Sunday, August 09, 2009

Listen to the Teachers, not the corporate shills

I was giving a speech on the political control of public schooling to a forum here in Sacramento. A teacher in the conference asked, “ I understand your points on NCLB, on multicultural education, and on testing, but what can we do about these things?”
What a great question.

We need to propose alternatives. There are numerous clear voices to explain the education crisis, the economic collapse and the health crisis. We need to magnify and extend these voices.
Just as corporate money distorts the health care debate and prevents reform, corporate influence distorts the discussion of school realities and school reform.
A major problem with our campaigns for a democratic approach to schooling is that most of the media has been sold a mindset or framework of accountability. Corporate sponsored networks and “ think tanks” such as the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Bradley Foundation, the Olin Foundation and their access to the media is not likely to change. The domination of a particular simplistic accountability frame within the media and political circles must be opposed. The problem is not accountability. It is dysfunctional accountability systems that fail to measure real learning. Certainly in the current battle with Arne Duncan he has ceased the high ground with a claim of accountability in funding the Race to the Top – it’s a false claim- but it works.
Lets consider what accountability would be like. This false form of accountability would be like measuring a news writer by the number of words they get published without measuring if the story was about a garden, T.V., or news.
The appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education was symptomatic of the problems. He represents the kind of corporate/media approach to school reform that claims accountability. The earlier post on history in Chicago was insightful and helpful. Education and explaining will be a constant struggle.
There are many strategies. However, the most important is to share and magnify teacher voices. Politicians make bad decisions – such as the current budget cuts- because they are not listening to teachers voices. Instead they are listening to paid consultants, and “experts” from the corporate establishment.
Newspaper writers and other media writers make the same mistake. They call their favorite “source” which just happens to be a corporate promoter like Arne Duncan, Michele Rhee, or one of the “experts” at elite universities. Note: the elite universities work with few teachers. They are several steps removed from the classroom.
You can read more about this on this blog by searching for PACT. Or here: http://sites.google.com/site/assessingpact/. This is a failure to have validity and reliability in measurement and accountability. For more see, Gerald Bracey (2006). Reading Educational Research.
More strategies to come in future days, but the most basic is insist on teacher participation in the development of policies. Get the politicians and the corporate shills out of the classroom. – they have failed our children.
Of course there is much more on this in my book, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education, (2010) Allyn and Bacon.
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