Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On the topic of Sheeple

You know, it's days like this that I wonder whether the "Powers that Be" (ptb) have a wicked sense of humor, are on vacation, or what. Let's take a quick stock of the summer (the abbreviated version, because I still have some work-work to do). Still in Iraq? Check. Gearing up for Iran? Check. Continuing to dismantle the Constitution? Check. Setting civil rights back even further? Check. Still punishing children for being born into poverty? Check. The rich getting richer? Check.

I need to stop here or I am going to have to engage in some scream therapy.

There was this great scene in School Daze (I think). Laurence Fishurne's character, Dap, stands, screaming in the early morning, "Wake up!" It's a moment that has stuck with me since I first saw the movie as a teen. The movie itself got mixed reviews, and while its focus was on intra-racial politics, the overall message of the movie still strikes a chord with me. Until more of us wake up, we continue to perpetuate... our own shame.

But it's more than that. In so many ways, Gramsci had it right. We (all of us, to some degree or another) really do buy into our own oppression, and we also buy into the idea that we might actually deserve it. And, too many of us let life happen to us. Instead of engaging, thinking, and making up our own minds, we let others do it for us. And, when people do raise questions, too many of us fail to really think about what the questions are, what they mean, and the answers to them. Instead, we let others tell us what to think about it, we let others silence us with fear. We abrogate our responsibility to ourselves and the world.

In the case of Dap's world, he watched the "good" blacks, with the "good" hair, who talked the right way, who didn't challenge the system clash with other black students because they (the other students) were making it hard to assimilate and "get theirs." But the bigger picture here concerning School Daze was Spike Lee's ability to capture how it all plays out in terms of power. One group (the wannabes) decided their road to power was to divest themselves of all those identity markers that made them black. The other group (jigaboos--talk about a racialized and racist assigned identity) consciously chose a different route: to embrace who they were. The irony, of course, is that by fighting with each other, they were not focusing on bigger issues that affected both groups. As a result, they bought into a perception of the way things could and ought to be, that failed to bring them together. This certainly wasn't good for them, but it was good for those who would lose a lot if different interest groups actually saw that they had more in common than they didn't.

The really scary thing about this is that history has borne out this less-than-stellar human behavior over and over again. In education, some us call it the problem of "other people's children." It's all well and good for other people and their kids, but I want what I want for my kids. And, I don't know and care what the larger implications are for my community and society as a whole. In other situations, it becomes sticking your head in the sand.

For the sake of our friends, families, and the world, please, wake up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CNN/Youtube debate: They want to "scrap" NCLB!

...except for the accountability issue, of course. But it was nice to hear that several of the candidates were actually concerned about teachers and, gasp(!), teaching! There was talk about a "teacher minimum wage" (which is great for states and communities with lower cost-of-living, not so much for those working in places like, CA or NYC). Someone actually mentioned really supporting teachers to help them become good teachers, and one of them actually talked about the Arts!

Too bad, once again, the Social Studies was completely ignored. And, there was still some support for "competition" (read, taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and parochial schools). There was also the homage to accountability, though it wasn't spelled out what that might look like in a revised NCLB.

At least there is some discussion about it. I'm not sure whether it is an honest discussion, but I can find a small kernel of hope there.

The proof will be in the final reauthorization

Tally ho!
It's called the All Students Can Achieve Act and is a new "bi-partisan" proposal to further amend the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 (NCLB). For those of you who don't know, NCLB is the "watershed" piece of legislation brought to you straight from Texas to ensure that all children and Adolescents in the United States recess an "equal" education. Supposedly, according to former Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, NLCB is the natural extension of the Brown Decision, that landmark Supreme Court case that stated that separate is inherently unequal. NCLB was supposed to ensure higher accountability with standardized testing, qualified teachers, adequate yearly progress, and research-based teaching methods. All of which, mind you, sounds great in theory. Too bad the "theory" was based upon the trumped up "Texas Miracle" and was signed into law with little or no debate.

But back to the topic at hand. This new proposal actually acknowledges what many of us have been concerned about all along: the fact that individual states can set their own proficiency levels (as high or low as they want), and as long as they make adequate yearly progress (that's AYP for those of you in-the-know), those states get their federal funding. Who cares that the funding itself rarely covers the costs of the tests the states are required to implement? Who cares that districts in distress are punished because they need help? And, who cares if states can set their expectations as high or low as they want? Instead of helping districts in need, NCLB requires these already economically strapped schools and districts to pay for additional services out of pocket. All Students can Achieve takes it one step further. Now they want track individual students and go after teachers who's students don't make AYP. Again, great in theory, lousy in practice for district with high mobility rates, or teachers who work in districts with pretty strict tracking policies. And, this of course requires us to actually believe that the tests are accurate indicators of achievement.

The other thing that is really interesting about this proposed act is that it also calls for national standards and, possibly, national tests. THAT will go over with those who support state autonomy.

You can read about the proposal here:

Thursday, July 5, 2007

this is a test

yes, even a person who is skeptical of them, sometimes chooses to use
them. So, this is a test. More to come later.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's July 4.

Nothing like starting a new project on a holiday. Friends and family are arriving for the BBQ in a few hours (hopefully before the rain), and what am I doing? Creating a blog. Yep, that's right, I am an expert at procrastination. But, it makes sense that I post my first set of thoughts on a day that is supposed to symbolize some good stuff. Instead we have:

A POTUS who commutes the sentence of one of his lackeys. The same POTUS who refused, as governor of TX, to release an inmate who had been exonerated by DNA. Yeah, there's equal representation under the law.It's simply"more equal for some than others.

A SCOTUS who in their latest decision has essentially enabled de jure segregation to rear its ugly head again. Because, apparently being race conscious is being racist. Oh, and this latest decision, just like NCLB, is in the spirit of extending the Brown Decision. Right.

Done for now. It's time to prepare for fun for later on this afternoon.