Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter Three

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 3

Justice Concerns and Educational Malpractices

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Historically in Western thought justice along with fortitude, prudence and temperance has been considered one of the four cardinal virtues. Comte-Sponville considers it the only cardinal virtue “that is an absolute good in itself.” The other virtues can be considered good only in certain contexts; for where is the prudence in being so cautious as to not venture forth in the world for fear of calamity, in being courageous (fortitude) in a cause that is evil such as a suicide bomber who kills innocent people, or in temperance in being so ascetic with satisfying bodily desires–eating, drinking, making love so as to deny ourselves those simple pleasures?

The two components or types of justice are: justice as agreement and compliance with the law and justice as equity and fairness. I concur only with justice being a “good in itself” when it is concerned with fairness and equity (a difficult state to determine) but not when the justice of what we are dealing with is the law and the law is itself unjust in fairness and equity. Aristotle said “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst.” For ancient Greeks like Aristotle and Socrates whatever the law dictated was what was just, so much so that Socrates refused help to escape his sentence to death for impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. He believed that fulfilling the social contract, the law of the time in carrying out the death sentence was the only course of justice. Was justice really served by his legal execution, even if self-inflicted? I leave the answer to others as it is beyond the scope of this book to delve into all the justice concerns involved with Socrates death.

Ideally laws would satisfy and ensure equity and fairness concerns obtain. But it doesn’t take much to realize that many laws are not just in equity and fairness concerns. Mankind, as noble as Aristotle may have wished, can indeed be less than noble than animals in the application of laws. But we humans do judge, especially in regards to issues of educational practices.

Aristotle also said “The just, then is the lawful and fair, the unjust the unlawful and unfair.” True justice therefore consists of laws, rules, policies and practices that promote the most equity and highest degree of fairness. Aristotle’s definition serves well as a starting point in analyzing, and in judging whether an educational practice is just with the caveat that, as Comte-Sponville notes, “morality and justice come before legality, at least where the essentials are concerned. . . . And what is essential? Freedom for all, the dignity of the individual and the rights of others.”

Combining our justice concerns with the fundamental purposes of education as described above we can establish a guiding principle with which to judge educational practices and outcomes: An educational policy and/or practice is just when it promotes the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.

Furthermore we must keep in mind as Comte-Sponville notes that “justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number.” For example educational practices such as grading, the testing and selection criterion for entry to “magnet schools” or select public schools, or standardized tests like the ACT when mandated as compulsory by the state and whose results are used by post-secondary institutions to sort and separate and therefore reward and punish students either through selection or denial of admittance should be rejected as being unjust due to the inherent discriminatory nature of those practices even if they are valuable for efficiency in selection for various institutions.

Continuing with Comte-Sponville’s thoughts in his chapter on justice: “without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy. . . without justice, values would be nothing more than interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.” In other words there can be no promoting of the welfare of, the well-being of the student as outlined in our fundamental purpose of public education without the entirety of justice being considered. Without justice considerations public education quickly devolves into a “what’s best for me” scenario in a Spencerian atmosphere of dog eat dog rule of the jungle.

Although both types of justice, as law and as equity and fairness are important in this study of educational malpractices it is the latter that are more applicable and important. The blind and uncompromising application of the law, of educational directives of federal, state or local origin can be viewed as a corruption of justice. Aristotle states that “the equitable is just” while also stating that equitable justice is “but a correction of legal justice.” Or as Comte-Sponville makes clear “Let us say that equity, which is not different from justice but a form of it, is applied justice, living justice, concrete justice—true justice. . . Justice does not make just people, people make justice.”

So where does that leave us when educational practices are found to be conceptually error filled resulting in invalid outcomes that by definition are unjust, that end up discriminating against many students? Lamentably, the vast majority of educators choose expediency-legal justice over justice as equity and slough off justice as equity concerns. A brave few though have challenged the unjust malpractices of the status quo usually paying a heavy price in personal health, welfare in family and professional life. Those brave souls have followed a perhaps not well known American tradition, that of civil disobedience. Let us finish up our discussion of justice with the words of an American author and philosopher who knew well the deprivations (time spent in prison) of civil disobedience:

“The mass of men [and women] serves the state [education powers that be] thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, [bureaucrats, administrators and teachers], etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt.”– Henry David Thoreau [my additions]

And one last thought from Mahatma Gandhi “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.” Mahatma Gandhi.


For a complete discussion of Justice see Comte-Sponville’s “A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues” Chapter 6 Justice.

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter Two

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 2

Fidelity to Truth in Educational Discourse

‘We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because the lie is more comfortable.’  Solzhenitzyn

In his book “Truth: A Guide” Simon Blackburn, editor of the “Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy,” concisely states that truth is “the control of belief by fact.”  Seems quite simple!  But in his book Blackburn outlines the many battles fought over what truth is over the course of at least the last two millennia by many philosophers, thinkers and writers.  Almost all the well-known names of the Western canon—Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hume, Descartes, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein to name just a few, can be sorted into differing alethiological camps.  Anyone who has studied the subject soon understands that determining a final answer to the question “What is truth” more likely than not realizes that it is quite difficult to firmly answer (not counting those of a faith belief tradition who claim to have “The Truth”) and that perhaps the best way to address the subject is to just leave it alone (a minimalist position).

But just leaving truth alone is not feasible for a study such as this.  Far too many believe that they have truth, however they determine it, on their side. At the same time many mistake expediency for truth.  What happens when it is shown that their truths are actually falsehoods and their conclusions are invalid and that the results of their false beliefs and practices are unjust and harm the most innocent of society, the children?

Yes, truth matters!

Realizing that all truths are contextual not only in time, space and experience this study is limited to examining the veracity of claims of truth and validity (for how can something be truthful if it is not valid?) for the fundamental positions upon which educational practices of today are based.  The educational practices examined—grading, educational standards and standardized testing–in this study are found overall to be riddled with error therefore lacking in validity and truth.

The flip side of truth is error.  Truth implies that something is without error.  How does the concept of error play into the discussion of truth?  Noel Wilson elaborates: “Error is predicated on a notion of perfection; to allocate error is to imply what is without error; to know error it is necessary to determine what is true. And what is true is determined by what we define as true, theoretically by the assumptions of our epistemology, practically by the events and non-events, the discourses and silences, the world of surfaces and their interactions and interpretations; in short, the practices that permeate the field. . . Error is the uncertainty dimension of the statement; error is the band within which chaos reigns, in which anything can happen. Error comprises all of those eventful circumstances which make the assessment statement less than perfectly precise, the measure less than perfectly accurate, the rank order less than perfectly stable, the standard and its measurement less than absolute, and the communication of its truth less than impeccable.”  In other words all the logical errors involved in the aforementioned educational practices render any conclusions invalid.

Now, let’s delve into Comte-Sponville’s concept of “fidelity to truth.”  What is meant by fidelity to truth, that of being faithful/true to truth?  Preliminarily and primarily, Comte-Sponville states “All fidelity is—whether to a value or to a person—is fidelity to love and through love.”  Since he considers love to be the greatest and hardest to achieve virtue that statement rightly precedes all his other thoughts on the subject.  We can follow that up with the consideration that fidelity is the “will to remember” truthfully and that fidelity “resists forgetfulness, changing fashions and interests, the charms of the moment, the seductions of power.”  Fidelity to truth means “refusing to change one’s ideas in the absence of strong, valid reasons, and. . . it means holding as true. . . ideas whose truth has clearly and solidly established.”  At the same time fidelity to truth means rejecting discourse that has been shown to have errors, falsehoods and invalidities.  However, “Being faithful to one’s thoughts more than to truth would mean being unfaithful to thought and condemning oneself to sophistry.”  To be unfaithful to truth, to be in error, then is to reject that which makes honest communications, policies and practices cogent and a human good, a virtue.

The characteristics of truth in public educational discourse can be understood as encompassing fidelity to truth in the following:

  • Speech and/or writing accurately describes policies, practices and outcomes (discourse).
  • Using the correct/intended meaning of a word in light of the context.
  • Discourse serves to enlighten and not obscure meaning.
  • Discourse is free of contradictions, error and falsehoods.
  • The “control of belief by fact” (S. Blackburn).
  • Discourse is based in skeptical rationo-logical thought processes in which a “scientific attitude” holds sway.
  • Discourse based on/in faith conventions is eschewed and rejected outright due to separation of church and state constitutional concerns.
  • Discourse of expediency based on the rationalizations of “Everyone is doing this”, “It is dictated by the State Department of Education” or “NCLB mandates that we have to do this” is firmly and rightly rejected.

In rejecting expediency over truth as a guide to or rationale of instituting practices that are based on fundamental errors and falsehoods resulting in invalid conclusions that many times harm students, we should keep in mind Hanna Arendt’s concept of the “banality of evil.” She concluded that the Holocaust did not occur because of the monstrosity, the evil of the people involved but by the small everyday functioning of ordinary people, perhaps at best not knowing of or at worst of turning a willing blind eye to the results of their daily task along with the daily work of others that compounded into the atrocities of the Holocaust.  The vast majority of “Good Germans”, including Eichmann, believed that they were just following orders as they had been brought up (educated) to do.  Eichmann even believed that he was “saving” as many Jews as he could by instituting certain procedures.

Now, I am not suggesting that some of our current public education laws, policies and practices are the equivalent of the Holocaust.  What I am pointing out is that in order for everyday banal evils to occur, as with some public education practices that cause harm to innocents and that do not allow for students to enjoy their constitutional mandated benefits and rights in utilizing public education, are made possible by teachers, administrators, boards of education, state departments of education, the federal department of education, etc., many have to and have put expediency over truth.  And in putting expediency, especially expediency of self-interest, over truth we regrettably allow unjust practices to flourish and cause untold harm and psychological violence to be perpetrated against the students who have little means to refute and reject such malpractices.

As Comte-Sponville puts it:  “Should we therefore forgo our self-interest? Of course not. But it [self-interest] must be subordinate to justice, not the other way around. . . . To take advantage of a child’s naivete . . . in order to extract from them something [test scores, personal information] that is contrary to their interests, or intentions, without their knowledge [or consent of parents] or through coercion [state mandated testing], is always and everywhere unjust even if in some places and under certain circumstances it is not illegal. . . . Justice is superior to and more valuable than well-being or efficiency; it cannot be sacrificed to them, not even for the happiness of the greatest number [quoting Rawls]. To what could justice legitimately be sacrificed, since without justice there would be no legitimacy or illegitimacy? And in the name of what, since without justice even humanity, happiness and love could have no absolute value? . . .  Without justice, values would be nothing more than (self) interests or motives; they would cease to be values or would become values without worth.”  [my additions]

And in speaking of justice one must consider its various meanings and aspects and how it plays out in examining educational malpractices.  Which I shall begin in the following chapter. 

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education: Chapter One

By Duane Swacker

About Duane

Chapter 1

The Purpose of Public Education

‘Honesty is the first chapter in wisdom’ Jefferson

Ask any teacher or administrator “What is the purpose of public education?” and more likely than not they will recite their district’s mission statement, perhaps one as succinct as the Nebo School District’s in Utah We engage, empower, and collaborate to ensure student success.”  Or perhaps it more typically reads like this one from a rural Missouri district “The mission of the Warren County R-III School District is to empower each child to fully reach his or her potential as a life-long learner, a responsible adult and a contributing member of a diverse society.”  Or it may even come with a disclaimer as this long mission statement from a Pennsylvania district:

Mission Statement

The Mission Statement, Beliefs, and Goals presented below are the result of work completed by Cumberland Valley School District’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee. These philosophy statements are not an attempt to state how things are, but rather are intended to give impetus and direction toward meeting the needs of all children who attend the schools of this district now and in the future.

Our Mission

The Cumberland Valley School District, in collaboration with students, educators, parents and the community, is committed to developing 21st century learning and thinking skills through a rigorous, relevant, and comprehensive curriculum, while preparing students to be innovative, productive citizens in an interconnected world. (italics in original)

Does each mission statement, being used as a proxy for the fundamental purpose of public education, help fulfill the fundamental purpose of public education?  What is that fundamental purpose and where can it usually be found?  Is there even a fundamental purpose?  To answer the last question first, it depends!  Well, what does it depend on then? In answering that question we also answer the where question—the constitution of each state.

But there’s a catch, not every state constitution gives a purpose for its authorization of public education.  It’s a 50/50 split with 25 states not giving any purpose such as West Virginia’s authorization “The Legislature shall provide, by general law, for a thorough and efficient system of free schools.” (Article XII, Sec. 12-1) and 25 states providing a rationale.

Those 25 rationales can be divided into three types.  Those that declare that the purpose of public education is to ensure that the state’s form of government will continue, such as South Dakota’s “The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools. . . .” (Article VIII  § 1).  Those whose fundamental purpose focuses on the individual and his/her rights such as Missouri’s “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the general assembly shall establish and maintain free public schools . . . .” (Article IX Sec. 1a)  And those that are a combination of both.  As it is, fifteen mainly focus on the benefits of public education to the individual citizen and the preservation of his/her rights, five on the benefit to the state and five that state both citizen and government benefits.

All together then, there are 25 states with no stated fundamental purpose, five with a purpose that extol the benefits of public education to the state, fifteen commending the benefits to the individual and five a combination of benefit to both state and individual, resulting in 80% of those with a stated purpose of having the benefits for the individual as the primary rationale.  Is it possible, then, to discern a fundamental purpose of public education?  Yes, I believe it can be ascertained, by starting with the fundamental purpose of government in this country as stated in each state’s constitution (sometimes as troublesome to recognize a stated purpose as that of public education).  Since public education is a function of each state and not the federal government we must begin at the state level to determine what the fundamental purpose of the state is.  In examining the constitutions one finds that there many and varied exhortations.

For example Alabama’s constitution states:  “Objective of government. That the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.” (Section 35)  Or this from Nebraska “All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home, and others, and for lawful common defense, hunting, recreational use, and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof. To secure these rights, and the protection of property, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” (Art. I, sec. 1)

All well and good, eh!  Quite compelling is the Missouri constitution’s wording on the purpose of government:  “That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry; that all persons are created equal and are entitled to equal rights and opportunity under the law; that to give security to these things is the principal office of government, and that when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.” (Article. II, Sec. 4. § 3.)

Tying together the aims of our constitutional government with the purpose of public education as stated in some of the state’s constitution allows us to propose a common fundamental statement of purpose. Since 20 of the 25 state constitutions give a reason attending to the rights and liberties of the individual through public education combined with the mandate of state constitutional government as reflected in Missouri’s constitutional language of “That all constitutional government is intended to promote the general welfare of the people; that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of the gains of their own industry. . .” it follows that the rights and liberties of the individual in being educated as each sees fit supersede those of supporting and maintaining the government.  And that one can logically conclude that if the educational wants and needs of the citizens obtain then those of the state will follow.  But without an educated citizenry who can promote their own interests, and who can understand and tolerate others thoughts, opinions and desires, the state would surely be subject to tyranny by those whose knowledge and wants exceeds most.

I propose, then, the following statement of the purpose of public education with which, hopefully, most in the United States could agree:

“The purpose of public education is to promote the welfare of the individual so that each person may savor the right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the fruits of their own industry.”

Any educational practice that is shown to hinder, block and/or otherwise cause an individual to not be able to indulge in any of aspect of his/her rights as stated has to be considered as harmful and unjust not only to the individual but also to society and therefore must rightly be condemned as educational malpractice and ought to be immediately discontinued.  Trampled rights are rights that are non-existent and the educational malpractice that tramples any right is unjust and as noted in Alabama’s constitution “is usurpation and oppression” and as Missouri’s declares “. . . when government does not confer this security, it fails in its chief design.

I contend that many of today’s federal and state mandates and even long standing educational practices are, indeed, malpractices that trample the rights of the most innocent in society, the children, the students of all ages attending public schools, in essence “it [public education] fails in its chief design.”  Should the government through the public schools be sorting, separating, ranking, and/or grading students through logically bankrupt invalid practices discriminating against some while rewarding others?  I contend it should not!  Where is the justice in discriminatory practices?  By evaluating those malpractices against the aforementioned purpose we will be able to ascertain whether or not they are just.

In what follows concepts of truth and Sponville’s “fidelity to truth” will be illuminated, justice concerns will be discussed, professional ethical issues delineated, and the error and falsehood filled conceptual bases of standards and measurement and grading as now used in public education will be elaborated.  It will be shown how using the epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt schemes of grading, educational standards and standardized testing come together in causing untold psychological harm to the students, discriminating against some students while rewarding others and begetting structural injustice causing public schools to “fail in their chief design.

Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education Introduction

By Duane Swacker

About Duane Swacker

Introduction

‘All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.’ Galileo Galilei

The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public [education] policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter” states systems theorist Russell Ackhoff.

Many longstanding practices in American public education are rightly described as “doing the wrong thing righter”.  The simplistic grading of students, rating and ranking schools as the US News and World Report does, believing that through using educational standards and its flip side standardized testing we can “measure” student learning and achievement, whatever that may mean, are just a few.

As noted by Ackhoff, doing the “wrong thing righter” is damaging enough to the bottom line in business but in the teaching and learning process it results in error, falsehoods and invalid conclusions about what a student has learned.  More than that, students internalize the labels that misleadingly describe a student resulting in multiple harms to many students, violating their personhood.  The tremendous waste of educational resources, time, energies and monies for practices that are harmful, epistemologically and ontologically bankrupt and that contravene the fundamental purpose of public education should give us pause.

“I’m an ‘A’ student” declares the bright fresh-faced student as she confidently walks into class the first day finding a seat next to her friends.  I hate to burst her bubble but little does she know, she isn’t.  The first few days of a new school year class time is spent going over the syllabus, rules and regulations, and how grades will be determined for the semester and year.  In discussing grades I had the students fill out a very brief survey:

I am a (n) _____student.

A

B

C

D

E (none of these)

F

Then I’d have one student read the answers aloud as another tallied up the various answers on the board.  Inevitably the majority of answers were either an A or B as in order to take Spanish the students had to have an A or B grade in their prior year’s Language Arts class.  Every now and then a C might appear, and never a D or F. (Why is it that in the grading scale the only letter with a word associated with it is F-fail?)  And out of every hundred or so students usually only one would get the correct answer E.  Why is it, that only one out of one hundred students would understand what was really being asked/demonstrated by the brief survey?

Why?  Because socially ingrained practices such as student grades, practices that have existed for generations, are usually accepted as right, good, valid and the way things are, even after they have been shown to be detrimental to students and contradict the fundamental purpose(s) of public education.  Breaking away from societal habits of long standing practices such as grades in schooling can be an almost impossible task, especially for students who don’t have enough life experience to question, counteract or refuse to accept them.  The vast majority, not only of students but also parents and teachers accept grades and standardized test scores as an acceptable practice.  “It’s how school works!”  In this book I will show why using educational standards and standardized test scores as assessment practices are invalid, harmful, unethical and unjust educational malpractices.

I explore the fundamental concepts underlying educational standards and standardized testing used as a basis to supposedly measure student learning to show that said practices which most accept as “the way things are” are based on logical errors and falsehoods that render the practices invalid.  And in being invalid those practices can only cause harm to many students as they are subjected to the many quirks and whims of practices based on false and invalid notions.  As any craftsman, artisan or gourmet chef knows; when one starts with inferior materials it is impossible to construct a high quality product.  It’s the old garbage in, garbage out to put it a bit more crudely.  How can we construct a high quality educational experience for students if we start with practices that are of the lowest intellectual quality and that lack validity?

Many current educational practices, start with and are based on inferior “materials”.  In the teaching and learning process, those deficient materials are the rationo-logically challenged conceptual foundations used to justify the malpractices of student grades, educational standards and standardized testing that cause much harm to each and every student, whether the ‘A student’ or the ‘failing student’.  I will show that those practices are, indeed, malpractices based on faulty logic and irrational thinking that render them invalid, harmful and unjust.

In order to do so, though, we must first explore some basic concerns that relate to the purpose of public education, to truth considerations and fidelity to truth in educational discourse, to justice concerns, to aesthetic matters of quality, to (mis)labeling and attachment issues in pinning names onto students in the sorting, separating and ranking involved in grades and standardized test scores, to Foucault’s “subjectivization” or “internalization”, to conceptual (epistemological and ontological) foundations of standards and measurements, to the misuse and bastardization of language that serves to obfuscate meaning for purposes other than to enhance just and ethical teaching and learning environments, to practical ethical concerns and, finally, to obtaining “fidelity to truth” in public education discourse and practices.

Most everyone believes they know the purpose of public education but few actually know where to find the fundamental purpose and what that purpose is.  In Chapter 1 I will explore what those purposes are and how they should serve as our fundamental criterion, the guiding spirit against which all public education practices should be judged.  A brief discussion of the purpose of government follows and what the effects of a government gone awry in its doings are.  Issues of personal liberty in relation to public schooling will also be discussed.

In Chapter 2 I explore what constitutes truth in its various manifestations and that without “fidelity to truth” in educational discourse and practices one can only end up with a logically compromised teaching and learning process that may serve certain political ends but doesn’t, can’t serve the students justly.

Following up on “fidelity to truth” and closely allied with it, in Chapter 3, I explore the nature of justice and how justice concerns, in light of the fundamental purpose of government and public schools, interact to either help or hinder individual student rights and liberties.

In Chapter 4 I will focus on the nature of assessment touching on issues of quality, assessing quality, objective vs subjective assessment and on Wilson’s four frame of references in the assessment process and how confusing and conflating the frames in our evaluation practices add another layer of invalidity.

The 13 logical errors identified by Noel Wilson in his 1997 treatise “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” will be discussed in Chapter 5.  His never refuted nor rebutted definitive destruction of the concepts of educational standards and standardized testing are delineated and then discussed in relation to Foucault’s concept of subjectivization and its impact on students in relation to the stated purpose of public education.

In Chapter 6 I explore the conceptual foundations of measurements and standards as conceived by the major standard and measurement organizations.  It will be shown how the misuse of these terms and concepts lend a false sense of scientific veracity to the educational standards and standardized testing regime.  Also included is a brief discussion of the conceptual error and falsehoods of standardized testing as it is outlined in the testing bible “Standards of Educational and Psychological Testing.”

Professional ethical considerations are addressed in Chapter 7, first through the dictionary definitions of ethics and then through a brief discussion of various ethical codes of conduct from three organizations that are involved in education.  Commonalities found in the codes are identified and discussed in relation to considering whether the malpractices of educational standards and standardized testing in respect to fundamental student rights as outlined in our fundamental purpose of public education should be considered unethical.

In the Conclusion I ask a series of questions concerning how the malpractices of educational standards and standardized testing analyzed as malpractices through logical definition and thought can only result in massive amounts of errors, falsehoods and inaccurate categorizations of students which cause much harm to students, are unethical, fail to honor constitutional mandates and therefore should be rejected immediately and replaced with practices that are “faithful to truth”, help uplift the student to his/her potential in enjoying his/her constitutional rights and privileges in liberty.

Finally, in the Afterword I will present some thoughts on how to obtain “fidelity to truth” in educational practices so that we may break the cycle of educational malpractices in which we currently find ourselves.

‘Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education’

Something new on Treehorn Express:

Over coming weeks, the book ‘Infidelity to Truth: Education Malpractices in American Public Education’ by Duane Swacker will be serialised on Treehorn Express:


Duane has provided Treehorn with the following introduction:

 Duane Swacker is a retired public high school Spanish teacher of 21 years, now an education researcher/writer, and public school advocate.  I received a Masters degree in education administration, was certified to be an administrator and also did some doctoral work in education administration but didn’t complete the course of study.  I started teaching at 39 years of age, working many different jobs prior.  Over the years, I’ve worked in inventory control/purchasing, production scheduling and materials management, and customer service management.  I am also a master upholsterer but do not do hardly any upholstery now.  I’ve been an avid outdoorsman and sportsman all my life.  Health issues have curbed those activities greatly, so most of my time is spent doing educational policy research and writing and public school advocacy now.
 
“Infidelity to Truth. . . ” is the culmination of two decades of teaching and of thinking, reading and writing about the teaching and learning process.  That thinking, reading and writing have been greatly influenced by Noel Wilson’s seminal dissertation “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error”.  Much of what is being done currently in education is based on falsehood and error, guaranteeing that assessment practices are invalid and harm students.  I’ve exposed those errors and falsehoods that make up the onto-epistemological foundations of the educational malpractices that are educational standards and testing.  The abuse and misuse of the terms “measure” and “standards” are explored.  I discuss how those errors and falsehoods and the misusage of terminology, in consideration of the fundamental purpose of public education, and issues of truth, justice, and ethics all come together to show that the current mandated inanities of the teaching and learning process are malpractices that result in violations of student being/personhood.

Watch this space…

A Mother’s Story.

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts in gear, their pens active and their votes available .

One Mother’s Story: How Overemphasis on Standardized Tests

Caused Her 9-Year-Old to Try to Hang Himself

There are major costs to corporate-driven “education reform.”

By Marion Brady / AlterNet  August 1, 2016

Washington Post

“…I received a note from my son’s teacher telling me he’d failed the FCAT [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] by one point. The note said he’d have to take a reading class over the summer and retest…We weren’t alarmed as he only had to score one more point to be promoted…

“…a few weeks later his teacher called. [My son] had failed the test, again by ONE point!

“…I didn’t tell him, but the next day [he] told me he knew he’d failed because if he had passed we’d have been told by the school and be celebrating. I lied—told him it takes several days and we’d know soon, but he insisted he’d failed.

“It was dinner time. I called down the hall and asked what he wanted to drink with dinner. No response. I figured he was watching television in his room and hadn’t heard. A few moments later I called again. Again, no response.

“I can’t tell you what it was that came over me, just that it was a sick feeling. I threw the hot pads I had in my hands on the counter and ran down the hall to [his] room, banged on the door and called his name. No response. I threw the door open. There was my perfect, nine-year-old freckled son with a belt around his neck hanging from a post on his bunk bed. His eyes were blank, his lips blue, his face emotionless. I don’t know how I had the strength to hoist him up and get the belt off but I did, then collapsed on the floor and held [him] as close to my heart as possible. There were no words. He didn’t speak and for the life of me I couldn’t either. I was physically unable to form words. I shook as I held him and felt his heart racing.

“I’d saved [him]! No, not really… I saved him physically, but mentally he was gone…The next 18 months were terrible. It took him six months to make eye contact with me. He secluded himself from friends and family. He didn’t laugh for almost a year…”

Her son had to repeat the third grade. That happened five years ago, and she says the damage continues: “Currently, [he] could be driving with a learner’s permit but he refuses. Why? Because ‘eighth grade kids don’t drive.’ If new friends saw him they’d know he’d failed a grade… Retention is repetitive and lasts a lifetime. It’s never far from his mind, just as seeing him blue and hanging from his bunk bed sticks in mine.”

For years, this story was a family secret. A mutual acquaintance, knowing from my Knight-Ridder/Tribune columns that I had repeatedly attacked the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test not just as a waste of time, money and human potential, but as child abuse, gave this mother my email address and suggested she write me. I met with the mother and child personally and can vouch for the fact that they do indeed exist.

If failing to reach the pass-fail cut score by just one point wasn’t within every standardized test’s margin of error; if research hadn’t established that for the young, retention in grade is as traumatic as fear of going blind or of a parent dying; if standardized tests provided timely, useful feedback that helped teachers decide what to do next; if billions of dollars that America’s chronically underfunded public schools need weren’t being diverted to the standardized testing industry and charter promotion; if a generation of test-and-punish schooling had moved the performance needle even a little; if today’s sneaky, corporately driven education “reform” effort wasn’t driven by blind faith in market ideology and an attempt to privatize public schooling; if test manufacturers didn’t publish guidelines for dealing with vomiting, pants-wetting and other evidences of test-taker trauma; if the Finns hadn’t demonstrated conclusively that fear-free schools, cooperation rather than competition, free play, a recess every hour in elementary school, and that letting educators alone could produce world-class test-takers—if, if, if—then I might cut business leaders and politicians responsible for the America’s current education train wreck a little slack.

But all of the above are demonstrably true. And yet we keep subjecting children to the same dangerous nonsense, year after year.

I’ve no doubt that at least some reformers sincerely believe that America’s schools should be privatized, that educators are unduly attached to the status quo, that unions are a serious problem, and that teachers resist change and must be pressured to perform. I’m sure some are sincere in their belief that the Common Core State Standards actually identify core knowledge, that standardized tests can evaluate complex thought processes, that the reforms they’re pushing, although painful, are essential and right, and that teachers can’t be trusted to judge learner performance.

But wilful ignorance from an unwillingness to talk to experienced educators is unacceptable.

Given the money and power behind current corporately driven education policy, few tools for resisting are available. Of those tools, refusal to go along is both the moral and most effective choice. Thoughtful, caring parents won’t be bullied by test manufacturer propaganda or threats from those in Washington or state capitols who cling to the quaint notion that test-taking ability is a useful, marketable skill.

Marion Brady

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This is a sad story, but it is real.  It should not be dismissed lightly, even though it ‘happened in America’. It was still a real mother and a real child. It happens where the circumstances are conducive. Scaring kids is part of our education system. With the inbuilt intent that is part and parcel of NAPLAN testing – to frighten and stress children to get better scores on immoral, unreliable, useless tests – we can be pretty sure that this story has its counterpart here in Australia.  We Aussies don’t care much about kids, so there’s no sense in talking about it..  Australians have a casual attitude towards the mental health of our young; and our media would not be allowed to print a story such as this, in any case.  We all know that too many children feel ashamed when it comes to pressure on them to get better scores, but adults prefer not to talk about it, too much. Most schools and principals approve of  klein-type testing. Since a few million pupils have already been through the NAPLAN branding machine in Australia,  there are sure to have been; and we will have more casualties, such as this story portrays, as the years go on. Children can be very sensitive little people.

They can well do without the kind of child abuse and cruelty, now becoming endemic in Australia’s schooling system. For instance….

1. Testing of the data-collection kind is being introduced soon into Year 1 for Australian five-year-olds so that NAPLAN can have a starting point. Imagine being this age and having to undergo the test-stress that is imposed by order of the big masters. 2017 innovation!  Rotters. Only a maker of Don Dale chairs could have dreamed this up.  2. Stress tests already exists for Year 3 which contains mostly seven-years olds, the age that children start school in more sensible and advanced countries. We let it continue at this young and crucial age, even though we know it stinks.    3. NSW is going to attach the raw results of Year 9s to success or failure in the HSC, three years after. That’s a real doosy.The older the child, the bigger the chair. 4. NAPLAN is talked-about as if it was a part of school routine and always has been, whereas it was a dump–on,  an uncalled-for extra,  of elephantine proportions on an already over-crowded curriculum in 2008.    5. As unreliable and useless as they are, the scores are used by businesses and by private schools for admission purposes and judgemental opinions.  These groups, supposedly education- canny and knowing the value of a buck, reminds one  of Carson Robison : There’s sumpin cock-eyed somewhere.” 

Certainly the fear-based element of  kleinism used by the testucators,  is meant to cause stress and it is so unnecessary.  That’s what kleinism is.  As Ms. Gillard says in her autobiography, that’s why she …she and her pin-up boy….introduced it.  Sad Christopher Pyne thought it should be more ‘robust’ and gave over $30 million for Direct Instruction packages to selected schools!  Australia approves of the creation of stress in all places of detention [schools, gaols, migrant centres] as it did at the Don Dale Centre, where  our treatment of the young was brutally exposed. Physical abuse is easier to film. that’s the only difference.   We can cover-up NAPLAN effects even though the impact on the long-term  mental health of our youth is not much different from that used  at the Don Dale Centre.

You will have noted the increases in the  numbers of parents in New York [Klein’s legacy] who are opting-out of Standardised Blanket Testing in dramatic numbers, “…despite state attempts to pressure, brow-beat, threaten, cajole and distribute a huge case of PR-spin whirtles.” [Peter Greene]  More than one in five [ 20%] children in New York do not take the test. Real child-oriented Australians could make it 95% if they wished. [Kimberley College in Brisbane only tests 6 pupils out of a possible 200; and there are other schools around Australia whose almost all parents do not like the nasty thing anywhere near their school. Presumably, they talk to each others abut learning and evaluating and improving. ]

Far too many schools do not discuss evaluation or testing with their parents or distribute articles of an anti-NAPLAN educative kind.   They impose data gathering  on kids without reference. None seems to give parents the democratic right to chose whether they want their kids to do the tests or not.  No democracy involved. Have the parents at your school heard of Sir Ken Robinson, Gene Glass, Marion Brady, Diane Ravitch, Susan Obanian or read any of their articles?

We can beat NY,  All that Australian parents have to do is drop a note to their teacher “I do not want my child to undertake any standardised tests”. There are no legal no administrative complications if this simple action is taken. . That’s it.  Such an action will hasten the end of NAPLAN and schools will find some decent learning to do. For sure. If enough parents do this, our kids will learn a great deal more,  at a higher level;  and enjoy learning!

Please accept some serious advice :  OPT OUT NOW.  Don’t put it off. Don’t risk putting it off. OPT OUT.

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Phil Cullen  41 Cominan Avenue  Banora Point  Australia 2486  0   cphilcullen@bigpond.com             http://primaryschooling.net/                     http://qldprimaryprincipals.wordpress.com/

 Let’s think 

One Step Closer….

By Peggy Robertson

Reposted from Peg With Pen

Every time a child takes a high stakes test we are one step closer to the end of public education. Keep that in mind next year – especially if you are a student and/or have a child that doesn’t mind the test – know that the action of taking the test in fact is assisting in the dismantling of public education and the end of the teaching profession. I don’t spend my time helping people opt out because of some silly ole non-consequential test; I help people opt out because I know that submitting to the test – whether you do well on it or not –  will result in the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy.

For some reason the concept of “the destruction of the cornerstone of our democracy” doesn’t seem to really hit home with folks – not sure why – perhaps it sounds like sci fi…ha….if only.

Let’s look at it another way. While public education is being destroyed – whether your community feels it or not – our neediest children feel it in ways you and I could never imagine – that’s the ugly part that no one wants you to know about. Their communities are destroyed and their dreams often go with it.  So, the act of taking the test, while it may not seem to harm your child (although I would disagree), indeed harms many others.

If you refuse the test, you are helping save the lives of our neediest children. For those of us who know these children, just know that your gift of opt out/refusal will have an impact on their futures.

If you do not yet believe your school district is suffering from corporate ed. reform, please consider looking outside of your community and refuse the test for the children who currently feel the greatest impact from the punitive consequences of high stakes testing.  Please don’t walk on by. There is not much time left.