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For the true fundamentalist, political life is extremely simple.  Fundamentalist politics demands that the truths handed down by revelation or "nature" be applied consistently to govern all citizens.  How could they not be? For the fundamentalist, there is no secular truth independent of religious truth, and there is no greater imperative than saving souls.  If there is an inevitable disjunction between the demands of Heaven and the brokenness of Earth, the role of politics is to narrow that gap as far as possible.  It is conjoin ultimate meaning with the monopoly of force.

Andrew Sullivan wrote that about politics in his recent book.  It is my contention that he has provided us with the lens through which we can finally understand NCLB.

in The Conservative Soul:  How we Lost It, How to Get It Back Sullivan attempts to dissect the fundamentalist mindset, and explain why he finds it alien to true conservatism.  My wife bought his book because she views him as somewhat more sane that most conservatives, and we have both experienced his responding to emails we have sent him.  I am less interested in what he has to say about how this applies to political processes per se as I am to try to apply it to an understanding of what is happening to our nation’s educational system.

That first blockquote was from page 119.  Let me offer a few more before I begin my excursus.

From p. 95:

Fundamentalists assert a central core idea and then contort or distort reality in order to make it fit their model.  They take the ideal and insist that it be universal. . . . They see exceptions to their rule not as invitations to explore more about the complexity of human and natural life, but as a way to condemn and exclude any activity that doesn’t fit that ideal

and from p. 150:

What you see in the mind-set of President Bush is an absolute commitment to certain, often laudable goals - helping the poor or lost, protecting the country from harm, preventing evil domestic and foreign - with a commensurate lack of interest in the means of making good on such commitment.  What matters to the fundamentalist is the purity of his motives, not the messy weighing of outcomes, the adherence to cumbersome procedures, the worry about unintended consequences, the irritating follow-up of initiatives launched in a blizzard of optimism and rhetoric.

Sullivan writes especially about how this plays out in issues of sexual morality.  I would argue that all of his arguments are equally applicable to educational policy.  Certainly the surface optimism of leaving no child behind can easily be seen.    To anyone who has paid close attention, things like the distortion of reality have been essential in NCLB, beginning with the unreality of the supposed Texas miracle, which was in fact nonexistent - our national educational policy was sold on the basis of "facts" that did not exist, much as was our national policy of intervention in Iraq and the parallel national policy of abandoning historic commitments to human rights at home and abroad.

But, you might ask, how is this related to fundamentalism?  How about an unwillingness to accept any possible interpretation than that espoused by the designated authorities, those to whom is vouchsafed the only legitimate interpretation?  In a religious context, it is interpretation of received religious texts.  I’m not sure how to make an exact parallel, but clearly the role of authority that is not to be challenged on interpretation, whether that authority is US Dept. of Education or groups like the folks from Aspen , serve as some level of equivalence.  That the only measure at which this people will look - giving that measure the equivalence of Biblical command - are tests that are narrow in what they measure, flawed in what and how they measure, often biased as to class, race and gender, and yet are to be relied upon as if Writ from on high indicates something of a fundamentalist mindset.

As usual, I had not intended to write a diary today - I know I keep writing that, and yet I keep posting these annoying diaries.  And probably not that many of you will read this.  So let me be clear why I posted this.  I am trying to help people understand the destruction that NCLB does, and how we can view what is happening to education as like the canary that warns coal miners of the possibly lethal or explosive build up of gases.  

We can see further elements of the fundamentalist mindset with respect to education in other ways, not directly related to NCLB, but a part of the larger picture.  The insistence upon recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, attempts ot reinsert formal prayer as much as is possible, the attempts to control curricular decisions on the basis of religion (biology and cosmology) and political ideology (and Maryland requires teaching capitalism as the best economic system even though we in fact have a very mixed economic system and many of our largest corporations would not survive in a true free market environment).  

It is my contention that if we lose the battle over public education, it will be that much harder to prevent a fundamentalist takeover of our nation.  That fundamentalism may not be specifically religious - in fact many of those driving the process may well use religious terminology as a cover for far more selfish motives, although there are indubitably those who seek to hasten the final parousia - in this our religious fundamentalists have much more in common with certain strands of Islamic thought than they do with most of historical Christianity.  

What is clear is the unwillingness to allow in education alternative interpretations of reality, of "truth" whatever that might be.  The very idea of of a child-focused approach to education, of invoking the natural interest of the child is abhorrent to many driving our educational policy.  For some this abhorrence IS religious - the natural interests are seen as sinful and need to be driven out by competent (religious) authority.  It is also seen in terms of the unwillingness to value individual differences, that is, students whose ability to demonstrate understanding and learning is not easily measured on convergent thinking multiple choice items.  It is further seen in the understanding (or lack thereof) of the role of teacher.  For all the rhetoric about highly qualified, or in the terms used by the Aspen Commission of highly qualified EFFECTIVE (as measured by student test scores) teachers, we see a narrowing of what is measured, and a restriction of teachers to stray in instruction from that which is specifically measured.  Remember that in Kansas the state school board was not going to prohibit teaching evolution, merely remove it from the testable content in the hopes of using the tests to drive (control) what was actually taught (an effective approach where there are punitive sanctions, whether for students, teachers and/or schools based on results of those tests).

It is legitimate to discuss whether there should be some core level of learning we wish all of our students to have (although since we do not impose those standards on non-public schools and those who argue for religious and/or homeschooling often argue on the basis of a right to a different approach to learning), but this core level should not be so extensive as to exclude the ability of teachers to develop the interests and skills of all of their students.  

I would be interested in a discussion of how others see the issue of fundamentalisms (please note the plural) in how we approach educational policy, most especially with respect to NCLB.  If you disagree with me, please tell me why.  If you can further develop this paradigm, I am interested in reading your ideas.

I apologize that this is not a fully develop or coherent set of ideas.  As I read Sullivan this afternoon, I realized the applicability of his model as a lens for understanding the nature of the battle over reauthorization of NCLB.  Even though I knew the model could use a great deal more development, I thought it worthwhile to offer for discussion, so I have.

What say you?

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:05 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I really would like to read your comments, but (36+ / 0-)

    of course you are free to recommend, offer a tip, or ignore as you see fit.

    I will be around in case you do comment.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:06:14 PM PST

    •  Closing the door on the "project of democracy", (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      That's my abiding concern.  You state it nicely here:

      It is my contention that if we lose the battle over public education, it will be that much harder to prevent a fundamentalist takeover of our nation.  That fundamentalism may not be specifically religious - in fact many of those driving the process may well use religious terminology as a cover for far more selfish motives, although there are indubitably those who seek to hasten the final parousia - in this our religious fundamentalists have much more in common with certain strands of Islamic thought than they do with most of historical Christianity.

      The only thing I might disagree with you about is just how applicable a fundamentalist mentality is to NCLB.  I see NCLB as a coordinated plan to privatize schools.  It is part of long-term agreement among neoliberal thieves to exploit a new market as fully as possible.  In this view, fundamentalism is simply one of many means toward that end.  If you can get the folks at home to support privatization indirectly by feeding off of your fundamentalist rhetoric then it's an easy slide to fully profitability.  I'd like your input on this take of mine, however, because I'm always looking for the golden key, that Rosetta stone that will prove without a doubt that NCLB is a profiteer's plot.

      •  It's sort of a conservatives dream, isn't it? (3+ / 0-)

        One part of it is blatant profiteering, as most privatization tends to be.  But the other is a universalizing impulse.  Universals and profit are the two key, completely entangled strands of the current conservative vision, with NCLB being a prime example.

        Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

        by Statius on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:33:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  As someone considering teaching as an occupation, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myrealname, possum

    I find these diaries very interesting! TK, what advice would you offer to prospective teachers in this current NCLB era?

    "Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death" -The Sundays.

    by Diaries on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:08:43 PM PST

    •  cannot offer generic advice (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      myrealname, ms badger, possum

      requires dialog

      why are you teaching

      what are you teaching

      where are you teaching

      what restrictions are there on you about using independent judgment

      do you have some other way of supporting yourself if teaching does not work out

      sorry to be so negative, but I do not think one can be an effective teacher unless one approaches it as having nothing to lose -  then what compromises you make (and you will make compromises) will be because you can see a greater benefit arising for the students by your compromising than by being rigid, and not because you fear for your job.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:12:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah - that's the thing... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm not a teacher :^) I'm still a student, but the idea of applying to grad school for a teaching degree (and eventual certification) is calling me. But a general outlook on the field from people who are actively involved, day-to-day, would be invaluable at this stage.

        "Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death" -The Sundays.

        by Diaries on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:21:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  My advice (9+ / 0-)

      Is threefold:

      1. Don't get into teaching unless you love kids.  There are so many other factors that go into what makes a good teacher vs. a lousy one, but this one more than any other makes the difference, IMO.
      1. LOVE WHAT YOU TEACH.  I can't begin to tell you how often I meet lousy teachers who aren't really interested in what they teach.  If you want to teach history and government, but those subjects bore you, DON'T TEACH IT!  Your students will be as bored as you are by the subject.  If you have a passion for the subject, it catches.  I live eat and breathe history and government.  It's all I do.  I'm a junkie, which is  a part of the reason I am here.  
      1. Get a Masters.  It pays. :)  
      1. Invest in a good coffeemaker and get to know a bartender who will let you run an ongoing tab.  You're going to need both.  

      "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Milan Kedrun

      by Guy Fawkes on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:23:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  group drinking - let me explain (6+ / 0-)

        at my first school, one fellow first year teacher was the daughter of a local cop.  As a result, we were allowed to go to the Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.  Every Friday a group of us, ranging from as few as 5 to as many as 20 (out of 63 teachers in the school)would congregate together.  Pitchers of Killian's were 3.50 in 1995-96, and the cops were unlikely to stop us driving away because they would also have to stop their brethren.

        Healthy?  perhaps not for our livers, but definitely for our spirits.  Don't know if I would have gotten through the first year without it.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:27:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you :^) (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, possum

        These are the kind of general 'heads-up' tips I'm looking for. I already work with kids from a science background, but beyond being comfy interacting with them, I realize there's far more to teaching - that's the kind of stuff I'm trying to get an idea about.

        "Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death" -The Sundays.

        by Diaries on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:34:05 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Good advice -- (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cfk, myrealname, ms badger, possum, Diaries

        I teach adults (usually), not kids, but the advice applies just as well.  We own two dog training centers and the true students are the humans, not the dogs.  (The dogs are easy!  The humans, not so much . . . )

        One of the main pieces of advice you'll hear bandied about among dog trainers is this -- if you don't like people, don't teach.  You can love dogs more than any other species on the planet, but it won't mean diddly unless you also love the people that you must reach to make your instruction successful.

        And, you also have to love the science of training.  I've found that the best and most successful trainers are those that never tire of learning.  Because the more you learn about dogs and their behavior . . . the more you realize you don't know!

        Oh, and the bartender is essential.  Especially on nights where you've just taught the Class from Hell ;-).

        :-) Mel

      •  Shows how tired I am (0+ / 0-)

        I put that my advice was threefold and then gave four suggestions.  Hehehehe!

        "The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Milan Kedrun

        by Guy Fawkes on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 02:07:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great topic (6+ / 0-)

    Two tendencies in contemporary evangelicism: any discussion of American evangelicalism is bound to run into Weber and the capitalist ethos of Protestantism.  NCLB strikes me as very in line with the kind of factory-ish ethic that Protestants thrive on.  Roll up the sleeves, pick a discrete, clean metric, and set to.

    Against that is the principle of subsidiarity: anything that can be done at a lower level of governance should be done there.  This is a Catholic principle, but it generally captures the localized horizon of the evangelical.  This clearly cuts against NCLB, but the fact that it was Bush made the program palatable.  I don't think one can underestimate just how creepily and thoroughly many, many evangelicals see Bush as an instrument of God's Providence and will.  

    That dovetails nicely with your well-put point about the inherent authoritarianism of evangelicals.  They distrust government not out of a firm belief in subsidiarity, but because they don't think government pure enough to be trusted.  Once Bush was elected, that skepticism went straight out the window.

    No thesis in that comment, just hucking stuff out on a fascinating topic.


  •  As usual, your insightful diary illustrates your (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, myrealname, possum

    penchant to teach and to open ones mind to alternative methods. The longer I have been retired from teaching, the more I realize the mistakes I made in my own approach to teaching. I have always thought education should be a narrative experience rather than a subjective one or filled with commentary from the teacher's perspective. There is too much pro or anti to the promotion of ideas and concepts. It is hard not to inject one's bias into subjects like history or science, but we do not allow the student to grow if we must influence their conclusions. In other words, if we force them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, how are we educating that child? We are forcing them to conclude they must abide to a symbol that is the flag, and to blindly accept all concepts that is American. Even when we teach biology and inject our scientific reactions to creationism we are trying to influence the student of the correctness of what the teacher thinks is true, rather than allowing the student to conclude for themselves whether evolution is correct over that of creationism. I am agnostic, yet, I wish I could teach children to absorb the information objectively so their test scores reflect what they themselves have become, rather than an illustration of how much influence I as the teacher had over them.

    •  Devils Advocation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Isn't the danger of the student-led approach that it relies too much on a) a motivated student; and b) a dynamic teacher?

      •  you can use student interest (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        myrealname, possum

        even if not directly related to official curriculum - once you can start to show a connection however tenuous it becomes easier to get them to try a bit harder.

        you can also motivate your students by building relationships - students will work because they don't want to disappoint the teacher

        and a teacher who is enthusiastic about his subject may find that infectious

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:39:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          teacherken, cfk, myrealname, ms badger, possum

          In our field, we find that if we can show the students how teaching Behavior X to their dogs will make their lives easier, they tend to work on it a lot harder.  If they think it's just a silly esoteric exercise with no bearing on their daily life, they will be more likely to blow it off.

          And the relationships help a great deal as well.  We try to develop good relationships (well, as good as you can over a 7-week period!) with our students, and become familiar with their individual struggles and goals so that we can help them succeed.  

          In fact, many of our best friends today used to be our dog training clients :).  We meet so many wonderful people through our business!

          I know the dog training thing is not entirely relevant to most of you, but so many of the comments are striking chords with me as a teacher of adults!  So please forgive :).

          :-) Mel

          •  I taught adults (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ClickerMel, cfk, myrealname, possum

            in my years in data processing I often had to instruct clients in the use of software.  I put together my own training session for the software section of the Certified Data Processor exam (I had had the highest score for that section on the 1984 administration, and helped to write the next version).  

            I have taught stewardship and consensus models of decision making to parish councils of the Orthodox Church of America.  

            And as a choir director for a number of years in the Orthodox Church in America, I had to teach music and singing and some theology to those singing in the various church choirs with which I was associated.

            I tell my adolescents that I plan to have fun, because if I am not having fun when I teaching with them, they will be bored out of their minds.

            Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

            by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:57:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Yes -- if you don't have fun, neither do they! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Kudos for you for having fun while teaching subjects that -- at least on the surface -- seem a bit dry :).  Except the choir thing -- I love to sing and would be an avid student in such a class!

              I am purposefully very silly in class.  When students start laughing at me, they start relaxing, and then they're more likely to laugh at their own mistakes (rather than yelling at their dogs!)

              The key is to make it relevant.  Oh, and toss chocolate around a lot as rewards for good answers and good questions, and for following instructions correctly (in other words, with people as with dogs, reinforce behaviors you like!)

              :-) Mel

            •  Oh -- P.S., I love your sig line! n/t (0+ / 0-)

              :-) Mel

      •  The best teacher is one who inspires (5+ / 0-)

        a student to be motivated to learn. Not one that brainwashes the student. If the opposite is true, we better start building all new military schools.

        •  I agree, but... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          algebrateacher, ms badger

          I balk somewhat at the isolation of "inspire."  It brings to mind the movie Dead Poet's Society, which as a film, I love, but I've grown out of it to a degree (not that it doesn't give me chills still!).  I would add "challenge" in all its meanings here.  I want to push them, present them with new ideas and new ways of thinking.  Remind them that their work is never finished, that it can always be better.  Inspiration is great, but sometimes the teaching needs to be a little more about mutability and becoming than about maximizing self-expression.

          And I don't think that's what you meant at all tazz, just riffing off your comment.

          Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

          by Statius on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:30:48 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Running with the Devil (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Sorry, that comment title is not really a good descriptor of this comment, but I had to do it.

        In my own sense of pedagogy, I fall between a student-led approach and a more teacher-authoritarian role.  Sometimes lectures are good, but I believe in conversation.  I like to follow student interests, but I refuse, completely, passionately, and utterly, to see them as clients or consumers.  I also do not believe that the classroom is a complete democracy.  The hierarchical nature of it cannot be disavowed, but it can perhaps be made to be more functional.

        As to the larger question of this diary: I had never thought of it before, but there is a degree of fundamentalism in NCLB.  First off, it fits the supposed rugged individualism of Protestant fundamentalism, in that failing schools are punished at a certain point.

        For standardized tests, the whole notion of standardization attests to a belief that knowledge can be standardized.  That these sorts of tests are adequate indicators of progress or success.  The great enemy of fundamentalism is the postmodern belief that truth is a relative concept.  I don't mean this in the way that conservatives like to mean it, when they bastardize the concept for political gain.  Rather, I mean that students learn differently, and are inextricably caught up in their cultural contexts.  We need to dedicate resources for smaller classrooms, more teacher training, and so on.   Teaching to the test betrays the belief that there is Knowledge with a capital K, or Competence with a capital C, and while to a point there is, NCLB seems to me to be unforgiving of variance and difference.  

        Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man. -- Bertrand Russell

        by Statius on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:24:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary, and yes, NCLB is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myrealname, possum

    a fundamentalist type program.

    I really have nothing to add to the topic, but, I have an unrelated question for you, if you don't mind.

    My son is 5, in a develepmentally delayed kindergarten at a public school.

    He was diagnosed in the autistic spectrum, PDD at age two.  Just recently, we were told by the same doctor who diagnosed him that he no longer had any signs of autism.

    He is currently working at about a 4-4 1/2 year level in most aspects, with spikes up to two years ahead in some areas.

    My county/state has no developmentally delayed 1st grade.

    You may have no expertise in this area, but if you do, could you point me in the direction of a resource to help me find the right school for him next year?

    I appreciate any advice you may have.  Thanks.

    •  There are listservs that might help (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      sometimes kids with nonverbal learning disability (which I have) are misdiagnosed with autism....or HFA, or whatever.

      One listserv is at Yahoo groups....nld-in-common

      if you post more details about your son, I might be able to help more.  Also, kossack Frankenoid knows a lot about this sort of thing

      What are you reading? on Friday mornings
      What have you got to learn? (or teach) on Saturdays

      by plf515 on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:34:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the info. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I will check out the yahoo listservs and others.

        My son is very verbal (between him and my wife, I sometimes wish I had a hearing aid I could turn down) and he has a great vocabulary for his age.  But he is very hard to understand and is in speech therapy for that.  He does, however, have a seemingly hard time, frequently, of pulling the right words from his head.  I think that once we get him to the point of being more articulate, the dam will be breached and he'll eventually be over that problem.

        He tends to think 3 dimensionally, i.e., in a test for a private kindergarten we thought of sending him to, he was presented with a picture of a stick man missing an eye, a hand and a leg.  He was asked to complete the stick man.

        Instead of drawing in the eye, hand and leg, he drew in the brain, spine and various general organs.

        His gross (and to a lesser extent, his fine) motor coordinations need help.  He still runs as ackwardly as a toddler.  No fluidity of motion.

        He is really good with spacial relations (but, so is his mother, who is dyslexic).  He's got a great imagination and some talent as an abstract artist (or maybe that's just Daddy talking).

        Thanks again for the information.  I will find the help as needed, but an extra voice is always welcome.

        •  You'll likely think I'm weird for this, but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I struggled and read and experimented as a Mom to learn to help my children.  
              The awkward movement, like my son, could possibly be vision related -- and also touched learningn skills.  Find an eye doctor who also checks for MUSCLE COORDINATION problems in eyes as well as the usual exam items. Unless it is severe, it is fixable without surgery -- just exercising weak muscles. (It took a few months in grade 2 and he's some computer genius now.)
              Dyslexia can be helped a lot with DIET. Worst and most consistent culprit -- the tomato, potato, peppers, nicotene family of foods.  Takes about four days to clear the system and start seeing change.  Keep a food diary and watch for better or worse reactions.  It made an amazing difference in one daughter who was SLD and hyperkinetic.  Blue food dye also sent her into orbit and made her breathing allergy medications useless.
             My dyslexic laundromat guy, bemoaned his Italian heritage heavy on tomatoes, when his brother teaching boarding school dyslexics discovered the tomato food family link. It changed his life. We've allowed more and more chemicals in foods since WWII and it seems to trigger those of us who are sensitive to them. Read labels. Buy frozen veggies with no sauces and additives. Experiment. Be your own science project.     Hope it helps.

          Unless all votes count, none count. REVOTE FL 13!

          by Neon Mama on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 10:43:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Is he in occupational therapy? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My kid has sensory integration problems. This means he has trouble synthesizing the biofeedback that his nerves are sending him. We had great results with occupational therapy, and our insurance even paid for it!
      The canonnical book about this is "The Out-of-Sync Child" by Carol Kranowitz. It's a useful book for understanding some behaviors that all children have, such as the joy of twirling round and round like a dervish. It turns out this is necessary for them to develop their sense of balance and which-way-is-up(aka vestibular sense).

      In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

      by Lefty Mama on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 12:11:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ken, as the Guinness Guys would say, (6+ / 0-)


    I feel like a veil has been lifted from my eyes with this analysis -- fitting that this should happen on Transfiguration Sunday.

    Not only does this explain the whole oddness of No Child Allowed to Achieve, but it also explains so many other failings of the Bush Administration. Katrina, Social Security, Medicare Plan B -- When viewed through this new lens of yours, everything becomes, well, crystal clear. Bush really does have a Faith-based administration, and you've captured it quite well.

    I really hope Fred Clarkson sees this one (and I think I'll email him...). He'd be able to wax poetic on this far better than I.

  •  Sully nails it on motive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, rapala, possum

    What matters to the fundamentalist is the purity of his motives, not the messy weighing of outcomes, the adherence to cumbersome procedures, the worry about unintended consequences, the irritating follow-up of initiatives launched in a blizzard of optimism and rhetoric.

    That's basically right.  As against some people that think evangelicals are too moralistic, too negative, too obsessed with sin: the problem is actually that they're too fucking Pollyannish.  It's not that they see sin everywhere; it's that they don't see it enough in the work (James v Paul subtext fully intended) of even those with relatively good motives.

  •  do all diaries have to be fully developed? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, ms badger, possum

    Thanks, Ken.  While I like to see "fully developed" and researched reviews on various issues, I think a more useful diary is one like yours, presenting an interesting and important thought for discussion.  I might actually write diaries if I didn't think every one had to be "fully developed."

    As for your thesis, the way I have always thought of fundamentalism in education is related to the pre-Enlightenment paradigm of education as "received wisdom."  The Enlightenment brought in the new paradigm of learning through experience and/or reason (they seemed to always argue over which was more important).  Of course, if you start letting people think for themselves and questioning "receieved wisdom," you end up with what Peter Gay referred to in the Enlightenment as the "rise of modern paganism."  This seems to parallel what modern fundamentalists wish to avoid in our current educational system.  That may be a simple way of looking at it, but sometimes I find that useful.

    •  Paolo Freire called it the banking model (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      where teachers "deposited" the received knowledge into their students.

      There is that.  But I was looking beyond that, to the entire approach to policy.  The unwillingness to consider any except one model is a kind of fundamentalism, and as I looked at Sullivan's descriptions I started making mental connections with much of what has bothered me as I have observed and participated in the discourse on educational policy the past few years.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 04:53:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What is NCLB? n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dianna, possum

    If you don't have an earth-shaking idea, get one, you'll love building a better world.

    by hestal on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:00:53 PM PST

  •  As usual TK, I saw your name and (9+ / 0-)

    being a fellow educator, as well as a reader of your education diaries chose to read this one.  And of course, it piqued my interest and brought some clarity.

    Recently, I left retirement to fill in for semester at a small elementary school. The school is in a low socioeconomic area and is often under the threat of closure...due to failing to meet required by NCLB.   In a school as small as the one I am in (only 150 children), one or two scores could really affect the  results.  It is school with a 75% turnover rate.  Example, one of the 5th grade students with whom I work is on her fourth school this year, lives in a motel room with a mother and brother.  Amazingly, she is bright, positive and quite accomplished academically consdering her circumstances.  On the other hand, one student moved in two weeks before testing and we have no idea of his "testing" skills.

    Anyway, I was sitting at a meeting right before the tests this past week.  I felt like I was at a National Security Meeting...the mood was somber and scary.  Apparently two years ago, some teacher made some mistake in conversing with a third grader during the test, pronouncing a word the child did not know, and OMG, apparently ALL the scores from that group of students she was testing were "thrown out" which means in our state, scored as ZERO.   Since growth is measured yearly one really bad year kills a school.  

    These tests are not about accountability....they are punitive and used as clubs over teachers' heads.  My cynicism tells me that NCLB is a part of a national desire on the right to end all public schools.  Because I am in an extremely conservative district (the home of Focus on the Family and New Life), our schools are often the target of those who feel that privatization is the way to go, whether their interests are profit or religion.   No matter how upbeat we all try to be, our stress translates to the students.  So we have 8 and 9 year olds stressed out over this.

    Anyway, it reminded me of something...of my own schooling, in Catholic School in the 1950s.  We had "diocesan" tests four times a year.   I had moved from public to catholic school in the fifth grade and had never taken tests like this before.   So I was a bit stressed but I was a good student.   We got the math test and I zipped through it.  When the nun came to pick up the test she asked me to hand her my "worksheet" where I did the work.  I did not have one (since no one gave me a sheet, I assumed I had to do it all in my head).   I went home and cried and carried on convinced I would be failed and kicked out. My parents assured me they were not worried and no matter what the outcome it was fine.

    But now, I wonder.  How many of these kids go home to empty houses worried that it will be their fault if the school closes or is listed in the local papers as failing?   How can this be ethical?  For the record I did fine on the math test much to the chagrin of the nun who chastised the rest of the class for the fact that I had just come from "public" school and beat them all (didn't do great things for my popularity in a new school).  Over the years of my schooling, I watched several of my classmates asked to leave as their scores reflected badly on the diocese.  I watched others being made to feel stupid because they did not test well.  

    Catholic schools from the fifties and sixties trained us (except for those with learning issues, home issues..they just disappeared) well to take tests.  I always scored high.   Yet when I got to college I could not write a paper well, or do art, or PE and was ignorant of anything in the arts.  Those were all experiences I was deprived of having for the sake of academia.  And I learned I loved art and music and love to play sports and wondered why I had to wait until I was 18 to experience those things.

    Catholic schools from those eras were quite successful in training students to take tests.  And yet most of them have closed.  If test taking was such a great skill WHY are those kind of schools not thriving still?  

    Anyway, TK, even though it seems I have again gone off on a tangent, my point is that NCLB is indeed a model of fundamentalism.  And it was tried before and failed in so many ways much of their student body.  I was fortunate that I was one of those people who was extremely strong in visual and auditory memory and therefore always looked "good" on paper.   But I longed to paint, to write, (and finally I do NOW at age 61).   And when teaching, I never failed to give my students as much chance at using their creativity as using their memory.   Fundamentalism sees one way.  Brainwashing and training are huge components of fundamentalism.   Sadly, in my point of view, NCLB is all about brainwashing and training.  

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

    •  thank you for this very thoughtful comment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trashablanca, Diaries

      it is worthy of being a diary on its own to get more attention.  And certainly worthy of top comments, to which I am about to submit it.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:25:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Brilliant post... (0+ / 0-)

      These tests are not about accountability....they are punitive and used as clubs over teachers' heads.  My cynicism tells me that NCLB is a part of a national desire on the right to end all public schools.  Because I am in an extremely conservative district (the home of Focus on the Family and New Life), our schools are often the target of those who feel that privatization is the way to go, whether their interests are profit or religion.   No matter how upbeat we all try to be, our stress translates to the students.  So we have 8 and 9 year olds stressed out over this.

      This is disheartening. I wonder which D candidates are planning to take the most steps to repeal NCLB and replace it with a far more realistic educational model.

      "Just give me an easy life and a peaceful death" -The Sundays.

      by Diaries on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:31:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  so far only one completely (0+ / 0-)

        Tom Vilsack has come out against reauthorization.  DISCLOSURE:  because of this I am an active supporter, although I have no paid or official position with his campaign.

        Several others have talked about education, including raising teacher pay, such as Obama, but so far have not really rejected the basic premises of NCLB.

        Vilsack has not YET proposed an alternative.  He is in discussion with people - including me - about what he should propose.  That does not mean that my ideas or those of others I forward to him will be what he settles on.  He does listen and ask questions, but when it comes to education (A) his wife is a teacher and (B) he has some pretty strong ideas of his own.

        I would think Clark, should he get in, would oppose NCLB.   Beyond that I see no evidence on the part of others to such a "radical" position.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:42:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I wrote a long note to (0+ / 0-)

        George Miller, a democratic congressman from CA who is the chairperson of the NCLB committee.  While I was glad to see that he and most of the dems on the committee rejected the administrations proposals for using NCLB to destroy teacher unions or to support vouchers, I was disappointed that he and other legislatures continue to believe in NCLB.

        I wish the congressmen on the education panels would come here and speak to progressive teachers and hear other points of view.  I cannot believe anyone can buy that NCLB, based on lies from TEXAS, is of any value...
        Bush lied about WMDs to get us into a war in which his friends could profit.  Why is it any stretch to understand that he would lie about education in Texas to give his privatization friends a chance to profit on the backs of impoverished children?

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

        •  well, I have spoken w/one member of committee (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          on House side that I know slightly, and I have talked w/several other congressmen.  Those of us at The Educator's Roundtable are trying to stop reauthorization, and are doing outreach - to members and senators, to professional organizations, etc.

          You should look at our petition, sign it if you have not done so already, pass it on to others for them to sign.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:00:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have signed the petition already and (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            teacherken, madgranny

            have forwarded it to many of my teacher friends to sign.  I am so grateful that you and your round table are being aggressive about this.  Educators need to be heard.

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

    •  JJc you might want to know that Catholic (0+ / 0-)

      schools today are a little better than what you experienced.

      I put my daughter in a Catholic middle school in preparation for public high school. She went from a montesory farm environmet (very unstructured) to this middle school (structured to the max!) The father and sister in charge were fully briefed on Chibi's educational background. The first week was hell and I almost withdrew her, but to the school's credit they decided to help me prepare her for a more "normative" educational environment. It was tough, but once the school realized why my kid was so different, they adapted their approach to her.

      Moving her from the Catholic middle school to the public high school was amazing. She doesn't go to a regular high school. She goes to a magnet program, which are supposedly "better". The kids were accomplished back stabbers and the teachers were and are, by and large, vindictive people who resent being asked to do anything more than is required by their union agreement. I would call and email teachers only to be ignored. Then I realized every time I called a couple of her teachers, my kids grade went down 2% with every call.

      Here's my take on public schools. They are mindless, coercive instituions of mediocrity. Now, I realize my take is different than most people on dkos, but I really couldn't let this go without a little venting.

      •  Whenever someone (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, madgranny

        gets to blaming the teacher's unions, I generally turn them off.  It's a Bushkevite meme, it's a conservative ploy....because while the conservatives have succeeded in destroying most of the labor unions in this country, the people responsible for ending child labor, responsible for the forty day work week and safe conditions, they failed to destroy teacher organizations.  
        It is indeed the teacher's organizations that fought for smaller class sizes, for fair distribution of monies so that poor schools could compete, for upgrading of equipment and for keeping schools safe for all students and for the teachers.

        I suspect that perhaps you too had not such great experiences in schools and from your note, that it was difficult for you.  But to blame all teachers for that is unfair.   I know that Catholic schools have changed.  They had too.  They lost their tight grip on the minds of many and were unable continue brainwashing.   In order to keep any schools going they had to change.  

        I am glad they helped your child.  I am sorry you feel the need to blame teachers here.

        "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

        •  maybe so, but now I'm a director at a private (0+ / 0-)

          school for adults.

          Maybe my comment about teacher's unions is off base. I know unions really helped my Dad and brother on the railroad. Maybe school unions are ok, but in this state, Florida; smaller class sizes occurred due to a state wide vote. The teacher's unions in Florida didn't make that happen - parents did.

          It's just that most of my students have had simply awful experiences in public school. I mean, every one of them. I can't get them to tell me a single positive story. I always thought they were exaggerating things.

          Then my kid went from an idyllic situation to hell when I put her in public school. It was like getting a bucket of ice water over my head. The more I tried to communicate with the teachers, counselors or AP's the worse my kid's experience became! I gave up and decided to focus on what we could do to help her play the game. We stopped talking to the school and collaborated on getting her through her school work. That approach worked, but it wasn't due to anything her teachers did.

          So now, I know what most of my students experiences were like and I approach my school with a different point of view. I have trouble getting my students to get past their previous learning experiences. I have even more trouble getting my teachers to be the teacher they wished they had. I'm constantly showing my teachers that when they emulate the same teacher they had in school and hated, they lose the interest of their students and no learning occurs. We focus on relevancy. We integrate current events into our lesson plans and use what's going on in the world as a reason to learn. It works better than threats. ...and BTW after my students complete their education with me, they have to pass a standardized test in order to become certified to work in my discipline. That's the reality of the workplace.

          I think until we see education as something of a cooperative effort of all parties, students, families and teachers; nothing will be accomplished. I don't think standardized tests are going away. They will become the norm.

          •  So you are judging all public schools (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            carneasadaburrito, madgranny, Diaries

            on the basis of your experience with students who have unhappily left public schools?  

            Sorry, your mantra reeks of a privatization guru.  Maybe you are sincere or maybe you are a troll.  I do not know.  

            I do know the state of FL has some really huge problems with education there. I have a nephew who has taught there and had to leave because he could not support his family on the low pay.  He hopes to go back because he truly loves teaching.

            Every time I get a student or parents whose first reaction is to blame the other teachers or the other school on poor performances, I am wary.  And on some level so do you, as you seem to say that you agree that we all, teachers, parents, and students need to work together.

            But on another level, it seems to me you are a blamer.  That may not be your intent, but that is how you are coming across.   If this is how you approached your child's teachers, I have no doubt some were resentful.

            In your private school, do you give the same tests required by the state?  In your private school if a child refuses to do the work or is a discipline problem, do you keep them for all their years of education?  In your private school do you deal with special needs students according to state and/or federal mandates?  Of course few of these problems affect private schools because the majority of students attending private school already have the biggest plus factor in education on their side- a parent who cares about and values their child's education.  In public school, we have students whose parents are absent, in jail, hate teachers and guess what, regardless of their situation we are required by law to educate those children.

            Sorry, I do not buy into the "In my school....we do this so we are good and public school's are h*ll."
            Public schools are educating ALL children; public schools are indeed a reflection of society.  
            I am sure that private schools can do well for some students.  But to say that privatization is the answer is insulting to me, and as is obvious, angers me.  

            Maybe you are on the wrong blog.  I am sure you and your school would be honored by Bush and Co.

            "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

            •  you bet! Plus, my sister who runs a (0+ / 0-)

              day care in the Washington DC area. Her program takes in babies from pregnant high school teenagers. Her resume is a dozen years as a teacher in the public school system before she went to pre-school. She couldn't stand the nasty attitude of her school principal. She thinks if she can just give the kids a good base - it will be enough.

              I have another sister in Orlando who was an Art teacher - she was allowed 1/2 hour every other week to teach art. She went back to college and got certified in special ed. She did that for awhile. Again, it wasn't the students, it was her fellow teachers. She now paints for a living.....You can do that in Orlando. She didn't leave education because of the students, it was because of the unfeeling attitude of her teacher peers.

              Then I have a cousin in Port Jeff, NY who retired from the high school system there...and his experiences are similar. He once said that it was career suicide to take a student's word over a teachers....even when he knew the teacher was lying. He does private research for immigrant university students and tutors drop outs for the GED these days.

              Then there's my husband's uncle, who taught on a college level. He despaired of his student's jaded attitude toward learning too. He taught in a local college in Pittsburg. His daughter and son-in-law are both educators and also

              So, no, I don't base my attitude solely on my experience. It was reflected in four other major metropolitan areas.

              As to me being in the wrong blog, you might be right there. I'm not subscribing to the herd mentality here. I think public ed stinks. It is too focused on the result and not on the person who happens to also be a student. It's not an us and them proposition. Learning is a cooperative effort between the educator and the student.

              Every blog I've seen here seems to focus on:
              NCLB being a disaster (I agree with that)
              students are disrespectful brats that don't know how to behave (yeah, so?)
              parents neglect their duties (society again)
              schools have too much to do and no money to do it (that will always be true)

              and you want me to believe

              teachers are blameless????

              I am a teacher! I screw up, but I'm not so arrogant to think I don't!

    •  What sort of fundamentalism it is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      These tests are not about accountability....they are punitive and used as clubs over teachers' heads.  My cynicism tells me that NCLB is a part of a national desire on the right to end all public schools.

      That is so true. As test season looms, the single most common word in my brain is "punitive."  We've been able to evade sanctions at our school, but I don't know how many years longer. I know our students will not all be "above average" in seven years, which is what the law requires.

      I got a masters at UCB and occasionally see my old professors there. The last time I saw one of them, he told me, "You know, it used to be that, at times, I imagined there was some group of people who were trying to obliterate public education. I wrote it off to general paranoia.  Now, though, I'm convinced its no paranoia."  I, too, am convinced that this is the real agenda behind the NCLB.

      Actually, though, I wanted to comment on the fundamentalistic nature of it all. To me, there is a simple fundamentalism behind most educational models in the USA, which is behaviorism. The idea of behaviorism is that you get learners to do what you want through operant conditioning - the carrot and the stick. When they are able to adequately perform, then they are said to be educated, just like any trained animal. Missing in this equation, of course, is the human mind and the human soul.

      But really, that's what it's always been about in our culture, despite the best efforts of people like Piaget, Dewey and even Chomsky, to show that true learning, true creativity, just doesn't work that way. I mean, when you even think about animals performing after operant conditioning, have they learned to do anything that they couldn't do anyway?  In most cases, there's no real learning at all, but only triggering of various behaviors at times that they might not otherwise have been triggered. People treated that way (like animals) might not be much different, at least in that respect, the way they respond to education. Actually I've often thought that one of the reasons for the popularity of sports in our culture is the fact that people can use their minds and creativity to openly argue about every aspect of those games without worrying about some teacher asking them just how you can make a formal proof of the mountain of statistics they just cited perfectly.

      But I digress.  My point is that fundamentalisms are at base not creative. Behavioristic "education" fits that description. When I was learning about behaviorism years ago in college, the mind was presented as a "black box," which was not investigated because it was simply not available to investigation -- better to investigate observable behaviors.  So instead of understanding how learning works, we have behavioristic ideas that knowledge somehow soaks in when kids are "exposed to it" or when they practice using it.  It's like the Far Side cartoon where there's a student with a tiny head who is raising his hand. "Teacher, can I be excused? My brain is full."

      Fundamentalisms are also, as stated above, simple. Behaviorism is also simple - one carrot, one stick - everything a person does is either to gain pleasure or avoid punishment.

      Fundamentalisms tend to be authoritarian. Behaviorism is nothing but, as it's modeled on animal training.

      Fundamentalisms fear change, and behaviorism is the traditional conception of education in America - "drill and kill," after all, is not new.

      Fundamentalisms expect learners to accept things whether they understand them or not. Behaviorism makes little reference to how anybody understands anything -- only that they can perform when required.

      Fundamentalisms thrive in an atmosphere of crisis. The sanctions of NCLB create that atmosphere, and educators may turn in desperation to anything to get kids to memorize the right answers, just so they can pass the test, whether or not they've actually learned anything.

      Fundamentalists are convinced that people can be "trained into truth" and there's no need to think for oneself. Behaviorism, again, fits this description.

      Fundamentalists believe there is one correct answer, not subject to point of view or other "relativistic" concerns. Well, isn't this what the current standardized tests used by the NCLB to classify students are all about, tests drawn up on a behavioristic model?

      Fundamentalists can hold their beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary. It's fairly easy to show that many times kids who get right answers on tests actually have no understanding of what they're doing (particularly on math tests), yet behaviorists don't accept such evidence as indicating a lack of learning, since the mind is a black box to them, anyway. They did pass the test, didn't they?

      Anyway, I think the point is made. If educational policy is indeed under fundamentalist control, that fundamentalism is behaviorism.

      None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

      by Toddlerbob on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 08:39:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, cfk, ms badger

    And I don't think seeing NCLB as an extension of the fundamentalist (not necessarily religious) view is far off the mark.  It is breathtakingly doctrinaire, with an almost messianic belief that "competion" is the supreme balm for every ailment in this country.  I'm going to quote Wes Clark here:

    For example, take the idea of competition in schools. OK now, what is competition in schools? What does it really mean? Well, competition in business means you have somebody who's in a business that has a profit motive in it. It's measured every quarter. If the business doesn't keep up, the business is going to lose revenue, therefore it has an incentive to restructure, reorganize, re-plan, re-compete and stay in business.

    Schools aren't businesses. Schools are institutions of public service. Their job--their product--is not measured in terms of revenues gained. It's measured in terms of young lives whose potential can be realized. And you don't measure that either in terms of popularity of the school, or in terms of the standardized test scores in the school. You measure it child-by-child, in the interaction of the child with the teacher, the parent with the teacher, and the child in a larger environment later on in life.

    So when people say that competition is-this is sort of sloganeering, "Hey, you know, schools need this competition." No. I've challenged people: Tell me why it is that competition would improve a school. Most of them can't explain it. It's just like, "Well, competition improves everything so therefore it must improve schools."

    If you want to improve schools, you've got to go inside the processes that make a school great. You've got to look at the teachers, their qualifications, their motivation, what it is that gives a teacher satisfaction, what it is a teacher wants to do in a classroom. We've got to empower teachers. Give them an opportunity to lead in the classroom. Teachers are the most important leaders in America. All that is lost in the sloganeering of this party. And the American people know it's lost. So you asked me to give you one thing about this party that's in power -- it's the sort of doctrinaire ideology that doesn't really understand the country that we're living in.

    I hope you'll forgive me and not assume I'm candidate pimping.  It just seemed such a pertinent agreement with the gist of what you are saying here.

    Democrats - We refuse to caucus in the missionary position.

    by SaneSoutherner on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:25:04 PM PST

    •  Beautifully said !!! (0+ / 0-)

      Thank you and thanks to Wes Clark!

      "Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit." Wade Davis

      by cfk on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:48:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Slave to the Marketplace of supply and demand: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The Republican mantra that the marketplace will solve all our problems is a clever tactic.  Anyone who seems to be against "capitalism" is therefore un-American, a traitor and dangerous.  And I agree, trying to apply it to education is just plain nuts.

      "The world is my country, all mankind are my brothers [and sisters], and to do good is my religion." -- Thomas Paine

      by GoCougs on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:06:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for sharing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, SaneSoutherner

      I am glad this was shared so others can read it.

      I met Wes Clark this summer and I was very impressed.  I could definitely support him if he decided to run.

      As for competition in schools, I laugh at the notion.  First of all, REALLY GREAT TEACHERS, in my opinion, do not want to compete with their colleagues.  They want to share.   If something I do with my students works really well, my first instinct was always to share it with colleagues.  When I was a young teacher, and was struggling with a student, I would ask a more experienced teacher whom I respected for ideas.  

      Rewarding teachers for something that works with merit pay absolutely makes me sick.  To encourage teachers to horde their ideas as if they were corporate secrets so that ONLY THEY could profit is totally immoral.

      When Our district "outsourced" our lunchrooms to Marriot, we were all misled to believe how much better school lunches would be.  What a crock.  Here's what happened:  Instead of cooking on the site, hot fresh meals, everything is cooked at a central area and transported to be heated when needed.  Instead of three lunch workers, the company cut one.  The meals still consist of government surplus foods (lots of cheesy meals) and certainly have not improved in taste.  All that happened with the privatization is that the consumer got a lesser product while the company got bigger and bigger profits.   And for anyone who believes these companies care about our kids, think again.  PROFIT is their game and so what if our kids nutrition is skewed.  I stopped eating school lunch...and that year I lost ten lbs without even trying.  

      Privatization and competition is NOT needed in education.  Education profiteering fits up there with war profiteering.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

  •  I am not an expert in fundamentalism (0+ / 0-)

    but I have my observations. And one is that curiosity is not encouraged and critical thinking is discouraged. Sounds rather like an education system which is governed by a short dictator who has wears a duck tail and loves Hollywood movies.

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:25:36 PM PST

  •  NCLB is Fundamentalist (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The goals and sanctions imposed by NCLB fit like a glove with your p.95 quote from Sullivan. Fundamentalists haved used NBLG to turn a worthwhile goal, that students be well-educated, into a universal goal, that EVERY child meet or exceed certain test standards by 2014. This is no less pie-in-the-sky than planning to totally eliminate crime or poverty by this - or any other - date.

    The fundamentalists go further by offering no reward to schools that perform well by the standards of NCLB, just penalties and condemnation for the schools that (supposedly) do not perform well.

  •  TK (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Thoughtful, and thought-provoking, diary as usual :-)

    I see a simple analysis here, based on the concept of authoritarianism:

    Fundamentalism: Hey, god is the highest authority around
    NCLB: Top-down control by the authorities, including punishment

    This fits, of course, the whole right-wing ethos.

    Come see TV from the reality-based community at

    by MarkInSanFran on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:33:32 PM PST

  •  The fundamentalism might be part of NCLB (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ms badger

    The problem is that it's lost in the translation.

    The school districts don't have the mind set for it and neither do the students. NCLB is underfunded and difficult to implement.

    We have factory schools and our kids are plopped down on the conveyor belt when they go to pre-k. We expect them to perform like jack-in-the-boxes on cue. Any kid that doesn't perform on demand gets reintegrated earlier on the conveyor belt. This process is repeated until either the kid learns and regurgitates the required knowledge on cue or they drop out as a reject.

    The new twist in NCLB is that if a school doesn't show enough children making forward progress, they lose funds. So, the games begin. Teach the kid the tricks they need to jump over the next hurdle or through the next hoop. Forget about learning, forget about stimulating wonder in a child, just get over the next obstacle.

    I don't see where this relates in anyway to Christianity. I think jesus would weep at what we are doing to our children.

    •  fundamentalism is beyond Xianity (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      there are fundamentalists in every major religion, and in many other movements that could be categorized as quasi-religions, including political movements.  I certainly saw enough of fundamentalism from some of the new left types I encountered in the 1960s, perhaps one reasons I was never drawn into such an orbit.

      Sullivan makes the point that in some ways there is more in common among fundamentalists across religious boundaries thatn there are between fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists within one religious tradition.

      I was using the paradigm upon which he relies in the book because I found it very applicable to what I see of educational policy, especially but not exclusively in NCLB.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:45:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I appreciate what you are trying to do. (0+ / 0-)

        I don't think our current state of public education is beyond hope. There are success stories.

        My daughter graduates from high school this year. We just got notified this week that she is receiving a 75% scholarship from one source and the rest from Florida's Bright Futures program for college. It was a merit award based on her GPA and community service.

        Truthfully, she got this because we, as a family unit, helped her get there despite her public school experience. The high school is one of the best in our county. I despair of what the worst in the county must be like. I will be glad to put my daughter's high school experience behind us.

        •  When I worked in an alternative high school (0+ / 0-)

          I saw the devastation that comes to kids who do not have either family support or the ability/desire to fit in. Sadly, people see this as an education problem.  I see it as a societal problem.  

          Our kids are either taught (or see) at a young age that conspicuous consumption is a good thing; that being a drama queen or king is cool.  What's the message to them when their elected leader upon being asked what they, citizens, can do to help their country, are told to "go shopping."  

          I look at the kids and see that when they are young they are still excited to learn.  Then when they get to middle school/high school they already have come to the conclusion that the best things in life are fame, bling and partying.  

          It's not the high schools or the education system that have created this.  They just have to deal with it more than most.

          "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

          •  yes, you are right, society has changed and has (0+ / 0-)

            abandoned their children.

            It may take a village to raise a child, but the child prefers Mom & Dad.

            Most of my friends have found a way for one parent or the other to be home when the kids get home. (In our house, we flip flopped as our jobs changed over the years. Sometimes we had extra kids in the late afternoons and evenings to help out another family.) You are right it takes effort to make a difference. Yet, I can't blame these families entirely for the children's failure to do well in school as it is increasingly true that it takes 2 incomes to provide for a family.

            I have been accused by many a public school employee of being a helicopter parent, but my kid doesn't see it that way. We don't do her school work, but we arrange things so she can. (oops, I forgot, I did do her religion homework as I didn't care if she learned Catholicism or not. Our handwriting is nearly identicle, but I made her read it before she turned it in. ....Oh, and she confessed this to father just before she left the school....he found that amusing.)

            I just see that the Christian schools are more fundamental in their caring approach than what we get from public schools. I reiterate: NCLB my have been derived from a fundamental point of view, but the secular public school has no compassion and doesn't follow through on the message.

            •  Obviously you are an anti-public education troll (0+ / 0-)

              and it is obvious you have an agenda.  You seem to have created a straw man in the public schools so as to have someone to blame for your own shortcomings as a parent

              Our discussion is over.  

              "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

              •  ouch! I guess I should take Hunter's advice (0+ / 0-)

                Ok, we don't agree.

                I just don't see the positives of telling you, "It's not your fault. George Bushco made it impossible for you."  

                People deal with the impossible every day where they work. If you took the time to look at my home page, you'd see healthcare is my thing. I just happen to work as an educator of healthcare workers these days.

                Healthcare workers have to take standardized tests in order to work in the field. I don't think you want to eliminate those tests for physicians, nurses, therapists, medical assistants and nursing assitants would you?

                So my educational point of view is different than yours - so what? I am reading your comments, and I see you state there is research supporting your point of view, but I don't see any links. If you look at my comments in the healthcare area, you'll see I give links and facts....from reputable sources.

                Show me, quantifiably, that public school cares.

                •  You are saying that (0+ / 0-)

                  educating health care workers is the same as mandatory education of the youth of the country?

                  Quantify that you care!

                  How the heck to you standardize caring and test for it?  
                  Can you do it for doctors or lawyers or nurses or health care workers?   If a cancer patient dies, does that mean the doctor, nurse or health care worker did not care about them?  

                  I am sure I could find sites to quantify that more students from public schools have succeeded rather than failed.  I am sure I could list many successful people who did go to public school.  I believe Bill Clinton did.  As did Hillary.  But I don't believe George W.Bush did.  Oprah did.

                  Oh wait, I still get letters and e-mails from students I taught in PUBLIC school years ago, letters thanking me.  Does that quantify that I cared?

                  Every school I have ever taught in has programs to clothe students who need help, to feed them, to care for them when parents don't show up.  How does one quantify that?  How does one quantify holding a student who came to school sobbing and upset because a parent left them?  

         have had a bad experience for your child.  You know one school, one district and are condemning the entire system.   That is not quantifying anything.

                  "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

                  •  you might not know this, but (0+ / 0-)

                    most of the kids that drop out of public schools, drop into our diploma programs. We can accept students without a high school diploma in these programs.

                    Now my A.S. degree programs do require a HS diploma.

                    At any rate, the students that drop out of public high school drop into medical assistant, massage therapy, nursing assistant, pharmacy technician and medical billing and coding programs......gulp.

                    Yep, I have about 15 ATB students as we speak.

                    •  And your point is what... (0+ / 0-)

                      that you know and understand ALL drop outs from all public schools.  How can you quantify that?  

                      And how does your experience with a few translate to universal?

                      You are very easy to read.  You want to blame someone.  You, like the entire Christian fundamentalist, pro voucher, cheerleaders of privatization, seem to need a scapegoat.  Secularism, public schools....either one become your whipping object.   You and your child had bad experiences.  But that does not translate into "all public education" is bad and uncaring.

                      Good night!

                      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

                      •  I haven't seen a single stat from you all evening (0+ / 0-)

                        so please, if you dish.....then take it.

                        I know my school takes in students with an SAT score of 700 and that 20% of them are high school drop outs. I can only guess if my management team is telling me the truth, but my reports I can pull do seem to bear this assertion out....and no I can't share my mgmt rpts with you.

                        As to what do high school drop outs do? I found this table interesting.

                        Well, of those high school drop out students who do choose to go and get more education which is hard to quantify as they have a 45 year+ window to drop back into education. According to my schools research (we have 120 campuses in the US and Canada and we are publicly traded), they found that over 50% go into a trade school to learn a specific skill. (My employer requires I get preapproval before I speak publicly, so no, I can't give you that study's bibliography.) No I don't want you to take my word for this, so I will go look for facts and post them for you if you wish....but not tonight.

                        But maybe you could explain something to me. This table I have here shows that 85% of people 20-24 years of age have a high school diploma, but I see MSM scare stories stating that about 50% of high school students don't graduate. I always thought the MSM 50% thing was clap trap, because this table says otherwise.

                        Are they really saying 50% of our kids don't graduate "on time" meaning at 18-19 years of age? If that's what they are saying, then the table seems to reinforce what I am seeing at my school. A lot of my diploma students without a HS diploma are around 18-19 who dropped out at 16. They take my program and GED tutoring and get both credentials at the same time.

            •  sorry - gotta call you on this: (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lefty Mama, kestrel9000, Diaries

              the secular public school has no compassion and doesn't follow through on the message.

              First, there is an entire body of research based on the ideas of Nel Noddings and the ethic of caring.  There are many examples of public schools in which that becomes one of the prime organizing principles

              and many public school teachers operate using the same principle.  In fact, it is often the most common characteristic of those viewed as effective or inspiring teachers by those in the best position to judge - students and their parents.  

              I won't extrapolate from my own way of teaching to the point of universalizing it, but I also know that my own insistence on compassion and caring are far from unique in my school, and far more common even in the dysfunctional system in which I work than your words would imply.

              To some degree public schools and their personal are limited in how much compassion they can show - there are laws that restrict behavior that would otherwise be considered human and normal,even to the point where some public school teachers are afraid to hug small kids - their administrators have warned them against it.

              The biggest risk I took as a teacher was one I could not avoid and still be human.  I had a student who was wrestling with suicidal thoughts.  She had already been to her counselor.  She felt i was the only adult to whom she could talk.  We worked out a deal where her parents and her counselor knew that she and I would communicate - only by email so there would be a record - on any subject on which she needed to unload.  Even with that prior approval and the record, had something happened, had she acted on her thoughts, it would not have protected my teaching certificate, my job, or me from law suits.  And yet I did not hesitate to respond to the very human need.

              She was in our school as part of a special program, from which she was expelled for low grades.  Her counselor and I intervened to get her back and give her another chance, because she had begun to turn her life around, and she would not have the support system at her home school.  We got the normal rules waived.  One of the most satisfying moments in my teaching career is when she graduated - and after the ceremony came looking for me to give me a huge hug of thanks - we were both crying.  

              Friend, find a way to affirm what you do without having to bash so broadly that you apparently do not fully comprehend.  Please.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

              by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:28:05 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  teacherken, I have many friends who work (0+ / 0-)

                for Broward County schools as teachers. I keep my mouth shut around them when they talk about their students. They do a lot of student bashing.

                I am not keeping my mouth shut here, mostly because of the anonymity. I mostly lurked your diaries and don't comment, because I really disagree with the group-think on this subject at dkos. I live in an area that tries to educate 116,000 children every year. (Miami-Dade has even more kids.) The School Board just fired a superintendant who has improved academic performance. They fired him because of his operational shortcomings. Now doesn't that sound stupid to you? The school board could have hired a COO type to assist him.

                I know you mean well and I like your "thinking out loud" so to speak approach. I also think you need to here that some people have highly achieving kids who really didn't like the public school product. I don't like what it did to my kid and I don't like what it has done to my students....and I don't think NCLB has done it. The problems were there before NCLB. You are right on one thing, NCLB isn't going to solve anything either.

                •  Just because teachers together might (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  talk about students does not mean not caring.  Sometimes relating frustrations among other professionals is just an outlet.  

                  Doctors, nurses, lawyers.....all do the same thing. I have heard them.  Doesn't mean they hate or mistreat their patients.  

                  I know Miami-Dade and have had friends who taught there.  Some of the worst conditions in education exist there...a reflection of the poverty in some neighborhoods.   And you blame the teachers?

                  We just had a superintendent fired here by a bunch of privatization gurus.   But guess what?  Even this conservative community saw through their greed.  She was in the way of their "private schools" are better meme and their profit making.

                  I fear you are a person hell bent on making a profit off the backs of children and are trying to find a way to justify that.

                  "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

                  •  Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're (0+ / 0-)

                    the bug.

                    Lots of people mean well, it's the result that counts.

                    I'm sorry if I've upset you, but I have been very upset with education for awhile too.

                    BTW, if you want to see the blood drain from a doctor or nurse's face when they are patient bashing, ask them if their comments are in line with HIPAA.

                    •  You seem to be hell bent (0+ / 0-)

                      on hating anyone who is human.

                      My sister was a nurse, and I have been around plenty of her colleagues as well as many doctors who release stress by talking amongst themselves and is called being human.  When a patient, or a student or a parent is difficult and blaming and attacking, human beings often need to vent to those they trust.

                      Obviously and wrongly those teachers trust you to understand their humanity, not judge it.

                      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

                      •  Look, I obviously have offended you so profoundly (0+ / 0-)

                        that anything I say is upsetting. Including poorly defined snark.

                        Peace, live well.

                        •  You have offended me (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          as well as many public school educators who give their hearts and souls daily for kids, not for money but for a belief in something beyond.......

                          When you blatantly disparage all because of your own bad experiences, it is no longer an open discourse.

                          I did not have the best experiences in my high school years and as I related in my original reply, I was lucky enough to have a mother who would not allow me to place blame.  While the system I went through was flawed and unfair to many, I survived and learned.  

                          Too many parents are hell bent on playing the blame game.  You seem to be one of them.
                          Maybe that was not your intent but that is how your responses come blaming and finger pointing because of your child's bad experiences.

                          "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

                •  there are also highly achieving kids who did (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  kestrel9000, Dianna

                  As far as Florida, I am quite familiar with the problems that exist, many in recent years created by a system that was straightjacketing education before NCLB.  JEB was no fan of public schools, and that was part of the problem,  But it goes back more than a decade before Jeb was elected, I know that as well.

                  What I would note is how much of the problem was because of the kind of top down mandates that parallel what is done under NCLB.  I don't think you recognize that.  You extrapolate from that to a universal that does not apply.

                  I have detailed familiarity with recent and current situations across the country. I have taught in both Maryland and Virginia, live in Virginia.  I have a hs classmate who is in the position that functions as state superintendent in Arizona.  I have another high school classmate who is an expert on math teaching and on middle schooling who is based in MA.  I have watched my inlaws go through public schools in Penna, and have watched them deal with public schools in Burlington CTY NJ.  A friend of more than 50 years is one of the nation's great experts on early childhood education and runs an institute that trains people in varied and diverse ways of delivering that education.  I participate in several national groups of educators and education policy people.  I have served as a peer reviewer for three different professional publications.  And I am friends with (and a supporter of) Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, whose wife is a school teacher, and who has a very strong interest in education.  I worked on educational policy with two US Senate candidates and over 20 US House candidates the past two cycles.  I would hazard that I may just have a somewhat more extensive base on which to base my comments.

                  Regardless of what you may think was the situation based on your experience, NCLB is not only not going to solve things, it is making things far worse.  If you find yourself in a hole it makes sense that the first thing you do is to stop digging.  That's one metaphor I can use.  Here's another -  one definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing in the hope that the result will be different.  NCLB is that kind of insanity.

                  If you are paying attention, you know that part of what is going on here at dailykos is an attempt to reimagine, reinvent if you will, education.  You have so far seen diaries from three people - me, sdorn and Marion Barry.  You will see another this weekend from Reino.  And then more after that.

                  I would strongly suggest you go back and reread the four diaries sdorn did on the educational history to have a proper context.  First, MOST public schools in this country were NOT in crisis or total failures, either at the time of A Nation at Risk in 1983 or of NCLB when it came before the Congress in 2001.  There were problems, and many of those were inextricably bound up in things outside of school instruction - nutrition, broken homes, decaying infrastructure, poor health, lack of access to support structures like libraries, etc.  In far too many situations unions and administrations were locked in a death spiral, a death embrace, each afraid of giving an inch.  Increasing impositions were placed on schools without giving the additional resources necessary to have any hope of meeting those mandates.  

                  And schools increasingly became easy whipping boys for those seeking political advantage.  That led to further starving of resources. to creating an environment with constant turnover of teaching staff - and here's a dirty little secret:  many administrations like that, because new teachers cost less money, and until they have tenure they are easy to intimidate.  Our impulses towards privatization (which do NOT start with Reagan - I remind people that the deregulation of airlines came under Carter, and that represents a signal moment in a change of our understanding of the public good and public services) have been focused on schools because of the money that is involved.  Here I quote something Jerry Bracey has written - when NCLB was written into law, the then head of Harcourt said that it raid like their business plan.  

                  Many who are dedicated to serving those most in need of quality public school teaching are feeling besieged.  Salary is actually less a part of it than most people realize.  Those for whom it would make a difference often leave the field relatively early in their careers -those of us who stay find ways to keep our heads above water financially.  It is the lack of resources in schools.  It is the overcrowding, the nonsensical mandates externally imposed, the decreasing ability to meet the needs of individual students.

                  And there is one other thing about which we do not speak with sufficient candor -  our students are not dummies.  The more they hear and read criticisms of schools and of teachers the less respect they feel they have to show, and that just makes the job of teaching those who want to be taught that much more difficult.

                  Enough.  I have a life besides responding to comments on my dkos diaries.


                  Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

                  by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 08:14:43 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  Eloquent and much more (0+ / 0-)

                on the mark than I.   I fear my buttons are easily pushed by some.  

                In my nearly 40 years of teaching, which has included elementary, middle school and college, and has included seven different schools, what I can say is that there are more caring/loving teachers than not!  Yes, all schools have a one or two mediocre types as would be in most professions, but they do not last long (think Peter Principle)!  I have seen dedicated teachers take kids into their own homes, feed them, even support them financially.  I have seen teachers stay hours on end to be there for kids.  

                The school I am in now has a small staff and everyone of them is totally dedicated to the children there.  I am fortunate to work with them.  

                The blatant disrespect of this poster has simply brought into focus how far the anti-public education right wing will go to get their way.

                "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

              •  please, quote your sources. (0+ / 0-)
  •  I've added this diary to my list (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Mama, cfk, Jjc2006

    You've raised some interesting points.

    I know that I've distrusted NCLB from the start, partly because of the dishonesty upon which it was built, and partly because I see it as a vehicle to assist in the destruction of public education.

    In this context the most obvious tie to fundaentalism was the aim the religious right to use NCLB to further the acceptance of vouchers. I know that is not where you're headed with your diary, but there is that tie-in.

    As I've attended conferences, I've been struck by the zealotry of the promoters of NCLB. They continually speak of scientifically based research, but the research is often shoddy, and they appear often to accept only that research which backs their theoretical construct. When real questions are raised regarding underlying philosophy, the questioners are often viewed as the educational version of heretics.

    As a veteran of 34+ years in eduaction, I've grown used to eduactuional researchers who speak as if they have all the answers - if everyone only adopted their methods, education problems would disappear - but the degree to which the NCLB promoters engage in this type of rhetoric does remind me of the certainty of fundamentalist practioners.

    Thought provoking diary. Thanks

    To move back to the center, the country must move left.

    by slatsg on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 05:47:25 PM PST

    •  if you are provoked to think (0+ / 0-)

      perhaps you can be encouraged to do more.  Go to The Educator Roundtable and explore, perhaps sign our petition and pass it on to others.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:01:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Great comment.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, slatsg, Lefty Mama

      I too have listened to some of the proponents of "research based" education.   (Some) Administrators are really big on this notion.  I think it gets them off the hot seat if/when it fails with "See, we chose this based on the research, and if only the teachers would teach better, it would work."

      If there was a magic bullet that worked, do people not get that teachers would be happy to use it?   After nearly four decades in education, I know this.   Teaching and/or learning is complex while training is easy.  We can train children to do tasks.  We can train them to take tests.  But if we want life long learners who are headed to something more than an assembly line, there are a myriad of skills that they need, as well as the ability to know what they need to learn in life, how to learn as they go along their paths.

      I know that the other complexity is that some lessons worked with some students and not with others.  Good teachers have a sixth sense of what is working, what is not working and can shift gears as needed.  In the world of NCLB, particularly in impoverished "low scoring" schools, teachers are pressured to stay on task, follow the canned scripts, and never deviate.  In the end, the children who need the most variety, the most in experiential lessons, life skills, get he least.  NCLB is totally insane and in my opinion goes totally against anything good teachers can and should be doing.

      "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

      •  Have you read Jonathan Kozol's (0+ / 0-)

        Shame of the Nation?

        In the world of NCLB, particularly in impoverished "low scoring" schools, teachers are pressured to stay on task, follow the canned scripts, and never deviate.  In the end, the children who need the most variety, the most in experiential lessons, life skills, get he least.

        Your quote captures the essence of Kozol's book.

        The irony is that in the wealthy districts these types of practices are not followed. The children there have a well rounded curriculum that includes the arts and foreign languages and a wide variety of stimulating activities.

        To move back to the center, the country must move left.

        by slatsg on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:28:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No I have not read that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          but I am thinking I probably will do so.  

          "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

          •  Your comments on teachers were exactly correct. (0+ / 0-)

            I grow weary of administrators so-called reformers who view teachers as part of the problem.

            Many of the alleged innovations are insulting to teachers. There are programs that advertise as being "teacher-proof". Unbelievable! I can't imagine working in a school that had a "teacher-proof" curriculum.

            To move back to the center, the country must move left.

            by slatsg on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:55:11 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'vebeen saying this for years (0+ / 0-)

    What's amazing is how many pasty-faced administrators look at me like I'm some kind of nut when i bring this up. They don't really give a shit about anything but getting their fucking test scores up to make themselves look good. To this end they will suspend kids, force them to drop out, drop 16 year olds from the school rolls after ten days, and complain endlessly about parents of special ed kids who want them to take the tests to "see how they do" ( answer: terrible )and lower their school's test average. i don't know what it is but school administrators seem to have no balls at all except when it comes to busting teachers' chops about their classroom decorations and their lesson plans. They seem passively to think this is the way it is and we have to live with it. When one cried to me about an autistic student of mine whowould lower his averages, i told him to man up and gethis check book out spend some dough on organizations that will help fight this. I then told him i don't give a shit about his averages. Even some professor of ed don't seem to get it; NCLB is a radical plan to close public schools.  

  •  NCLB is a wolf in sheep's clothing. (0+ / 0-)

    I think Alfie Kohn said something like that.  

    Is it fundamentalist, yeah, in the new sense of the this new radical Christian movement.

    To me NCLB is one of the most twisted Orwellian acts Bush has unleashed on us.  Democrats so warmly voted it into law along with the Repubs, a law designed to destroy public education.

    •  We are thinking along the same line (0+ / 0-)

      about the NCLB act.  I've thought of this for quite some time.  Now with the Spelling Comission, they will try to do the same to higher education.  But because of the nature of Higher Ed, that will be much more difficult.

      "The world is my country, all mankind are my brothers [and sisters], and to do good is my religion." -- Thomas Paine

      by GoCougs on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:12:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've heard this too (0+ / 0-)

        We are definitely on the same page.  And the Dems in 2008, I hope they can effect change because so far I haven't heard any opposition to NCLB, other than the obvious trick that it is an unfunded mandate.

  •  NCLB goal: (0+ / 0-)

    is to destroy public education to allow a federal government takeover in which fundamentalists can indeed establish the curriculum as you suggest.  That is one of the many reasons why 2008 is so critical to take back America.

    "The world is my country, all mankind are my brothers [and sisters], and to do good is my religion." -- Thomas Paine

    by GoCougs on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:08:46 PM PST

  •  NCLB is destroying science education (0+ / 0-)

    I work with science teachers, and they are frantically trying to wedge real science into the time they have, when their mandate is to teach the lowest levels of mathematics and informational reading all day long. Teaching science has been downgraded to letting children read fact-laden books about science.

    This is all part of a conservative pattern. Teach rote, and reward them for the least real thinking they can manage.

    •  science supposed to be added to testing regimen (0+ / 0-)

      this year - and Aspen Institute bipartisan commission recommended that science testing count for AYP at least 3 times in testing cycle.

      Will science teachers like that they have some time to at least teach test prep for science?  Of course, that isn't science, but who cares, right?

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:33:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What will they test? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I've been involved in the development of both the National Standards and many tests. If they test facts, that will defeat the purpose...unless, of course, your purpose is to dumb down science and make sure the next generation can't think themselves out of a paper bag. Preparing for tests and doing inquiry science are often mutually exclusive. It is possible but quite difficult to prepare and standardize tests of higher level thinking in science, and I seriously doubt Neil Bush will do it.

  •  NCLB supporters come in at least (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Mama, Brooke In Seattle

    two types -

    1.  The people who mistakenly think it will improve public education.  
    1.  The people who wish to use it to destroy public education and to further racist and class-ist aims

    Group 2 is hopeless....they aren't listening.

    Group 1 can be talked to.  But we have to meet them partway --- in any large public school system, there is going to be a demand for accountability, and I don't think this demand is entirely misplaced.  There is also going to be a demand for uniform tests - standardized tests - and I don't think THIS is entirely misplaced, either.  

    There are certain things children ought to learn in school.  These things can be tested for.  And standardized tests are, in many cases, the right tool for the job.  

    Where NCLB goes wrong, IMHO, is not in the use of standardized tests, or in the demand for accountability, but in the types of standardized tests it uses and the uses it makes of them.

    I've been in this argument a lot here, and will not be around to debate it a lot tonight (close to bedtime for me) but people should know some things

    1. Not all standardized tests are multiple choice - an essay exam can be standardized
    1. In some ways, standardized tests are LESS biased than other forms of evaluation - and, where there are biases, the process of standardization reveals them in ways that are not possible with nonstandardized tests.  
    1. Many standardized tests (e.g. the WISC) are valuable diagnostic tools for various forms of learning disability.

    What are you reading? on Friday mornings
    What have you got to learn? (or teach) on Saturdays

    by plf515 on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 06:47:30 PM PST

    •  Standardized tests (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Mama, plf515

      Where NCLB goes wrong, IMHO, is not in the use of standardized tests, or in the demand for accountability, but in the types of standardized tests it uses and the uses it makes of them.

      I agree with you on this. To me, part of the run-up to NCLB was the abandoning of more authentic assessments and the re-embracing of multiple choice tests.

      In California, this happened in the mid-nineties, as the more authentic tests were demonized by politicians hoping (and succeeding) in mobilizing their base. I mean, for a couple years there, the science test for elementary school kids was to actually perform a science experiment and draw conclusions from it.

      It will probably be a long long time before anything but multiple choice tests will be used again, so now when I refer to standardized tests, I usually refer to those, even though I know other types of standardized testing are possible.

      None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

      by Toddlerbob on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 09:04:11 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

        even within the broad range of multiple choice tests, there's a lot of  variety.  For example, tests like Beck Depression Inventory are multiple choice standardized tests.  

        And, if we restrict it to the general academic realm, there's a range from a badly-standardized, poorly written test to a good one.  

        What are you reading? on Friday mornings
        What have you got to learn? (or teach) on Saturdays

        by plf515 on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 02:02:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Dominionism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I started reading Chris Hedges new book, "American Fascists," in which he explains the way faith is being politicized:  

    A decades-long refusal by most American fundamentalists to engage in politics at all following the 1925 Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian "dominion" over the nation...America becomes, in this militant bilblicism, an agent of God and all political and intellectual opponents of America's Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan.

    He goes on to say that under this new Christian dominion, the Ten Commandments will be the basis of our law...that...

    ...creationism and "Christian values" form the basis of our educational system...Labor unions, civil-rights laws and public schools will be abolished.

    He then talks about the movement's "lust for repression" that I think characterizes to a great degree many of NCLB's punishing aspects.

    Hedges devotes a lot of time, later in the book discussing the aspects of creationism.  So this book has a lot to say on the diary's topic which is NCLB, something, it might be noted, our kids have to live with every single day.

  •  Ever the rebel (1+ / 0-)
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    From the diary:

    What is clear is the unwillingness to allow in education alternative interpretations of reality, of "truth" whatever that might be.

    Let's focus on the word "alternative" for a moment. For discussion, let's say it means the opposite of "status quo".

    By definition, the status quo favors the People in Charge, whether they are politicians, rich folks, corporate executives, or religious leaders. The People in Charge rarely support exploration of alternatives, because everything is just perfect for them the way things are right now.

    Creativity is not going to get the support of the People in Charge, because it implies something new. Creating an alternative, a vision of the way things could be. With this in mind, think of the aggressive contempt conservatives regularly show for arts education in the schools.

    Personal development and critical thinking do not interest the People in Charge, except to oppose them. If students develop a satisfying inner life, values of their own, a mind of their own, they might not grow up to be compliant, suggestible workers and consumers.

    I love being a Beta-minus. Beta-minus is best by far!

    •  sorry, disagree more than little (0+ / 0-)

      there are often people "in charge" who do not seek to suppress, but rather to nurture.  Some are even political leaders.  Many are, believe it or not, religious leaders.  In a previous stage of my life I was a fairly serious E Orthodox Christian.  For the better part of a decade my personal spiritual father was the abbot of a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece.    I learned from him something about letting go, of surrendering my will and my ego so he could give it back to me, unencumbered.  I really don't want to go through all of this here, because it would take too long to explain and many here would have trouble understanding the relationship I describe.  

      And since we ostensibly live in a Democratic Republic, the people in charge are supposed to be answerable to us, not the other way around.  If we have to be answerable to them, that is a form of fundamentalism that I reject, one for which I can find no basis in the founding documents of this nation.  

      And I will illustrate perhaps in a different fashion, by words written by our second president to his wife:

      I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

      And I will end with a parallel quotation, offered to a graduating class of Haverford College in 1888 by the then president Isaac Sharpless - I have a framed copy of this in my classroom, to remind me and my students of how I approach my role as a teacher:

      I suggest that you preach truth and do righteousness as you have been taught, whereinsoever that teaching may commend itself to your consciences and your judgments. For your consciences and your judgments we have not sought to bind; and see you to it that no other institution, no political party, no social circle, no religious organization, no pet ambitions put such chains on you as would tempt you to sacrifice one iota of the moral freedom of your consciences or the intellectual freedom of your judgments.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 07:37:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, it was you (0+ / 0-)

        ... who wrote this:

        What is clear is the unwillingness to allow in education alternative interpretations of reality, of "truth" whatever that might be.

        I confess to feeling somewhat ambushed when I attempt to agree with you (albeit while extending your point), and you come back as in your comment above. I suppose the "unwillingness to allow" could be some type of ambient manifestation of dark mind, but I took it to mean that someone allows or does not allow, and that those people are sufficiently in charge to compel others to do as they decide. Hence, People in Charge.

        Does this characterization apply to everyone in a position to influence or even direct curriculum? Certainly not. But it seems valid to refer, in a brief comment, only to those who do push a repressive, unimaginative, anti-creative, overly uniform, controlling approach to education, without also having to explicitly acknowledge the well known truth that many wise and caring people have worked and still work in the field. Compare to the way that we commonly note the latest horrors in Iraq without spending equal inches of print reporting that a school or clinic got painted.

        Now that I've vented about that, I'll go on to say what bugs me (not an education professional) about NCLB. 1) Accountability is fine, but it seems to make an effort to define and label losers. 2) It does not seem to recognize that students can make important progress not measurable on standardized tests. 3) It seems to be based on what corporate execs would like to see in their employees, while missing whatever else might be valuable in life. 4) It seems to want everyone to progress steadily along a defined path, without recognizing that some students in their personal development may need to take rather a long detour before rejoining the main group, possibly years after they are out of school.

        I could go on.

        I appreciate your work, TK.

        •  how is disagreeing somewhat an ambush (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I am exploring a bit further my understanding, which as I read your original comment was pointed in a somewhat different direction.  After all, to my students I am the one who is in charge, and from me they get a model of such a person who is more in the Sharpless paradigm than that of a person who peels back your head, pours in a set of facts with a predetermined interpretation or structure and expects you to memorize then, then regurgitate on a test.

          I absolutely agree with the idea of different rates of development. I am a model of that, albeit in a different sense.  i was not in the top 1/3 of my hs class, was a National Merit Scholarship winner (one of two in my class at Haverford) because I do very well on mass-produced tests (National Merit had its own exams in those days) and my dad's company (BF Goodrich at that time) sponsored scholarships.   But I was not not ready for college, almost flunked out as a freshman, dropped out as a sophomore and enlisted in thye Marines, came back briefly after a year away and dropped out again, finally returning after a stint at NYU as a 25 year old junior.   I was more ready, and got through, began a doctoralo program but still not seriously ready for intellectual endeavors dropped out of that.  I read on my own, and when I began a masters program in my mid 30's I was finally ready to study in an organized fashion and began getting straight As for the first time in my life.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 04:18:02 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Appreciate your reply TK (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Ambush called off :)

            Written communication can be misleading. When people are face to face there are many communication cues-- facial expression, body language, tone of voice, even breathing patterns etc-- that help us understand in real time where the other person is coming from. But when the medium is email or a blog like this one, those other cues are absent, leaving the words alone to do all the work. Combine that with fast writing/reading and the potential for misunderstanding is great.

            (IMO this is the cause of many of the pie fights, flame wars and so forth.)

            BTW my partner for many years was a drawing and painting teacher at the high school level. She was terrific. I know for a fact that for some of her students, her studio art program was the only thing that kept them in school. A lot more than just "art" went on in her classroom; she always had great music playing, there were group projects, group critiques, unstructured social interactions (you can talk and draw at the same time), and the practical need to set up and clean up projects and take proper care of the tools. For some of the kids, her class was the first time they ever tried to measure something with a ruler, use a ladder, clean a sink, or cut a board. Studio art features tactile experience and cognitive processes not normally part of the official "academic" program, and I am convinced that this is what allows some kids who are discouraged participants in the academic program to begin to find a little success in their school experience. She offered a sequential program where each semester (up to 7 semesters) built upon what had been done previously, so her advanced kids really became quite sophisticated. Scheduling for the sequential program was an inconvenience for the administrators and she often had to fight to keep her program from being dumbed down. (The people wanting to simplify the program for scheduling convenience could appreciate the quality of the art her kids created, but since they had little art education themselves, they didn't always see that it was her program that generated those results. People understand that when achievement goes up in an academic subject, curriculum design and the quality of the instruction probably plays a role; but when art achievement goes up, the automatic tendency is to attribute it to the talent of the students.) In her sequential program, she had some kids for 3 1/2 years and followed their personal development the whole way. Her greatest satisfaction came when a shy, hesitant, insecure little freshman grew in confidence and skill and began, maybe for the first time, to see themselves as full participants in the classroom social group and as people who really could do or make something worthwhile.

            This is getting kind of long. I'll just say that when arts programs get de-funded or squeezed out by academic requirements, the light goes out for a certain percentage of students, and that's a damn shame.

      •  Those in charge can be nurturers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But is that the question? If the question is fundamentalism, I would hazard to say there are many religious fundamentalists who are nurturers, and self-sacrificing to achieve that nurturing. It's just that they may disagree with you or me on the boundaries involved or what should be developed in the first place.

        Similarly, nurturing school-teachers might also be fundamentalist about some things, kind of like the old barbers who attempted to cure diseases by putting leaches on you.  Their motivation is not a problem, but their mind set and lack of knowledge about disease might be.

        To me, the fundamental fundamentalism in America is behaviorism, which I wrote about in a long comment above, so I won't repeat myself here. I realize that I tend to harp on this, making it somewhat of a simplification (fundamentalism) of my own, but I think it's true in general. After all, the whole system is built on it.

        Anyway, nice diary, as usual. I'm always amazed at how much you're able to write and how much you have to share that's pertinent.

        None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

        by Toddlerbob on Sun Feb 18, 2007 at 09:16:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  you made your point on behaviorism (0+ / 0-)

          and here too I have disagree somewhat.  There was a period when all objectives for a lesson were stated in behavioral terms, but even that was not pure behaviorism a la BF Skinner.  

          And the Sharpless quote, about which I will diary further this morning, is not about nurturing per se, but about  instructing in a fashion that DOES not seek to limit or restrict, by party or religious belief.  That is very far from the kind of fundamentalism to which Sullivan was referring and which I saw as a model to interpret educational policy.

          Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

          by teacherken on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 04:11:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  behaviorism (0+ / 0-)

            Thanks for your response!

            I'm not talking about objectives for lessons here, but something more subtle, something everyone just takes for granted, yet is still wrong. It is the clinging to this conceptual framework in a fundamentalist fashion that is a problem (*a* problem, maybe not the problem)

            I realize, too, that this is a slightly different sense of fundamentalism than you were talking about to begin your diary. However, since you stated you were using the idea of fundamentalism as a tool to understand an educational problem, I figured I would try it, too, though in a slightly different (but just as real, I would argue) way.

            What I'm saying is that there are assumptions about learning that most people don't question. A behavioristic mindset is one of them. It's kind of like in politics when most people assume there's a free market in this country when there actually isn't. Not the greatest analogy, but it's early in the morning.....

            I'm also coming at it from a totally different perspective than you, in the sense that you're dealing with high school kids, who, though they may be immature in some ways, have minds that work as adult minds do. I'm dealing with little kids, whose modes of thinking are strikingly different from adults. It is this that I think of when railing against behaviorism.

            Anyway, thanks again.

            None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

            by Toddlerbob on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 07:05:53 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  not all my hs students have minds like adults (0+ / 0-)

              remember, the parts of the brain that control judgment are not fully developed until later - and some of my 10th graders are as young as 13 or 14 when I get them.  

              I would agree that a lot of people operate more on behavioristic principles than they realize.  And that can be a problem.  That of course is only part of what is wrong with our structure of public schools.  I often put it far more bluntly - we have public schools to help prepare our future participating citizens in a representative democracy, yet there are few places less democratic than the American public school.  Yes it is true that adults have to exercise responsibility - even the Supreme Court decision which first recognized student free speech rights, Tinker v Des Moines, also acknowledged that school officials had a responsibility to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment.  That responsibility has often been used to justify what I consider repressive amounts of behavior control, sometimes even behavior modification in what I consider an unhealthy and undemocratic fashion.  Our schools are still far too much subject to becoming places of indoctrination:  that what really matters is test scores and grades for example, rather than learning, learning how to learn, and decent behavior to those who are different in external characteristic or deeply held beliefs (religious, social or political) than oneself.

              Have to get back to planning.  Enjoyed the exchange.

              Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

              by teacherken on Mon Feb 19, 2007 at 07:38:01 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ways of Thinking (0+ / 0-)

                I often put it far more bluntly - we have public schools to help prepare our future participating citizens in a representative democracy, yet there are few places less democratic than the American public school.

                I totally agree with this, even though I myself have been somewhat of a dictator with my fifth and sixth graders.  To change this state of affairs, of course, would require a society-based change, that is, something broader than just the school system.  Still, it's worth chipping away at. For my part, I encourage independent thought within my rigidly controlled structure of routines. 34 students in a classroom  tends to encourage me to at least keep things quiet enough that we can communicate.

                In our school, some of the sixth graders are 13 years old.

                However, beyond issues of students' judgment, I feel that for younger kids, we (as a profession and as a society) don't take into account enough the fact that kids simply don't think the way adults do, meaning their actual thought processes - their logic, physical perceptions, etc. This means, with respect to adults, that they are in some ways much more capable thinkers than we give them credit for, and in other ways much more limited than we realize. They're just different, that's all.

                Sometimes I think we fail to recognize this because when we remember back to our own childhoods, we don't remember our minds functioning differently. What we don't take into account is that memories are not recordings, but reconstructions, so our own memories of our own lives are not as reliable as we might think.  So we explain away differences in mental function as differences in motivation and judgment, and thus reconcile our memories of what we did with what we thought about it at the time, in order to provide continuity in our perceptions of ourselves.

                My own feeling is that, if we can keep the school system from destroying kids' curiosity and self-worth (with respect to learning) at least through the sixth grade, they'll have the resources to last through whatever is thrown at them  in secondary education. On the other hand, if we fail to do this, they will already have decided (consciously or subconsciously) by the end of sixth grade that they have no future in the educational system, and the secondary folks won't have much to build on, if indeed those kids are even present in the secondary schools.

                None of this makes a bit of difference if they don't count your vote.

                by Toddlerbob on Wed Feb 21, 2007 at 06:31:09 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

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