With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Critical Voices

Go to the blog site of the Forum For Education and Democracy this morning, and you will find important and provocative posts by three of the nation's more thoughtful educators and social justice activists.

Pedro Noguera, "Obama has a Long Way to Go on Education Reform", offers some praise for the president for keeping education high on the nation's policy agenda for speaking up on behalf of undocumented immigrant students. But Noguera doesn't let Obama off the hook.
There is no reason to believe that simply by raising standards, academic performance among students will increase, followed by higher graduation and college attendance rates. The hundreds of schools that Education Secretary Arne Duncan has labeled "dropout factories" are unlikely to be transformed simply because the bar has been raised.
Noguera takes Obama to task for being "boastful" and overstating the impact of Race To The Top. He argues that NCLB need to be trashed rather than tweaked or renamed.

There's a lot more that Noguera could have added in his critique of Obama-style school reform, starting with the whole approach of placing the burden for global economic and military hegemony on the schools--Obama's "Sputnik moment."

But much of which Pedro leaves out is then picked up by Jan Resseger, "Sad, Sad School Reform" and Forum director, George Wood, "Putting the 'F' Word Back in Education."   Resseger unpacks the myth that private operators are a key to turning around "failing schools."
It has become the vogue in today’s school reform, a movement driven by billions of federal stimulus dollars from the U.S. Department of Education, to assume private companies can operate schools better than public school districts...Privatization does not guarantee a school’s success and reliance on contractors is not a district-wide panacea. School reform in 2011 will continue to depend on dedicated educators creating communities where students are cared for and nurtured.

Wood, a high school principal in his other life, calls on educators to recapture the part of schooling that made learning fun and engaging.
 I am not calling for a return to the “good old days,” a time when some children were consigned to less-demanding classes and other children were not even allowed through the school house door.  But I do think we have lost something in our unending quest of lofty standards, more rigor and higher test scores. That something is the joyfulness of play, and the creativeness of curiosity.  We have separated our children from the very world that sustains them.  They will be poorer intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually for it.
I'm putting all three posts on my student's reading list.

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