Educated to Death

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

Category: revolution

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.


0133: Standards-Based #Education for Freedom #occupyedu #SOSchat #edreform

Yes, education should have standards, and yes, those standards should be tested with corporations in mind. The STANDARD should be that all learners are equipped with the critical skills to participate in an open society; that is, learners should be literate, connected, and aware. The test will be if power shifts, or not. If not, then we should rethink our standard. For this standard to be met, there will be steps to take. We will have to extend education beyond the first 18 years of life, and encourage learning and growth for all. Standards based learning, of course. But we just need one loose standard—that the People be allowed to acquire education that will benefit them.

We will bang out the how’s and why’s together.

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.

0129: So I’ve arrived at a personal tipping point, where do I go? #education #teaching #revolution #occupyedu

Through writing, meditation, soul searching, dialogue, dialectic, and debate, I have arrived at a point of tension that requires some form of release. The crisis is that of my questioning and understanding of my role in public education. This moment is no new moment to me, nor is it original to me. It is a crisis that befalls, though it seems I have pulled it down upon myself very intentionally, anyone who participates within any institution; further, anyone who has any naïve belief in an institution and is gradually awakened to the reality of their chosen institution or institutions. I say this with the understanding that I have never doubted or been blind to the fact that public education has functioned in a sinister manner to divide and suppress people, at least this is my claim. I do, however, believe in the intention of many educators to work toward the liberation and enlightenment of the people with and/for whom they work (I would hope to be considered among this class of educators). Therein lies the crisis, educators want to aid in enlightenment and liberation; the system functions to divide and suppress. The system as it is functions to eliminate any possibility of a critical and literate populace through bland and numbing test prep from kindergarten forward. Mass standardization and narrowing curriculums do not lay the ground work for an open democratic society; rather, the road is paved for any form of rule by few without dissent or question. These ideas do not belong to me alone, but would be realized by anyone with a critical eye toward the practice of education— perhaps more saliently, the results of education as it is. Education, standardized education, has not closed any achievement gap, has not changed communities for the better, has not put more or better food on a table for the recipients of education. People have made money, but not the People. So, I arrive at my personal crisis. Where do I go? Do I continue working in an institution that seems to do more harm than good, especially in this climate? Do I fight from within? Do I seek more education? Do I seek more influence? Do I keep chopping away with many others in the blogosphere? What
can I do to amplify my voice, my struggle, and that of others? I’m not sure. I know the answers to my questions aren’t simple. I know I keep asking these questions. I do know that I need to continue seeking answers and asking questions. I need to keep connecting to other educators, rabble-rousers, and revolutionaries. There is a great beast enveloping and facing us. We must stand in solidarity to deliver ourselves, the beast, and help those being crushed deliver themselves. Scrutiny is important. Language is important. It is important that we remain humanistic and not humanitarian. It’s important that we listen. It’s important that we act. What next?

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.

0126: Why External Motivators are a Must, and why that’s a problem. #education #edreform #SOSchat #control

(Please, if what you find below is a waste of time, skip to the *; don’t waste your time on a fool’s attempt to make sense of the senseless. Cheers.)

I want to begin by stating that I am a proponent of a critical internal locus of control for human beings— that would, of course, include students. It’s important to use ‘critical’ as a qualifier, as well, because so much of what we think is internalized has been conditioned and now seems internal. Additionally, ample argument can be made that every action is made externally. By that I mean we are constantly responding to stimuli no matter how we intellectualize it. I will not try to tease out these complications, frankly that would be a trite go at rhetorical masturbation for which I do not have the time.

That said, external motivators are a must for our current educational model of skill, drill, and test to be effective. Students, and teachers, for that matter are not working on anything truly stimulating provided by the state. The curriculum is cold and pointless, schools function more as prisons than places of curious exploration, any attempts to find glimmers of hope are subdued quickly by the pacing guide, the examples are endless. External control is required when forcing someone to be a something. Education, as it is (arguably education in general), seeks to alter the natural flow of curiosity. It seeks to apply discipline to the mind, and discipline is important. Change, growth, transformation all require a level of discipline, a great deal of it, in fact. Intellectual growth, the building of skills, thinking, and so forth all require discipline. But, discipline in itself is not the problem. The problem is, at least, two-fold. First, in our system of institutional function, the discipline, the locus of control, is not returned to the individual without rendering it less that operative. Second, the current system requires a form of external control that will prevent resistance— the content is so numbing, and the structure so dehumanizing that any soul will and rightfully resist. As a result, external motivators are a must in schools, then people can wander aimlessly through the remainder of their existence from institution to institution seeking refuge from any lack of structure. This is not a phenomenon caused entirely by education, but is simply a part of the function of western society. But, back to school. Testing especially has required motivation to be more and more external and punitive. If it isn’t then quotas won’t be made, curriculum won’t be covered (understanding is not a consideration), and testing will not boom. The industry would crumble of we had kindergartens crawling around playing with blocks, and 8th grade biology classes spending several weeks dissecting frogs. The test must happen. That is the aim. All of life is a test— a standardized test. With all this testing, the control can never be returned to the individual. What would they do? Would they rebel? Not if you’ve destroyed the will too. So while the gradual release of responsibility is present in word, if the responsibility was never developed and nurtured, then it may never appear without intensive democratic intervention that seeks to liberate the colonialized mind and being.

*I quite possibly got lost in the circles of rhetoric above, the problems of our education systems and society are multifactorial and interrelated. So, in summation, without extreme external control our education system, with its current goals, would not function. Tests would never be bubbled, remediation and remediation specialists would have no place, reformers would have to do something else, the industry would change. The means is an end in itself. Control people from as early as possible, and they will belong to their controllers forever. Hopefully, they will never even noticed they’re being controlled. I mean what would the world be like if people went around asking questions and making choices? Reasonable, perhaps?

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.


0124: What is Underground Education? The How’s, Why’s, and What-Nots #education #SOSchat #revolution

Underground Education is revolutionary, but does not aim to teach or incite external revolution; rather, it aims to nudge minds awake. Underground education begins the moment you see something that needs to be taught, and you teach it regardless of time allotted. Teachers engage in this daily. It is not a specific plan or curriculum. It is simply teaching, an art that has been and is being rendered obsolete through excessive and oppressive testing procedures. Underground Education begins with you, the teacher, examining the current curriculum as is, and critically supplementing it with what you know to be educational best practice.

Early elementary teachers often don’t have time to help their learners master the skills necessary for reading. Take the time. Make sure they really learn to read. You know how to assess their literacy. Help them develop every single tool they need to engage in ‘reading’— their worlds
and the word. Talk to them, let them talk. Spend time questioning and exploring. Build motor skills and number sense. If a concept is tough to grasp and you must move forward, don’t neglect to go back even if is just for that one child. Teach. You know how to do it. No evaluation, third party, or administrative office can tell you to neglect a child in the name of an assessment. Underground teaching is about providing learners with what they need. It’s about exploring curiosity. It involves teaching and stimulating every child and mind as though they belong in gifted classes. Early elementary teachers build a firm foundation. The slogans say this is so, teachers make it so.

Upper elementary teachers face the fourth grade slump. The transition from learning to read to reading to learn, and beyond that, an even greater emphasis on testing. Learners arrive lacking basic skills for numerous reasons, teachers don’t have time to go back and teach K-4. You don’t, but you must. This is a tough critical slump. The focus, as you know, must center around enabling the learners to glean information from texts— math, reading, social studies, science, the physical world, cultural contexts, etc. This period is quite critical. Learners decide at this point if they can “learn” or not. So often kids never learn to glean any valuable or interesting information independently from the texts lain before them. This is the point where a decisions made about whether “learning” is cold and pointless or meaningful and enriching. Behavior problems blossom out of thin air for those who are behind and lost. Every child should be able to pick up a book or look at a problem, on paper or in world, and glean information and generate critical questions. They should have vocabulary and the ability to acquire vocabulary to talk about what they experience. The vocabulary and language must belong to them, it must be internalized. Of course, there is no time for this in a class full of 30+ struggling fourth graders. You’re frustrated, exhausted, beat down. It will take you chasing rabbits in class, letting them explore seemingly random trains of thought, hallway, lunchroom, and playground conversations. It will require think-alouds and scaffolding of cognitive processes galore. It requires teaching and nurturing critical thinking and problem solving skills constantly and weaving instructional strands together. It requires teaching social skills and building language to express complex emotions. It involves dialogue. Much of this sounds like teaching according to “best practice”; it is teaching the child, the human, not the test. To recap and summarize, upper elementary must aim to enable a child to learn and know s/he can learn. The tools must have a chance to be used. Learners must develop a stake in their own learning. Their curiosity must be explored. They must find what motivates them. They must be successful more than enough to have the desire and payback to continue learning.

From here forth, education involves mass testing. Everything is for the test. Students are known as proficient, basic, and minimal. Names are lost. Discipline, emotional, academic, you name it, problems multiply at this point.
Anything missed in elementary, say fractions, is multiplied from here forward. A kid without a solid understanding of multiplication can derail a pre-Algebra class in a second. The trend is triage. Help who you can. This does not suffice, of course, but what can you do? Parallel curriculum to supplement, reinforce, develop, skills to scaffold this learner to be as close to where they need to as possible. There is not time for this, I know, but it must be taken. The second half of education— middle school, junior high, and high school function academically as a place to deepen skills and augment learning. Pacing guides and high stakes testing obfuscates this though. Secondary teachers beat their heads against their cages trying to figure out how to help their learning learn independently. Kids arrive with so many pieces missing. By this time the cumulative affects of missing pieces here and there make the puzzle seem impossible. Teachers are forced to make tough decisions. The outliers are often thrown out with the bath water. Educational triage- teach to the middle. Learners and teachers are beyond frustrated at this point. It’s survival.

What can be done? Help them, the learners start connecting information, give them problems to solve. Perhaps its a problem in their own world. Something they can arrive at in dialogue. Help them, or watch them work it out through dialogue. Note their cognitive processes, go back and help them notice those processes. Help them learn to understand how they are thinking, how they are solving the problem. Let them see that they are critically working through cognitively complex stuff. Help them write it. Help them teach it. Slowly draw these skills into academic sundries. Help them note their own problem solving/learning ability. Turn them loose on a skill within their ZPD (remember that?), encourage them to teach that skill, to a neighbor, to you, to the world. Help them become powerful learners and collaborators. Everyone has mad skills that can contribute to the group. Perhaps Johnny isn’t the best reader, but his reasoning skills are out this world, his contribution to the collective intelligence of the class, this world is invaluable.

The world functions as a huge cooperative learning project. Schools do not, but they don’t then victims are left behind without a clue they ever had anything to offer— learners and educators. Education leaves people disillusioned and lost, Underground Education seeks to empower and awaken. Underground Education will not allow a learner to pass through a system without finding their value. Underground Education is not dictated by the test or the State agenda of intellectual suppression; rather, it is dictated by the needs of the learners in your care. Here, the educator is the professional. Reform is in your hands, not the hands of the distant, gravy-train riding, ed policy pricks. A top down model cannot work in the underground. Education is for the People. It is by the People. It does not celebrate labels, failures, or separation by assessment measures. It seeks to teach and help learn.

Most important teachers who bother to teach in the Underground must be connected. We must band together in this struggle. We must collaborate and innovate. We must share our methods and our aims. We, together, can revolutionize education. We are not reformers or policy makers; we are teachers, we make decisions, we implement them. We stand together.

Share your experience.

Let’s talk.

0123: Teachers as Disruptors of State Sponsored Suppression of the Masses #occupyedu #revolution #education #SOSchat

Education functions either as a means of liberation or suppression. It’s difficult to tease the two apart. All that public or formal education claims to be is chock full of contradictions. Less is being done to hide these contradictions, but the rhetoric remains the same. Reformers such as Michelle Rhee claim to be “working tirelessly to build educational environments that foster learning”, while working with entities that function to suppress thought and learning through extreme testing measures. The testing is in the name of good, but has horrific affects. The fallout of all this “good” that has been done is comparable to a Chernobyl disaster of the mind. Minds have been left deformed and incapable of critical thought or participation through rigorous testing practice that leaves no time to develop basic skills. Achievement gaps continue to widen as does The chasm between rich and poor. The language of reform is confusing and misleading. We’re told and tell ourselves, as we’re told, that we are working for good.
But, we see no signs of improvement. Reformers provide us with new slogans to keep morale high.

Is all hopeless? No, but we are certainly seeing the moment nearing it’s crisis. People grow restless as conditions worsen in every area. Slogans only work for so long. What role do educators have in all of this? We function ‘in loco parentis’. We serve in place of the parent in the schools. 8+ hours of the day, 186+ days of the year. We have that much time to aide in the liberation of minds, or suppress them. There are measures taken against us if we work on the behalf of liberation. We will be labeled ineffective enemies of by those who work “tirelessly” to “foster learning”. If we do not work to civically engage our students; that is, to engage them and help them engage in critical dialogue and deepen their understanding of their own world, then we help our nations and fellow people slip deeper into apathy and passivity. ‘In loco parentis’ puts us in a place to disrupt suppression of minds. We must take that opportunity.

Teachers can no longer afford to just be teachers. We cannot be passive. The People pass through our classrooms; they stay there for 13 + years. We have to unite as teachers and ensure the best possible education for those in our care, even of its an underground curriculum, and it will be. We cannot afford to let “Education” destroy generations and minds and souls. We must enable critical learning. We must disrupt this travesty.

0122: Surely I’m Confused. Which ‘People’ are the “People”? #government #democracy #occupy #p2 #ctl

How can anyone call this a democracy? Sure. People can participate. But, participation is limited. Very limited. People are detached from the government. It is not the people’s government. It is ‘certain’ people’s government. It is a government that belongs to ‘certain’ organizations. The candidates and current politicians rarely have any true connection to
the people, and vice-versa. A politician is nothing more than a distant celebrity who has power reaching far beyond entertainment. We, the people, vote, or not, for someone who has the funds to advertise and sustain a campaign— and they have staffs who are quite savvy in the fundraising department. These people, if they remain to be that, are distant entities from what what the common folk would know as people. Their station in life has endowed them with myriad opportunities and freedoms that only money and connections can buy. We are run by a ‘them’ that wants to be known as ‘us’.

Has this separation from the ruling spawned great apathy? Of course. But, apathy may not suffice. Apathy indicates the absence of what once was. Have we, all the people, ever really been involved? Or, has participation been limited to the wealthy, and upper middle class? All participation from the lower and working classes have seemed to require some form of public struggle. Demonstrations, strikes, civil disobedience, and so forth, seem to have been the only means of persuasion for the lower socio-economic majority of our people. Much of the change that has come about through demonstration has been a result of public response to the excessive force used by authorities. Change does not seem to come through any sort of benevolence, but only for the sake of public opinion. Change comes for the sake of keeping a name squeaky clean to those who can see. This does not seem like democracy. It closely resembles the behavior of colonialized societies, where the oppressed classes have to fight tooth and nail for every smidgen of dignity they receive, or have to turn to alternative economies and protection structures. Societies like this have huge underclass systems that operate completely separate from “mainstream” society.

Surely, I’m confused. Please explain. Am I allowed to ask these questions? Do I have any rights? Why do I feel uneasy putting this into print? Paranoia is perhaps creeping in.