Friday, August 28, 2009

A Further Comment On Schooling

Educators know pretty much, now, what works. They/we have more or less figgered out (within fairly broad limits) how learners learn (cooperatively, and constructively--what's called "cheating," in school)), why they learn (relevance, interest), and the best ways to teach 'em (Zone of Proximal Development, e.,g.). They (we) worked it out mostly by 1990.

What works is an active pedagogy (c.f., Vygotsky, e.g.). Watch a kid teach another kid to play a video game. You'll get the idea. Not included anywhere in the knowledge base is the relentless devotion to slavishly learned, rote, formulaic recitation. But that is essentially the mandate of the federal "school acountability" program called No Child Left Behind. "Accountability" = Testable/measurable. Spelling and phonics are 'testable.' Such tests yield "real" measures, quantifiable, scalable results. What works and what's testable are not in the same conversation.

But as with the program discussed below, Reading Rainbow, priorities--never much favorable to emancipatory pedagogies, ways of learning that actually EMPOWER learners--have changed and hardened, as the Education officialdom tries to avoid the implications of the single most revealing statistic in all education: That over 60% of ALL variance on students' performance on standardized tests, in between groups measures, are accounted for by ONE and ONLY one variable: the socio-economic status (SES) of the students' family. The only way to reliably "improve" students' performance is to reduce economic inequity and disparity. In which NOBODY in the official structure of ANY government of any corporate state has the slightest interest.

As you can imagine, this empirical reality is inconvenient in a regime in which BILLIONS of dollars are being harvested off 'test scores." Tests which hold to "standards," and 'criteria," and 'knowledge." It's a racket, and everybody who is anybody (Arne Duncan, e.g.) has more than an academic stake in the outcome. The stakes are very very high.

How high? Well take a look at the ad for the "Disney" (Branded) "Learning system" marketed in the ad below. Imagine how much "R&D" money was spent on the Mickey Mouse phonics kit in the ad with the post below. That the Mickster himself is the iconic emblem tells you they intend to make hoardes of cash off this trivial piece of shit.

There are a LOT of people who have taken the time to expound on this matter, quite lucidly. Alfie Kohn is one. Susan Ohanian is another. Read anything by Gerald Bracey, a regular at HuffPost, and previously the resident gadfly at the Phi Delta Kappan.On "reading," read my former colleagues Ken and Yetta Goodwin, Frank Smith, Shirley Brice Heath, Jim Gee or Donna Alvermann.

The academic Vygotskyans are many. James Wersch for one prominent example. Vygotsky watched kids teaching and learning from one another, all with varied experiences and skills. Out in Turkmenistan, in the '30s. He got it.

But that kind of insight is anathema when there are billions to be made testing, and disqualifying thousands of students from participation in the good life. All tests do is to provide retrospective evidence with which to sustain and retroactively justify decisions made about students before they ever entered a classroom, based on their zip codes more than their IQs.

The "reformers," like that villain Duncan and his coterie of sycophantic, corpoRat henchfolk, are the militarists, the CorpoRatists. They do not seek to promote democracy, which was the underlying telos of the public school movement of the 1840s and '50s. They are trying to implement a wholesale transformation from democratic education to corporate indoctrination. For what that looks like i n practice, read last month's (August, '09) Harper's article on going to school in Toyota-ville, Kentucky.

And with the enthusiastic complicity of the Corporatist, neo-liberal President, they are succeeding. They've been up to trying to find the appropriate formula since 1980. With Obama's embrace of the Corporatocracy of Duncan, I guess it's a fucking done deal.


PENolan said...

You've started pursuing your interest in early childhood ed. Endlessly fascinating topic.

intelliwench said...

I was disappointed when Arne Duncan got the job. The last thing we need is a CEO heading the DOE.

It irks me to no end that we can't be bothered to properly educate our future leaders. Makes me almost hope for senility...

One Fly said...

For those who have posted comments Woody did this post for me so a big thank you for that Woody!!

Not saying I understand it all but I did not realize the depth of this situation. I plead cornfield and look forward to talking about this when we get together. Sure PM has thoughts on this as well.

Once again-thank you.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

OF: You close the season, slide on down, we'll have a JOLLY chat, amigo!

Arne Duncan is a CorpoRatist. He sees school as a 'resource' to be exploited, kids as 'raw material.'

It's the continuation of the industrial "melting-pot" vision, where the dross is cooked off, leaving the pure stuff...

yeah, trish, this is the stuff i think i know about the most about...