Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, Article Medleys, Charters, DeVos, Privatization, Teachers Unions, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #23

De-Professionalizing Teachers,
Anti-Intellectualism, Vouchers,
The Destruction of Public Education in Indianapolis

DE-PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHERS

The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching

De-professionalizing teaching is just one front of the war on public education. Nancy Flanagan addresses the confusion of privatizers claiming that becoming a teacher is too easy through the traditional routes…colleges and university schools of education. She talks about the difficulty of the new Florida test that teachers must pass in order to become a licensed teacher…and then goes on to remind us that the same privatizers want to allow anyone to teach in private and charter schools…easier paths to teaching.

Here in Indiana, for example, the EdTPA which pre-service teachers must complete, requires intense attention to, and hours of investment in, teaching and planning lessons…and at the same time, REPA III allows anyone with a content area degree to start teaching in a high school with no experience in actual teaching.

The point? De-professionalize teaching. End the existence of the career teacher who has the best interest of the students at heart. Instead, fill classrooms with idealistic young college graduates on their way up the corporate ladder, who don’t really know anything about teaching and will accept minimal pay for parroting direct teaching scripts…and who will leave after two years, thereby making room for other minimal pay teachers.

Drive out the career oriented teachers by making the requirements for teaching onerous and expensive. Bring in the unqualified and inexperienced who won’t ask for benefits or pensions.

The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of “community-minded” candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can’t support a family or buy a home on a teacher’s salary.

Emphasis on the word cheap. This is about profit and control, not improving education.

In addition to shutting out promising candidates by stringent testing or changing policy to allow virtually anyone with a college degree in the classroom, policymakers, spurred by ALEC and a host of education nonprofits, are also de-professionalizing by:

  • Messing with pension, retirement and insurance packages to encourage young teachers to move in and quickly out of a job that has no financial future.
  • Bringing community-based artists, musicians, sports trainers and library aides into classrooms that used to be staffed by certified teachers.
  • Confiscating teachers’ professional work–instruction, curriculum, assessment, collegial mentoring, etc. Decisions that were once a teacher’s prerogative are now outsourced to canned curricula designed to raise test scores, or standardized assessments that don’t take knowledge of students and their context into consideration. Who should determine the curricular frameworks, design lessons and set goals for students? Teachers and school leaders who know the students and community where they work? Or a Gates-funded, agenda-driven organization?
  • Defunding the schools where the vast majority of professionally prepared teachers are working.
  • Borrowing from the success universities have had, by designing “part-time” jobs (think: K-12 “adjuncts”) with pro-rated benefit packages, a lure to get good teaching for even less money than base pay.

Do You Think Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher?

New York is considering allowing anyone to teach…because, after all, it really doesn’t require any special skill set to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and drill them on test prep materials.

The charter school committee of the State University of New York will soon decide whether charter schools will be allowed to hire uncertified teachers.

Forbes Says 18 Dumb Things

The Forbes article, Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better, by University of Chicago Law Professor, Omri Ben Shahar, announces that certified teachers are actually a detriment to our education system.

Peter Greene takes him to task on 18 of his statements which make no sense…to someone with any K-12 teaching experience, that is. Before you read Greene’s breakdown of Bar Shahar’s ignorant pontificating on a subject he knows nothing about, consider this…

Ben Shahar has three law degrees and two economics degrees. He’s spent his more than 20 year professional career working in higher education as a professor of law and economics. One look at his CV gives one a picture of a man who has spent decades perfecting his understanding of economics and law.

But nowhere in his experience has he spent time living and working with K-12 students and teachers. His claim that teacher certification makes public school education worse, is based on standardized test scores. One wonders if he would allow himself to be judged by the bar exam success rate of his students. He wrote…

…America has excellent higher education. Yet primary and secondary school students have long performed poorly on tests compared with students from many industrialized countries.

His understanding of what goes on in a traditional public school is based on what? His own experience? His children’s experience? What he reads in the media? It seems obvious that he based his entire argument on the fact that “many industrialized countries” have higher test scores than we do. The very fact that he uses test scores as the measure of K-12 public education success or failure underscores his ignorance. There are several reasons why the average test scores of American students are below those of some other OECD nations…and none of them have to do with teacher certification.

For example…

In other words, if you want to compare the achievement of America’s public school students to students in other countries, standardized test scores are probably the worst way to do it.

When Bar Shahar can match my 40 plus years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher, and volunteer in K-12 schools, then I’ll listen to his reasons why teacher certification doesn’t work…

This is the final line of the article, and nothing in it has been proven in any of the lines that came before. Great teachers are somehow born and not made, and they alone can fix everything, and they are apparently distributed randomly throughout the population. Somehow by lowering standards, lowering pay, destabilizing pay, and removing job security, we will attract more of them and flush them out.

That’s 18 dumb things in one short article. I suppose Forbes could get better articles if they paid less and let anybody write for them.

ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

Elevating Ignorance

It seems to be a source pride among some Americans, to be ignorant.

It’s irrational.

What is worth thinking about, however, is what has been termed “America’s Cult of Ignorance.” An article addressing that issue began with my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

VOUCHERS DON’T WORK, BUT THAT DOESN’T MATTER

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care About Negative Results of Vouchers

Here are some reasons that Indiana’s legislators don’t care about the negative results of vouchers.

Legislators don’t care. They want to send more money away from public schools. The results don’t matter. They have stopped claiming that vouchers will “save” poor kids from failing schools. No one was saved.

They don’t care. They want to do harm to the schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Why? I don’t know. What do you think can explain their determination to throw more money into vouchers now that they know they are ineffective?

Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

There’s no academic reason for vouchers. Politicians and policy makers ought to quit pretending that they’re pushing the privatization of public education “for children.”

Then there is DeVos’s promotion of tax cuts for the wealthy under the guise of vouchers. Vouchers are another avenue for school choice. Students take the money allotted to educate them in a public school and move it to a private school in the form of a scholarship. Yet even voucher supporters must reckon with research showing vouchers don’t work. If the most recent studies show that vouchers don’t work, how does that create equity for our students? If equity isn’t the goal, then why the need to pretend we need vouchers for our most marginalized families?

INDIANAPOLIS: THE “DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION” (DPE) MOVEMENT

A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This excellent post by Diane Ravitch explains how the Indianapolis public schools are being destroyed and privatized. The quote below is from a commenter…

Comment from “Retiredteacher

Privatization is like a creeping virus that slowing erodes the immune system and the ability to fight the infection. We have seen similar patterns at work in numerous cities. Privatization is the result of collusion between the local government and a variety of foundations backed by dark money, and it is supported by members of both major political parties. Supporters of public education must organize to fight back in the media, the courts and the voting booths. We should remind people that no system of privatization has ever solved society’s problems. The big byproducts of privatization are destruction of public education, increased misuse of local tax dollars, loss of democratic power, and increased segregation. Privatization is a massive shift of wealth from the working class to the wealthy.

Recognized charter school shuts down two Indianapolis locations

The last sentence below clearly states the bottom-line for charter schools…

According to charter school admission documents, the Shadeland Carpe Diem’s funding was composed of the following:

$245,000 Philanthropic Donation
$90,000 Federal Start-up funds (1st year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
The charter also gets $500/student from the Charter School Grant Fund. (This is a property tax replacement fund. Charter schools do not get property tax dollars.)

Like Indiana public schools, the Charter also received funds from the Common School Loan Program.

“In retrospect, it was really too fast, too soon,” said Carpe Diem Board President Jason Bearce. “We just weren’t able to get the enrollment to make the budget balance.”

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, CTU, Ravitch, Sagan, Science

The Charlatans Are Here

[Part 2 of 2: A followup post on the recent increase of anti-science and anti-intellectualism in America. Click HERE here to read Part 1, Standing in Denial, Rising to Power.]

GOOD TEACHERS RETEACH

What can we, as actual educators (not the Betsy DeVos kind), do to change the country’s direction when it comes to science, and to learning in general?

1. When students don’t learn the first time, good teachers reteach. As teachers, we can take it upon ourselves to reteach history, including scientific innovations and developments, to the American people. Even the know-nothings like Pruitt and Perry use science every day with their cell phones, their cable and satellite TVs, and their kitchens. It’s important to remember how those advancements came about. This, of course, won’t deter those who deny science or are “reforming” schools in order to enrich themselves. However, it might help support regular citizens who are interested in planning for the nation’s future.

As teachers, we must become active lobbyists. We should lobby parents, local, state and federal legislators and policy-makers to do what needs to be done to Make America Smart Again.

Teachers need to speak out, write to legislators, support public education advocacy groups like the Indiana Coalition for Public Education or the Network for Public Education, and educate their friends, neighbors, and relatives.

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

Specifically teachers should lobby for the following.

2. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

3. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 57th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Slovakia, Cuba, Singapore, Canada, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do…we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

4. The next step in countering the effects of poverty is to invest in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

5. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,

…including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.

6. Support students by lowering class sizes.

7. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, and vouchers for private and parochial schools.

8. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can’t overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. See .

9. End the scourge of high-stakes testing. See #2.

10. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.

Research-based strategies and proven models for improving the teaching profession should guide the maintenance and growth of a dedicated, experienced, and multi-racial teaching staff…In Finland, a country known for high-performing students, teaching is a respected, top career choice; teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, work collectively to develop the school curriculum, and participate in shared governance of the school…They receive strong professional support throughout their careers and ample time for collaboration with colleagues built into their workday. They are not rated; they are trusted.

11. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option. See #7.

12. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It’s time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.

More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, federal education policies still implicitly accept the myth of “separate but equal,” by attempting to improve student outcomes without integrating schools. Policymakers have tried creating national standards, encouraging charter schools, implementing high-stakes teacher evaluations and tying testing to school sanctions and funding. These efforts sought to make separate schools better but not less segregated. Ending achievement and opportunity gaps requires implementing a variety of desegregation methods – busing, magnet schools, or merging school districts, for instance – to create a more just public education system that successfully educates all children.

[Editorial aside: I disagree with one part of the above quote. It’s clear to me that federal education policies explicitly accept, and in fact, encourage, “separate but equal” schools in America.]

13. Acknowledge “that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.“✩

The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the expense of the people themselves.John Adams

These suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, “How can we afford that?” Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won’t cover everything.

A better question might be: how can we afford not to have these schools? Where else is public money being spent? We must invest in our children.

SCIENCE TEACHERS (AT ALL GRADE LEVELS)…

  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. “evolution is just a ‘theory'”).
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as your are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field…groups like

○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education

  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.

○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won’t be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today’s students…tomorrow’s leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),

Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

The charlatans are here…it’s time to step up.

[The numbered list, above, is taken from ✩Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch and ✪The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools from the Chicago Teachers Union. Quotes from those sources are noted either ✩ or ✪. Other quotes are linked.]

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, climate change, environment, Science, Trump, Tyson

Standing in Denial, Rising to Power

IGNORANCE OR PROFIT

Is it just ignorance, or the quest for profit, that has made the Trump White House (with help from the Republican Congress) one of the most anti-science administrations ever?

Just this past week, the United States was the only one of the world’s 20 wealthiest nations to reject the Paris Climate Accords. Even the worlds largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia, and the world’s largest natural gas producer, Russia, supported the Accords.

The Energy 202: Trump stands alone at G-20 on Paris climate accords

But at the end of what observers deemed the “G-19 1” summit, the balance of that equation stayed the same. Nineteen of the 20 attendee nations at the annual Group of 20 meeting reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord. The United States stood alone in abandoning it.

The U.S. stands – almost – alone.

The only other nations who have refused to sign on to the Accords are Nicaragua, because the accords aren’t strong enough to fight the danger of climate change, and Syria, which is in the midst of its civil war.

The President, however, has made it clear that he sides with the “science-deniers” and against the rest of the world.

DISSING EDUCATION

The assault on science is felt in education, too. Aside from the cuts to education programming proposed by the U.S. Education Department under school privatizer, billionaire Betsy DeVos, there is growing antagonism – even more than before – towards those who are educated.

The Pew Research Center recently released results of a survey showing that a majority of Republicans think post-secondary education (colleges and universities) has a negative effect on the country.

Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions

While a majority of the public (55%) continues to say that colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country these days, Republicans express increasingly negative views.

A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year. By contrast, most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.

Furthermore, the number of foreign students entering our colleges and universities has dropped, possibly due to more stringent restrictions on visas, or perhaps a more derisive attitude towards intellectuals.

The rise of Trump has given renewed power to this anti-intellectual attitude, under the encouragement of the anti-science blathering of someone who claims to be a “really smart person” (See Dunning Kruger Effect).

Know Nothings: On the Road to Taliban

Two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans said colleges had a positive impact on the country’s direction, with 37 percent rating higher education negatively. That ratio shifted to 43 percent positive and 45 percent negative last year.

IN THE SWAMP WITH THE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY

Perhaps the issue is one of greed, after all. Trump has given power to the denial of science by appointing unqualified, pro-energy industry people to head the science-based cabinet departments…people like Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon-Mobile, who was appointed Secretary of State with zero government or diplomatic experience. There’s Scott Pruitt at the EPA, for example, who has sued the EPA 13 times and has 8 cases still pending because they dared to fight his pro industry policies in Oklahoma. And Rick Perry, who, when he began as Energy Secretary, thought that his job required him to be a

…global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry.

Other members of the administration’s teams are equally ignorant, inexperienced, or entangled with the fossil-fuel industry.

The Deep Industry Ties of Trump’s Deregulation Teams

One such appointee [to Trump’s Deregulation teams] is Samantha Dravis, the chairwoman of the deregulation team at the E.P.A., who was a top official at the Republican Attorneys General Association. Ms. Dravis was also president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which brought together energy companies and Republican attorneys general to file lawsuits against the federal government over Obama-era environmental regulations.

The Republican association’s work has been criticized as a vehicle for corporate donors to gain the credibility and expertise of state attorneys general in fighting federal regulations. Donors include the American Petroleum Institute, the energy company ConocoPhillips and the coal giant Alpha Natural Resources.

The Republican association also received funding from Freedom Partners, backed by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch. Ms. Dravis worked for that group as well, which recently identified regulations it wants eliminated. Among them are E.P.A. rules relating to clean-water protections and restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. [emphasis added]

The anti-science crowd has been waiting patiently for someone like Trump and his followers to welcome them into power and reverse the progress we have made against climate change. The current administration is not the first to fuel resentment and suspicion of education among those who have not had advanced training. The U.S. has always had a strong anti-intellectual undercurrent. Trump is just the most recent of a long line of manipulators bent on dividing the people.

Manufactured Illiteracy and Miseducation: A Long Process of Decline Led to President Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s ascendancy in American politics has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic illiteracy, a corrupt political system and a contempt for reason that has been decades in the making. It also points to the withering of civic attachments, the undoing of civic culture, the decline of public life and the erosion of any sense of shared citizenship.

TIME TO CHANGE DIRECTION

Is there any way to reverse this trend, short of waiting until the next election? What can we, as educators do? There are no easy answers, but I’ll share some thoughts next time.

In the meantime, spend the next 5 minutes listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson tell why science, and truth, are important…

When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us.

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Posted in Anti-Intellectualism, asimov, climate change, Personal History

Isaac Asimov, January 2, 1920

[NOTE: I originally wrote this post a year ago and decided to update it in order to add the quote from and link to Asimov’s article in the January 21, 1980, Newsweek, A Cult of Ignorance, which, with the current political atmosphere in the United States, is even more important today than the day he wrote it.]

Today would be Isaac Asimov’s 97th birthday.

When I was in middle school and high school, Asimov was one of my most important teachers. This isn’t to say that my Chicago Public Schools teachers didn’t do their best to get this difficult-to-educate student motivated to learn…but Asimov did it better.

It was his science, not his science fiction that started me on the road to Asimov fanhood. I began reading his science essays some time in the early ’60s.

I had discovered science fiction when I was in middle school and started buying pulp sci-fi magazines. One of them, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (which has been in continuous publication since 1949), had science articles by Asimov. After I read one I searched the magazine monthly for Asimov, not science fiction.

I learned science from this reading, and as the years passed, I also learned more about Asimov the writer, and Asimov the person. He was a Renaissance man…a voracious reader and writer, knowledgable in dozens of academic areas, not just science. He taught me sociology, psychology, literature, history, philosophy, and religion. His books and articles were the ones which kept my interest…not my textbooks.

When I took science classes, especially biology and chemistry, I remember thinking that I was a real scientist, like Asimov. It’s interesting that in my generally unsuccessful high school career, the science classes were the only ones I consistently did well in. [It’s also likely that my father, with his Ph.D in Chemistry from the University of Chicago, influenced my interest and ability in science as well.]

Here then, in honor of his 97th birthday, are some of Isaac Asimov’s quotes.

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• A little less than two month ago, the United States ended it’s quadrennial Presidential election cycle. This particular campaign, and its aftermath (the election and subsequent cabinet appointments, for example), reminded me of Asimov’s article about anti-intellectualism called,

A Cult of Ignorance by Isaac Asimov. Newsweek, January 21, 1980

It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, ”America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?”

None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

The complete article, A Cult of Ignorance, by Asimov, may should be read here.

• Even as a professional, Asimov knew that discovery did not always follow expected paths. New discoveries sometimes just happen. The “teachable moment” is not something teachers plan. It, also, just happens.

• In an interview with Bill Moyers, Asimov asserted that people think of education as something you finish. Good teachers understand that learning is something that needs to continue throughout one’s life.

Asimov made his statement as a criticism of the current education system. Graduation makes education a “rite of passage” and many think that once they graduate, they’re done. In contrast, Asimov considered learning to be a life-long pursuit.

• In 1989 Asimov spoke about the greenhouse effect and how it can have an impact on the Earth. Listen starting about 1:30…[to about 7:00]. If he were still here his voice would surely be raised in alarm. The idea that humankind (Americans, at least) is denying real science in order to add to the profits of fossil fuel companies is the height of folly. My guess is that he would have choice words for the ignorance that seems to have enveloped the nation.

We are facing problems that transcend nations…

• Asimov taught himself to read before he went to school…and he graduated from high school at age 15. He went on to earn a B.S., an M.A. and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Columbia University. He left us with more than 500 volumes filled with his ideas, imagination and knowledge.

The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

• For more on Asimov…

My favorite non-fiction works by Asimov were his articles in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Those have been collected into quite a few books. My favorite Asimovian fiction writings are two short stories which later grew into novels: Nightfall, and The Ugly Little Boy.

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