Hugh Manatee Wins wrote:I get disgusted with psyops naysayers. Disgusted. Evidence sits on your face shitting down your throat and you ignore it?
Hugh Manatee Wins wrote:When I show back on page 5 of this thread that CIA-Hollywood has targeted teachers right in the middle of the social-control War on Teachers...and nobody notices...I get disgusted with psyops naysayers. Disgusted. Evidence sits on your face shitting down your throat and you ignore it?
slomo wrote:JackRiddler wrote:The real problem here is not the heterogeneity of the population, but the stubborness of the mainstream culture. It's very hard for Americans, both PTB and most others, to accept that a humane and cooperative and loving approach is superior to the constant competition and stress and authoritarian harangues of our rat race.
And so you run into not only the commodification of students in the US, but also the ideological barriers that are, in my mind, somewhat indistinguishable from the issues of indoctrination that came up in another thread (however clumsy the messenger).
http://www.noogenesis.com/game_theory/Gatto/Gatto.html1. From: "The Public School Nightmare: Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?"
"The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon's amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous "Address to the German Nation" which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders.
So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:
1.Obedient soldiers to the army;
2.Obedient workers to the mines;
3.Well subordinated civil servants to government;
4.Well subordinated clerks to industry
5.Citizens who thought alike about major issues. "
2. From: "Why Schools Don't Educate"
"Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the state of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted - sometimes with guns - by an estimated eighty per cent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880's when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard."
3. From: "An Interview with John Taylor Gatto on the Origins of Compulsory Education", in Flatland Magazine #11 © Jim Martin, 9/94.
"....The next step came in 1890, when Andrew Carnegie wrote eleven essays, called The Gospel of Wealth. In it he said that capitalism (free enterprise) was stone cold dead in the United States. It had been killed by its own success. That men like himself, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Rockefeller now owned everything. They owned the government. Competition was impossible unless they allowed it. Which, human nature being what it is, was a problematical thing.
Carnegie said that this was a very dangerous situation, because eventually young people will become aware of this and form clandestine organizations to work against it. Ultimately they'll bring down this edifice. You've got to read all eleven essays, sometimes several times, and only then the majesty of the design emerges. Carnegie proposed that men of wealth re-establish a synthetic free enterprise system (since the real one was no longer possible) based on cradle-to-grave schooling. The people who advanced most successfully in the schooling that was available to everyone would be given licenses to lead profitable lives, they would be given jobs and promotions and that a large part of the economy had to be tied directly to schooling."
4. From: "Modern Education and the Mass Marketing of Children"
"Look...at the seven lessons of school teaching -- confusion, class position, indifference, emotional and intellectual dependency, conditional self-esteem, surveillance -- all of these lessons are prime training for permanent underclasses, people deprived forever of finding the center of their own special genius. And over this time the training has shaken loose from its own original logic: to regulate the poor. For since the 1920s, the growth of the school bureaucracy and the less visible growth of a horde of industries that profit from schooling exactly as it is, have enlarged this institution's original grasp to the point that it now seizes the sons and daughters of the middle class as well. "
5. From: "The Six Lesson Schoolteacher." and The Seven Lesson Schoolteacher
"The first lesson I teach is: "Stay in the class where you belong."
"The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch."
"The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command."
"The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study."
"In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer's measure of your worth."
"In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched."
"The seventh lesson I teach is that you can't hide."
6. From: "The Curriculum of Necessity or What Must an Educated Person Know?"
A few years back one of the schools at Harvard, perhaps the School of Government, issued some advice to its students on planning a career in the new international economy it believed was arriving. It warned sharply that academic classes and professional credentials would count for less and less when measured against real world training. Ten qualities were offered as essential to successfully adapting to the rapidly changing world of work. See how many of those you think are regularly taught in the schools of your city or state:
1) The ability to define problems without a guide.
2) The ability to ask hard questions which challenge prevailing assumptions.
3) The ability to work in teams without guidance.
4) The ability to work absolutely alone.
5) The ability to persuade others that your course is the right one.
6) The ability to discuss issues and techniques in public with an eye to reaching decisions about policy.
7) The ability to conceptualize and reorganize information into new patterns.
The ability to pull what you need quickly from masses of irrelevant data.
9) The ability to think inductively, deductively, and dialectically.
10) The ability to attack problems heuristically.
You might be able to come up with a better list than Harvard did without surrendering any of these fundamental ideas, and yet from where I sit, and I sat around schools for nearly 30 years, I don't think we teach any of these things as a matter of school policy.
And for good reason, schools as we know them couldn't function at all if we did. Can you imagine a school where children challenged prevailing assumptions? Or worked alone without guidance? Or defined their own problems? It would be a radical contradiction of everything we've been conditioned to expect schools to do. If you want your son or daughter to learn what Harvard said was necessary, you'll have to arrange it outside of school time, maybe in between the dentist and the dancing lessons. And if you are poor, you better forget it altogether."
John Taylor Gatto
How public education cripples our kids, and why
I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time I became an expert in boredom. Boredom was everywhere in my world, and if you asked the kids, as I often did, why they felt so bored, they always gave the same answers: They said the work was stupid, that it made no sense, that they already knew it. They said they wanted to be doing something real, not just sitting around. They said teachers didn't seem to know much about their subjects and clearly weren't interested in learning more. And the kids were right: their teachers were every bit as bored as they were.
Boredom is the common condition of schoolteachers, and anyone who has spent time in a teachers' lounge can vouch for the low energy, the whining, the dispirited attitudes, to be found there. When asked why they feel bored, the teachers tend to blame the kids, as you might expect. Who wouldn't get bored teaching students who are rude and interested only in grades? If even that. Of course, teachers are themselves products of the same twelve-year compulsory school programs that so thoroughly bore their students, and as school personnel they are trapped inside structures even more rigid than those imposed upon the children. Who, then, is to blame?
We all are. My grandfather taught me that. One afternoon when I was seven I complained to him of boredom, and he batted me hard on the head. He told me that I was never to use that term in his presence again, that if I was bored it was my fault and no one else's. The obligation to amuse and instruct myself was entirely my own, and people who didn't know that were childish people, to be avoided if possible. Certainly not to be trusted. That episode cured me of boredom forever, and here and there over the years I was able to pass on the lesson to some remarkable student. For the most part, however, I found it futile to challenge the official notion that boredom and childishness were the natural state of affairs in the classroom. Often I had to defy custom, and even bend the law, to help kids break out of this trap.
The empire struck back, of course; childish adults regularly conflate opposition with disloyalty. I once returned from a medical leave to discover that all evidence of my having been granted the leave had been purposely destroyed, that my job had been terminated, and that I no longer possessed even a teaching license. After nine months of tormented effort I was able to retrieve the license when a school secretary testified to witnessing the plot unfold. In the meantime my family suffered more than I care to remember. By the time I finally retired in 1991, I had more than enough reason to think of our schools - with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers - as virtual factories of childishness. Yet I honestly could not see why they had to be that way. My own experience had revealed to me what many other teachers must learn along the way, too, yet keep to themselves for fear of reprisal: if we wanted to we could easily and inexpensively jettison the old, stupid structures and help kids take an education rather than merely receive a schooling. We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness - curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight - simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids to truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then.
But we don't do that. And the more I asked why not, and persisted in thinking about the "problem" of schooling as an engineer might, the more I missed the point: What if there is no "problem" with our schools? What if they are the way they are, so expensively flying in the face of common sense and long experience in how children learn things, not because they are doing something wrong but because they are doing something right? Is it possible that George W. Bush accidentally spoke the truth when he said we would "leave no child behind"? Could it be that our schools are designed to make sure not one of them ever really grows up?
Do we really need school? I don't mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what? Don't hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers have surely put that banal justification to rest. Even if they hadn't, a considerable number of well-known Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln? Someone taught them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever "graduated" from a secondary school. Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn't go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry, like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren't looked upon as children at all. Ariel Durant, who co-wrote an enormous, and very good, multivolume history of the world with her husband, Will, was happily married at fifteen, and who could reasonably claim that Ariel Durant was an uneducated person? Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated.
We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of "success" as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, "schooling," but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons. Why, then, do Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?
Mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for throughout most of the nineteenth century. The reason given for this enormous upheaval of family life and cultural traditions was, roughly speaking, threefold:
1) To make good people.
2) To make good citizens.
3) To make each person his or her personal best.
These goals are still trotted out today on a regular basis, and most of us accept them in one form or another as a decent definition of public education's mission, however short schools actually fall in achieving them. But we are dead wrong. Compounding our error is the fact that the national literature holds numerous and surprisingly consistent statements of compulsory schooling's true purpose. We have, for example, the great H. L. Mencken, who wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not
to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. . . . Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim.. . is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States . . . and that is its aim everywhere else.
Because of Mencken's reputation as a satirist, we might be tempted to dismiss this passage as a bit of hyperbolic sarcasm. His article, however, goes on to trace the template for our own educational system back to the now vanished, though never to be forgotten, military state of Prussia. And although he was certainly aware of the irony that we had recently been at war with Germany, the heir to Prussian thought and culture, Mencken was being perfectly serious here. Our educational system really is Prussian in origin, and that really is cause for concern.
The odd fact of a Prussian provenance for our schools pops up again and again once you know to look for it. William James alluded to it many times at the turn of the century. Orestes Brownson, the hero of Christopher Lasch's 1991 book, The True and Only Heaven, was publicly denouncing the Prussianization of American schools back in the 1840s. Horace Mann's "Seventh Annual Report" to the Massachusetts State Board of Education in 1843 is essentially a paean to the land of Frederick the Great and a call for its schooling to be brought here. That Prussian culture loomed large in America is hardly surprising, given our early association with that utopian state. A Prussian served as Washington's aide during the Revolutionary War, and so many German- speaking people had settled here by 1795 that Congress considered publishing a German-language edition of the federal laws. But what shocks is that we should so eagerly have adopted one of the very worst aspects of Prussian culture: an educational system deliberately designed to produce mediocre intellects, to hamstring the inner life, to deny students appreciable leadership skills, and to ensure docile and incomplete citizens - all in order to render the populace "manageable."
It was from James Bryant Conant - president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century - that I first got wind of the real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado. Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, The Child the Parent and the State, and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modern schools we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary."
Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole.
Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modem schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:
1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.
2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.
3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.
4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.
5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.
6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.
That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.
There you have it. Now you know. We don't need Karl Marx's conception of a grand warfare between the classes to see that it is in the interest of complex management, economic or political, to dumb people down, to demoralize them, to divide them from one another, and to discard them if they don't conform. Class may frame the proposition, as when Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." But the motives behind the disgusting decisions that bring about these ends need not be class-based at all. They can stem purely from fear, or from the by now familiar belief that "efficiency" is the paramount virtue, rather than love, liberty, laughter, or hope. Above all, they can stem from simple greed.
There were vast fortunes to be made, after all, in an economy based on mass production and organized to favor the large corporation rather than the small business or the family farm. But mass production required mass consumption, and at the turn of the twentieth century most Americans considered it both unnatural and unwise to buy things they didn't actually need. Mandatory schooling was a godsend on that count. School didn't have to train kids in any direct sense to think they should consume nonstop, because it did something even better: it encouraged them not to think at all. And that left them sitting ducks for another great invention of the modem era - marketing.
Now, you needn't have studied marketing to know that there are two groups of people who can always be convinced to consume more than they need to: addicts and children. School has done a pretty good job of turning our children into addicts, but it has done a spectacular job of turning our children into children. Again, this is no accident. Theorists from Plato to Rousseau to our own Dr. Inglis knew that if children could be cloistered with other children, stripped of responsibility and independence, encouraged to develop only the trivializing emotions of greed, envy, jealousy, and fear, they would grow older but never truly grow up. In the 1934 edition of his once well-known book Public Education in the United States, Ellwood P. Cubberley detailed and praised the way the strategy of successive school enlargements had extended childhood by two to six years, and forced schooling was at that point still quite new. This same Cubberley - who was dean of Stanford's School of Education, a textbook editor at Houghton Mifflin, and Conant's friend and correspondent at Harvard - had written the following in the 1922 edition of his book Public School Administration: "Our schools are . . . factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned.. . . And it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down."
It's perfectly obvious from our society today what those specifications were. Maturity has by now been banished from nearly every aspect of our lives. Easy divorce laws have removed the need to work at relationships; easy credit has removed the need for fiscal self-control; easy entertainment has removed the need to learn to entertain oneself; easy answers have removed the need to ask questions. We have become a nation of children, happy to surrender our judgments and our wills to political exhortations and commercial blandishments that would insult actual adults. We buy televisions, and then we buy the things we see on the television. We buy computers, and then we buy the things we see on the computer. We buy $150 sneakers whether we need them or not, and when they fall apart too soon we buy another pair. We drive SUVs and believe the lie that they constitute a kind of life insurance, even when we're upside-down in them. And, worst of all, we don't bat an eye when Ari Fleischer tells us to "be careful what you say," even if we remember having been told somewhere back in school that America is the land of the free. We simply buy that one too. Our schooling, as intended, has seen to it.
Now for the good news. Once you understand the logic behind modern schooling, its tricks and traps are fairly easy to avoid. School trains children to be employees and consumers; teach your own to be leaders and adventurers. School trains children to obey reflexively; teach your own to think critically and independently. Well-schooled kids have a low threshold for boredom; help your own to develop an inner life so that they'll never be bored. Urge them to take on the serious material, the grown-up material, in history, literature, philosophy, music, art, economics, theology - all the stuff schoolteachers know well enough to avoid. Challenge your kids with plenty of solitude so that they can learn to enjoy their own company, to conduct inner dialogues. Well-schooled people are conditioned to dread being alone, and they seek constant companionship through the TV, the computer, the cell phone, and through shallow friendships quickly acquired and quickly abandoned. Your children should have a more meaningful life, and they can.
First, though, we must wake up to what our schools really are: laboratories of experimentation on young minds, drill centers for the habits and attitudes that corporate society demands. Mandatory education serves children only incidentally; its real purpose is to turn them into servants. Don't let your own have their childhoods extended, not even for a day. If David Farragut could take command of a captured British warship as a preteen, if Thomas Edison could publish a broadsheet at the age of twelve, if Ben Franklin could apprentice himself to a printer at the same age (then put himself through a course of study that would choke a Yale senior today), there's no telling what your own kids could do. After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I've concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.
slomo wrote:The US schools with their own police
More and more US schools have police patrolling the corridors. Pupils are being arrested for throwing paper planes and failing to pick up crumbs from the canteen floor. Why is the state criminalising normal childhood behaviour?
The charge on the police docket was "disrupting class". But that's not how 12-year-old Sarah Bustamantes saw her arrest for spraying two bursts of perfume on her neck in class because other children were bullying her with taunts of "you smell".
"I'm weird. Other kids don't like me," said Sarah, who has been diagnosed with attention-deficit and bipolar disorders and who is conscious of being overweight. "They were saying a lot of rude things to me. Just picking on me. So I sprayed myself with perfume. Then they said: 'Put that away, that's the most terrible smell I've ever smelled.' Then the teacher called the police."
The policeman didn't have far to come. He patrols the corridors of Sarah's school, Fulmore Middle in Austin, Texas. Like hundreds of schools in the state, and across large parts of the rest of the US, Fulmore Middle has its own police force with officers in uniform who carry guns to keep order in the canteens, playgrounds and lessons. Sarah was taken from class, charged with a criminal misdemeanour and ordered to appear in court.
Each day, hundreds of schoolchildren appear before courts in Texas charged with offences such as swearing, misbehaving on the school bus or getting in to a punch-up in the playground. Children have been arrested for possessing cigarettes, wearing "inappropriate" clothes and being late for school.
In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 "Class C misdemeanour" tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later.
"We've taken childhood behaviour and made it criminal," said Kady Simpkins, a lawyer who represented Sarah Bustamantes. "They're kids. Disruption of class? Every time I look at this law I think: good lord, I never would have made it in school in the US. I grew up in Australia and it's just rowdy there. I don't know how these kids do it, how they go to school every day without breaking these laws."
The British government is studying the American experience in dealing with gangs, unruly young people and juvenile justice in the wake of the riots in England. The UK's justice minister, Crispin Blunt, visited Texas last September to study juvenile courts and prisons, youth gangs and police outreach in schools, among other things. But his trip came at a time when Texas is reassessing its own reaction to fears of feral youth that critics say has created a "school-to-prison pipeline". The Texas supreme court chief justice, Wallace Jefferson, has warned that "charging kids with criminal offences for low-level behavioural issues" is helping to drive many of them to a life in jail.
The Texas state legislature last year changed the law to stop the issuing of tickets to 10- and 11-year-olds over classroom behaviour. (In the state, the age of criminal responsibility is 10.) But a broader bill to end the practice entirely – championed by a state senator, John Whitmire, who called the system "ridiculous" – failed to pass and cannot be considered again for another two years.
Even the federal government has waded in, with the US attorney general, Eric Holder, saying of criminal citations being used to maintain discipline in schools: "That is something that clearly has to stop."
As almost every parent of a child drawn in to the legal labyrinth by school policing observes, it wasn't this way when they were young.
The emphasis on law and order in the classroom parallels more than two decades of rapid expansion of all areas of policing in Texas in response to misplaced fears across the US in the 1980s of a looming crime wave stoked by the crack epidemic, alarmist academic studies and the media.
"It's very much tied in with some of the hyperbole around the rise in juvenile crime rate that took place back in the early 90s," said Deborah Fowler, deputy director of Texas Appleseed, an Austin legal rights group, and principal author of a 200-page study of the consequences of policing in Texas schools. "They ushered in tough, punitive policies. It was all part of the tough-on-crime movement."
Part of that included the passing of laws that made the US the only developed country to lock up children as young as 13 for life without the possibility of parole, often as accomplices to murders committed by an adult.
As the hand of law and order grew heavier across Texas, its grip also tightened on schools. The number of school districts in the state with police departments has risen more than 20-fold over the past two decades.
"Zero tolerance started out as a term that was used in combating drug trafficking and it became a term that is now used widely when you're referring to some very punitive school discipline measures. Those two policy worlds became conflated with each other," said Fowler.
In the midst of that drive came the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, in which two students in Colorado shot dead 12 other pupils and a teacher before killing themselves. Parents clamoured for someone to protect their children and police in schools seemed to many to be the answer.
But most schools do not face any serious threat of violence and police officers patrolling the corridors and canteens are largely confronted with little more than boisterous or disrespectful childhood behaviour.
"What we see often is a real overreaction to behaviour that others would generally think of as just childish misbehaviour rather than law breaking," said Fowler. Tickets are most frequently issued by school police for "disruption of class", which can mean causing problems during lessons but is also defined as disruptive behaviour within 500ft (150 metres) of school property such as shouting, which is classified as "making an unreasonable noise".
Among the more extreme cases documented by Appleseed is of a teacher who had a pupil arrested after the child responded to a question as to where a word could be found in a text by saying: "In your culo (arse)", making the other children laugh. Another pupil was arrested for throwing paper aeroplanes.
Students are also regularly fined for "disorderly behaviour", which includes playground scraps not serious enough to warrant an assault charge or for swearing or an offensive gesture. One teenage student was arrested and sent to court in Houston after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other after they broke up. Nearly one third of tickets involve drugs or alcohol. Although a relatively high number of tickets – up to 20% in some school districts – involve charges over the use of weapons, mostly the weapons used were fists.
The very young are not spared. According to Appleseed, Texas records show more than 1,000 tickets were issued to primary schoolchildren over the past six years (although these have no legal force at that age). Appleseed said that "several districts ticketed a six-year-old at least once in the last five years".
Fines run up to $500. For poorer parents, the cost can be crippling. Some parents and students ignore the financial penalty, but that can have consequences years down the road. Schoolchildren with outstanding fines are regularly jailed in an adult prison for non-payment once they turn 17. Stumping up the fine is not an end to the offending student's problems either. A class-C misdemeanour is a criminal offence.
"Once you pay it, that's a guilty plea and that's on your record," said Simpkins. "In the US we have these astronomical college and university expenses and you go to fill out the application to get your federal aid for that and it says have you ever been arrested. And there you are, no aid."
http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/18/ ... west/print
January 18, 2012
The (Mis)education of the Coming Majority
Neo-Racism in the Southwest
by JORGE MARISCAL
The surge of neo-racism in Arizona, especially racism directed at people of Mexican descent, has received sporadic media coverage over the past year. But for the most part news about the economy and presidential politics has pushed off the front page Arizona’s attack against its working class of color and their children. In other words, the slow motion creation of a new Jim Crow regime for Mexican Americans in Arizona is not “trending.”
But what is taking place in southern Arizona deserves our attention as the most fanatical episode in the war against public education. Specifically, the question being posed is whether or not young people from working class communities and communities of color ought to be educated and if they are what are they entitled to learn?
Last month, the U.S. Supreme court agreed to hear Arizona’s appeal of a 9th Circuit decision that declared the draconian anti-immigrant SB 1070 in violation of federal law and therefore unconstitutional. In the meantime, those who promoted 1070 steadily go about their business dismantling the highly successful Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson school district.
At first glance, the ban against “ethnic studies” would seem to be a prohibition against an entire academic discipline. In reality, it is a narrowly targeted attack on Mexican American or Chicano studies. As former University of Arizona dean Sal Baldenegro reports, the ban leaves other “ethnic studies” programs in place.
Accompanying the elimination of Mexican American studies is a list of prohibited books. Shakespeare’s The Tempest leaps off the list as the most recognizable title. Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and well-known histories by Howard Zinn, Ron Takaki, and Rudy Acuña join the castoffs. According to the list, one-act plays by the Teatro campesino, short stories by Sandra Cisneros, essays by James Baldwin, and a speech by Cesar Chavez will be added to the bonfire (or at least sentenced to perpetual confinement in a local book depository).
The list of banned books invokes more ironies than I am able to unpack here. That a collection of short stories (Cisneros’s Woman Hollering Creek) whose main characters are young Latina women negotiating gender and ethnic roles should be on a list of banned readings seems silly. Silly unless one realizes that what frightens the right-wing Arizona politicians has less to do with the content of the books and more to do with the way they might be juxtaposed and interpreted by teachers who seek to empower their students.
Joining Shakespeare on the banned list is former UC Berkeley professor Ron Takaki. In his history of the United States, A Different Mirror, Takaki takes the image of Caliban from The Tempest and uses it to explain how Native Americans, African slaves, and almost every single immigrant group that has come to these shores—Irish, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Mexican, and so on—have been cast as the monstrous and dark outsider and fed through the grinder of white supremacy and economic exploitation. Perhaps the Arizona Inquisitors (as Rudy Acuña calls them) are smarter than we thought.
But there is one more stunning paradox. Although these books are banned for courses taught under the umbrella of Mexican American studies, many of the same books are allowed in other classes at schools such as Tucson’s University High where students are placed on a college track and exposed to a variety of uncensored curricular materials.
Could it be that the attack on Mexican American Studies in Arizona is less about “ethnic studies” and more about denying the right to education to the coming Latino majority (and to the Black community that the neoliberal consensus considers equally disposable)?
Across the Arizona border in California, we are witnessing a related transformation that is different in its details, subtler, and less openly racist. There are no Sugiyamas, Hornes, or Huppenthals, the henchmen of the Arizona Tribunal. But throughout the University of California and Cal State systems invisible technocrats are slowly destroying the public university and converting it into a corporate bastion where students from California are displaced by foreign students (who pay more), where students are “taught” in classes of 900 people, and where faculty are forced to become “entrepreneurs”–a fancy word for academic panhandlers.
At UC San Diego (UCSD), campus leaders recently published their three top priority areas for the future–all of them had to do with creating products for the market. The word “education” was not mentioned once. Academic areas that emphasize history and critical thinking are either shrinking or becoming a parody of themselves. The push for on-line education is strong–no need to interact with real students. We simply sell them virtual courses and have underpaid graduate students grade the work. Administrators brag that UCSD is no longer a California university; it’s an international university—this in a state that will be majority Latino by the year 2040.
As costs go up (more than a 300% increase at the UC system over the last decade), working class and youth of color will slowly be denied access. The few that make it in will have to take on serious debt to finish. The future? – Education for the already privileged and for a few tokens. Education as preparation for the job market. Education as the site of corporate-driven research. Education to train elites from around the world. No more critique of the status quo. Minimal engagement with local populations. A ban on critical pedagogy in the classroom. No interest in teaching strategies that empower youth, especially those who do not already arrive with an abundance of social and economic capital.
Back in Arizona, Yolanda Sotelo, now in her thirtieth year of teaching in Tucson schools, was informed last week that monitors would visit her classroom to make sure banned books were not being used. Teachers who assigned reading from prohibited titles would be reprimanded. Monitors would also evaluate all posters in the classroom. In other words, no critical thinking, no critical history, and no critical pedagogy for the new Calibans who must take their designated places in the market economy and forget their past.
JORGE MARISCAL has taught at both public and private universities for thirty years. His latest book is “Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons From the Chicano Movement ” (University of New Mexico Press). His website is http://jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/
Wombaticus Rex wrote:Well, I think it's keenly relevant...
How America made its children crazy
Now we know that computers don't help children learn and that drugs don't help them concentrate, because the establishment mandarins who sold us the computers and drugs have conceded failure. In the January 29 New York Times,  a prominent professor of child development shows that attention-deficit-disorder drugs only harm the three million children who take them. One out of 10 American children have been diagnosed with so-called Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and most of them have been medicated. 
Some months ago, the Times reported that test scores lagged in school districts that invested massively in digital education.  It does not seem to have occurred to the mandarins that computers cause attention deficit disorder. The brain is a machine, in the enlightened secular model, and so-called brain science teaches us to tweak its functioning with pharmaceuticals, or stimulate its development through digital approximations of intelligence. The grand result of a generation's worth of brain-science application is a generation of schoolchildren who are disproportionately illiterate, innumerate, anxious, angry, and unhappy.
Professor L Alan Sroufe's debunking of ADD medication in the New York Times contains this admission:
''Back in the 1960s I, like most psychologists, believed that children with difficulty concentrating were suffering from a brain problem of genetic or otherwise inborn origin. Just as Type I diabetics need insulin to correct problems with their inborn biochemistry, these children were believed to require attention-deficit drugs to correct theirs. It turns out, however, that there is little to no evidence to support this theory.''
That is an astonishing statement: in the mainstream view of the academic psychologists, the brain is another pancreas, except that its function is to secrete thoughts as opposed to insulin. That is to say that the psychologists have a pancreas where their brains should have been.
One really wants to light a torch and march on Frankenstein's castle, also known as the psychology profession. Until the passage of the 2005 Individuals with Disabilities Act, schools had the power to force children to take ADD drug, namely amphetamines, or bar them from classrooms, even when parents objected to the medication. I don't know how many children were harmed by the sorcerer's apprentices in school psychology offices, but the new research might provide grounds for some exemplary lawsuits. It turns out that the mainstream was dominated by cultists and loonies. The religious day schools, the home-schoolers, alternative schools like the Waldorf movement turn out to have been islands of sanity in a sea of delusion.
The psychologists of the 1960s also advocated instant gratification in all aspects of life, particularly sex, with the silly presumption that all individual and social problems were to be blamed on suppressing our urge to be gratified. Once children had limitless opportunities for gratification, abetted by ever-more-realistic (and ever-more violent and perverse) computer simulations, the psychology profession observed that attention spans shortened drastically, and presumed that a genetic deficiency was to blame. It sounds like bad science fiction, but it is standard operating procedure in every public school in the United States.
Learning how to learn is the point of education. We will forget the great majority of specific things we were taught: Euclidean proofs, the polynomial theorem, Roman emperors, French grammar, atomic weights, the poems of Browning, and whatever else was stuffed in our heads as schoolchildren. What we learned, if we learned anything, is to memorize, analyze and explain. If we know geometry, algebra or French today, it is not because we retained our knowledge but because we re-learned the subject. School, in short, taught us to concentrate. The most successful people are not the cleverest in terms of sheer processing power, but those who multiply cleverness with persistence.
The psychology profession, by contrast, thinks that the brain is a machine, and the best way to engage it is to use another machine, namely a computer. Computers, to be sure, do not kill brains; people kill brains with computers. Computers in the hands of people who believe that gratification is the highest human goal, and the quicker the gratification, the better, have devastated our mental landscape. Our children do not read; they only surf. They do not write; they only text. They do not plan and strategize in games; they react to visual and aural stimuli while inflicting simulated mayhem. They do not follow a plot: they cut among disjoined images in the style of rap videos. And when they fail to concentrate, we give them Adderall and Ritalin.
It is mouth-foaming, howling-at-the-moon madness, and it is our mainstream culture. The wired classroom hasn't worked, so the educational establishment recommends more of the same quack cure. The New York Times reported last September that computerized education has produced no measurable results, except for some negative ones (test scores fell after massive investment in computers). Yet the education gurus remain undeterred. ''The data is pretty weak. It's very difficult when we're pressed to come up with convincing data, ''Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the Times. Reporter Matt Richtel wrote: ''And yet, in virtually the same breath, he said change of a historic magnitude is inevitably coming to classrooms this decade: ‘It's one of the three or four biggest things happening in the world today.'''
The obsession with digital classrooms goes back to president Bill Clinton, who called for more computers in the schools in 1997. After 15 years of failure, the Barack Obama administration's National Education Technology Plan ''calls for applying the advanced technologies used in our daily personal and professional lives to our entire education system to improve student learning.'' 
The American elite, to be sure, does not subject its own offspring to this kind of digital treatment. New York City's most exclusive private schools, the ones with an acceptance rate lower than Ivy League colleges, do things the old fashioned way. Brearley School, sometimes considered the best of the private schools for girls, requires every student to learn an instrument and play in the orchestra (the only other New York school with this requirement is the Rudolf Steiner School). The Dalton School teaches chess to every student. Acoustic instruments, classical music, and ancient games with wooden pieces teach concentration span.
In Silicon Valley, Times reporter Matt Richtel observed in an October 22 feature, many of the Silicon Valley types who make weapons of mass dementia send their own kids to a school that bans computers until the 9th grade:
The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard. But the school's chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home. Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don't mix. 
That is the local Waldorf school, part of an education movement founded by the German mathematician and mystic Rudolf Steiner. Some of Steiner's ideas were strange, but his educational method - learning by doing - is robust. At the New York Steiner School my children attended, for example, 8th-graders learned the Renaissance by making copies of 16th-century scientific instruments, singing four-part Renaissance vocal works, and staging a play about the 17th-century physicist Johannes Kepler. The 9th-graders studied Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" by staging the complete play, rotating the cast so that every child memorized a couple of hundred lines. Waldorf schools require parents to promise to forbid television to their children in any form through elementary school.
At a showcase classroom in Arizona's most wired school district, Matt Richtel reported,
A seventh-grade English teacher roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They're studying Shakespeare's As You Like It - but not in any traditional way. In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare's characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare's lovelorn Silvius. 
Somehow, I don't think that's what Shakespeare meant by "as you like it." Web access in this case is simply a pretext to help seventh-graders to reduce Shakespeare to their own level, rather than allow Shakespeare to lift children up to his.
The Waldorf movement diverges radically from the mainstream. It tends to recruit crunchy-granola rebels against urban civilization who love acoustical instruments and handicrafts, as well as philosophy graduates of major universities with a deep interest in metaphysics. Some of the classical curriculum of the German Gymnasium of a century ago is preserved as if in amber. And the fact that so many of the Masters of the Universe of the digital age send their children to this countercultural throwback is a fair gauge of the degradation of mainstream learning.
Adderall and Ritalin, by the way, can't be found in any Chinese pharmacy (although expatriates can find small amounts of Ritalin at a couple of locations in Shanghai). It appears that Chinese children, who must memorize several thousand characters in order to complete elementary education, do not suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder. Two-thirds of Chinese children graduate secondary school, which involves a grueling exercise in memorization. As I reported earlier in this space, 50 million Chinese children are studying Western classical music (see China’s six-to-one advantage over the US, Asia Times Online, Dec 2, 2008). That's the same number of children aged 5 to 17 in America. Nothing builds attention span better than playing classical music. Granted that much of China's educational system teaches rote memorization, and that the majority of Chinese may not receive top-quality schooling, it is still the case that the absolute number of Chinese kids mastering high-level skills is a multiple of the American number.
America is the greatest country in the world, a unique and blessed land, while China remains under the rule of an authoritarian regime that alternates between benign and brutal. But we Americans have consigned our children to the purveyors of an alien ideology - the absurd doctrine that the brain is a machine - with consequences so devastating that the liberal establishment itself no longer can defend its core policies of the past half century. Worst of all, we have papered over our spiritual deficit by doping millions of our kids with amphetamines.
If China replaces us at the pre-eminent world power, it will happen because their children are smarter, more persevering, more ambitious and tougher than ours. And we will have no-one to blame but ourselves for handing our kids over to quacks and snake-oil salesmen.
1. Ritalin Gone Wrong, New York Times, Jan 29, 2012.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. LINK
3. In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores, New York Times, Sep 3, 2011.
4. Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology, US Department of Education.
5. A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute, New York Times, Oct 22, 2011.
6. In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores, New York Times, Sep 3, 2011.
http://hnn.us/articles/how-crackpot-the ... nal-policy
How A Crackpot Theory of Education Reform Became National Policy
By Mark Naison
Mark Naison is a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham's Urban Studies Program. He is the author of three books and over 100 articles on African-American History, urban history, and the history of sports. His most recent book, "White Boy: A Memoir," was published in the spring of 2002.
Future historians are likely to tell the following story: some time during the early twenty-first century, a cross-section of the American elite began to panic. They looked at the growing chasm between the rich and poor, the huge size of the nation’s prison population, and the growing racial and socieconomic gulf in education, and decided something dramatic had to be done to remedy these problems.
But instead of critically examining how these trends reflected twenty years of regressive taxation, a futile “war on drugs,” the deregulation of the financial industry, the breaking of unions and the movement of American companies abroad, America’s leaders decided the primary source of economic inequality could be found in failing schools, bad teachers, and powerful teachers unions.
No serious scholar, looking at the economic and social trends of the previous twenty years or the major innovations in social policy that have unleashed the power of big capital, gives the slightest credence to this analysis of the sources of inequality, but the idea that educational failure is the prime source of all other social deficits has taken hold with the force of a religious conversion. Corporate leaders, heads of major foundations, civil rights leaders, and politicians in both major parties have bought this explanation hook line and sinker, and so thus we have one of the strangest social movements in modern American history—the demonization of America’s teachers and the development of strategies to radically transform education by taking power away from them.
The consequence of this leap of faith is the idea that there has to be a centralized effort to monitor educational progress though quantifiable measures, coupled with accountability strategies that call for the removal of teachers and the closing of schools if they don’t meet their criteria. Through policies developed at the federal level, but implemented locally so that they affect every school district in the nation, scrutinizing teacher effectiveness has become a national mission with as much fanfare as was America’s efforts to put a rocket in space during the 1950s and 60s.
The centerpiece of this mission has been that teachers are to be judged on student performance on standardized tests, as there are no other “objective” criteria that could generate meaningful statistical information on a national scale. But America’s states and municipalities do not have consistent testing policies, so the feds have called for universal testing related to a nationally developed set of Common Core Standards, with the loss of federal funding the consequence of failure to comply.
This all sounds very rational until you look at it from the perspective of individual schools. To evaluate teachers through standardized test results, and do it across the board, you have to have tests in every grade and every subject. This not only means tests in English, math, science and social studies, it means tests in art, music and gym (or the elimination of those programs entirely, as some schools have done).
No public school has ever willingly tried doing something like this, and for good reason. It means that all that goes on in school is preparation for tests. There is no spontaneity, no creativity, no possibility of responding to new opportunities for learning from current events, either globally, nationally, or locally. It also means play and pleasure are erased from the school experience, since students will be under constant pressure from their teachers, who know that their own jobs depend on student performance.
What you have, in short, is a prescription for making the nation’s schools places of fear and dread, ruled by a test protocol that deadens minds and stifles creative thinking. Make no mistake, there are people who stand to benefit handsomely from this insanity—especially the companies who make the tests and the consultants who administer them—but anyone who thinks this level of testing will make America’s schools more effective or reduce social inequality has a capacity for self-delusion that staggers the imagination. Only people with no options would choose to send their children to schools run that way. The wealthy will send their children to private schools that eschew testing (and to a great extent they already do), and the somewhat less wealthy will withdraw from the system and create their own cooperative schools or engage in home schooling. Where does that leave the poor?
The saddest part about all of this is that the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, continues to push the testing regime with the support of both major parties and a cross-section of America’s corporate leadership.
There are few examples in American history where such a crackpot theory guided social policy this way. The most recent than springs to mind is Prohibition, which was based on the conviction that banning booze would somehow create greater social stability and save America from corruption.
Someday, test-based education reform will go the way of Prohibition, but not before incalculable damage is done to the nation's children.
Cuomo Sets Thursday As Teacher Evaluation Deadline
[New York] Gov. Andrew Cuomo today warned schools that he will propose his own teacher evaluation system on Thursday if school districts and unions can’t reach a deal by then.
Cuomo has been warning schools and the New York United Teachers union that he would include in his 30-day budget amendments a new system to evaluate teacher performance if the sides didn’t come up with their own agreement. The 30-day amendments—which are changes to the governor’s proposed budget that was released Jan. 17—are due Thursday.
“If you don’t have it done by the time I amend the budget, I’ll put in my own evaluation system because it’s taken two years,” Cuomo said today on the public-radio show The Capitol Pressroom. “We need the evaluation system. We’re also at risk of losing $700 million in federal funds if we don’t have an evaluation system.”
NYSUT and the state Education Department agreed two years ago to legislation that would strengthen teacher evaluations, in part by tying in student performance on standardized tests. Legislation adopted in 2010 helped New York secure nearly $700 million in federal Race to the Top money.
The law took effect this school year for teachers in grades 4-8 and their building principals, and will cover all teachers and principals in the 2012-13 school year, which starts July 1.
Many school districts have yet to agree on all details of the system with teachers unions, and NYSUT is in court trying to block some of the law from taking hold. The federal government is also threatening to withhold the $700 million if New York doesn’t get the evaluation system up and running.
Meanwhile, Cuomo wants the 2010 law scrapped. He is calling for a law that puts more weight on student test scores in evaluating teachers.
“I’m an optimist but I’m still hopeful that they will get there,” Cuomo said of the sides reaching a deal by Thursday. “In the meantime, I’m working on my own evaluation system that I will put in on Thursday in the event that the state education department and unions are still unable to.”
Cuomo said his plan would “be more straightforward. It’s a very complicated law right now.”
“Meetings and discussions continue,” NYSUT spokesman Carl Korn said today. “We are hopeful that a settlement can be reached before Thursday’s deadline.”
Schools We Can Envy
MARCH 8, 2012
Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?
by Pasi Sahlberg, with a foreword by Andy Hargreaves
Teachers College Press, 167 pp., $34.95 (paper)
In recent years, elected officials and policymakers such as former president George W. Bush, former schools chancellor Joel Klein in New York City, former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have agreed that there should be “no excuses” for schools with low test scores. The “no excuses” reformers maintain that all children can attain academic proficiency without regard to poverty, disability, or other conditions, and that someone must be held accountable if they do not. That someone is invariably their teachers.
Nothing is said about holding accountable the district leadership or the elected officials who determine such crucial issues as funding, class size, and resource allocation. The reformers say that our economy is in jeopardy, not because of growing poverty or income inequality or the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, but because of bad teachers. These bad teachers must be found out and thrown out. Any laws, regulations, or contracts that protect these pedagogical malefactors must be eliminated so that they can be quickly removed without regard to experience, seniority, or due process.
The belief that schools alone can overcome the effects of poverty may be traced back many decades but its most recent manifestation was a short book published in 2000 by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., titled No Excuses. In this book, Samuel Casey Carter identified twenty-one high-poverty schools with high test scores. Over the past decade, influential figures in public life have decreed that school reform is the key to fixing poverty. Bill Gates told the National Urban League, “Let’s end the myth that we have to solve poverty before we improve education. I say it’s more the other way around: improving education is the best way to solve poverty.” Gates never explains why a rich and powerful society like our own cannot address both poverty and school improvement at the same time.
For a while, the Gates Foundation thought that small high schools were the answer, but Gates now believes that teacher evaluation is the primary ingredient of school reform. The Gates Foundation has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars to school districts to develop new teacher evaluation systems. In 2009, the nation’s chief reformer, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, launched a $4.35 billion competitive program called Race to the Top, which required states to evaluate teachers by student test scores and to remove the limits on privately managed charter schools.
The main mechanism of school reform today is to identify teachers who can raise their students’ test scores every year. If the scores go up, reformers assume, then the students will enroll in college and poverty will eventually disappear. This will happen, the reformers believe, if there is a “great teacher” in every classroom and if more schools are handed over to private managers, even for-profit corporations.
The reformers don’t care that standardized tests are prone to measurement error, sampling error, and other statistical errors.1 They don’t seem to care that experts like Robert L. Linn at the University of Colorado, Linda Darling-Hammond at Stanford, and Helen F. Ladd at Duke, as well as a commission of the National Research Council, have warned about misuse of standardized tests to hold individual teachers accountable with rewards or sanctions. Nor do they see the absurdity of gauging the quality of a teacher by the results of a multiple-choice test given to students on one day of the year.
Testing can provide useful information, showing students and teachers what is and is not being learned, and scores can be used to diagnose learning problems. But bad things happen when tests become too consequential for students, teachers, and schools, such as narrowing the curriculum only to what is tested or cheating or lowering standards to inflate scores. In response to the federal and state pressure to raise test scores, school districts across the nation have been reducing the time available for the arts, physical education, history, civics, and other nontested subjects. This will not improve education and is certain to damage its quality.
No nation in the world has eliminated poverty by firing teachers or by handing its public schools over to private managers; nor does research support either strategy.2 But these inconvenient facts do not reduce the reformers’ zeal. The new breed of school reformers consists mainly of Wall Street hedge fund managers, foundation officials, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and policymakers, but few experienced educators. The reformers’ detachment from the realities of schooling and their indifference to research allow them to ignore the important influence of families and poverty. The schools can achieve miracles, the reformers assert, by relying on competition, deregulation, and management by data—strategies similar to the ones that helped produce the economic crash of 2008. In view of the reformers’ penchant for these strategies, educators tend to call them “corporate reformers,” to distinguish them from those who understand the complexities of school improvement.
The corporate reformers’ well-funded public relations campaign has succeeded in persuading elected officials that American public education needs shock therapy. One is tempted to forget that the United States is the largest and one of the most successful economies in the world, and that some part of this success must be attributed to the institutions that educated 90 percent of the people in this nation.
Faced with the relentless campaign against teachers and public education, educators have sought a different narrative, one free of the stigmatization by test scores and punishment favored by the corporate reformers. They have found it in Finland. Even the corporate reformers admire Finland, apparently not recognizing that Finland disproves every part of their agenda.
It is not unusual for Americans to hold up another nation as a model for school reform. In the mid-nineteenth century, American education leaders hailed the Prussian system for its professionalism and structure. In the 1960s, Americans flocked to England to marvel at its progressive schools. In the 1980s, envious Americans attributed the Japanese economic success to its school system. Now the most favored nation is Finland, and for four good reasons.
First, Finland has one of the highest-performing school systems in the world, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses reading, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy of fifteen-year-old students in all thirty-four nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United States. Unlike our domestic tests, there are no consequences attached to the tests administered by the PISA. No individual or school learns its score. No one is rewarded or punished because of these tests. No one can prepare for them, nor is there any incentive to cheat.
Second, from an American perspective, Finland is an alternative universe. It rejects all of the “reforms” currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.
Third, among the OECD nations, Finnish schools have the least variation in quality, meaning that they come closest to achieving equality of educational opportunity—an American ideal.
Fourth, Finland borrowed many of its most valued ideas from the United States, such as equality of educational opportunity, individualized instruction, portfolio assessment, and cooperative learning. Most of its borrowing derives from the work of the philosopher John Dewey.
In Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?, Pasi Sahlberg explains how his nation’s schools became successful. A government official, researcher, and former mathematics and science teacher, Sahlberg attributes the improvement of Finnish schools to bold decisions made in the 1960s and 1970s. Finland’s story is important, he writes, because “it gives hope to those who are losing their faith in public education.”
Detractors say that Finland performs well academically because it is ethnically homogeneous, but Sahlberg responds that “the same holds true for Japan, Shanghai or Korea,” which are admired by corporate reformers for their emphasis on testing. To detractors who say that Finland, with its population of 5.5 million people, is too small to serve as a model, Sahlberg responds that “about 30 states of the United States have a population close to or less than Finland.”
Sahlberg speaks directly to the sense of crisis about educational achievement in the United States and many other nations. US policymakers have turned to market-based solutions such as “tougher competition, more data, abolishing teacher unions, opening more charter schools, or employing corporate-world management models.” By contrast, Finland has spent the past forty years developing a different education system, one that is focused on
improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability, and handing over school- and district-level leadership to education professionals.
To an American observer, the most remarkable fact about Finnish education is that students do not take any standardized tests until the end of high school. They do take tests, but the tests are drawn up by their own teachers, not by a multinational testing corporation. The Finnish nine-year comprehensive school is a “standardized testing-free zone,” where children are encouraged “to know, to create, and to sustain natural curiosity.”
I met Pasi Sahlberg in December 2010. I was one of a dozen educators invited to the home of the Finnish consul in New York City to learn about the Finnish education system on the day after the release of the latest international test results. Once again, Finland was in the top tier of nations, as it has been for the past decade. Sahlberg assured the guests that Finnish educators don’t care about standardized test scores and welcomed the international results only because they protected the schools against conservative demands for testing and accountability.
Finnish teachers, Sahlberg said, are well educated, well prepared, and highly respected. They are paid about the same as teachers in the United States in comparison to other college graduates, but Finnish teachers with fifteen years’ experience in the classroom are paid more than their American counterparts. I asked Sahlberg how it was possible to hold teachers or schools accountable when there were no standardized tests. He replied that Finnish educators speak not of accountability, but of responsibility. He said, “Our teachers are very responsible; they are professionals.” When asked what happens to incompetent teachers, Sahlberg insisted that they would never be appointed; once qualified teachers are appointed, it is very difficult to remove them. When asked how Finnish teachers would react if they were told they would be judged by their students’ test scores, he replied, “They would walk out and they wouldn’t return until the authorities stopped this crazy idea.”
Sahlberg invited me to Finland to tour several schools, which I eventually did in September 2011. With Sahlberg as my guide, I visited bright, cheerful schools where students engaged in music, dramatics, play, and academic studies, with fifteen-minute recesses between classes. I spoke at length with teachers and principals in spacious, comfortable lounges. Free from the testing obsession that now consumes so much of the day in American schools, the staff has time to plan and discuss the students and the program.
Arno de la Chapelle
The Sakarinmäki and Östersundom School in Helsinki, which accommodates about 350 Finnish- and Swedish-speaking students aged seven to sixteen and also houses a daycare center
Before I left Finland, Sahlberg gave me a book called The Best School in the World: Seven Finnish Examples from the 21st Century,3 about the architecture of Finnish schools. The book is based on an exhibition presented at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010. When we visited one of the featured schools, I thought, how delightful to discover a nation that cares passionately about the physical environment in which children learn and adults work.
To be sure, Finland is an unusual nation. Its schools are carefully designed to address the academic, social, emotional, and physical needs of children, beginning at an early age. Free preschool programs are not compulsory, but they enroll 98 percent of children. Compulsory education begins at the age of seven. Finnish educators take care not to hold students back or label them as “failing,” since such actions would cause student failure, lessen student motivation, and increase social inequality. After nine years of comprehensive schooling, during which there is no tracking by ability, Finnish students choose whether to enroll in an academic or a vocational high school. About 42 percent choose the latter. The graduation rate is 93 percent, compared to about 80 percent in the US.
Finland’s highly developed teacher preparation program is the centerpiece of its school reform strategy. Only eight universities are permitted to prepare teachers, and admission to these elite teacher education programs is highly competitive: only one of every ten applicants is accepted. There are no alternative ways to earn a teaching license. Those who are accepted have already taken required high school courses in physics, chemistry, philosophy, music, and at least two foreign languages. Future teachers have a strong academic education for three years, then enter a two-year master’s degree program. Subject-matter teachers earn their master’s degree from the university’s academic departments, not—in contrast to the US—the department of teacher education, or in special schools for teacher education. Every candidate prepares to teach all kinds of students, including students with disabilities and other special needs. Every teacher must complete an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education.
Because entry into teaching is difficult and the training is rigorous, teaching is a respected and prestigious profession in Finland. So selective and demanding is the process that virtually every teacher is well prepared. Sahlberg writes that teachers enter the profession with a sense of moral mission and the only reasons they might leave would be “if they were to lose their professional autonomy” or if “a merit-based compensation policy [tied to test scores] were imposed.” Meanwhile, the United States is now doing to its teachers what Finnish teachers would find professionally reprehensible: judging their worth by the test scores of their students.
Finland’s national curriculum in the arts and sciences describes what is to be learned but is not prescriptive about the details of what to teach or how to teach it. The national curriculum requires the teaching of a mother tongue (Finnish or Swedish), mathematics, foreign languages, history, biology, environmental science, religion, ethics, geography, chemistry, physics, music, visual arts, crafts, physical education, health, and other studies.
Teachers have wide latitude at each school in deciding what to teach, how to teach, and how to gauge their pupils’ progress. Finnish educators agree that “every child has the right to get personalized support provided early on by trained professionals as part of normal schooling.” Sahlberg estimates that some 50 percent of students receive attention from specialists in the early years of schooling. Teachers and principals frequently collaborate to discuss the needs of the students and the school. As a result of these policies, Sahlberg writes,
Most visitors to Finland discover elegant school buildings filled with calm children and highly educated teachers. They also recognize the large amount of autonomy that schools enjoy: little interference by the central education administration in schools’ everyday lives, systematic methods for addressing problems in the lives of students, and targeted professional help for those in need.
The children of Finland enjoy certain important advantages over our own children. The nation has a strong social welfare safety net, for which it pays with high taxes. More than 20 percent of our children live in poverty, while fewer than 4 percent of Finnish children do. Many children in the United States do not have access to regular medical care, but all Finnish children receive comprehensive health services and a free lunch every day. Higher education is tuition-free.
Sahlberg recognizes that Finland stands outside what he refers to as the “Global Education Reform Movement,” to which he appends the apt acronym “GERM.” GERM, he notes, is a virus that has infected not only the United States, but the United Kingdom, Australia, and many other nations. President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top program are examples of the global education reform movement. Both promote standardized testing as the most reliable measure of success for students, teachers, and schools; privatization in the form of schools being transferred to private management; standardization of curriculum; and test-based accountability such as merit pay for high scores, closing schools with low scores, and firing educators for low scores.
In contrast, the central aim of Finnish education is the development of each child as a thinking, active, creative person, not the attainment of higher test scores, and the primary strategy of Finnish education is cooperation, not competition. I will consider the Teach for America organization—the subject of Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History—in comparison to the Finnish model in a second article.
—This is the first of two articles.
The best explanation of standardized testing is Daniel Koretz’s Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us (Harvard University Press, 2008). ↩
See Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education , edited by Michael Hout and Stuart W. Elliott (National Academies Press, 2011); Economic Policy Institute, “Problems with the Use of Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers,” August 29, 2010; and Center for Research on Education Outcomes, “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States,” Stanford University, June 2009. ↩
With essays by Pasi Sahlberg and others (Helsinki: Art-Print Oy, 2011), published in conjunction with the exhibition “The Best School in the World,” hosted by the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki, June 8–September 25, 2011. The exhibition will open in October 2012 at the American Institute of Architects’ Center for Architecture in New York City. ↩
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Future historians are likely to tell the following story: some time during the early twenty-first century, a cross-section of the American elite began to panic. They looked at the growing chasm between the rich and poor, the huge size of the nation’s prison population, and the growing racial and socieconomic gulf in education, and decided something dramatic had to be done to remedy these problems.
But instead of critically examining how these trends reflected twenty years of regressive taxation, a futile “war on drugs,” the deregulation of the financial industry, the breaking of unions and the movement of American companies abroad, America’s leaders decided the primary source of economic inequality could be found in failing schools, bad teachers, and powerful teachers unions.
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