Our world has largely been taken over by politicians who have little to really to say, and a press that has way too much to say. Schools probably made their biggest leap into history under the guise of Brown. For years, segregationists could not make headway into turning control of schools back to themselves, that is, could not resegregate without scrutiny of the courts.
After the incident in Kanawha County, West Viriginia, stategists from the right, began a campaign to “take back” the schools. It led to endless court maneuvering, and then came the friendly Reagan administration. Suddenly, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative For Educational Reform proclaimed public schools were going to hell in a handcart, worse yet, Allan Bloom’s higher ed ensemble piece, The Closing of the American Mind.
Forget your studies about the Finns and others having model school systems. American schools are like American politics, are like the American people: messy and democratic. Schools are legally organized under cover of the Tenth Amendment, where Federal restrictions supposedly have no place. This is why there really is a lot of autonomy under individual states to organize and teach. Public education is a byproduct of American culture, it did not precede the Revolution in its universality. Public education, as we know it, is about 150 years old. And we educate ALL of our children, for all of the time they are in the public school system.
Almost twenty years ago, when I came back into ed, the universities and the politicians were pushing a concept that in your lifetime you would have career changes at least 7 times. Having come back to transfer from one field to another, I found the going of 1 was more than enough for me to handle. Seven? I once asked one of my professors, wasn’t teaching that a little premature on their part, since they themselves had not left their own position for about 30 years?
What they failed to tell me, was over the course of the next twenty years, I would be producing films and productions for my students, my blackboard would become a Promethean board, and the stats that I was learning would come in handy. Unfortunately, many colleagues never had the later, especially a lot of principals. Hocus pocus of data drives our schools. As Chuck Dziuban used to say, statistics can always be manipulated.
They also did not tell me that the things that made me want to go into school, would become so regimented, that many good young teachers would begin to opt out for other careers. Schools are not test scores, and data is not the bottom line. Teachers do not make policy, not do they write the textbooks, nor devise the tests. They do not create or build the architecture that becomes schools. This occurs outside the school building.
If the end result of A Nation at Risk was to warn us, and politiicians and others, have become so entwined on policy, a recent study claims reading scores for high school students taking the SAT this year were the lowest on record in nearly 30 years. So if all this policy and these changes for making teachers more accountable has been in place, why the low scores? Perhaps politicians and the press might have learned that old saying: Too many cooks spoil the broth. Perhaps they might ask the multimillion dollar book companies who create the books why kids read so poorly? By the way, did anyone ever figure, since the advent of television our dependency on the printed word is a lot less? That language is always in flux especially moving from an industrial to a digital era? Kids are more literate with their phones, as texting becomes the new language, lol.
As this is the first of the blogs, I ask the reader, what are your memories of school? I am sure school has to mean something more than a test score.