"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Four Know-Nothings Who Dominate Education Policy in America

It's clear to me now. The nation's education policy is under the control of people who are afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Simply stated, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is a mistaken belief in one's own competence. Someone who is unskilled believes that they are skilled. Those with no ability believe their ability is not only adequate, but above average. They lack the ability to recognize their own mistakes. This is caused by Illusory Superiority, common among politicians and professional athletes, which causes people to overestimate their own importance relative to others.

Some people who suffer from this Effect are: Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, and Michelle Rhee (also Jeb Bush, Tony Bennett, Rahm Emanuel, Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Indiana's Republican majority, Oprah Winfrey and others...but this is already long enough).

These four people have some things in common...
  • a desire to replace public schools with privately-run-with-public-money charters*.
  • a willingness to overuse and misuse standardized tests.
  • little or no experience as an actual teacher in a public school or, for that matter, as a student in public schools. All spent most or all of their early years at elite private schools. Gates, Obama and Rhee were all in private schools by 7th grade. Duncan attended private schools exclusively. Rhee is the only one who ever actually taught real students in a public school.
  • wealth. All four of these people are either independently wealthy or, as in Rhee's case, receive money and donations for their activities from wealthy people.
None have expertise in education. Obama, Duncan and Gates have never had any training in education. Rhee was trained by Teach For America. They all support "turning around public schools" which means, converting public schools to for-profit charter schools. None, but Rhee will admit it, but they all probably hope that the teachers unions would just go away since they're filled with, you know, actual teachers. None of them seem to understand that...
  • Closing schools doesn't improve education.
  • Privately-run-with-public-money charter schools don't do any better than regular public schools.
  • standardized tests shouldn't be used to rank schools or students. Standardized tests shouldn't be used to evaluate teachers.
  • States with strong teachers unions score as high, or higher than states without strong teachers unions.
No "reformy" strategy has actually helped children learn better than traditional public schools. Some charters and private schools do better (usually those which serve wealthy children or have huge influxes of cash from corporate donors), some do worse, but on the whole the "reform" movement hasn't changed much in the world of American education -- other than closing neighborhood public schools, making teachers' jobs harder and sucking the joy out of learning for children.

None of the four want to talk about poverty and its impact on achievement.

Let's get to know them...

BARACK OBAMA: Currently President of the United States (Net Worth: >$2.5m) - law degree from Harvard. Tells teachers what they want to hear and convinced the president of NEA that his policy of closing and privatizing schools was good for education. Cheered when all the teachers at Central Falls High School in RI were fired. Education experience - none. Education expertise - none.
We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.
What about the people who don't have the grades, the desire and the will? Do we just let them fade away? Do we forget about their possible contributions if given an opportunity? Do we just write them off and start saving money for prisons and welfare? We need to support the schools with these most difficult to educate students...and find ways to pique their interest and motivate them.
Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do.
As President, Obama has thrown up his hands and walked away from the public schools. His program, Race to the Top, doesn't target the neediest schools and children in the country. It targets those who play the "Race to the Top" game (more: see Duncan). Furthermore, while saying that we shouldn't "teach to the test" or that teachers didn't devote their lives to testing, he supports the US DOE which is forcing the overuse and misuse of testing on America's schools.

ARNE DUNCAN: Currently US Secretary of Education (Net Worth: >$1.5m)> - a professional basketball player (Melbourne's Eastside Spectres), with a degree from Harvard in Sociology. He believes that observing his mother tutor students qualifies him to make education policy. Along with his boss, cheered when all the teachers at Central Falls HS in Central Falls RI were fired. Education experience - none. Education expertise - none.
Surveys show that many talented and committed young people are reluctant to enter teaching for the long haul because they think the profession is low-paying and not prestigious enough.
Encouraging states to use invalid evaluation methods in order to get Race to the Top money...encouraging the demise of public schools at the hands of corporate charter operators...forcing states to use unproven methods in order to get needed funds to keep schools running is not the way to improve the teaching profession.
States should not balance their budgets on the backs of students.
Race to the Top provides funds only for those states who want to use unproven methods. Other states -- if there still are any -- who want support for their public schools don't get it from the federal government.

BILL GATES: Currently retired busybody and rich person (Net Worth: $66bn) - a college dropout with extremely high technology and business skills. He believes that having money makes him an expert in everything. Education experience - none. Education expertise - none.
In American math classes, we teach a lot of concepts poorly over many years. In the Asian systems they teach you very few concepts very well over a few years.
Wrong. Our students from low-poverty schools score at the top of the world when compared to other countries. It's the high poverty schools which skews our average scores down and gives the impression that American schools are mediocre.
If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.
Teachers don't have tenure. They have due process (although some states, like Indiana, have even eliminated that). Due process means that administrators must prove that teachers are not doing their jobs before getting rid of them. Due process provides teachers with a right to a hearing. Due process means that teachers have the right to improve before their fired.

There is no tenure.

MICHELLE RHEE: Currently CEO of the New Teachers Project (with funding from Bill Gates) and StudentsFirst (with funding from the Broad Foundation) - a holder of degrees in government and public policy from two high quality, Ivy League institutions (Cornell and Harvard). She believes that after 3 years experience teaching with minimal training, and serving unsuccessfully as chancellor of D.C. public schools, she now knows all there is to know about education. Education experience - 3 years as a TFA teacher in Baltimore. Education expertise - fund raising.
People don't understand where we stand right now on international rankings on academics. We are behind countries like Hungary and Luxumbourg.
Rhee is one of those people she describes. She doesn't understand where we stand right now internationally (See above under Bill Gates).

She also doesn't seem to see any conflict between this statement...
Part of what we outlined was that teachers who were highly effective could get paid twice as much money as they could under the old system. The ineffective teachers stopped teaching and the minimally effective were given one year to improve – during which there was a freeze on all pay increases.
...and this one.
Teachers have integrity. And if money was the motivating factor, they wouldn’t be in education.
People exhibiting the Dunning-Kruger Effect have no business making public policy of any kind, especially in education. Educators need a voice. Teachers, principals and superintendents need to speak out against the corporate drive to privatize American schools.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


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