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Poet Adrienne Rich in Arts of the Possible made this claim on the cusp of No Child Left Behind (NCLB):

“Universal public education has two possible—and contradictory—missions. One is the development of a literate, articulate, and well-informed citizenry so that the democratic process can continue to evolve and the promise of radical equality can be brought closer to realization. The other is the perpetuation of a class system dividing an elite, nominally ‘gifted’ few, tracked from an early age, from a very large underclass essentially to be written off as alienated from language and science, from poetry and politics, from history and hope—toward low-wage temporary jobs. The second is the direction our society has taken. The results are devastating in terms of the betrayal of a generation of youth. The loss to the whole of society is incalculable.” (p. 162)

Starting with the politically corrupt A Nation in Risk in 1983 [1], political leaders partnered with the corporate elite to drive the public away from universal public education committed to democracy and human agency and toward "the perpetuation of a class system" that serves the state, a corporate state.

Today, a decade after the commitment was codified as NCLB, universal public education is dead [2] and what we have now is the rise of state schools

The Rise of State Schools

More than thirty years, however, before Rich's bold and accurate commentary on public education, Paulo Freire warned against the danger of authoritarian schooling:

"Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the 'banking' concept of education, in the which the scope of action allowed to the students extends as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits....For apart from inquiry, apart from praxis, individuals cannot be truly human....In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as process of inquiry."

Fulfilling fully Freire's warnings about banking education and ignoring his call for problem-posing education as individual empowerment and as essential for democracy, NCLB codified the accountability era, entrenching standards- and test-based state education to replace universal public education.

U.S. schools under the jurisdiction of state and federal governments are now scripted processes that view knowledge as static capital, students as passive and empty vessels, and teachers as compliant conduits for state-approved content.

The accountability paradigm is antithetical to human agency and autonomy and thus to democracy, but it serves the needs of the status quo and the ruling elite; in effect, accountability paradigms driving compulsory education are oppressive:

"Problem-posing education does not and cannot serve the interests if the oppressor. No oppressive order could permit the oppressed to begin to question: Why? While only a revolutionary society can carry out this education in systemic terms, the revolutionary leaders need not take full power before they can employ the method. In the revolutionary process, the leaders cannot utilize the banking methods as an interim measure, justified on grounds of expediency, with the intention of later behaving in a genuinely revolutionary fashion. They must be revolutionary—that is to say, dialogical—from the outset." (Freire, 1993)

If our commitments to education lie within our commitments to democracy and human autonomy, then we must set aside the accountability regime of scripted curriculum as "standards" and reducing all teaching and learning to outcomes as test data.

Instead, we should build schools that are problem-posing, as Freire explains, wherein students are student-teachers and teachers are teacher-students with both in dialogue and partnership in forming the questions and seeking the answers.

The accountability paradigm fixes knowledge as authoritarian capital, above even the possibility of being challenged. In problem-posing classrooms, students and teachers read and re-read the world as well as write and re-write the world.

To read and write the world is to unpack and examine the world as it is, bound by the context of time and place at the moment of the reading and writing. But this is mere observation; if we stop here—even if we are rejecting the banking concept of education—we are failing action, which requires re-reading and re-writing.

Re-reading and re-writing the world acknowledges that being as a human is always becoming, and these acts embrace the perpetual cycle of re-reading and re-writing as essential for both human agency and democracy. Teaching and learning are reciprocal and on-going, not hierarchical and ends to attain, possess.

A decade after enacting NCLB as federal education legislation and as we seek ways in which to intensify the accountability paradigm with national standards, to increase national testing, and to reduce teaching to simplistic metrics such as VAM, we are ringing the death knell for universal public education and embracing state schools that accomplish personal and social devastation, as Rich anticipated: "The second is the direction our society has taken. The results are devastating in terms of the betrayal of a generation of youth. The loss to the whole of society is incalculable."

[1] See Bracey, G. W. (2003). April foolishness: The 20th anniversary of A Nation at Risk. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(8), 616-621; Holton, G. (2003, April 25). An insider’s view of “A Nation at Risk” and why it still matters. The Chronicle Review, 49(33), B13.

[2] See Ravitch, D. (2010/2011). The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. New York: Basic Books.

Reference

Freire, P. (1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

Originally posted to plthomasEdD on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 06:02 AM PST.

Also republished by Education Alternatives.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It Certainly Seems That Ownership Is Putting Its (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, radical simplicity

    foot down on education, and very hard.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 06:13:19 AM PST

  •  Agreed 100% (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plthomasEdD, radarlady, houyhnhnm

    If you weren't citing Freire, I have a feeling I wouldn't even have seen the word "students" in this.  I'm not sure who the clients in this new accountability model are, but I'm certain it's not the children who are being taught and tested.  I hope public education isn't doomed, but it's difficult to think otherwise nowadays.

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 06:14:05 AM PST

  •  found this today on a local attempt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady

    to establish a Hebrew charter school which the local community appears to oppose.  Interesting comments on the apparent background of the dispute
     http://www.nytimes.com/...

    •  Good catch, entlord (0+ / 0-)

      I wonder if the term "earmark" can be carried over to attempts to found a charter school, because these attempts are all aimed at getting a piece of what the Republicans call "taxpayer money" to do something that benefits the people who want to found said school.

      All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

      by Dave in Northridge on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 09:00:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  in the comment section the allegation (0+ / 0-)

        was made that the realtor who was behind this effort catered largely to the Orthodox segment of the population and in a community that was largely African American and Hispanic, she is trying to increase the number of amenities to attract her selected market demographic.  dunno about that but there are about 1500 students in the district and the public school already offers kosher cafeteria and hebrew language lessons and local rabbis say there are enough private Hebrew schools to serve the current Jewish population so the need for a Hebrew school funded by the public is really not clear from the news reports

        •  I didn't look at the comments (0+ / 0-)

          but I know about my people (yes, reform Jew here) and if the local rabbis say they don't need another  I'll take the allegation as plausible.  It's worse than pigs at the trough, when marketing trumps an actual commitment to the children involved.

          All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

          by Dave in Northridge on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 09:47:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  the quote from the Jewish community (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dave in Northridge, terabytes

            itself was the trump: "Rabbis from Congregation Poile Zedek of New Brunswick and Congregation Ahavas Achim of Highland Park — both identified in earlier applications as advocates — wrote to acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf in May with concerns.
            ga1211highland 4 Rundquist BrownAmanda Brown/For The Star-LedgerTeacher Fay Minkowich engaged the class in a game to help them learn conversational Hebrew at Highland Park High School.

            "Proponents of the Hebrew language charter school have carefully placed a fig leaf over their agenda of forcing the state to fund their ‘free’ alternative to private Jewish education," said Rabbi Steven Miodownik of Ahavas Achim."

            This is a professor at Lehigh who appears to support the charter school: http://www.lehigh.edu/...

  •  tests are not bad, they serve a purpose. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady

    in spite of the failures of corporations to turn around underperforming schools (Edison in Philadelphia, Indiana, and elsewhere, charters nationwide), republicant governors and state legislatures have jumped at the chance to get on the ALEC bandwagon and promote taxpayer funded parochial and for profit corporate schools while killing off teachers and their unions.  Sadly, the teacher unions and many school leaders have made it easy for these republicans by coming across as only interested in their jobs and not the students, or in jargonizing educational outcomes that common sense says are failures.  In Indiana, even though the voucher program is small and just started, the local paper and reformists, all of which cite each other as if they are independent groups, have declared the voucher program a success and have tried to claim, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that charter schools are outperforming public feeder schools.  The local friedman foundation pulled the same stunt with vouchers in Ohio--claiming within a few months of the start of the program that vouchers had improved not only the performance of the student using the voucher but also the performance of school corporations competing for that voucher.  These people have a well paid and heavily funded staff of researchers that cite each other and claim choice works, yet they have not published in professional peer reviewed journals other than the journal which they publish.  Students deserve a real education.  Standards and accountability are not the issue, testing is not the issue, none of these dumbs down education. But they are not the measure of the answer, just a clue as to positive direction.

      •  tests are not biased nor the problem. (0+ / 0-)

        I agree, the tests are highly correlated to socio-economic status.  You seem to say that the tests discriminate against low income minority students and are designed so that they cannot do well on them.  That is not the case.  Given proper instruction and educational resources, all students should be able to pass the exams.  As a student of low socio-economic status myself-(single mom, large family, raised on social security based on deceased father's income, no one in the family who had attended anything beyond high school, most of my male relatives had not finished high school etc), I had the opportunity to go to school and be exposed to demanding coursework.  They tried to counsel me to attend vocational ed, given my background, but I kept taking the college prep courses and eventually started paying attention to the teacher instead of the mini-skirts.  Two MS degrees later and 40 plus hours of high end statistical courses from the fields of economics, engineering, and sociology have proven them wrong. The tests are a reflection that the students have not been taught nor expected to learn or given an environment where they can learn. What is missing from most low income minority schools is the exposure to demanding coursework and high expectations and a safe learning environment.  And, as NAEP and TIMSS have shown, students with parents who are involved and help them with homework or provide reading materials at home do better than others.  The question becomes, why do we not focus resources on poverty and families in poverty to help them become better educated.  How can we do this?  What we have done in the past has failed.  Why are schools in low income minority areas so much less than in our well to do areas?  Too many questions gone unasked.  

        •  a few things (0+ / 0-)

          • Focusing on helping any child raise a test score is asking LESS of that student

          • Addressing poverty is step ONE

          http://www.schoolsmatter.info/...

          •  raising a test score is not asking less if: (0+ / 0-)

            Why does the student not score well?  Cannot read? Cannot do basic math?  Focusing on teaching these skills will raise test scores and improve the students life.  Too many inner city low income students cannot read at grade level nor do basic math at grade level.  This is not a function of poverty, it is a function of not having the resources in the school to properly teach the student.  And it is because many teachers in inner city schools point to poverty as the reason for low test scores.  Expectations matter.  What have schools done to overcome this problem of lack of parental involvement and poor resources?  There has been some research on this---after school programs to keep the kids off the streets and out of the gangs, using the school facilities and teachers to teach parents how to read and write and do math, use the school facilities as a center for medical and other social agencies to provide services, use the resources available to teach--we do not need computers and high tech in classrooms when the basic problem is that students cannot read at grade level or do basic math.  And put one program in place and leave it there for several years instead of doing all the reforms for a short time span.  And professional development for teachers--real pd, not time spent on how to fill in paperwork.  Poverty is a problem, but we can overcome that.  Waiting for poverty to be defeated, it never will by the way, will only let yet another generation or two of children fall by the wayside.  

  •  When was this ever what public education was? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady

    If anything, recent  years have taken us further from rote memorization, not closer.

    Also, this:

    “Universal public education has two possible—and contradictory—missions. One is the development of a literate, articulate, and well-informed citizenry so that the democratic process can continue to evolve and the promise of radical equality can be brought closer to realization. The other is the perpetuation of a class system dividing an elite, nominally ‘gifted’ few, tracked from an early age, from a very large underclass essentially to be written off as alienated from language and science, from poetry and politics, from history and hope—toward low-wage temporary jobs. The second is the direction our society has taken. The results are devastating in terms of the betrayal of a generation of youth. The loss to the whole of society is incalculable.” (p. 162)

    No one seems to complain about this when Germany does it... once again, if anything America sorts their youth far less in public education than most other developed countries.

  •  Terminology (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady

    There are some very confusing differences in terminology between Britain and the USA regarding schools so it might be as well to explain in case you use any UK sources for research.

    In the UK

     'Public schools' are privately run by a for profit or not for profit foundation. Often they date back many centuries and were set up as charities for the education of the poor - the rich had their own tutors.

    'State schools' are those run by local authorities and have individual boards of Governors rather than being administered through local school boards as in the USA. The boards include local political representatives but these are outnumbered by those selected by the parents and teaching staff.

    'Voluntary Aided' schools are owned by the churches and some other religious groups but get most of their funding and all of their running costs from the local authority. The monies for both are distributed according to a formula. They too have boards of Governors but some are nominated by the religious body.

    In England, Charter Schools and Academies are set up and run by interested parties - usually local parents with or without the help of professional advisers - which get their money directly from the central government but based in part on the local formula - the local council's grant allocations are top sliced.

    Fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Jan 17, 2012 at 08:05:49 AM PST

    •  yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      radarlady

      I have written for The Guardian and addressed this before...this piece is US focused, thus I stuck with "public"/"state" distinction

    •  The interesting part (0+ / 0-)

      of this comment is the diverse styles of schooling you've listed.  I wonder how well it works out for the children is varying settings.  I am one of those people that is not in favor of public school as it exists today.  I don't like the cookie cutter style of education that demands that everyone learns the same things in the same way every single day.  I am really in favor of home schooling and unschooling where possible.  If not possible, I would like to see child lead education, tailored to the child's individual needs.

      "..faith is believing what you know aint so." Mark Twain

      by nyskeptic on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 05:50:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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