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Jenifer Fox

Jenifer Fox

Posted: October 27, 2010 02:21 PM

Education and the Midterm Elections

What's Your Reaction:

All aboard... next stop, midterm elections!

I've just boarded the education train. I heard that immediately after the stop at the midterms, we're headed away from the confusing, angry land of partisan debate to the wide-open territory of bipartisan dialog! How promising -- the two things I've waited years for -- politicians in agreement and education at the top of the political agenda. Yet, now that the train has left the station, I look out the window and no longer recognize the landscape. Worse still, I'm supposes to be an expert and I'm not sure who I am.

I've been inside schools -- public, private, religious, international -- as a teacher and as an administrator. I think there are very good teachers and very bad ones. Does that make me a Democrat or a Republican?

I think the Teachers Union does many great things and I favor much of their work and I am opposed to tenure laws. Furthermore, I am confused that teachers long to be treated more like white collar professionals and then don't understand why many American's associate them with the blue collar labor force for their attachment to a labor union. Democrat or Republican?

I like innovative teaching platforms and I while I enjoy the idea of Khan Academy, I hardly think its an answer and it disturbs me that Bill Gates, someone who transformed the world as we know it, thinks its revolutionary. Khan Academy replicates rather than replaces the same old direct instructional techniques we have used for centuries.I think students need to actively think rather than passively absorb. Donkey or Elephant?

As far as I'm concerned, Teach for America (as a concept) undermines the science of teaching and learning and dismisses schools of education. So, I see a logical error when the Department of Education awards millions of dollars to Teach for America and also conditions other major funding (such as Reading First) on the demonstration of scientific educational research. This is a subtle contradiction with major implications. Does anyone else see this What political party does this attach us to? Both Republican and Democrats simultaneously advance these programs.

I don't believe in National Standards. I think the country is too big and too free for this idea. I do think some private businesses have good models for education and should be invited to get on this train. I also don't want the federal government to disband the Department of Education because I think it helps guard against discrimination and keeps us invested in justice and equality for our children. I'm not sure where these thoughts land me politically.

I don't think the teacher portrayed by Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society is a teacher to emulate. He is an old-school sage-on-the-stage and his motivational antics left storybook impressions on students rather than providing them real world skills. I suppose that this idea makes me a party crasher.

I don't think we can have intelligent conversations about charter, independent, or public schools without over-generalizing and therefore missing the nuances that will change our direction. I believe in standards and accountability, but like most citizens, I see that the tests we use are not working. In fact, there is much evidence that they are harming children. I wonder why nobody -- neither Democrat nor Republican -- is listening to the American people on this. And this deaf ear makes me fear for our democracy. On this issue we have no vote.

There appears to be no choice and no champion no way out of this dilemma. On this issue, it seems we are left with only protest or revolution. But does that even work anymore? It appears not. The drop-out dilemma can be considered the largest mass scale non-violent protest in the history of the United States and still, politicians running for office do not appear to be stepping out on standardized testing.

So, where does that leave me? I'm on a train to the unknown, not to nowhere -- leaving the parties behind when it comes to education.

Today, in the field of education -- for this brief moment -- it's better to not be an expert. It's better to be a passenger rather than the conductor. We're riding through chaos -- and those educators who resist the impulse to get off on one side or another, and instead stay along for the ride awhile longer -- chugging along in the midst of the problem -- will be the ones who truly have the power to generate real educational change that sticks.

This change must be the result of dynamic innovation rather than acceptance of collective logical fallacies or a re-packaging of what we have known for years. To arrive at a new system we must first weather the disorganization of the existing one and stand strong against the chaos that swells around us just before we reach the creative bend in the road that will bring us to a new destiny where further disagreement is superfluous. That destination is being mapped outside of the government and our public schools. That is where we are headed and until we arrive there our votes for current education agendas are folly.

 
 
 

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