A Thin Line

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Undoubtedly, I’ll receive some pushback from fellow educators on this piece. Nevertheless, I can’t help but notice an ominous tide emerging out at the sea of education reform. This potential tidal wave of unregulated criticism dangerously resembles the likes of an Occupy ______________ protest. Even if the message is worthy, the tone of the messenger is becoming more and more counterproductive.

Opponents of the CCSS and high-stakes testing need to cautiously tread the line between sophisticated, researched –based critiques versus populist, conspiratorial rants. If left unchecked, the arguments against the so-called corporate take over of public education, albeit true or not, is going to taint the valid concerns of all educators and parents alike.

Putting aside the message and it’s delivery, what exactly is the ultimate end game, anyway? Are we to throw the baby out with the bath water? Are we to shun for-profit partnerships within public education? As a public school teacher, am I not supposed to use my smart board or any high-tech apps because they have a corporate logo? Am I to use chalkboard and chalk, or white board and dry erase markers only?

We cannot go back to the 20th century. There IS a need to redefine how we educate a tech-savvy generation of students. Many of us – educators –were not born with iPads or iPhones, so I can understand the reluctance to change. But, if you don’t meet the students where they are, then you will risk losing them. Why? Well, because our students live in a flat, technological world. There is no denying that fact.

Therefore, there IS a need to reform instructional practices, at the very least, to include the use of technology in classroom. To suggest otherwise would be foolish and disconnected. Those who incessantly bash the corporate world “agenda,” all the while tweeting on their iPads or iPhones, are falling for the irrational “it’s us versus them” narrative. This is an extremely dangerous shift. In order to maximize teaching and learning in the 21st century, don’t we need to use technological products? Do we really believe that taxpayers’ monies, alone, is sufficient enough to fund tech-ready classrooms and schools?

*** Side Note: This is NOT the part where you insert the 99%-ers argument about the uber-wealthy. As much as I can agree that we – the U.S. – need a fairer income tax formula, shouting about injustices, alone, doesn’t necessarily change the realities on the ground. ***

Please understand that I’m not parroting a message, “brought to you by ____________, Inc.” I’m genuinely concerned that the cause, i.e. a need for more bottom-up education reforms, is becoming tainted by unfettered anger. Education independents, or moderates, need more than the 24/7 all-you-can-tweet rants about the corporate take-over of public education.

So, again, what exactly is the endgame for the anti-CCSS movement? What exactly is the endgame for the anti-charter school movement? Are you asking for an end to high-stakes tests, or an end to the CCSS aligned, or not so aligned, high-stakes tests? Are you asking for an end to teacher evaluations based on VAMs, or teacher evaluations altogether? There needs to be a clear, concise agenda if the cause is to remain valid. If not, the message risks treading into the conspiratorial echo chambers of social media. There’s a thin line between love and hate, but the line between a great cause and a grandiose conspiracy is even thinner.

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4 thoughts on “A Thin Line

    • This is my fear. If the debate continues to becomes an “us versus them” issue, then many more will turn a deaf ear as well. There are valid concerns and issues to be raised, but a polarized forum is not conducive for open dialogue.

  1. Pointing fingers leads nowhere. Checking my own disposition is the first thing to do. However, having a problem with (blind) followers is nothing new: already Goethe was complaining about it. “Nothing is more disgusting than the majority: because it consists of a few powerful predecessors, of rogues who adapt themselves, of weak who assimilate themselves, and the masses who imitate without knowing at all what they want.”

    Technology is just a tool for delivering information. It doesn’t improve education, per se. But, what really, REALLY is problematic with CCSS and the reform, is the focus being placed on wrong things in education. Competition among (and within) schools (this also addresses the charter school problem), prescripted curricula and instruction, and the test-based accountability are undermining teaching as an academic profession. The thought behind all that is how with the right equipment and specific standards and ready script virtually anyone could be a successful teacher – with education studies or without. This is not true!

    Learning is contextual and situational. Teaching must adapt to these realities, if we wish to have higher order thinking and learning – and this also means equipping teachers with sufficient knowledge about the importance of interactions in learning process (instead of just aiming to produce certain learning targets or products). With the ready products we will never know whether students actually learned something new, or if they already had that knowledge when they walked into the classroom. To survive in globalizing world we need life-long learners. How are we going to grow them?

    My views, of course, are biased due to my own teacher training in Finland (and by mentoring learning technology and instructional design degrees for Master’s program). Then again, Finnish education has shown to be effective in several consecutive studies. 🙂

    ~Nina

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