Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Incent" incenses my senses

It's HSPA "blitz" month here in Bloomfield. The tests are looming, now less than two weeks away. Mr. Duncan wants to incent our kids to do well.

"Blitz" is short for blitzkrieg, a German word coined in 1939 that means "lightning war." It comes from the same kind of reasoning that produced "Shock and Awe," a grim reminder that warfare waged against civilians is now acceptable in Western civilization. In some ways, "blitz" is the perfect word for the intense prepping this month.

Teachers sometimes wonder why children cannot do this or cannot do that. We wonder why they insist on magical thinking, believing that if they wish for something hard enough, it will come true.

They learned from watching adults. A President who lies to launch a war. A superstar athlete who juices up to launch a baseball. Hedge fund traders who cook books to launch Ponzi schemes. Each considered the epitome of success.

Our newest Secretary of Education said recently:
"I think we are lying to children and families when we tell children that they are meeting standards and, in fact, they are woefully unprepared to be successful in high school and have almost no chance of going to a good university and being successful."
He testified to Congress in August, 2006:
"I am proud to announce that our elementary schools achieved The Power of 4! This year, four more students per classroom met state standards compared to last year. In reading, 60% of students are meeting standards, compared to 39% in 2001. In math, 65% of students are meeting standards, compared to 35% in 2001."
The reason the Chicago Miracle sounds too good to be true is because it is just that.

Dig beneath the headlines. Exploring Mr. Duncan's statistical manipulation might make for an interesting math lesson. No miracle, just manipulation.


I don't mind paying taxes to support democracy, to promote citizenship, to create a stronger town, a stronger country.

I do mind paying taxes to promote the interests of business over the well-being of our children.

From the Business Roundtable folks:

"To compete and succeed in an international marketplace for talent, U.S. workers need a 21st century approach to lifelong learning that enables them to develop and refresh the skills needed for high-skilled service and manufacturing jobs. Business Roundtable is calling for the development of a modernized, streamlined, and effective system that provides universal access to workforce training and adjustment assistance to maintain a nimble and productive workforce."
They were, of course, thrilled with Arne Duncan's appointment.

If we are going to let business leaders dictate educational policy primarily to fulfill their needs, if we're going to let businesses threaten a cornerstone of democracy, a free and public education for all, at least make them do it on their own dime.

A smart child in a good home fed a decent diet living under the guidance of loving adults who actually spend a few hours a day with the child will have no problem passing a national test.

If only the rest of the kids would go away....


captainawsome said...

Our school gives every student that passes the HSPA a personal dvd player. They pay $120 for each one. Last year one of the owners of the NJ Knicks spoke at our high school graduation and announced that he would be giving a thousand dollars to every student that graduated from our high school that year. Sometimes I wonder why I push my kids to go the extra mile when so many others are praising mediocre.
The hardest working students get little to no fanfare. Ofcourse those kids never did it for the applause.
P.S.- I've been waiting for three years for a three hole punch and have been told that we couldn't afford it.

Barry Bachenheimer said...

You've gotten to the heart of the matter with the growing notion on state and national levels that the purpose of school is to prep kids for jobs. I know of very few jobs outside of factory work, entry level service industry, and retail where a high school diploma is enough qualificatin to get a job. who is driving this? Universities who want the tution but not the redial classes? Business who want more "capable" employees? Armed Forces? I have no idea. I do know that there is not much difference between 21st century skills and 20th century skills in the areas of things that will always be needed: how to speak or write well (electronic or otherwise), how to read information for pleasure or for use, how to solve a problem with logical steps, how to learn how to enjoy learning more, and how to work well with others, especially those who are different than you. That is the purpose of school.

doyle said...

Dear captainawesome.

Oh, dear.

Please tell me it was the NY Knicks and not the NJ Nets.

Quite a few of those with real money are clueless. Maybe he'll buy you a hole punch.

Don't hold your breath.

Dear Barry,

I think, alas, we have finally commoditized the uncommoditizeable.

No one gets it anymore.

I'm old enough that I may be fortunate enough not to see the predictable, unfortunate end of this nonsensical approach to education.

Our school's motto is "Learn to live"--I don't think I can be anymore succinct than that.