Living Life & Learning!

Monday, April 27, 2015


I hang out with a lot of homeschoolers and unschoolers. Most of us are aware of the Educational Industrial Complex. The process, that started in the 1980's, that began funneling large amounts of tax dollars into private companies in response to a booklet created by the Reagan Administration called "A Nation at Risk." In this document, policy wonks laid out how public education was failing our kids and how they believed we could fix this very important system to encourage the results we wanted. And so began a slow march toward standardized testing and teacher accountability standards or as I like to refer to it: the horrific state of affairs we now have. On aggregate, adding tests and accountability to our schools makes tons of logical sense - we need to define standard metrics that allow us to compare schools and districts across the US so that we can hold these systems accountable to the tax payers, parents and students they serve. Unfortunately, you have to "beware what you ask for, because you will likely get it." The push to testing and teacher accountability has been the focus of the districts' efforts and the students are the collateral damage. Schools shifted their focus away from a broad, liberal arts mindset of learning to a hyper focused, teach to the test model that makes it very hard for a school system to meet the needs of more than a small percentage of students. This has rendered large swaths of kids unserved and many underserved by their schools, leading many students to believe that they are somehow deficient and unworthy - just because #1 they don't learn in the way that schools choose to teach #2 they are not excited by the subject matter at the time (or ever) and prefer different subjects. or #3 they are not developmentally ready for the learning that is being required. The teachers have little time to bring the lagging students along so in the affluent districts, aides and helper staff is brought in to move the laggards up to acceptable levels and in the less well-funded districts, the capable kids are forced to be bored while the teacher works to bolster the kids who are falling behind. In both cases, students are losing. But this system of testing and accountability does not benefit the children, it was never supposed to, it was put into place to benefit corporations.
Prior to 1983 when "A Nation at Risk" was published, school was a very diverse place where kids from all backgrounds and capabilities could find a place to survive if not thrive. For some it would be on a college-track, for others it would be a vocational track - but many students found a place that would fit their unique style. Now we have a system that has pretty much obliterated the vocational track and placed value only on the college-bound track much to the detriment of our economy, the middle class and the students themselves as they struggle to pay for, finance and complete a college education that may or may not set them up for a future gainful employment. Joshua Katz speaks to the issues that teachers face and the powers (lobbyists, corporations and pundits) who have gotten us here in this TedX talk. Joshua Katz
While I don't agree with everything that Joshua Katz says in this video, he does lay out the challenges that teachers face and the reasons why we ended up here. I just don' think that many parents actually understand where the trend toward testing and accountability came from (I certainly didn't) and the corporate interests who are making billions in the process. In the end, changing this terrible reality seems almost impossible. Mainly because the constituents are either all so invested in maintaining their fiefdoms or they prefer to play the victim - which puts everyone on the defensive, so change from within will likely be elusive. That said, parents can be the catalyst that forces this 10 headed beast to stop the madness. The drive to step away from the Common Core standards is gaining momentum - and parents can have a big influence on pushing back on a system that is no longer working for their kids. My kids aren't even in school, but I have signed every petition I've seen. Any parent who has their kid in public school should sign as well.