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The Importance of Participation

I was recently at my parents’s house and found my box of awards. You know the one I mean: the one that has all those participation ribbons and those good works and the more special awards, the ones you worked really hard to receive and tried to act like you didn’t care if you got them or not, but you really did care: the MVPs, the honor roll, the good citizens award.

And I was thinking about those Award Nights throughout school in which I knew that by participating I was eligible to receive an award, but there was a big maybe hanging in the air. Maybe I would be called out or maybe I would watch as other teammates and classmates were (this was much more of my experience). And I thought about how vulnerable that place of uncertainty is: the not knowing, the hoping, the possibility of being let down. It would have been a lot safer to not have participated at all because then I would know that I wasn’t eligible. I would have taken myself out of the running.

And I know that’s where a lot of us are in our presidental elections. We’ve taken ourselves, our vote, our voice out of the running because we don’t want to participate because we aren’t happy with either candidate. And I get it because participating, signing up to vote, going to vote, and then waiting to see if your vote mattered at all, is vulnerable and risky and you find yourself in the same position as in school waiting and hoping, but not knowing.

But being in the midst of that scary, undecided, waiting position is one of the best position we can put ourselves in because it means we are depending and counting on a community of people. It means we are putting our control on the line. It means we are not going to be able to cop out with the “Well, that’s why I didn’t vote,” when the December rolls around.

Instead, we tried. We participated. We voted.

The Debate About Evangenlism

As I watched the Republican #GOPDebate last night, I was struck by two things in particular. First, any reference to God used the masculine pronoun and second, any reference to the president used the masculine pronoun. Huckabee did it. Jeb did it. Cruz did it.

It would be easy to say that these references represent long-held beliefs about both God and the president being masculine and they do, but more than that the use of the masculine pronoun for both the most powerful force in the universe and the most powerful position in the country says something more about the way we view men and women in our country and in our churches. These candidates are appealing to a white, male base whose ideas aren’t being challenged, but rather held up as correct. This is the same base that has questioned Obama since he has been in office because of his skin color. Obama, they claim, can’t be a real American or a real Christian and the underlying reason is because he is different than they are.

The Washington Post comments about this phenomenon:

Too many Americans — particularly Christian Americans of my own generation — continue to worship at the altar of whiteness, defining themselves by their status as members of a temporary and illusory racial majority.

The idea that to be Christian, to be patriotic, and to be evangelical is equivalent to being white and male means that evangelism and patriotism is persecution of the “other.” namely all females, all immigrants, and all people of different races or nationalities.

Really? That’s the good news? Persecution and oppression?

I don’t buy it. The good news is not making ourselves feel better about our racist and misogynistic biases. The good news is that regardless of our race, gender, or past, we all can receive the grace of God.

The fact that we now have a stage full of white males who are not challenging but kowtowing to a voting base that is dangerous in their beliefs that they are better than other people; a political base that is responsible for the majority of the mass shootings that have taken place in the last year and historically is frightening.

As a woman and an evangelical of the gospel message, not of American politics, but of Jesus Christ, I I hope to God one of these men is not our next president.

Are schools the next big market?

It’s not surprising to find that education is a huge market:

The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.

I’d be wiling to bet that teachers aren’t going to get a cut at all of this.

Synergistic Experience

I’ve been on enough runs that I know a good one within the first couple of steps. I know whether my breathing is labored or whether it feels like my legs are stuck in molasses. When either of these things are off, then I know that the run is going to be one that I just have to make it through rather than one that I enjoy.

But when my legs aren’t heavy and my breathing is syncing with my steps, then I experience a synergistic experience that allows my thoughts to clear and my creative juices to begin to flow.

As I have been going back and forth with other educators via Twitter about the impact of Common Core, I can’t help but wonder if the fall holds more expectations to abide strictly by CCSS, which will weigh down teachers are they try to foster creative curators in their classrooms.

Can CCSS really be a synergistic experience that includes individuality and digital literacy or is it laboring our classroom time with an atmosphere that makes it hard to catch our breath?

Marketing Shift

New forms of labeling students like Common Core, don’t change the underlying assumption:

In education, as in society, holding individuals accountable for their actions is a powerful paradigm within a meritocracy. If all is equitable, then human choices and behaviors are more easily assigned in a causational way to individuals. Political and public discourse as well as social and education policy work within an accountability paradigm based on the assumption that the U.S. is a meritocracy.

And therein lies fundamental errors in claims about equity in the U.S.: Accountability without meritocracy is not only flawed but a mechanism for entrenching inequity.

Education reform, then, must reject the accountability paradigm, and then embrace an equity paradigm as a reform strategy seeking the possibility of achieving a meritocracy.

Common Core isn’t a paradigm shift. It’s a marketing shift, so that teachers will stop complaining.

If we want our students to be critical creators, we too have to analyze what’s being marketed as “good” teaching.

Regulate regulations

Really, Congress can’t regulate? Maybe not directly, but certainly indirectly they have!

To backtrack: the Common Core State Standards are not federal standards. After all, the U.S. Constitution gives Congress no authority to fund or regulate schools or control curriculum, standards, or policy. But at its annual fall meeting in 2008, after previous informal discussions, the Council of Chief State School Officers—with input from some state governors—formally decided to come up with some uniform standards to get more low-performing students into college courses without needing remedial courses once they got there. What’s now known as the Common Core is a set of standards that its supporters, including the Council and the National Governors Association, think will better prepare k–12 students for college and careers.

Yes, because the National Governors Association certainly knows how to better prepare k-12 students.

Bottom of the Totem Pole

If you think that you are the only one battling day in and day out (yes, I know it is summer, but I also know teachers and I know they haven’t stopped battling) for your classroom back, you’re in a bigger fight than you think you are.

Within hours, social media sites buzzed with the battle that was taking place. One website stated, “Pearson advertises itself as the ‘world’s leading learning company’. However, this week the publishing giant became known by far less flattering names: censor, bully, propagandist, child laborer, enemy of education, and corporate profiteer.” Educators from other groups labeled the site and the linked articles as tools of propaganda, designed to fool parents and silence objectors.

Pearson had recently been under-fire for its high stakes tests, test prep materials, and other ed -reform activities and was the subject of a national boycott lead by United Opt Out.
Teachers are struggling and battling with district-wide and school-wide mandates, but they are actually fighting a battle that started in DC. Pearson is throwing its weight around and it certainly has a lot of weight to throw around.
So again teachers are stuck at the bottom of the totem pole hoping that when fall rolls around, they will have not completely lost their classrooms to boxed curriculum sets that districts and schools have purchased over the summer.

Would you believe your eyes?

It’s easy to get caught up and confused when reading about educational policy:

The report is a mishmash of misleading statistics and incoherent arguments, intended to exaggerate the failure of public education. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, introduces the report with this claim: “It will come as no surprise to most readers that America’s primary and secondary schools are widely seen as failing.” Many scholars of education would disagree with this conclusion; they would probably respond that the United States has many excellent public schools and that the lowest-performing schools are overwhelmingly concentrated in districts with high levels of poverty and racial isolation

So how do you know what is right and wrong?

How do you know who to listen to?

Would you believe your eyes?


Joining Forces, Uniting Voices

Teachers are joining forces and uniting their voices:

The high-stakes testing era started with the advent of No Child Left Behind in 2002, and though NCLB has largely been discredited, the Obama administration’s policies have expanded the use of test scores as assessment tools not only for students, but also for teachers and principals.

Many researchers in the assessment field have warned against using standardized test scores for high-stakes decisions, saying they are unreliable for such a purpose. High-stakes standardized testing, they say, has led to the narrowing of the curriculum; classrooms where “teaching to the test” is paramount; and unfair evaluation of students, teachers, principals and schools.

Shouldn’t teachers be the ones who get to make this call since, after all, we are the professionals?

Changing Thinking

I do understand that student-centered education is radical at this point in our educational history:

Rethinking Schools has been pressing for radical reform of public education and for student-centered, social justice education since we began 25 years ago.

But with debate about education policy now sharply politicized and polarized, there are added reasons to look beyond the rhetoric. Examining closely what the corporate education reform movement proposes and what it actually delivers can help expose where it is vulnerable to the most hopeful development of the last two years—the steady growth of a deep, broad, and at times quite militant pushback against the corporate reform agenda.

The radicalness of idea doesn’t lie in the student-centeredness of the instruction, but in the countering of the systematic approach to education.

Is it possible to change this thinking?