Thursday, July 24, 2014

"The Forest..." -- Postscript, 25 July 2014

TO:        Edunationredux Learning Community

DATE:    25 July 2014

SUBJ:   Coping/Changing

Good morning.  

This is a brief postscript to the last Edunationredux post, “The Forest For the Trees…”  The reason, a trove of points of view that tumbled out of press coverage after “Forest" was posted.

An insightful article, “Why Do Americans Stink at Math,” was published this week in the NYT.  Its thesis is that America’s public school teachers are the vortex of that failure, but primarily because of the enabling of those failures  by our schools of education.  

That piece was narrowly preceded by a widely cited report from the source of the international PISA testing of school performance (the OECD), the regular basis for assessments that US schools are underperforming. The study’s finding:  Our public school principals hold seriously distorted perceptions of a property of their students.

Also popping after “Forest” posted, a revealing article in WaPo’s “The Answer Sheet" by an experienced public and private school educator and education administrator; "The many reasons 'I am ashamed to be part of the system.'"

Inside these conundrums, a complex of reasons why.  

One explanation is simply public education’s delusion-based coping mechanisms:  From a Board-Certified psychiatrist — “…psychological strategies used by individuals (and by extension—groups of individuals and even entire nations at times) to cope with reality and to maintain his/her self-image.”  “A defense mechanism becomes pathological when … it prevents being able to cope with a real threat and obscures ability to perceive reality.”

A second explanation is that many of our systems have evolved into implacable and dysfunctional bureaucratic enclaves, lacking effective oversight, and doing what bureaucracies do, resisting any change that might threaten loss of power or dollars.  This was an assertion in the “Forest” linked report a decade after “A Nation at Risk,” by EDUCATIONnext, titled  “Are We Still at Risk.”

Still another explanation from “Are We Still at Risk” was cited in our post: “Risk underestimated the tenacity of the ‘thoughtworld’ of the nation’s colleges of education, which see themselves as owners of the nation’s schools and the minds of educators, free to impose their ideas on future teachers and administrators regardless of evidence about their effectiveness.”

Much press handling of the “corporate reform” attack on the nation’s public systems slights the issues and risks to our current model of public education, even in places such as university communities that should reflect greater intellect and objectivity.  Indeed, the latter coverage and presumed delusions introduce double jeopardy for our systems, withholding from the public legitimate challenges to local school strategies and control, and masking building indictment of collegiate schools of education.

A very personally-felt case-in-point, because of 45 years of residency in the community, is Bloomington, IN, its principal press, The Herald-Times.  The allegation is that this press’ editorial function has in this century regularly censored or ignored coverage of virtually all larger public school reform issues, and of malfeasance throughout its MCCSC county school system. The damage inflicted on the community and its progeny for an unknowable time period — that may even extend to the publication’s alleged manipulation of information to support incompetent system leadership, and subjecting taxpayers to unnecessary school levies — is unconscionable even by civilian standards, and despicable by a community’s principal alleged free press.

The growing implications, of what may be material leaks of insight from public school systems that simply abhor transparency, are three:   That lifting the lid on too many of our public schools reveals negative BOE and system performances that have been too long covered up or publicly deflected; that our public systems’ flaws will become increasingly visible, further indicting our schools of education; and that for 34 years our alleged reformers, punitively targeting public school teachers and students with standardized testing (now bungled) and VAM, may have had the wrong culprits in their cross-hairs.  

Parenthetically, the latter assessment may also apply to this nation’s US Department of Education, and its principals, with both the NEA and AFT national teachers’ unions challenging the Federal reform stances taken, and now Arne Duncan’s continued agency leadership for cause.

One of the earliest lessons offered in even the most rudimentary treatment of the logic of inquiry or decision making, is to define the right problem.  Both our overall public education bureaucracy, and our alleged “corporate reform” horde, seem to merit a single letter grade to supersede the faux NCLB assessments and witless state grading:  An “F.”

Next on the Edunationredux agenda, some of our institutions of higher education, and some of their embedded colleges and schools, that are supposed to be this nation’s cutting edge for learning and innovation; but are they still viable, and for how long given questionable priorities and resource use?


      Ron Willett

Dr. Ronald Willett, 29 Canterbury Drive, New Bremen, OH  45869
Home:  419-977-2103   Cell:  419-202-2044

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