Educated to Death

An educator's attempt at keeping sanity in a system that pushes children through an assembly line in little boxes.

Category: policy

0150: On Beating a Dead Horse #education #edreform #race #equality #class #SOSchat


So often the proverbial horses we beat are not all dead to all people. Equally, some of the windmills we fight are not windmills at all; some of them really are raging giants. I submit, the monster, the giant, the pulse of the horse is to be determined by those nearest to them. If you’ve beat your horse completely to death or conquer your windmill, congratulations. Move onto the next one or help me conquer mine.


0134: Why Teach? A Charge to Critical Educators #education #SOSchat #revolution #edreform #p2


As educators we must constantly assess why we continue as educators. We must examine our practice daily through reflection and evaluate whether or not we are teaching for what we deem to be the right reasons. It is up to the teacher, alone, what those “right reasons” are. There are many reasons for teaching, just as there are many reasons for education. Education as a system is dictated by various political and corporate forces; ignoring this is simply naïve. As educators, we are the final barrier between policy and the humans the policy affects (this flows up the bureaucratic continuum, as well— principals have some control over the way policy affects teachers and so forth). It must be noted that our refusal to carry out certain policies will undoubtedly result in disciplinary action of some sort, but if we deem a policy or anything stemming therefrom harmful to the learners in our care, it is our duty to disrupt said policy. I do not mean to say, at least at this point, that we should all openly rebel and refuse to do our jobs. Rather, we must be critical and vigilant in our pursuit of providing a “quality education” for the learners in our care. We must first identify within ourselves our own definition of quality education.

If the current system offers a complete and meaningful education with opportunity to learn, explore, and become more actualized then stay the course. If the system is beneficial to society as a whole, furthering the participatory processes necessary for the maintenance of an open society, then stay the course. However, if the system shows little or no intention of providing a context for enlightenment, empowerment, and even liberation, then the system cannot be considered benevolent and must be dismantled, and most certainly disrupted.

Teachers are not policy makers. We are at the bottom of the top-down bureaucratic pyramid. We have little say in what is prescribed for our classes and students, but we do have the choice to swallow the pill. We have the choice to follow doctors orders or not. I lean toward the belief that true education is necessary for people to be free, and fully human, especially in an institutionalized society. Humans should have a right and the power to determine how and if they are institutionalized. Society should be open. If we do not help the learners in our care build their critical minds and spirits, then they will never have a choice in anything. We did not have that choice. We were pushed through one institution and into others with little choice, many of us never questioned the validity of the practices that affected us, many of us still have not or will not. What I am proposing, I suppose, could lead to anarchy of a sort. Our institutions certainly provide structure, and there is a need, at least currently, for a structure. But, we, the People, should have a strong say in the structure. We have a right, a natural right, to determine what is best for us.

As teachers, we have the choice to provide learners with skills, tools, and experiences that will make possible their own personal enlightenment. We can also orchestrate their uninterruptible submission to corruption, consumption, and greed. We can mold critical free people, or we can create subservient sheep. I submit that my views may be absolutely wrong and should be questioned and scrutinized without relent, unless, of course, you find the critical spirit abhorrent, in which case you should quickly swallow any bit of snake oil sent your way. As educators, we must be critical. We must understand our power. We must act.

We are not radicals; we simply want what’s best for our students, our neighbors, communities, and countries. We will do what’s best. We will teach.

0131: #Education for Suppression and Control or Liberation and Enlightenment? It’s our choice. #SOSchat #edreform #p2 #OWS

If education is necessary for society to remain open or democratic or participatory, then what are we providing our students? Would it be too radical to say that engaging in stringently paced test prep, or test prep at all, drastically impairs the ability of a learner to grasp the concept of rule by the people much less participate in it? Education can function as a system of subversion or of liberation and enlightenment. A system that is built around a test can in no way be a system of liberation. I’m not sure that enlightenment can be standardized either. If we are aware of this, then why or how do we continue? Do we continue doing the same thing, the same bland test prep, the same churched up test prep? Do we continue to systematically disable the generation in our care (mind you we will soon be in their care)? If we remain passive, then we are the architects of their demise, and ours. We are building the machine that will destroy us.

If we, as educators, are believers in open, democratic, and participatory societies, then we must resist. We must survive, yes, but resist more. We must do everything in our classrooms to ensure learners learn to participate, learn to become critical, learn to smell and identify shit when shit abounds. We must enable thinkers and doers, not sitters and getters. We are not blameless if students leave our classrooms as passive automatons. Find a way to disrupt and resist corruption. We must find a way to affect things outside our classrooms. We must engage other teachers in resistance. We must encourage teachers to really teach. We must engage each other in dialogue that leads to informed and effective action. We must find a way to effect policy. We must disrupt and alter, for the better, the punitive top down measures that stand to prevent the possibility of liberating and enlightening education.

Most important, we must connect with and support one another. We must engage others. The change necessary cannot be implemented by a few, if it is we stand to see another version of the same system emerge, only with a slight twist. We, educators, parents, lovers of democracy and open society, must stand together and build support for whatever change we see as best. Power in education has been in the wrong hands for too long. The pendulum need not swing the other day. The pendulum needs to stop swinging all together. The paradigm has shifted, but the pendulum still stands swinging as a political seismograph. As long as education is dictated by those whose interests lie outside the realm of education, then the education that enables critical thought and participation will not be possible. If we’re fine with the current system, then we should let it stand. If we’re not, then we should change it. But, it will not change if we remain passive. It will not change if we or our neighbors are asleep. For now, it’s time to wake up.

0127: Can We Build a Grassroots Movement with enough Power to Really Change #Education? #edreform #SOSchat #occupyedu

Something drastic needs to be done to alter the course of public education. It has become a testocracy. Curriculums have been molded to dictate that instruction revolves around test prep, rather than best practices in education. The culture of education, teaching, and learning have changed drastically as a result of the testing industry. Regardless of the industries intentions, money is being wasted on testing. Millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars have been and are being poured into this industry and related products and services. Many are being crushed under the weight. Ultimately, a generation has received an inappropriate and lacking education. How can we fix this?

I’d like to propose a grassroots movement and organization designed to educate and empower teachers, administrators, and the public about the disastrous effects of the propagation of this education debacle. Perhaps the organization could be called the Center for Teacher Empowerment, or maybe the National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE). The group/movement will work to empower education professionals to create and implement change in classrooms, schools, districts and in state and national politics. The goal will be to empower educator-activists and support them as they enable education communities to create sustainable change from within. Simultaneously, the group/movement will need to acquire and develop a powerful political voice that can influence and dictate policy change. Additionally, attention needs to be granted to changing public opinion about educators and education. The public needs to be educated. Propaganda needs to be countered.

A summary:

National Organization for Teacher Empowerment (NOTE)


1. Empower and educate education-activists to implement and organize sustainable change within their immediate area (classroom, building, district).

2. Build a diverse and powerful grassroots network of educators, parents, communities dedicated to proper educational change.

3. Develop an influential political voice on local, state, and national level.

4. Correct public opinion of educators. Counter negative, show positive, and progressive.

5. Build support

It is important that we talk about making reflective and powerful change. Inaction and silence are not an option. We must carefully build support and take great care not to alienate supporters. I’d like this to be an open conversation. Is something of this magnitude doable? Help me define some goals, tactics, and options. Let’s look at what exists. Let’s join forces. Let’s continue working.

0125: Dear #Students, Take Back Your #Education #SOSchat @DianeRavitch #occupyedu #revolution

What will it take for learners to take matters of testing into their own hands? Can it be done? Students subconsciously resist abusive testing practices through ‘means’ that have created the classroom management focus we have today. Resistance, conscious or subconscious, is not an option. The human spirit requires rebellion to counter oppression— always. But, what will it take to move this rebellion to the front of the mind? What will be the catalyst for a truly organized kids liberation? Voices from teachers and parents ring loudly against the constant onslaught of corporate reforms and ridiculous education practices. We talk and talk. We continue to teach, when and how we can. Students continue to struggle. The learners are beneath the heel of this entire debacle.

What would happen if, come test day, students didn’t show up at all? What if they all showed up with, say, a stomach bug and soiled all the testing materials with vomit? What if they broke their no. 2 pencils and walked out? What if learners all stood up and demanded to be taught? What if they halted all education until it became their education?

Children are being treated as pawns in this education nightmare. No one should be a victim of his/her education. No one.

Until some mass resistance by students PK-12 begins to end this crisis, there will be minimal change, a lot of rhetoric, and wasted education. We will stand beside you as you continue resisting in your souls and actions. But, we are adults, we grow more and more powerless, we divide into camps and fear for our jobs. We do not have the answer here. The time has come for the children’s liberation once again. Perhaps there is a Mother Jones among you, us, or they? Learners unite, and demand your education. It’s time to flip this pyramid on its point.

Please pass this along. Give it to students, teachers, parents. Education can no longer be denied and deformed.


0119: #Education, Doublespeak, and a Guillotine? #teaching #SOSchat #revolution

Quality teaching means two things. Her test scores reflect her quality teaching; or, her commitment to her students reflect her quality teaching. One statements reflect a commitment to test scores, the other to students. Does the public have a means of determining the difference? Only if they’re aware that there should be a distinction to be made. Many teachers are not even aware that there should be a difference. It’s difficult for a teacher to separate themselves from their test scores. It’s a cognitive miracle. The importance of the test is constantly reinforced through slogans, media, and, of course, evaluations. The slogans are branded onto the psyches of children from kindergarten fore. Teachers are asked (required) to participate in the branding— after all, it’s their job on the line. It behooves a teacher to create a test taking machine, further, a self-motivated test taking machine. It makes the work easier. Full buy-in to the testing system means success for all, or at least uniform massification for all. Dissidents beware. Anyone who speaks against the system, teachers, students, or parents, should expect to be branded a radical yahoo. Dissent will make the system crumble. Students who resist are suspended, expelled, remediated, and so forth. Student dissent is often subconscious and springs forth from the knowledge that forced compliance is unnatural. Defiant teachers are ostracized until they comply. They receive poor evaluations, are put on improvement plans, or fired. Some are just considered radical, and have to function more like spies than “teachers”. It’s an act of sneakily teaching the student with the appearance of teaching the test. A conscious teacher must be a master of doublespeak and fully aware of the doublethink required to function in the education system. Principals who dissent are brutalized and blackballed and the punitive measures continue to the top I’m sure. The carnage is widespread, but covert. The ones harmed the deepest are the students and teachers, oh, and society as people function less and less as human beings and more as automatons. People are being corralled into increasingly separated classes and camps. The poor, and barely making it in one camp, and the demigod rulers somewhere else— somewhere like the heavens where healthcare, literacy, and vacations are copious. Where is the solution? Who knows? Perhaps in community involvement, or better teacher evals. Maybe in representative democracy. Hell, maybe it’s somewhere in 18th century France. Viva la value-added measures my ass.

0113: What Happened to the Learning? #SOSchat #testingisnotteaching #edreform @arneduncan

I heard a veteran teacher, principal, and school board member (all the same person) speak yesterday. She entered public schools before segregation. She spoke passionately about her love of public schools. She, like many, expressed how she learned to read, write, think, speak, problem solve, cooperate, and collaborate in public schools. Her children did too. I did. I know many others who did too. What has happened? Why were we different? None of us were from the wealthy elite. I finished school just before testing became the end all be all. The school was large, mostly free lunch, and had problems, but people learned, left, became employed, went to college. This was in Mississippi by the way. The veteran educator who spoke was from an inner city district in Tennessee. Learning has happened for years. It seems to have suddenly ceased.

Did the learning stop because testing, that is the great high stakes standardized test? I couldn’t say, but then again maybe I could. Perhaps the test itself didn’t destroy the minds of a generation, but it required that it happen. Testing, as many know, has taken and continues to take every resource— mental, physical, and monetary— and put it toward some type of test preparation. Basic skills are neglected for the sake of a pacing guide. Kids aren’t able to fully learn to read or fully figure out multiplication because there is no time. Testing keeps the ball moving. Rarely can we go back and reteach. In fact, reteaching has been replaced with reviewing (the quick and shallow sibling of reteaching). The damage done from shallow, incomplete teaching is cumulative. Please be aware teachers don’t set out to teach shallowly. They/we are essentially tied to the pacing guide, or else. If a kid doesn’t fully develop as a reader in K-4, which isn’t the only focus of K-4, then other skills won’t develop. The foundation will not be there. K-4 has all sorts of testing rigors as well. Kids and teachers are stressed, learning is not allowed to be complete, and kids have to move forward without ever having built a proper foundation for learning. This lack of foundation snowballs into myriad other problems from academic deficiency, to behavior problems leading to in school arrests, and the school-to-prison pipeline continues.

The effects of testing are broad and can be summed up through the stories of those teachers, students, communities, and a nation affected by the attention deflected from actual education in the name of a test.

0110: I have a proposal. Teacher-Researcher-Policy Maker Hybrid? #SOSchat #education #edreform

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The course of education is charted in a strange way. Teachers teach and implement decisions made my some distant policy maker or maybe a demigod. The policy makers make decisions based on research someone did somewhere other than a classroom. The researchers are likely to be professors of maybe education, or maybe a part of some miraculously funded think-tank, or, and I had a chance to do this, by some meagerly paid ghost writer who probably needs a little money and will accept a couple of grand to do some hurried research, turn it in for review, and then have to alter the research to “better fit the needs of the organization” (won’t be doing that again— I have debt what can I say). And the cycle continues. Either way, the process is diluted, dishonest, and disconnected.

So, my proposal:

First, we alter the roles of all parties involved— researcher, policy maker, and teacher. We create a hybrid profession. Teachers will act as researchers, using their own research based practice to further develop solutions to the problem that is education. Then, they work on policy. Teachers who are researcher could go an write the policies that affect them and their students. But, what about the researchers and policy makers. They get to do the same thing. Each party works on all of it.

But, how could we do this? Teachers are underpaid, and many researchers and policy makers aren’t teachers. Exactly. We’ll deal with the pay later. Teachers become empowered when they control their own destiny. People are no different. Teachers need to be a part of making the decisions that affect them and their students. By participating in research they will undoubtedly become more reflective and analytical. The goal is to end the passivity and victimhood that often accompanies the profession. Policy makers and researchers would benefit from working in the field they are affecting. “Having worked in a field” and “working in a field” are different things. It’s easy to throw daggers if you know you’ll never be hit. And yes, I understand that there are experts. “Experts” and third parties can be helpful. It helps to have a critical eye, but the idea here is that we turn every eye critical, equally active, reflective, and productive. No longer would we have teachers, researchers, and policy makers (or reformers); rather, we would have Teacher-Researcher-Policy Makers, a brilliant hybrid of empowered and powerful educator-reformers. It would be true democracy. Now there would be many details to iron out, and much more chaff, but it’s a start. It’s a step toward democratic function.