Teacher Education to USDOE: “Let Us Ruin Our Own Discipline!”

Maybe this is appropriate with Groundhog Day approaching—since many of us now associate that with the Bill Murray comedy classic. But I am also prone to seeing all this through the lens of science fiction (SF), possibly a zombie narrative like World War Z.

“This,” for the record, is the accountability plague that began in the early 1980s and continues to spread through every aspect of public education—starting with students and schools, followed by infecting teachers, and now poised to infect teacher education.

As I noted above, on one hand, the accountability game is predictable: some government bureaucracy (state or federal) launches into yet another round of accountability driven by standards and high-stakes testing and then educators respond by showing that they too can play the accountability game.

On the other hand, accountability seems to be a SF plague, spawned in the bowels of government like the root of the zombie apocalypse.

Pick your analogy, but the newest round isn’t really any different than all the rounds before.

The USDOE announces accountability for teacher education, in part using value-added methods drawn from student scores on high-stakes tests.

NEPC offers an evidence-based review, refuting accountability based on student test scores as a way to reform teacher education.

But in the wake of misguided bureaucracy and policy, possibly the most disturbing part of this pattern of doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results is that educators themselves invariably line up demanding that we be allowed to do that same thing ourselves (including our own continuous complaints about all the bureaucracy with which we gleefully fall in line).

In this case, Stephen Sawchuck reports for Education Week:

More than a dozen education school deans are banding together, aiming to design a coherent set of teacher-preparation experiences, validate them, and shore up support for them within their own colleges and the field at large.

Deans for Impact, based in Austin, Texas, launches this month with a $1 million grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

The new group’s embrace of data-informed changes to teacher-preparation curricula—even, potentially, based on “value added” information—is likely to generate waves in the insular world of teacher preparation. It’s also a testament to teacher-educators’ search for an alternative to traditional associations and accreditation bodies.

And, the deans say, it’s a chance to move away from talking about which information on teacher preparation to collect to beginning the use of such data.

And Valerie Strauss adds at her The Answer Sheet blog an open letter to the USDOE from teacher educators, including:

We recommend that you develop a process for revising these regulations that substantively includes the educational community in advancing your goal of making teacher preparation programs more accountable for successful preparation of teachers. We suggest you convene classroom teachers and school administrators; academics with expertise in teacher education, teaching, learning and student achievement and assessment; and policymakers to develop accountability measures that more accurately assess program quality and the successful preparation of teachers.

Sigh.

“[Y]our goal of making teacher preparation programs more accountable,” and thus, teacher education once again falls all over itself to prove we can out-accountable the accountability mania that has not worked for thirty-plus years.

Let’s be clear, instead, that accountability (a lack of or the type of) has never been the problem; thus, accountability is not the solution.

Let’s be clear that while teacher quality and teacher preparation obviously matter, they mostly cannot and do not matter when the teaching and learning conditions in schools prevent effective teaching, when children’s live render them incapable of learning.

And finally, let’s be clear that in that context, we have a great deal to do before we can or should worry too much about teacher quality and teacher preparation.

Even when we can truly tease out teacher quality and better teacher education, accountability will not be the appropriate way to do either.

Teacher education is a field, a discipline just as any other field or discipline. The essential problem with teacher education is that it has never been allowed to be a field or discipline; teacher education is mired in bureaucracy.

The open letter noted above is only half right. Yes, teacher education needs autonomy, but that autonomy must not remain tethered to the same hole digging we have been doing for decades.

Teacher education autonomy must be about reimagining teacher education as the complex and dynamic field it is—not a puppet for political and bureaucratic manipulation—whether done to us or done to ourselves.

Don’t Buy School Choice Week

When I wrote Why Advocacy and Market Forces Fail Education Reform almost four years ago, I had recently spent a great deal of time researching and writing about school choice within the focus of parental choice.

Then as well as now, the ever-growing body of evidence shows that school choice, parental choice, and market forces never achieve the outcomes advocates claim. And yet, each year we must suffer through School Choice Week, which is just a slightly heightened and compressed example of the same sort of misleading advocacy that exists every week of the year in the U.S.

Choice, we must acknowledge, in the U.S. is a sort of consumer choice: We must allow people the choice of either a Honda Accord or a Toyota Camry (but choosing not to drive shall not be on the table).

So when any school choice advocate launches into the typical blather that we must give all parents the sort of choice that wealthy parents have (one of the most insincere and distorted examples of manipulative rhetoric you’ll hear), we must not allow the debate to remain within a skewed choice-only context.

As I have stated before, democracy depends on social contracts that rise above the necessity of choice:

choice quote

Since School Choice Week slips into the wake of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. (see also how parental choice has been manipulated in the “no excuses” charter school debate), we must also note that choice is a hollow call dedicated to the Invisible Hand and a pale hope that market forces may accomplish indirectly what a moral people can accomplish directly—as King confronted in the last days of his life:

In addition to the absence of coordination and sufficiency, the programs of the past all have another common failing — they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

Again, the evidence is overwhelming that public, charter, and private schools have about the same impact on students once we adjust measurable student learning by external factors.

Private schools appear to be better mostly because they are selective (think of judging hospitals that admit only healthy patients compared to hospitals that admit all patients), charter schools waving higher achievement fail to note that such measurable gains tend to equal the longer days/years and are not attributable to any aspect of “charterness” (my analysis of two years of charter schools in SC shows that fewer than a handful of over 50 charters outperform comparable public schools), and both private and charter schools reveal that choice often contributes to negative outcomes such as segregation, teacher and student churn, and inequitable opportunities for marginalized students such as English language learners and special needs students.

And while private schools as powerful models of what market forces produce fail to show that type of schooling impacts significantly student achievement, that parental choice advocates ignore the qualities of private schools most attractive to parents illustrates the insincerity of school choice proponents: private schools popular with the affluent have very low student/teacher ratios, yet class size is routinely discounted as important among reformers who embrace choice; private schools offer rich curricular offerings including so-called electives that are being cut and marginalized in public and “no excuses” charter schools.

School choice lacks credible evidence for advocates’ claims, and choice advocates’ constantly shifting commitments also reveal questionable credibility: vouchers, tuition tax credits, public school open enrollment, and charter schools as primary mechanisms as well as higher grades, graduation rates, and college enrollment as moving targets of “success.”

Choice in education is an ideological lie driven by an idealized faith that ignores the negative consequences of choice: some parents choose for their children to drop out of school, some parents choose to smoke with their children in the car, some parents choose to place their children in schools based on racist and classist beliefs.

School Choice Week, then, is a marketing scam. Don’t buy it.

The Public School Advantage, Christopher A. and Sarah Theule Lubienski

Parental choice?: A critical reconsideration of choice and the debate about choice

Choice

Charter schools

“School Choice Week” is a Good Time to Review the Evidence (NEPC)

The Real Education Crisis?

For Education Week‘s Quality Counts 2015, Christina A. Samuels opens a piece on early reading with the following:

Children who are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade are widely seen as being in academic crisis. Educators are increasingly looking for actions they can take in the younger grades—even as early as preschool—to head off failure later in a child’s school career.

Framing 3rd-grade reading proficiency as a crisis is about as enduring (and suspect) as the uncritical belief in the literacy deficit among children raised in poverty.

Later in the article, Samuels notes that many states have implemented grade retention policies based on high-stakes tests in 3rd grade, adding:

Student retention as a part of a strategy to support early literacy has vocal critics as well as supporters. But no one is arguing against the importance of ensuring that children are reaching reading milestones throughout the early grades.

Modeling once again the central flaw of education journalism, Samuels represents grade retention as nothing more than a tug-of-war between “vocal critics” and “supporters”—with word choices that clearly skew the reader toward the more reasonable “supporters.”

Despite the intentions of this piece about the importance of early literacy in children, we must acknowledge that the real crisis in education is both how the media covers education and how politicians design and implement policy.

First, “crisis” is the worst possible description of any educational condition since a state of crisis forces urgency when deliberation and patience are warranted. Think about the differences between emergency rooms and doctors’ offices. (See a discussion of crisis here also.)

Impoverished children have overwhelming life conditions that inhibit their ability to learn at the same rates and in the same ways as their more affluent peers. Children in poverty do not need harsh and intense educational experiences (harsh and intense often characterize their lives, and are thus the conditions muting their learning); they do not need high-stakes tests and punitive consequences.

And that leads to the ultimate education crisis: Confusing grade retention with reading policy.

That is not only a crisis, but inexcusable since there is no debate about grade retention, despite the breezy framing above.

Decades of research show that grade retention is often harmful and other strategies are always more effective (Note: the evidence-based alternative to grade retention is not “social promotion,” the great ugliness tossed out by all who embrace grade retention).

I suppose the great irony here is that it appears many in the media and most political leaders are not capable of reading the research and have a really limited vocabulary themselves.

So let me make this simple: There is no crisis in reading, and grade retention hurts children.

Now let’s address and fully fund rich and evidence-based reading for all children throughout their formal education in our public schools and make genuine commitments to the lives of all children so those policies can work.

For Further Reading

NCTE: Resolution on Mandatory Grade Retention and High-Stakes Testing

Florida Retention Policy a Blight on Literacy, Children across US

Grade Retention Research

Retain to Impede: When Reading Legislation Fails (Again)

First, Do No Harm: That Includes the Media

Just Say No to Just Read, Florida, South Carolina

Keeping children back a year doesn’t help them read better

The “White Gaze” and the Arrogance of Good Intentions

Bearing witness from privilege, as I have examined, walks very close to a line that must not be crossed—a line between honoring and listening versus man/whitesplaining.

This is intended as the former, admitting full well the dangers of good intentions.

Writing about the film Selma, Brittney Cooper confronts the “white gaze”:

New York Times critic Maureen Dowd saw “Selma” last week “in a theater of full of black teenagers.” Her ethnographic impressions of the “stunned” emotional responses that these D.C. teenagers had to seeing four little girls blown up in an Alabama church basement and watching civil rights leaders viciously clubbed during a march in Selma reek of the kind of voyeuristic and clueless white gaze often used to devalue and pathologize urban youth.  They become fascinating objects of study to those who don’t get to spend a lot of time with them.

And it is precisely these kinds of impressions from white people, the inability to make sense of genuine black emotion, the inability to recognize what filmic representations that respect the interior lives of black people actually might look like, that have contributed to the disingenuous backlash against the Selma film.

Read Cooper’s piece, entirely, carefully, and more than once—until her concluding points resonate:

The recent tragic killings of unarmed youth have surely taught us that if we don’t work from a presumption of black humanity, facts don’t mean very much in our interpretation of events.

More than that, those in power choose the “facts” that matter.

And then, as Cooper mentions Toni Morrison, watch Morrison:

Dowd and Charlie Rose embody the “voyeuristic and clueless white gaze” driven by their privilege and the veneer of good intentions: Dowd and Rose assuming the pose of thoughtful, measured, and professional (mostly because of their status).

Finally, Sendhil Mullainathan places lingering, systemic racial discrimination within good intentions:

Arguments about race are often heated and anecdotal. As a social scientist, I naturally turn to empirical research for answers. As it turns out, an impressive body of research spanning decades addresses just these issues — and leads to some uncomfortable conclusions and makes us look at this debate from a different angle….

But this widespread discrimination is not necessarily a sign of widespread conscious prejudice….

This kind of discrimination — crisply articulated in a 1995 article by the psychologists Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and Anthony Greenwald of the University of Washington — has been studied by dozens of researchers who have documented implicit bias outside of our awareness….

Ugly pockets of conscious bigotry remain in this country, but most discrimination is more insidious. The urge to find and call out the bigot is powerful, and doing so is satisfying. But it is also a way to let ourselves off the hook. Rather than point fingers outward, we should look inward — and examine how, despite best intentions, we discriminate in ways big and small.

Our first obligation is to look inward, identify and admit our privilege, and then, listen.

No Excuses for Advocacy Masquerading as Research

“I guess irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”

Commander Buck Murdock (William Shatner), Airplane 2: The Sequel

A rallying mantra of politicians, education reform advocates, and many charter schools is “no excuses”—a mask for an ideology steeped in classism and racism and targeting mostly black, brown, and poor children.

In the spirit of Commander Buck Murdock, we now have ample evidence that there should be no excuses for the pattern of advocacy masquerading as research used to justify “no excuses” charter schools.

First, let me remind everyone of a 2007 report on school choice from Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), which promotes itself as Wisconsin’s free-market think tank.

Despite the study finding choice ineffective, George Lightbourn introduced the report as a Senior Fellow, admitting:

The report you are reading did not yield the results we had hoped to find. We had expected to find a wellspring of hope that increased parental involvement in the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) would be the key ingredient in improving student performance.

And later on the WPRI web site (although no longer available online), Lightbourne emphasized:

So that there is no misunderstanding, WPRI is unhesitant in supporting school choice [emphasis added]. School choice is working and should be improved and expanded. School choice is good for Milwaukee ‘s children.

For many, if not most, school choice advocates, ideology trumps evidence.

In the more narrow commitment to charter schools as a market mechanism and then “no excuses” charter schools specifically, the evidence is overwhelming that not only think tanks but also university departments have relinquished academic freedom for masking advocacy as research.

The latest can be found in No Excuses Charter Schools: A Meta-Analysis of the Experimental Evidence on Student Achievement from the Department of Education Reform (University of Arkansas)—founded and funded by the pro-choice Walton family.

In a review of the report, Jeanne M. Powers finds:

The working paper reviewed here seeks to assess the extent to which “No Excuses” charter schools raise student achievement in English language arts and math and thereby close the achievement gap. The paper defines such schools as having: a) high academic standards, b) strict disciplinary codes, c) extended instructional time, and d) targeted supports for low-performing students. From their meta-analysis of 10 quasi-experimental studies , the authors concluded students who attended No Excuses charter schools had average achievement gains of 0.16 standard deviations in English language arts and 0.25 in mathematics. While conceding that charter schools with lotteries and No Excuses charter schools are not representative of all charter schools, the authors did not address whether or how students who apply to lottery charter schools might not be representative of all charter school students. They also did not address the possible relevance of student attrition for the individual studies’ findings and their own analysis. As a result, the claim that No Excuses schools can close the achievement gap substantially overstates their findings. Moreover, the report’s relatively small sample of schools concentrated in Northeast Coast cities suggests the current research base is too limited to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of No Excuses charter schools.

This is not, however, an isolated situation, as I have documented, so I offer below the full record:

Bankrupt Cultural Capital Claims: Beware the Roadbuilders, pt. 3

For the Record: Should We Trust Advocates of “No Excuses”?

Pulling a Greene: Why Advocacy and Market Forces Fail Education Reform [Redux]

The Charter Sham Formula: Billionaires + Flawed “Reports” + Press Release Media = Misled Public

Buying the Academy, Good-Bye Scholarship

Criticizing KIPP Critics

When a “Visit” Trumps Expertise and Experience: A New Deal

The Rise of the Dogmatic Scholar: “A Cult of Ignorance” pt. 2

Beware Reports Claiming “No Excuses”

American Sniper: A Reader

The popularity of the film American Sniper is often punctuated with something like “You know, it’s a true story.”

Occasionally, I hear “based on a true story,” but I have learned that the general public has only a loose understanding of genre (such as memoir or film based on a true story); for example, consider the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces once it was endorsed and then refuted by Oprah Winfrey.

One of the ways in which I teach writing to first year college students is that we focus on adaptation in order to examine issues related to genre awareness as well as factual truth (often the domain of nonfiction) versus Universal Truth (typically associated with fiction and poetry).

Both the popularity and Oscar attention focused on American Sniper are worth highlighting as a whitewashing of the already skewed ultra-patriotism in the U.S. But the film as adaptation of memoir also highlights the tension created when we consider a work as a piece of art in the context of the larger socio-political issues that work addresses or exists within (a U.S. film for a mostly U.S. audience building sympathy for the soldier-as-sniper versus the carnage of war, the collateral damage and loss of life among a foreign people to the targeted audience).

It is possible to admire a film as a fine work of art while also recognizing that the work of art has failed in some real and important ways related to messages, both intended and implied. I have felt that tension when examining the poetry of e.e. cummings against his life, for example.

Here, then, I offer a place to start a critical viewing and consideration of the film American Sniper (to be updated as warranted):

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, Chris Kyle

Pat Tillman (11/6/76 – 4/22/04): A Decade of Forgetting

The Controversial True Story Behind ‘American Sniper’, Michael Hoinski

American Sniper feeds America’s hero complex, and it isn’t the truth about war, Alex Horton

The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?, Lindy West

The Legend of Chris Kyle, Michael J. Mooney

Is American Sniper historically accurate?, Alex von Tunzelmann

‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize, Matt Taibbi

7 Big Lies ‘American Sniper’ Is Telling America, Zaid Jilani

‘American Sniper’: American Hero or American Psycho?, Sonali Kolhatkar

Death of an American sniper, Laura Miller

“American Sniper” and the culture wars: Why the movie’s not what you think it is, Andrew O’Hehir

“American Propagander”: Six Ways Paul Rieckhoff’s “American Sniper” Column Deeply Bothers This US Veteran, Emily Yates

American Sniper illustrates the west’s morality blind spots, Gary Younge

Killing Ragheads for Jesus, Chris Hedges

I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war, Garett Repenhagen

American Sniper perpetuates Hollywood’s typical Arab stereotypes, Michael Green

Clemson’s Tillman Hall and the Tragedy of Southern Tradition

Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or thought one knew; to what one possessed or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able , without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free—he has set himself free—for higher dreams, for greater privileges.

“Faulkner and Desegregation,” James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name 

Whether you are from the South—as I am, approaching my 54th year in the area where I was born—or not, here is how you can come to understand the South: Read William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” James Baldwin’s “Faulkner and Desegregation,” and M.E. Bradford’s “Faulkner, James Baldwin, and the South.”

In the shocking ending to “A Rose for Emily,” the town (that community and place so sacred to Faulkner, as Bradford emphasizes) and the reader discover that Emily has spent much of her life sleeping with the corpse of her mysteriously vanished lover. Not to be overly simplistic, but in that scene, Emily is the South and her act is the cancerous core of what best captures that region’s ideological commitment—cling to the corpse of tradition no matter what.

It is the steadfast clinging that matters, not the thing itself.

Baldwin’s response to Faulkner’s call for Southern blacks to be patient about integration at mid-twentieth century deftly dismantles the inherent contradictions, the incessant paternalism, and the disturbing lack of awareness embodied by Faulkner himself. While Faulkner seems oblivious to the message in his own work, Baldwin, a black man from Harlem, the North, echoes the warning of “A Rose for Emily”:

[S]o far from trying to correct it, Southerners, who seem to be characterized by a species of defiance most perverse when it is most despairing, have clung to it [emphasis added], at incalculable cost to themselves, as the only conceivable and as an absolutely sacrosanct way of life. They have never seriously conceded that their social structure was mad. They have insisted, on the contrary, that everyone who criticized it was mad.

Further, Baldwin’s understanding of the South remains as perceptive now as when he originally confronted Faulkner:

It is apparently very difficult to be at once a Southerner and an American….It is only the American Southerner who seems to be fighting, in his own entrails, a peculiar, ghastly, and perpetual war with all the rest of the country….

The difficulty, perhaps, is that the Southerner clings to two entirely antithetical doctrines, two legends, two histories….

The Southern tradition, which is, after all, all that Faulkner is talking about, is not a tradition at all: when Faulkner evokes it, he is simply evoking a legend which contains an accusation. And that accusation, stated far more simply than it should be, is that the North, in winning the war, left the South only one means of asserting its identity and that means was the Negro.

And finally to grasp fully the South, Bradford’s apologist reading of Faulkner (punctuated with “We in the South”) as well as a distinct misreading of Baldwin offers the full shape that characterizes the South: Faulkner as embodiment, Emily as metaphor, Baldwin as moral witness, and Bradford as contorted intellectual justification.

However, in the South, this is never merely academic or something past. 

Clemson’s Tillman Hall and the Tragedy of Southern Tradition

It is currently being recreated in the Tillman Hall debate at Clemson University—not as a unique case, but a representative one, Clemson University in its founding, its physical plant, and the myriad names with which it is associated

Tillman Hall at Clemson University bears the name of a former South Carolina governor, Benjamin Tillman, who “established an agricultural school that would become Clemson College, as well as Winthrop College.”

Those not from the South likely find these recurring tensions unfathomable, notably the never-ending battles about the Confederate flag that remains on the capitol grounds after decades flying atop the Statehouse.

The Faulkner-Baldwin-Bradford dynamic detailed above is now being played out by students calling for renaming Tillman Hall, faculty voting to support renaming, administration appearing to call for patience, and then a counter-protest supporting the tradition of the hall’s name.

“Yes, But…”

Apologists for tradition in the South, like Bradford for Faulkner, expose the contradictory mindset confronted by Baldwin. Those who rush to add “yes, but…” in defense of Tillman, for example, are likely to interject the “yes, but…” strategy to refute Martin Luther King Jr.

“Yes, but” Tillman was governor and if not for him, no Clemson!

“Yes, but” King was a socialist and adulterer.

As a life-long Southerner, I have witnessed these patterns regularly throughout my life. It is the logic of the South.

I am a child of the South, the Bible Belt where “spare the rod, spoil the child” dominates “turn the other cheek.”

Again, as Baldwin recognized, the South clings like Emily not to tradition but to the fabricated legend. And it is there that the hypocrisy of “yes, but…” is fully exposed.

Apologists for Tillman cling to Tillman’s ill-gotten status during his life, a status reflecting the most dehumanizing qualities of the South during Reconstruction and the early twentieth century.

Critics of Tillman, however, recognize that his racism outweighs any so-called accomplishments.

Will Moredock notes as one example:

Tillman went to the U.S. Senate in 1895, where he remained until his death in 1918. He used the Senate floor and the Chatauqua circuit to become the nation’s loudest and most famous proponent of white supremacy, or in his own words, “preaching to those people the gospel of white supremacy according to Tillman.”

“It’s true, South Carolinians would do well to remember Tillman’s legacy,” argues Paul Bowers, addressing directly the naming of Tillman Hall:

But we shouldn’t honor it, which is exactly what we’re doing by keeping his name on a building at a public university….

It’s another thing entirely for it to be named after Tillman, a progenitor and perpetuator of American apartheid who led lynch mobs during Reconstruction and boasted about it until his dying day.

To honor Tillman as well as many others like him is to make Emily’s mistake—clinging to a corpse that should be buried beneath a marker, not to honor but to remind us of all that we must not embrace again.

Apologists for tradition are emboldened by those calling for patience, like Faulkner, who prompted Baldwin to punctuate his essay with urgency:

But the time Faulkner asks for does not exist— and he is not the only Southerner who knows it. There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.

Recommended

Ben Tillman and the Reconstruction of White Supremacy, Stephen Kantrowitz

Reviewed by Bruce Palmer

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, Equal Justice Initiative

Lynching as Racial Terrorism, NYT Editorial Board

lynching

Liberal Hollywood?: A Reader

With the current Oscar nominations being scrutinized as a mostly white/male celebration, I want to highlight that the recurring bashing of “liberal Hollywood” in the U.S. is being exposed as a false culture war similar to the bashing of “liberal/progressive public schools.”

Since the U.S. is governed and ruled by an essentially conservative elite (if you have power, you are almost always conservative in that you seek ways to keep the status quo that affords you that power), as I have discussed before, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle is a brilliant fictional account of how those in power manufacture social battles to maintain control of the public.

Hollywood is not liberal or progressive; it is commercial.

Public schools are not liberal or progressive; they are traditional institutions of enculturation, governed by a white, middle-class ideal that is the type of fiction we often find in Hollywood.

The Oscar nominations reveal, then, that Hollywood is not a liberal demon, but a mirror of the essential inequity that remains in the U.S.—inequity of race, class, and gender.

Please consider:

Oscar Voters: 94% White, 76% Men, and an Average of 63 Years Old

The Oscars celebrates white men. What about the rest of us?

The Whitest Oscars Since 1998: Why the ‘Selma’ Snubs Matter

“Gravity”: The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Woman

True Detective: It’s Still a Man’s (Hostile) World, pt. 2

Both the popularity and Oscar attention focused on American Sniper are worth highlighting as a whitewashing of the already skewed ultra-patriotism in the U.S.; thus, also consider:

Pat Tillman (11/6/76 – 4/22/04): A Decade of Forgetting

The Controversial True Story Behind ‘American Sniper’

American Sniper feeds America’s hero complex, and it isn’t the truth about war, Alex Horton

The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?, Lindy West

The Legend of Chris Kyle

Education Journalism Deserves an F: A Reader

On the local evening news, a story ran recently about closing down a popular segment of a relatively new rail trail to work on the crumbling infrastructure of pipes crossing beneath the trail and nearby roads.

As part of the story, the on-air reporter chatted with two women who frequently walk along the trail each morning, but will now be diverted. The reporter ended the segment by asking those two women their opinions of replacing the pipes—both nodding in agreement while endorsing the work.

Watching this, I recognized everything wrong with journalism in the U.S. The story was breezy and relevant, but I had to wonder what authority two random women walking down a rail trail had to be credible voices about the need for infrastructure work in the area.

My disappointment in journalism, notably education journalism, has been documented regularly in my blogging over the past two-plus years. And the recent national debate about police behavior and accountability has now intersected with my own work refuting the national teacher-bashing more and more common during the Obama administration as well as my persistent challenges to education journalism.

The tension is between supporting the institutions of public education, criminal justice, journalism, and unions as well as the individual people who work in those fields or situations, but being deeply concerned that we are mostly failing each of those in systemic ways.

It is possible, then, I think, to strongly criticize education journalism as failing its duty while not necessarily indicting each and every education journalist.

That said, education journalism is quite flawed, mired in a lack of knowledge about the history, practice, and research in education, trapped like a bug in amber in the compulsion to air “both sides” equally of every issue.

Here, then, I offer a reader to that concern:

No Excuses for Advocacy Masquerading as Research

Education Writers Association: Independent Bloggers Need Not Apply, Anthony Cody

O, Free Press, Where Art Thou?

Invoking “Oliver Rule (Expanded)” for Education Reform Debate

U.S. and Education Reform Need a Critical Free Press

My Open Letter to Journalists: A Critical Free Press, pt. 2

See Also

Ed Writers – Try looking beyond propaganda & press releases for success stories

CALL: Chapters for revised volume, De-Testing and De-Grading Schools (Peter Lang USA)

Classroom teachers, researchers, and de-testing/de-grading advocates are encouraged to contact me about a revised volume for Peter Lang USA: De-Testing and De-Grading Schools: Authentic Alternatives to Accountability and Standardization.

Synopsis of original volume from 2013:

A century of education and education reform along with the last three decades of high-stakes testing and accountability reveals a disturbing paradox: Education has a steadfast commitment to testing and grading despite decades of research, theory, and philosophy that reveal the corrosive consequences of both testing and grading within an education system designed to support human agency and democratic principles.

This edited volume brings together a collection of essays that confronts the failure of testing and grading and then offers practical and detailed examinations of implementing at the macro and micro levels of education teaching and learning free of the weight of testing and grading. The book explores the historical failure of testing and grading; the theoretical and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; the negative influence of testing and grading on social justice, race, class, and gender; and the role of testing and grading in perpetuating a deficit perspective of children, learning, race, and class.

The chapters fall under two broad sections: Part I: «Degrading Learning, Detesting Education: The Failure of High-Stake Accountability in Education» includes essays on the historical, theoretical, and philosophical arguments against testing and grading; Part II: «De-Grading and De-Testing in a Time of High-Stakes Education Reform» presents practical experiments in de-testing and de-grading classrooms for authentic learning experiences.

Original Table of Contents:

Contents: Alfie Kohn: Introduction: The Roots of Grades-and-Tests – Lisa Guisbond/Monty Neill/Bob Schaeffer: NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress: What Can We Learn from This Policy Failure? – Fernando F. Padró: High-Stakes Testing Assessment: The Deus ex Machina of Quality in Education – Anthony Cody: Technocratic Groupthink Inflates the Testing Bubble – Lawrence Baines/Rhonda Goolsby: Mean Scores in a Mean World – Julie A. Gorlewski/David A. Gorlewski: De-grading Literacy: How New York State Tests Knowledge, Culture, and Critical Thinking – Morna McDermott: The Corporate Model of Schooling: How High Stakes Testing Dehumanizes Education – Richard Mora: Standardized Testing and Boredom at an Urban Middle School – Brian R. Beabout and Andre M. Perry: Reconciling Student Outcomes and Community Self-Reliance in Modern School Reform Contexts – David L. Bolton/John M. Elmore: The Role of Assessment in Empowering/Disempowering Students in the Critical Pedagogy Classroom – Alfie Kohn: The Case Against Grades – Joe Bower: Reduced to Numbers: From Concealing to Revealing Learning – John Hoben: Outside the Wounding Machine: Grading and the Motive for Metaphor – Peter DeWitt: No Testing Week: Focusing on Creativity in the Classroom – Hadley J. Ferguson: Journey into Ungrading – Jim Webber/Maja Wilson: Moving Beyond «Parents Just Want to Know the Grade!» – P. L. Thomas: De-grading Writing Instruction in a Time of High-Stakes Testing: The Power of Feedback in Workshop – Brian Rhode: One Week, Many Thoughts – Lisa William-White: Conclusion: Striving toward Authentic Teaching for Social Justice.

Most of the original chapters will be updated and revised, but a few are unable to work on the revised volume project. Thus, we should have room for 2-4 new chapters.

Please send proposals ASAP, and we are requiring full drafts by July 31, 2015, to submit the revised volume by September 15, 2015.

Chapters must be in APA citation/style format and about 6000 words maximum; both practical and research/theoretical cases highlighting de-testing and de-grading classrooms are needed.

Email me with proposals or questions: paul.thomas@furman.edu