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Education Reformers: Best of Intentions?

Regular contributor, David Greene, recently spoke as part of a panel at an education conference in Philadelphia about media and messaging in education and his perspective on how education reformers have reconfigured messages to meet their agenda. Here is a transcript of his position. If you agree with David or have additional thoughts please submit a comment to be reviewed for possible publication. –edCircuit 

I am a teacher, so I will speak as one. For 38 years I taught Social Studies and coached football in the Bronx, Greenburgh, and Scarsdale NY. Since retirement, I have worked with high schools to create and run experiential learning programs for their seniors, mentored new teachers, authored Doing the Right Thing: A Teacher Speaks, and have been actively working to support Public Schools any way I can.

Marshall McLuhan tells us that the medium IS the message and that every medium influences how any message is perceived. McLuhan wrote the following during the era of film, TV, Radio, and Print way before social media was a dream…. or nightmare ….depending on who uses it better.

“The world is now like a continually sounding tribal drum where everybody gets the message all of the time.”

“A princess gets married in England and boom, boom, boom go the drums. We all hear about it. An earthquake in North Africa, a Hollywood star gets drunk—away go the drums again.”

While we try to persuade the public differently, the drums constantly pound, much to our chagrin, as reformers have stolen our language of education and successfully used OUR vocabulary for THEIR own purposes.

For example:

Customarily, when local educators and communities make changes in local education in order to improve student learning.

Reform Usage: Lobbyists support National or State Education policy to theoretically save American Education… but in reality these policies provides for profits for a few. BOOM!

Customarily, when schools and their communities make improvements to their schools as they see fit to benefit their students

Reform Usage: Districts close public schools and reopen them as profitable charters. BOOM!

Customarily, teachers use “authentic assessments” to evaluate whether students know, understand, can do, and communicate what they learned while teachers provide immediate feedback with means to improve work.

Reform Usage: Administrators collect non authentic standardized test data and use it to evaluate teachers, close public schools, then open charters for profit. BOOM!

Customarily a level of quality or attainment in what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific stages of their K-12 education…often accompanied by educator written, flexible syllabi, and sample, not mandated, lessons.

Reform Usage: Flawed COMMON CORE curricula and prescribed lessons not written by teachers is forced on school districts to supplement standardized testing evaluations. BOOM!

Customarily, when students have acquired the various hard and soft skills, and traits, not merely content knowledge, to be able to adjust to and succeed at life after High School

Reform Usage: As in NYS – Students must graduate with at least scores of 75 and 80 on HS Regents English and Algebra Exams PLUS scores on grades 3-8 tests that are the equivalent to an SAT score of 1630, 80 points higher than the College Board’s own college readiness score.

Any School that cannot produce enough of these students is a failing school and must be closed and replaced by a profitable charter. BOOM!

Customarily relating to a community.
Reform Usage: “Common” public schools characterized by a “lack of privilege or special status” in need of reform that must be closed and replaced by charters. BOOM!

Customarily a basic, essential part…
For the purposes of describing it reform use… the inedible central part of some fruits. I leave the conclusions to you. BOOM!

In this teacher’s humble opinion:

We must regain control of the narrative and OUR language.

We must be clearer in, not just our objections, but in our suggestions.

We know what works.

We know good teaching and teacher preparation.

We know what kinds of school environments work best for students and teachers.

We know our most powerful audiences – the people – and must be sure we speak to them, Rather than Preaching to the Choir, using clear, concise, and precise language.

In short, we must use every medium to inspire more parents, more teachers, and more students to rise up against the abuses of our education system by those claiming to reform it and create more positive public actions like OPT OUT and whatever else it takes.

Let’s keep banging our drums.

To help us understand more about this issue…

The opinions expressed here are solely those of David Greene and do not represent the opinions of edCircuit and/or its parent company MindRocket Media Group.

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  • Interesting thoughts. I echo some of these thoughts in my book, “Teaching Lessons.” My focus is on changing the cultural infrastructure that surrounds the school process. I look forward to reading your book. Joe Willis

    March 17, 2016

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