education reform Archives - The Jose Vilson

education reform

The Temptations

The Temptations

I‘ve seen this article in my e-mails and feeds no less than ten times this morning. Much of this is old news for me since, if you’ve put all the pieces together for the last four years, it’s fairly obvious just how invested Bill Gates has been in getting Common Core State Standards moved across different desks. It’s also obvious how many folks, from union leaders to business leaders, have put their hat in at least some part of the CCSS ring. The publishers, as I expected, are having a field decade with the CCSS because, they don’t necessarily need to care whether people get it. Districts will unconsciously still pay up for outside expertise.

Yet, the push-and-pullback against the CCSS has been palpable. Opponents on the left and right have joined forces on a small set of issues related to CCSS, specifically the overemphasis on testing and student data privacy, things that pre-date CCSS, but that have been conjoined with CCSS implementation agreements. State after state keep dropping from CCSS allegiance. Regardless of “who” you root for in the CCSS debate, it seems that there needs to be a conversation about what happens if CCSS collapses.

What will you fill the CCSS “gap” with if it goes away?

This question has the feel of “Well, what’s your religion?” There’s a whole set of educators who’ve been following the Dewey-Meier model for some time already have an idea of where things might go. Others who lean on the E.D. Hirsch / Core Knowledge works may still fall back on a CCSS-like structure because that framework depends on a knowledge base from which learning arises. There are so many frameworks to choose from that it begs the question as to why these two are the only camps that have actually proffered theirs.

In other words, we can’t just say no to everything.

From a math lens, as much as I dislike the way CCSS came about, I also don’t want children of color (!) to only learn multiplication tables in the 10th grade. In literacy, we need a balance of fiction and non-fiction texts, but they can’t all be from the “normal” canon, meaning we need more diverse books, not just from one dominant perspective.

As my readers know, I have legitimate concerns about the Common Core. But, in the midst of protests and pullbacks, I’m already seeing a scenario where states that pull back are simply replicating CCSS and giving it another name. This leads me to believe that the discussion isn’t in the “what,” but the “how.” Again.

I imagine that more folks will find their edu-beliefs rooted somewhere because, otherwise, the people squarely in the CCSS camp win. If folks can’t work towards a better set of standards and curricula than the CCSS, then they’ve lost. I imagine that we can do better than no, but it might be just my imagination, running away with me.

Jose

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John Legend and the Well-Meaning Corporatists

by Jose Vilson on March 13, 2013

in Jose

Davis Guggenheim, John Legend, Michelle Rhee

Davis Guggenheim, John Legend, Michelle Rhee

Last Wednesday, Huffington Post Education’s Twitter feed tweeted this out:

In the pithiest attempt at a response, I said “From what?”

After a more thorough read on all the school board races around the country, I noticed a disturbing trend of pundits funding their favorite candidates in influential districts. Places like Chicago, West Sacramento, and Los Angeles started getting funding from people like Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee, and, yes, John Legend.

John Legend’s presence in this debate particularly disturbs me because of the allure and seduction of having a musician stand side-by-side with the very people who condemn poor children, colored or not, to an artless, factory-inspired sense of schooling. Bloomberg’s distaste for public servants and their unions is well documented, as is Michelle Rhee’s bobbing and weaving of cheating allegations, both masterfully playing mainstream media to look like vanguards and radicals. I expect as much from them.

John Legend is different, though. Since my last letter to him, he’s gone further past original thought and more into neo-liberal think tank mode. A line like “If we think demography is destiny, we will allow our school system to confirm that belief” sounds like a Washington lobbyist read up on Deepak Chopra and tried to apply his tweets to education reform.

To make matters worse, he probably still ends arguments with a mini-concert, just to keep the less informed seduced, uncritical, and grateful for his presence, even as he openly plots to destroy communities.

More importantly, the culture around his opinions makes me wonder why anyone would equate celebrity with expertise, but education seems to be the only arena where songwriters and billionaires have better leverage in what happens in the classroom than the actual practitioners and partners in our children’s education, namely teachers and parents. His two to three lines of reasoning, often in the form of “But I know a school that…,” hold too much weight in the improvement of our schools. The research rarely backs him up.

I’m not in the camp of folks that say “Only educators should have a voice in education,” but I am in the camp of “If you’re going to have an opinion, read up.”

Anyone who’s known me for a while might question how I can come for John Legend’s neck when Matt Damon was the feature face at the Save Our Schools March that included Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Jonathan Kozol, and me. If you take a listen to Damon’s speech, however, two things come to the fore: he’s not telling anyone he’s the expert in education and he ends his speech by introducing his mother Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an actual educator.

John Legend, on the other hand, lends his face to countless programs, yet never relinquishes the expertise to someone who knows better than he. Instead, the magic comes from within him and his own ideas, really the corporate reform slate cleverly disguised in a black musician. He might in fact mean well, but he seems to have stayed the course, an often dangerous proposition for anyone who opines so openly on a field with all the wrong voices in charge.

The list of famous folk who prescribe to this reform slate doesn’t start or end with him, but he’s put himself in the spotlight. Sadly, John’s legend in education will show a man who supports kids using pencils to bubble in scan-ready sheets rather than notes for the keys to their own lives.

Jose, who is happy he has his own space to publish this in …

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The Jetsons

A few notes:

  • When we believe kids can do something, they do better than when we think they can’t. Just a reminder. [NPR]
  • EduShyster cracks me up with this satirical look at the new “crack for billionaires”: education reform. [EduShyster]
  • Josh Eidelson thinks Chicago is just the beginning. I tend to agree. [Salon]
  • The way Chicago won had lots to do with social media. To Kenzo, Xian, Katie, Fred, Adam, and all my colleagues on the front lines there, thank you. [WBEZ 91.5]
  • In case you’re wondering, it has been 50 years since America met the Jetsons. How close are we to this future? [Smithsonian]
  • Zac Chase says we should embrace the confusion in our classrooms. Hear him out now. [Autodizactic]

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Everytime You Use “It,” They Win

November 29, 2010 Jose
Ace Ventura

You ever have that one friend who has that daft, irritating catch phrase they picked up from some movie or TV show and he just wouldn’t stop saying it? I probably agitated my younger brother and cousin everytime I thought something was corny and I’d reply with an “AAAAAALLLLLLLRRRRIGHTY THEEENNN!!!” (© Ace Ventura). They in […]

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Education Reform Group Likes The Taste of Old People

May 13, 2010 Jose
Betty White, Snickers Commercial

This afternoon, I received an glossy unsolicited mailing from Education Reform Now, and after careful consideration, maybe I shouldn’t have picked up the mail today. On the front, a man in a pinstriped suit carrying out a cardboard box full of plants, pencils, and a job newsletter with the words “Thanks to the teachers’ union, […]

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