Suits and Shackles
There are no excuses. Not for me. It is well past time for an old man to let go.
Alas, once again, I joined “the suits” without a suit to my name.
They told me it would be different this time. They always do. It wasn’t.
It was yet another “elite” group sitting at the feet of “power” trying desperately to throw power a kiss. The norm.
The U.S. produces many times too many teachers. But that’s ok. It’s ok because the teachers leave the profession in 3 to 5 years. We have shortages in some areas, because no wants the jobs given their pat and status. Any big School of Education would go broke if it produced just the teachers an area needed, we paid them well, and they stayed in teaching.
So, thank god, the teachers leave; we can then produce more and more. As an added bonus it gives the teaching profession little status and no platform from which to demand respect and good pay.
We could have solved this problem ethically—as Finland did—by producing the right number of teachers with rigorous training and paying them well. But, no, not us. Let’s get the “think tanks” to dream up an easy way out. “Easy” here almost always means that the solution does not cost any money or take it away from Schools of Education and that the “solution” makes more money for textbook publishers, tech salesmen, test makers, “reformers”, and policy institutions.
No, we chose the easy way out here. We chose punitive accountability for teachers (which was a debacle when we applied it to surgeons, who then operated only on people in otherwise good health). Punitive accountability keeps the system going: Produce too many teachers, with too little rigorous training, and then punish them so they leave and we can produce more. Unfortunately, punitive accountability also leads to the best teachers leaving teaching or taking off for a rich suburban school.
The argument the “suits” make is this:
It was all well-intentioned; the standards were good (weren’t they? weren’t they?); and the tests should have been—could have been, might have been—good (couldn’t they?), but maybe, yes maybe, they really weren’t.
Mistakes were made. To err is human. But, no, you don’t get the money back.
Nonetheless, we have to keep the system going—however flawed it may be—because teachers (not “us” by the way) need to be “held accountable” (accountable to teach some children a Pearson-made, teach-to-the-test, all-that-matters-are-facts-you-will-never-retain-over-the-long-haul curriculum while others—richer—get something a bit better, a bit less “open” and “plebian”).
It is always necessary for the “insiders” to argue that the politicians, foundations, and ideologues were “right” no matter how bad they made things, since “we” can then get money from them to change things. But to change them only so much as to exonerate their stupidity before the next round of dismay, keeping everything in place.
The status quo in terms of equity and “gaps” is no better—in some respects it is worse—than it was in the 1960s when we started. Yet “you” celebrate the “progress” your “standards” and “accountability” have made. Just tweak it, you say—with just a little more Gates money—and it will ALL be OK. No, it won’t.
It is endemic in the U.S. today that elites know about—can even be made to acknowledge—the real problem. But they will say “WE can’t do anything about THAT” (because it would cost someone—maybe even us—money and might upset the advantages and “access” we “reformers” and out families enjoy over the outcasts we are trying to “help”). Then they proceed to offer an “easy” solution, one that cannot work because it does not speak to the real problem. But the easy solution can “work” just long enough to benefit those who offered the solution and those who will follow in their wake to offer another one and another one.
The problem is not schools, it is society (bad society = bad schools)
The problem is not the economy, it is inequity (high inequality = bad economy)
In much of the world today the problem is not access to mobile devices, it is a lack of access to toilets (bad sanitation = death = no need for devices of any sort)
For many of our children, the problem is that someone put shackles on them and then made tests to see how well they could dance. The solution is to take the shackles off them, heal their wounds, and put the people that shackled them in jail, not a think-tank. The “easy” solution is to say that WE can’t do anything about THAT, so let’s just keep testing, teaching to the test, blaming teachers, and preparing poor kids for jobs that won’t exist and will pay crap even if they still do.
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