Whenever folks hear code words like ” … regardless of zip code …” they act upon it in multiple ways. Some want to create educational equity, and surely, there are plenty of groups that profess to want this. Some advocate for equity by hanging on to mythos of the one schoolhouse, segregated, destitute, and gritty all the same. Some simply yell to the rafters, but never hang with the commoners unless there’s a photo-op and a hefty check at the end of a speech. Some say it, but follow the phrase with so many buts that you never get a sense of where the duplicity ends.
And some take that to mean that every single class in every single school in every single district in the country should operate exactly the same. Uniformity is the guarantee that margins of error don’t interfere either positively or negatively to the learning experiences of children. This also goes hand-in-hand with adults looking at those “under” them as less than capable of making responsible decisions. The more regimented a program, the more comfort the regimenter feels about the environment they’ve created around them.
After stripping any level of autonomy and self-direction, the slide into fascism gets lubricated with test scores and cloudy results, sans the decimation of students’ own confidence and safety.
Our society has been so swindled by the term “status quo” that we let a new status quo of institutional failure replace the one they spoke of a decade and a half ago. Our society has become complacent with high test scores with low self-esteem because we believe the achievement of dreams is synonymous with the ability to correctly assume what strangers think. We’ve conflated the perception of educational attainment with the irresolute promises of education reform.
It’s not just a charter school issue, either. Too many of our citizens tried to vote away neoliberal cheerleaders only to see them betrayed in the form of “partnerships” and adages like “we have so much to learn from them.” We have entire industry dedicated to “making our jobs easier” by culling the best – by their standards – teacher moves, the best – by their standards – resources, and the best – by their standards – assessments and influencing large sets of schools to have every adult do all of the things at a cost. Usually, it’s financial, but also it’s cultural as well.
We can standardize without standardization, but it’s even deeper than that. We can fight fascism within our schools by having higher and better expectations of the systems that profess to have high expectations for schools they serve.
I don’t buy the idea that standardization helps to eliminate bad teachers or bad teaching, either. Right now, until we have a common and agreed upon framework for good teaching, and we have a deeper appreciation for the profession, we’ll keep using the same methods – like standardization – to root out anyone outside the proverbial “middle.” Which means we need to crack the bell curve so everyone can win in their own way.
If the lesson our current set of overlords suggests that we must strengthen borders and suppress opposition by any means, then please let me skip that class. If the class is focused on telling me my students aren’t worth an education that treats them like human beings, then please let me call out sick. If the person in front of us seeks to develop me professionally by enacting the same sort of pedagogy we promise we don’t want in our classrooms, then excuse me so I can take the longest bathroom break ever. Send me the notes. Take off a few points. Write in my teacher evaluation that I’m ineffective in my professional responsibilities.
But I’m opting out of all of this. I fought to get in my classroom and to stay in my classroom. What makes you think I won’t be fighting for my class and my classroom?