Monday, February 14, 2011

Some late night thinking about taking a stand or what Huck knew so long ago about praying a lie...

If it is not as a result of not knowing and it is not as a result of having not enough resources, then why do we continue to develop intellectually dull classrooms and schools? Further, why are the very teachers we most need to keep wanting to leave?

Are we so deeply afraid of uncertainty at the classroom, school, district, state, and national level-- that ordered dullness is privileged? Think about this: in order to nationally measure how we are doing, each state administers (a la NCLB) a set of paper and pencil tests to every public school kid in grades 3 through 8 and again in high school. The measures are at best poor. The measures gauging reading and writing achievement are artificial, lack relevance and rigor, and do not mimic what consumers and producers of text actually do. Constrained by time and money,we use subpar assessments and then value the results and consider them a measurement of truth.

We cannot be this stupid, or naive. So this leads me to wonder if we simply aren't so afraid of invention, so afraid of living wide awake lives (think Maxine Greene), that we are willing, perhaps even giddy to maintain the status quo (continual state of bickering about how bad we are) instead of facing our own limitations, uncertainties, and potential failures. It's our Huck moment when we stand with the paper in hand and have to decide if we are gonna pray a lie or go to hell.

Who do we stand for? What are we willing to lose?

I have left employment when I realized that I would need to undermine my beliefs and participate in being mediocre.  In every public and private school system I have worked in for close to 30 years, I have advocated for extraordinary talents who were often seen as problematic by other teachers and administrators and at times even parents. These are the educators (both teachers and administrators) and learners who not only saw how schooling might be different, but worked to make it so and were ostracized by such efforts. Their artfulness at teaching and learning called into focus, the paucity of work being condoned and done down the hall, across town, or in a neighboring city.

At the same time, I understand the organized attack on democracy via its public institutions.  I do get the political nature of the current fight at hand, but worry at those whose voices are most loud.  Are any of these people actually educators?  I realize why the effort to remove the discourse about merit pay, charters, and other distractions needs to occur.   It concerns me that the conversation (and characterizing it as such may be a stretch) is limited to expressions of pro and con. Are you for public education or are you for charters and TFA?  This is a silly question at best and contributes to keeping us mired in reinventing less than ideal education for the mass of children, especially poor ones.

And so I say here that I also understand that we will need to individually make stands and declare ourselves.  Are we so apathetic that we will continue to turn an eye to the awful teaching we see happening in the room next to ours? Will we stand when we see another educator take wrong action against a child? Will we stand when we are given some epic program to enact like we are robots and just go along with it lemming like? Will we stand when we hear colleagues telling us all about the students who cannot and not say, you are wrong. Will we stand when we hear colleagues make claims that are based on bigotry and distortion?  Will we stand in support of colleagues who are mavericks?  Will we stand for  those who most need our advocacy?  Will we stand for those who want to teach better and need support and kindness to do so?

Will we call forth our better selves, regardless of Arne Duncan, NCLB, Race to the Top, merit pay, charters, Common core standards, testing testing testing and not pray the lie?

Let's stop talking about everyone, and make our own individual stands.

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