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.

Education Readings May 26th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

What the Fidget Spinners Fad Reveals About Disability Discrimination

‘Autistic people (and others with developmental disabilities) have been fighting a war for decades. It’s a war against being forcibly, often brutally, conditioned to behave more like neurotypicals, no matter the cost to our own comfort, safety, and sanity. And those of us who need to stim in order to concentrate (usually by performing small, repetitive behaviors like, oh I don’t know, spinning something) have endured decades of “Quiet Hands” protocols, of being sent to the principal’s office for fidgeting, of being told “put that down/stop that and pay attention!,” when we are in fact doing the very thing that allows us to pay attention instead of being horribly distracted by a million other discomforts such as buzzing lights and scratchy clothing.’

http://bit.ly/2qYd6Bb

Arts education is vital to help foster creativity and innovation

‘I have a dream that this nation will achieve its full creative and economic potential and that Arts education will rightfully be seen as central to making this happen. It worries me that current thinking and policymaking around national innovation concentrates on increasing participation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects while the teaching of the Arts (dance, drama, music, media arts and visual arts,) is rarely even on the innovation agenda.’

http://bit.ly/2qY6baU

What Does it Mean to Be Educated?

‘Seeing all this, would a modern Rip van Winkle even send his kids to school? Or would he see school as helplessly behind the times and opt for a radically different path to give his children the education they actually needed to thrive in the modern world?’

http://bit.ly/2qlZXQ5

Reading Readiness Has To Do With The Body

‘We know that our little ones walk and talk on their own timetables. No rewards or punishments are necessary to “teach” them. Yet children are expected to read, write and spell starting at five and six years old as if they develop the same way at the same time. Academics are pushed on young children with the assumption this will make them better students. This approach is not only unnecessary, it may be contributing to problems such as learning disorders, attention deficits, and long term stress.’

http://bit.ly/2qdNz9R

Response: ‘The Toughest Part of Teaching Is…’

‘What do you think is the toughest part of teaching and how do you deal with it?

Teaching has no shortage of tough moments.  What are the most common ones, and how can we best get through them?’

http://bit.ly/2rj4qbq

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

How Children Naturally Learn

From Wayne Morris

‘In order for educational settings to be successful they need to be aligned with how children naturally learn. Children’s innate curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, playfulness, individuality, imaginativeness, resourcefulness, social intelligence, and love of learning need to be respected and supported.This isn’t rocket science, it’s just basic wise parenting and effective teaching. Most of us have helped children develop skills and learn informally, before they went off to school. And all of us mastered skills on our own, so this is something we understand intuitively.’

http://bit.ly/2rBonK6

6 Traits of Life-Changing Teachers

‘In education there’s a lot of talk about standards, curriculum, and assessment—but when we ask adults what they remember about their education, decades after they’ve left school, the answers are always about their best teachers. So what is it about great educators that leaves such an indelible impression?’

http://edut.to/2qQQMLa

How People Learn: An Evidence-Based Approach

‘Teachers will always need to use their knowledge of students and content to make professional judgments about classroom practice. However, we believe the art of teaching should also be informed by a robust understanding of the learning sciences so that teachers can align their decisions with our profession’s best understanding of how students learn. Unfortunately, our education system is rife with misconceptions and confusion about learning. So let’s clear away the myths and focus on well-established cognitive principles and their implications for the classroom:’

http://edut.to/2rS1fo5

Why Handwriting Is Still Essential in the Keyboard Age

‘There is a tendency to dismiss handwriting as a nonessential skill, even though researchers have warned that learning to write may be the key to, well, learning to write.

And beyond the emotional connection adults may feel to the way we learned to write, there is a growing body of research on what the normally developing brain learns by forming letters on the page, in printed or manuscript format as well as in cursive.’

http://bit.ly/2rWjW9s

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Testing our way into the 19thC!

Those with their minds firmly fixed in a patronising, mechanistic, or technocratic approach, always see measurement as the ultimate way of guaranteeing progress.Like any simple solution to a complex problem it is wrong -and has been proved so. Standard based teaching was the approach of education in Victorian times – each class was called a standard ( standard one etc) that you progressed to if you passed the test. In the early days, in the UK, teachers were paid by results their students gained in the tests. Maybe that is next on our ‘new’ governments agenda.’
http://bit.ly/2rW9kHM

Cathy Wylie outlines new wave of change for New Zealand Schools!

‘In 1989 an ‘earthquake’ hit education in the form of ‘Tomorrows Schools’.Now, almost three decades later, A  NZCER  chief researcher Cathy Wylie has written a definitive and compelling story of school self-management .Cathy answers the questions: What was the real effect of ‘Tomorrows Schools’? Has the New Zealand Schools system improved as a result? And what changes are needed now to meet our expectations of schools?’

http://bit.ly/TNlnzy

A Question Based Curriculum

‘I wonder what would happen if all the expert’s curriculums disappeared; and all the standardized tests? And, with them, all the technocrats who believe that everything needs to measured and turned into data. Anyway such people never bothered to measure anything important such as, curiosity, love of learning and persistence; the very things that mark out successful innovative individuals Instead consider what would happen if we decided to create entire curriculums from student question and concerns?’

http://bit.ly/2qXPrk0

Education Readings October 28th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

So who says competition in the classroom is inevitable?

Thanks to Phil Cullen for this link about what appears to be an excellent book.

‘In this extract from her new book Beautiful Failures, the Guardian’s Lucy Clark tackles the culture of contests and rankings at school, arguing that for children – indeed all of us – it is unnecessary and damaging.’

‘In personally questioning the role of competition in education I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me, yes, but life is competitive and school is just a training ground for the sort of competition our kids will face as adults in the real world.

Is that what school should be? A warm-up for the main game? A simulation of grown-up life, where we wake up in the morning, put on our armour and go out to compete in a dog-eat-dog world?’

http://bit.ly/2ewEhP4

Teaching is among the ‘top three most stressed occupations’

I doubt that this is news to teachers, and it’s getting worse.

“Of all the occupations I’ve studied, and that’s about 80, teachers are in the top three most stressed occupations,” he said. “The hours are long and antisocial, the workload is heavy and there is change for change’s sake from various governments.”   

http://bit.ly/2f8ybqg

The Ticking Clock of Teacher Burnout

‘Initially, I believed that Finland was an outlier with the amount of time it offers teachers to plan, assess, and collaborate on a daily basis. But, later, I’d discover that this kind of arrangement is fairly typical among countries that excel on international standardized assessments, such as the PISA. Take Singapore, for example.’

http://theatln.tc/2eHyX9i

Technology reform full of good ideas, poorly executed

Politicians, seduced by computers and online instruction, could do well to read this.

‘And perhaps the most disappointing finding is that technology seems of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students. Put simply, ensuring that every child attains a baseline level of proficiency in mathematics seems to do more to create equal opportunities in a digital world than subsidising access to high-tech devices and services.’

http://bit.ly/2eH6XWg

Teaching With Your Mouth Shut

‘The alternative to teaching through telling is what Finkel calls “teaching with your mouth shut.” In this model, teachers step back and become silent observers, rather than putting on a performance like an actor in a play. Instead of being “carriers of knowledge,” we become humble enough to say “I don’t know.” Instead of tightly controlling the learning process, we allow students to find their own solutions, thus “creating circumstances that lead to significant learning in others.” Refusing to teach through telling is also refusing to accept the traditional view of what being an educator means.’

http://bit.ly/2eNs9rF

The importance of creativity and shaking things up

‘So, circling back to the classroom, are we giving our pupils the chance to practice the skills required to become part of this creative class and reap the economic and personal rewards that come with it? My experience is that, on average, we are still preparing children and young adults for jobs based on outdated processes, subservience and narrow, short term thinking. To be fair, it is still the perfect system for anyone looking to become a university academic.’

http://bit.ly/2eSqtwH

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

Quality learning: William Glasser – ‘Schools without Failure’ ; and Jerome Bruner – solving ‘learning blocks’.

Bruce’s latest article:

‘A number of years ago many schools implemented the ideas of Dr William Glasser. Glasser had written a number of books  all with a focus on achieving quality work for all students without teachers using coercion. Glasser’s belief is that, with the appropriate conditions, all students can do quality work but, it would be fair to say, many teachers find this hard to believe.’

http://bit.ly/2eH4oDw

Why Education, Not Punishment, Is The Solution To Reducing Crime

A brilliant and touching TED talk illustrating how poverty is linked to prison rates.

http://bit.ly/2dXZuAN

How Can Schools Prioritize For The Best Ways Kids Learn?

‘The education world is full of incremental change — the slow process of individuals learning about new strategies and approaches, trying them out, improving on their skills, and hopefully sharing their learning with colleagues to continue growth. While that process is necessary and good, if the changes to education are all in the service of doing the same thing better, they may be missing the point. The world has changed since education became compulsory and the current moment necessitates an education system that isn’t just better, but different.’

http://bit.ly/2eccmBb

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Developing a democratic curriculum.

Relating back to the ideas of John Dewey James Beane  believes that if people are to live democratic lives they must have the opportunity to learn what that way of life means. His ideas are based on the ability of students to participate in their own education. Democratic schools share a child centred approach but their larger goal is to change the undemocratic conditions of school themselves and in turn to reach out to the wider community.’

http://bit.ly/1JglCA9

Pride through personal excellence

‘It seems these days teachers rush through tasks to ‘deliver’ or ‘cover’ the curriculum. The idea of doing things well has been lost in this rush yet we all know that pride of achievement comes from succeeding so well at a task we even surprise ourselves. As a result students produce little of real substance. Teachers are too busy proving what they have done to focus on the more important need to see each student does the very best work they can. All the criteria and feedback formative assessment means little if the teachers have no idea of excellence.’

http://bit.ly/2eSotEs

Experience and Education -John Dewey 1938

‘Such a lot of the ideas expressed today have their genesis in the ideas of John Dewey.That Dewey’s ideas have yet to be fully realised says something for the power of conservatism in education. ‘Experience in Education’ is Dewey’s most concise statement of his ideas written after criticism his theories received. In this book Dewey argues that neither ‘traditional ‘ nor ‘progressive ‘ ideas are adequate and he outlines a deeper point of view building on the best of both. The following are ideas he expresses in his book.’

http://bit.ly/17J12HR

Ennuic Schools

Aussie Friends of Treehorn

encouraging adults to think sensitively, to care for kids, to make wise choices….with their hearts, emotions and plain common sense in gear, ready to help children.

‘Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector, using its own forms of unionism and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Public Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been very successful. As a first step it captured and corralled  the leaders of various professional groups in Australia and arranged for mass ethical  gelding. It then cloned and dominated these associations that once used to stand guard on professional ethics, when they had balls….. Such organisations could rescue Australian schooling from the present doldrums….now….tomorrow…., but their pride in professional ethics and in high level enthusiasm for effective schooling has been successfully neutered and muted.”

 ENNUIC SCHOOLS

The Revised Version [20 July 2015]

 After 70 years since first facing a class of Year 3s, I’ve always had this deep desire for Australia to stop fiddling with schooling enterprises for a while and just THINK.  I remain optimistic about the possibility that Australia will, one day, think seriously about  its schooling/education system. Yes. [I have happened to note that things are much worse than they were in May , 1947].There have been one or two attempts in our past history to come to terms with a superior form of schooling, prominent amongst which was the establishment of a Schools Commission in 1973, with scholar Malcolm Skilbeck in charge….as you do {Google him]. His work in the U.K. since then, in the development of school-based curriculum has been seminal. The likelihood of school-based development of anything to do with basic schooling  in Australia  seems quite remote while testing children dominates the scene.. Schools are now controlled by a higher authority which treats schools as simple-minded collection centres for useless data that testucating measurers like to play with.

Despite this, I want to remain optimistic.  NAPLAN will go. One day.  It’s too damaging to Australia’s future to last. Entrapped in the serious corporate desire to control schooling as the big-end-of-town sees fit, schools have been forced to tolerate far too much dismemberment of children’s desire to learn.

 THINK. It’s 2016. We are on the edge of a schooling plateau, looking down

  1.  Disinterested adults now ignore the wonder of childhood to such an extent that its very existence is not relevant. Children are now regarded as hardened, little adult robots.
  2. The exercise of humane attitudes towards children is no longer discussed in the schooling context. Data matters, not kids. 
  3. Respect for children’s modes of individual development is now being totally  ignored. Remember “Each One if Different” by Prof. G.W. Bassett? Ye Gods!! That was 1962!  54 Years ago! Slow leaners aren’t we?
  4. The heart of a healthy, social, professionally ethical  and economically  secure learning environment for all has disappeared from our down-under island nation.
  5. The rich knowledge base and expertise possessed by classroom primary teachers is unused and generally ignored.

 Just in passing, Paul Wildman has reminded me of Sotto, E. (1994). When Teaching becomes Learning: A Theory and Practice of Teaching. London: Cassell. 230pgs. Only 22 years ago!

 You might be able to see, from my politico-schooling paradigm [attached], why I maintain a little bit of hope, however.  The designs show why we are held back.  Australia can only stand so much of NAPLAN-based  ennuic schools…..just going through the motions…..the stage that is all too common at this time.  NAPLAN is being ridiculed –CRAPLAN – with adjectives that we normally avoid. People are looking forward to the movie! Comic drama?  However. While schools are encouraged to be just formal and functional, collecting heaps of data, there’s a bit of grit left at this ennui stage; and recovery is possible. Australia badly needs innovative schools with enthusiastic personnel, independent in curriculum interpretations, icons of professional ethics; and happy places for children to attend, because of all the wonderful learning enterprises that are offered there. But…

 The Treehorn call over the years for adults to be more conscious of the damage being done at present,  has fallen on deaf ears. Classroom primary teachers and authors like Lucy Clark and her  Beautiful Failures, tell the story of the damage….and it’s serous stuff.

 Since 2008, the neoliberal corporate sector , using its own forms of unionism [They run the most powerful Unions in the country] and exploiting the most powerful elements of New Public Management [Managerialism on steroids], has been quite successful.  As a first step it captured and corralled the leaders of  various professional groups and in the style of ‘lambs to the slaughter’, arranged for the mass gelding of professional ethics.  It then cloned and dominated the associations that used to stand guard on professionalism…when they had balls.The Australian Primary Principals Association http://www.appa.asn.au/about-us/ was concumed by the Australian Government Primary Principals Association, http://www.agppa.asn.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2%3Ayour-new-agppa-website&Itemid=11 for instance…..according to plan.  Let’s not muck around with the semantics of the take-over. It now belongs to Simon.  Both deknackered Associations approved of NAPLAN and continue to support its crude exploitation. Captured! On hard labour.

Once strong on ethical behaviour, principals’ organisations and their networks acquiesced in obscene haste. There has been no serious public discussion regarding testing and system evaluation since…….none available to the public, that is.  Such organisations could rescue Australia from the present doldrums and positively alter the course of Australia’s future, but their pride has been neutered and muted.  Ethical muscle is being held in detention.

State governments themselves had no choice. They were captured first.  A piece of cake, really.  No testing; no money. The threat saw their knees turn to jelly. They sold their respectability without a question or a whimper. None seems to want the schooling business back. They just don’t have the balls to run their own schools properly. ….and any one of them could do a better job than they do at that funny-farm in Canberra.

 Since 2008 Australia has used an education system controlled by fear-based standardised testing techniques. Once state responsibilities Australian schools are, clearly, now run by ACARA…. a politico- kleinist  organisation established by Julia Gillard and a group of testucators. Children have been exploited in the interests of a greedy testing industry whose profits rely on the neoliberal way of doing fearful things to children.  Adults, in tune with the causal attitude  shown by school administrators,  don’t care much what happens to the kids. Treehorn will tell you more.

 I still wait for the teaching profession to grow in spunk terms and sternly exert its ethics based on the considerations of  effective teaching strategies, whose results would make Australia a proud nation.  It will happen. I’m optimistic.  Why am I so certain? I have never met a teacher who has joined the profession to be as nasty to our children as the present system demands…..and I’ve met a number who have left because of the lack of professional ethics. I reckon that most teachers are sick of NAPLAN schooling. We have some strong, great teachers in Australia. No classroom teacher that I know, favours NAPLAN.

 It should not be too difficult for the government to arrange to forgather large groups of classroom Years 1 to 10 to ask them to describe what compulsory schooling should look like.

 To help THINKING in ordered form, I have a couple of designs [Zone of Acceptance, and Belief and Control Systems ] that I find handy. How do you feel about such presentations? Do you have one to share?

 There will soon be a strong resurgence of professional ethics. One can feel it in the air.  Compliancy and heresy [the belief that fear works best in the teaching act] need to be discussed.   Principals and school administrators need to come out and stamp their authority at the same time….before  any more NAPLAN tests are allowed to persist with its damage to fair dinkum learning processes. Schooling needs to be returned to schools and its real teachers.

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

 Let’s think 

 

Education Readings September 23rd

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Fast policy: when educational research morphs into quick fixes and ‘silver bullets’

‘These new ‘actors’ in the field produce and promote usually short, easy-to-read and easy-to-implement glossy reports, which offer simplified evidence and give definitive solutions involving ‘best practice’, and where research knowledge is orchestrated to best influence government policy. Evidence is tailored to the needs of policymakers but also fits within the report generator’s own interests and agendas.

We call this type of report ‘fast policy’; that is, policy shortcuts via readymade examples of ‘what works’, which are often borrowed from other countries (or systems) and cherry picked to meet political needs.’

http://bit.ly/2cx7mIW

We are in “Deep” Doo Doo: Latest Buzz Word of Caution

Beware ….when will this arrive in your location?

‘Here it is: DEEP LEARNING

It’s something we can all start following/investigating.

It’s a word… like GRIT, PERSONALIZED LEARNING, CHOICE, and 21st c LEARNING…words that are code for corporate colonization… meet deep learning.”’

http://bit.ly/2cPgkUV

The Curse Of The Bell Curve

‘On a crisp July winter’s morning, I had the pleasure of spending 45 minutes listening to the fabulous Yong Zhao (YZ). For all 2700 seconds, I sat on the edge of my chair enthralled by what he said, the synapses in my brain tingling with passion and purpose. A few weeks later, my mind is left buzzing; his words still ringing in my ears. Which is why this blog post exists; my way of re-gifting these key messages (and calls to action) from such an inspirational gentleman.

So, sitting from the comfort of my chair, in the warmth of my wee house, it feels fitting to tell the ‘Sherlock-Holmes’-style tale of, “The curse of the bell curve”. Cue: the typical murder mystery introductory style music….’

http://bit.ly/2d0ETbA

The Child Predator We Invite into Our Schools

‘There is a good chance a predator is in the classroom with your child right now. He is reading her homework assignments, quizzes and emails. He is timing how long it takes her to answer questions, noting her right and wrong answers. He’s even watching her body language to determine if she’s engaged in the lesson. He has given her a full battery of psychological assessments, and she doesn’t even notice. He knows her academic strengths and weaknesses, when she’ll give up, when she’ll preserver, how she thinks. And he’s not a teacher, counselor or even another student. In fact, your child can’t even see him – he’s on her computer or hand-held device. It’s called data mining, and it’s one of the major revenue sources of ed-tech companies.’

http://bit.ly/2ddiqcq

The rearview mirror

Unfortunately what I continue to see is a vicious cycle where teachers don’t trust the administration when improvement is advocated, where governments want students to be creative and innovative but continue to support high stakes testing and where parents want more engaging learning experiences without schools daring to be innovative in teacher practice and school design. All these come together in the perfect storm alongside publication of  international test rankings and federal and state elections.

http://bit.ly/2crKfkF

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

What About the Rules? A Lesson Plan for Building Trust First

‘Before I start my second reading of the poem, I ask students to think about a teacher who has been one of their “hands-down favorites.” When the poem concludes, students turn their notebooks to page two to find their first task:

Your first homework assignment is connected to the poem I read to you today: “Dear Mrs. McKinney of the Sixth Grade.” For me to understand the type of teacher who motivates you to do your best work, I want you to write about a “good” teacher from your K–8 school life. Include specific examples from his or her class. Remember, first homework = first impression. Spend time writing your story. I am looking for the details in the story, not punctuation and spelling (at least not this time).’

http://bit.ly/2cPfM1b

How Creativity Works

‘What differentiates humans from other species is their ability to think, imagine, create and shape the nature. It is the creative fire that every human being carries within itself. Creativity is the ability to create the new, which does not already exist in our physical world. . Every human being is born creative, while children we live immersed in creativity, and along our growth, we are led to abandon it and follow patterns.’

http://bit.ly/2dnmvOq

Why Learning Should Be Messy

‘Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell.’

http://bit.ly/2cKC293

Messy Works: How to Apply Self-Organized Learning in the Classroom

‘SOLEs are short forays into the kind of self-organized learning that Sugata Mitra found to be so powerful.

In a classroom SOLE, Bechtel asks her students a “messy question,” something that doesn’t have just one right answer, then sets them loose to research the question in small groups. Students choose who they work with, find their own information, draw their own conclusions and present their findings to the whole class. It can be a bit chaotic, but Bechtel says that’s often good.’

http://bit.ly/2d4BieZ

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

Tapping into the student’s world

Schools to develop the talents of all students.

‘The stance taken about how children learn is vital. Those who think they know more than the child work out prescribed curriculums and, as part of this, develop elaborate systems to see thing as are being learnt – including National testing. This is the ‘jug and mug’ theory of learning where the teacher is the full jug and the teachers job is to pour knowledge from the full jug to the empty mug.For others the aim is to do everything to keep alive the innate desire to learn – or to ‘recover’ it if it has been subverted by prior experiences.’

http://bit.ly/1LwCrc8

Developing talent in young people?

‘Benjamin Bloom is well known to teachers for his taxonomy of questioning. In the late 80s Bloom wrote a book called ‘Developing Talent in Young People’. Bloom was interested in what contributed to the greatness of talented individuals and what role did schools play in their success.’

http://bit.ly/1MEXXaB

A new creative agenda for education required

In 2013 New Zealand teachers stood out against the Government’s agenda, and recently they did so again.

‘Teachers, it seems, have woken up to the true agenda of the government which began with the introduction of ‘Tomorrows Schools in 1986.The agenda is summed up in the acronym GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) – an agenda that will, when in place, will lead to the privatisation of education – the beginnings of which are to be seen in the push for Charter Schools. The corporate thinkers behind the GERM agenda see education as a fertile ground for private enterprise. As part of this agenda we have National Standards which will lead to National Testing and League tables all to allow for school comparison performance pay and parent choice. Choice, it seems, for only for those who can afford it. The trouble is that the standards will have the effect of narrowing the curriculum and eventually teaching to the tests.’

http://bit.ly/2cUJ8sF

Education Readings August 5th

By Allan Alach

I welcome suggested articles, so if you come across a gem, email it to me at allanalach@inspire.net.nz

Seymour Papert – Logo, Lego and constructionism – RIP

Education lost one of its greatest people this week, with the death of Seymour Papert. His book “Mindstorms’ should be in every teacher’s library.

Donald Clark:

‘Seymour Papert was a constructionist (not to be confused with constructivist), who worked with Jean Piaget and built on his theories to redefine how education could function on a constructionist basis. The Logo programming language was a tool he wrote to support this approach to learning and he was been a stern critic of traditional schooling.’

http://bit.ly/2aH0lSR

Papert – in his own words

Steve Wheeler’s tribute:

‘He was a stern critic of instructional and didactic forms of education, and was a champion of student centred learning, active engagement and creativity. These ideas will continue to inspire generations of educators to come, and his influence will not be dimmed by his passing.’

http://bit.ly/2aH1c5P

Daily Papert: Words and wisdom of Dr Seymour Papert

Over the years Will Richardson and Gary Stager have compiled a comprehensive site honouring the work of Papert and that provides access to a long list of his quotes and writings.  It is well worth exploring!

http://dailypapert.com

One Mother’s Story: How Overemphasis on Standardized Tests Caused Her 9-Year-Old to Try to Hang Himself

This story by Marion Brady speaks for itself.

“…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…’

http://bit.ly/2aoZ5Te

Milton Friedman’s Vision

If you’re wondering where the current education ideology started, that led towards tragic stories like the one above, this will answer your questions.

‘Friedman’s vision certainly has guided lots of folks in the past decade-plus, but he has also been proven wrong about pretty much everything. A choice system isn’t cheaper, isn’t better, and hasn’t provided anything except profits for many of the privatizers. But at least he was absolutely clear about the goal– turn public education into a private business, one way or another, and let folks make a bundle doing it.

http://bit.ly/2aUpRYN

How to Bring ‘More Beautiful’ Questions Back to School

Everything starts with a great question… Einstein as a teenager wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light – 10 years or so later, he came up with the Theory of Relativity. He maintained he was just passionately curious – an ideal mindset to foster in children.

‘Curiosity is baked into the human experience. Between the ages of 2 and 5, kids ask on average 40,000 questions, said Warren Berger, author of  “A More Beautiful Question,” at the Innovative Learning Conference hosted at the Nueva School. Young kids encounter something new, learn a little bit about it, get curious and then continue to add on a little more information with each new discovery. Warren says that’s where curiosity happens, in the gap between learning something and being exposed to something new.’

http://bit.ly/2alThyD

Students published their book “Reflections”

This article about an e-book published by students in Texas and Vietnam isn’t strictly an education reading but then again it’s a very worthy cause.

‘This book is their labor of love. We facilitators have left their ideas, expression, and discoveries their own. The stories, the joy and sadness, the humor, the wonder, and the learning are their voices–a true Teenage Manifesto of the 21st century. We have learned much from them and hope you will, as well.’

http://bit.ly/2aylNhz

Contributed by Bruce Hammonds:

The 1 Lesson That Will Sharpen Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence – the difference between empathy and sympathy.

‘Although most of us consider empathy a valuable and basic human trait, it often goes missing in day-to-day life. Just think of the major disconnect between many managers and their teams. Or how it’s so easy to hurt those whom we love, simply because we can’t see things from their perspective.’

http://on.inc.com/2b6obId

Ken Robinson: ‘You don’t want a caste system for creativity’

‘Schools’ drive for conformity is at odds with the rapidly changing world, where being flexible, curious and creative are more important qualities than ever. Engendering these qualities in future generations matters to adland and the wider creative industries because they rely on a steady stream of diverse thinkers who can creatively solve business problems. Robinson’s talk, delivered with his quiet wit and charm, made waves. A decade on, it is still the most popular TED talk of all time, last week surpassing 40 million views. Combined with his later talks, he has racked up almost 60 million views without any paid media spend.’

http://bit.ly/2aoXH39

Schools ride new wave in writing

Teachers use games and new tech tools to produce powerful prose.

‘“If you want kids to write about something challenging, you really need to put them in a position to discuss it first in an active, open-ended sort of way, because then they have something to write about,” Roberts says. It introduces them to the language they might use and the ideas they need to be able to manipulate to write with sophistication, Roberts adds.When students understand that the purpose of writing is to share ideas, they perform better than do students who are asked to write just for the sake of writing.’

http://bit.ly/2aUmyku

From Bruce’s ‘goldie oldies’ file:

A little bit of deja vu

‘It is all too easy to think what currently passes for new ideas are really new – just another version of ideas often lost when top down ‘experts’ ignore the reality of true learning.’

http://bit.ly/2aGLVlw

Does your classroom have the ‘wow’ factor?

‘The first sign of ‘wow’ is the overall first impression the room gives you. The feeling you get is that you are indeed in special place. There is a feeling of positive relationships between teacher and learners and often parents are to be seen quietly helping students. Other students seem to be working without supervision. A quick look around the walls, covered with students creativity gives an impression that this is a room dedicated to the students themselves.’

http://bit.ly/1FxlCvx

The killing of creativity by the technocrats.

The killing of creativity by technocrats like John Hattie

‘Be careful when using the latest jargon: ‘learning intentions’, ‘success criteria’, ‘WALTS’, ‘modelling’ and’guided practice’ or you will be leading your students to conformist learning and, in the process, limiting their innate individuality and creativity. As an antidote, at least, ensure that students appreciate the need for individual creativity and value their ‘voice’ in what they present.’

http://bit.ly/WeTrMo