrong because some controlling force tells us that the right of good sense and good ethics is the wrong right.English allows students to study rebels and learn of the necessity of rebellion when others or another or institutions of government grow oppressive. From what I heard today, our real goal is conformity and teaching that enforces and reinforces the goodness of conformity. Our goal is to find ways to do what we are told to do and do it in ways that others will think that we are doing what we believe to be right. This is the most profound kind of bullshit request that can be made of anyone and here we are taking the request as if it is an irrefutable mandate, irrefutable because there are career and other kinds of consequences for acts that might be understood by those in control to be refutation of their mandates.Life in the English department may not be any better, but it may be and that at least allows for a ray of hope. Today’s meeting confirmed that things here are hopeless for there is no will to figure out how to do what is right, how to communicate to those who control that what they want, what they demand that we capitulate to is simply wrong. If we had integrity, we would never capitulate until convinced that what we were being asked to do was right and righteous. What I heard today is that we will do what we have to in order to get along, even if what we go along with is obnoxious and, yes, inhumane. One cannot take the tests to be valid as indicators of the quality of our teaching or the quality of the teachers who we send out into the schools to teach. But we will abide by assessment mandates that will have the effect of telling our students that the only good teaching they get in our program is the teaching that will aid them in teaching to the test.Utter bullshit in ways that are of a magnitude that is almost impossible to grasp, bullshit in regard to our obligations to the public for insuring that students learn what is necessary for good citizenship, good citizenship in a nation that demands that citizens are capable of making good decisions, decisions that are the product of engagement in the issues of the day, issues understood well in all their complexity through application of the concepts and skills learned in school to the problems those issues represent. Bullshit because the testing regime is not about testing problem solving abilities but about discovering whether or not students have been acclimated to the status quo, a status quo that there teachers try to convince them is the nature of reality, the only reality possible even if it is a reality that really does not serve their best interests, that does not reflect respect from those in power for the rights of individuals. And we perpetuate the bullshit by giving into a system that will punish us if we do not agree to mis-educate.I have tried everything I can to get a discussion going about what our goals should be but I think I have to admit now that that discussion will never take place because to participate in such a discussion would do real damage to egos and the careers that are so ego boosting. Well, my ego is damaged beyond repair and all I have left is a germ of integrity for I too have not done all that is necessary to resist the forces that push me in rotten and harmful directions. I have capitulated too and I think I understand the nature of my culpability in making the world, through education, something other than a better place for human beings.I said today that the best thing I can do is to do what will get me fired. I think this is true for all if by “best thing” we mean what is good for humanity, for the democratic society that we once pledged to uphold and grew up to believe was worth upholding because its principles were right and righteous. I do not think I will be fired today or tomorrow and that by getting fired I should mean that I do what is necessary to do what is right and in doing what is right piss off those who have right wrong. Perhaps going to the English department and doing so by ratting out on what is rotten in the present system, the system that is the College of Education system, I help to move things along to something better. There seems to be little desire in the COE to do what is necessary to be participants in making things better. Maybe there is concern for better elsewhere and that I do my students service by seeing if the possibility for better is there.

Critically Important Piece on Distortion of Truth and Difficulty in Presenting Truths

Henry Giroux is right about the neoliberal undermining of universities

Preface. I think universities are of critical importance to the development of sane and humane society. I worked in one for 28 years and spend a good number of years in colleges and universities earning degrees so I could do the kind of work I wanted to do when I grew up (tried). During that time, I saw happen what Giroux describes to have been happening, my early years caught up in a wonderful madhouse of ideas that I was asked to think about, make sense of, apply to the world, test out as theories to determine what a proper course of action might be, as an individual and as a citizen. As I “rose up” in the college and university system, the dynamics began to change and, too, the goals, the new goals probably causing the change in what was taught, how it was taught, and how those in the institution, professors and students interacted with one another and with the institution. By the time I quit, and I did not retire, I resigned after many years of not being able to because I did not want meet the institution’s institutional demands, it was not at all a place where most people there–students, colleagues, administrators–had much desire to talk about the kinds of things that set minds on fire, confuse, tease, startle, provoke, incite because such was considered a waste of time, the goals to be achieved to be achieved by getting prescribed and proscribed work done, it having to do with getting students through their programs and oneself accepted by the institution and the professional organizations that dictated, in very strict manner, what one had to do to get papers published in their journals, publications that very few read, even academics in one’s own field.

So, I offer up this further bit fro Giroux’s Neoliberal War on Democracy: “As faculties no longer feel compelled to address important political issues and social problems, they are less inclined to communicate with a larger public, uphold public values, or engage in the type of scholarship accessible to a broader audience. Beholden to corporate interests, career building, and the insular discourses that accompany specialized scholarship, too many academics have become overly comfortable with the corporatization of the university and the new regimes of neoliberal governance. Chasing after grants, promotions, and conventional research outlets, many academics have retreated from larger public debates and refused to address urgent social problems. Assuming the role of disinterested academic or the clever faculty star on the make, endlessly chasing theory of its own sake, these so called academic entrepreneurs simply reinforce the public’s perception that they have become largely irrelevant. Incapable, if not unwilling, to defend the university as a critical site for learning how to think critically and act with civic engagement, many academics have disappeared into a disciplinary apparatus that views the university not as a place to think but as a place to prepare students to be competitive in the global marketplace.”

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.”

Humane education vs the authoritarian

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.

Me: 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.

Swearing and Reading Teachers

continued…..
She: Cussing weakens your content, but if it works for you…One factor to weave into your enthusiasm for the standards is the readiness of the students to understand and learn the content. As my students were nearly 100% alliterate, pleasure in reading that resulted in sustained silent reading would come before analyzing literature.

Me: The curriculum cannot be designed to first serve the alliterate. Standards must be set for what one should be able to do to succeed in the world. Those with needs such as your students need all the help they can get to be able to read those texts important to understanding well the world and all the thought about the world that thinkers (and the not so thoughtful) produce. To read without being able to analyze, produces what Wayne O’Neil rightfully deemed the “illiterate literate.” Stephen Tchudi once said that we need to get rid of those who teach reading and what he meant was that those who teach reading, the reading teachers, are taught to teach the mechanics of reading rather than the purpose or the process by which words are translated into meaning, meaning into significance, and significance into a purpose of some kind, a meaningful response to what is said. He is right in arguing that the reading teachers have had way too much influence in the schools so that all students are looked upon as alliterate unless they can perform as reading teachers specify they should, showing mechanical skill first and then maybe real and deep understanding of what they read and, too, what they see and hear, a real literacy that cannot be taught by teachers versed in the mechanics who are not truly literate in the deep literacy sense, who do not read the difficult texts because, well, they are too hard to read. I have knowing way too many of teachers of this kind, reading teachers who come close to being O’Neil’s illiterate literates.

I swear the CCSS is Good Sense

Me: I taught about Texas and the textbook for over 20 years and no one really gave a fuck. Things add up and sometimes they add up to a shit show because most people find ways to get used to the stench, live comfortably despite it. Eventually, sometimes, they are awoken. Sometimes it is too late.

She: An education professor taught us about this In a post graduate class at UNR. What would anyone do about it? Market driven. Texas and CA buy the most books. Then it got worse. NCLB morphed into Common Core where the IBM exec who wrote the Common Core “standards” in English sells the expendable books to the Districts. The standards are written in academic terms, very long sentences, based on heavy analysis of literature. They have to be written on the board and reviewed with students. To burden alliterate students with intense analyzing of literature in preparation for a high stakes, obscure test that their teacher has never seen which labels them with demeaning labels effectively kills any spark that might ignite if reading were for pleasure rather than analysis. Common Core and its farce tests determines the rating of schools and their hapless students. NCLB came from our Texan president and revolutionized public education just when our students were turning away from books to screens.How come you don’t use your scholar’s vocabulary instead of swearing so much?

Me:I swear because it is a part of my vocabulary and I do not pretend to be a scholar. Rather, I, like I would hope others would be, am a student and a human being who does respond to the world sometimes emotionally and it is the emotional part that has always humanized my scholarship, it dedicated not to succeeding in academic but to intelligent participation in the democratic society in which I live, my goal always to promote sane and humane decision making in society. As for the claims you make about the standards, I find them to be flawed, first of all because the CCSS were written to contradict the effects of NCLB which dumbed down the curriculum for the purpose of reasserting the goal of controlling and indoctrinating students in the goodness of the American way, this without critical analysis for fear that a thinking citizenry might turn on the American way that so well served the already wealthy and powerful at great expense to most of those who had been, were, and would be students in the American school system. As for who wrote the Common Core and how it is written, I can find hundreds of lines of highly sensible text that most decently educated people should be able to read and understand to be about orienting instruction to goals that would allow students to read what too many believe to be difficult text. Actually, the CCSS ELA standards call for students to be able to read, analyze, and make sensible decisions about the language that comes their way, extremely important goals for informed and thoughtful existence in a world where things simplified too often fail to convey the kind of meaning a person needs to understand things properly and make good decisions. As for “heavy analysis of literature,” that is couples with heavy analysis of non-fiction, this in recognition of the fact that the two are very much complementary, literature providing insights into the workings of the human mind that no other form of thoughtfulness–a good author’s–can provide, such insight to understanding such things as point of view, it being critical to understanding the intent of those communicating, their reason for telling one something, a key to getting at the real meaning of what is being said. For example, why would one care to call upon me to use my scholarly voice and criticize me for cussing? Who might that person be and why is she saying it? Understanding that has and should have much to do with how I respond to and act upon what she said.

Concerning Joke about Israel

This joke on SNL led to the conversation that follows:

“I am going to guess it’s the Jewish half, Michael Che called anti-semitic for this joke about Israel already vaccinating half its population.

Cousin:  I find it interesting that the ones who shout the loudest are GOP, the very anti-Semites that don’t allow Jews in their clubs. Fact is Israel has a bit of an apartheid going on with their Arab brothers and sisters. I’m a Jew and I’m not alone in my disgust for this policy. I’ve always felt Israel’s biggest mistake is not recognizing Palestinianpeople as a kindred people, both discriminated against by the rest of the world. The heights they could achieve working together…

Cousin’s FB friend:  I watched and was floored that comment was intended to be a joke. Che (and his writers) deserve to be slammed.

Cousin: If these so-called offended gentiles really cared about Jews you wouldn’t be seeing the masses of anti-Semite White-supremicists

Me: Interesting, though, how many of their political allies are staunch supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel and how, far too often, leaders of powerful Jewish organizations and independent Jews support such people. I have relatives to prove the point. Trumpites because they saw Trump to be a strong supporter of Israel. Throughout the reign, I barked about those who told me they supported at least so of Trumpism because he supported Israel, mad at me because I was a Jew who didn’t support Jews, a “self-loathing Jew.” Yes, to loath loathsome Israeli policy was (still is) equated by too many as being anti-Jew, translated, so as to diminish the horrible meaning of the term, anti-Semitic.

FB Friend of Cousin:  

Ever since living in Israel for a year during my junior year in college I’ve been deeply concerned for its survival. I agree with the two state plan that President Biden will undoubtedly try to get back on track. As a progressive, I realize I hold a minority opinion on the subject but what disturbs me in conversations I’ve had with fellow progressives is their inability to make a distinction both between Israel and the Jewish people and the right wing is really government and the Israeli people. So anti-Semitism often becomes a person’s position on our foreign policy toward Israel…

I know Israelis that have opposing opinions but you have it exactly right about people assuming Israel and world Jewry are united. The government of Israel is repulsive and those in power aim to keep it that way. Lots of money to be made with aggressive policies

Me:

 This is a really important concern, not just in regard to issues involving Israel but in understanding biases that lead to thinking that is dangerous to a sane and humane future. Israel is a country. Jewish is a religion and ethnicity. Anti-Israeli sentiment as well as pro-Israeli sentiment is about a political entity and a very problematic entity for the way it was created (re-created if you wish). The blurring of distinctions to get to the point where it is “logical” to call one who has problems with the Israeli state and its actions is dependent upon a flaw in logic that makes people who are the actual haters appear the humane and those who are actually sane and humane, inhumanely crazy, in a word, anti-Semitic.