Sunday, April 29, 2012


Ah, the old ritual of the Sunday morning newspaper reading!  How it highlights the delight of sleeping in and lounging about in one's pajamas while coffee brews and comes to its fullness of flavor and enlivening richness!  And how it reminds a person of what is wrong in the world!

I just read Gail Collins's 27 April 2012 New York Times piece "A Very Pricey Pineapple," in which she reminds readers about the massive economic underpinnings of the various educational "reforms" that have been pushed through in the past decade or so.  Collins points out that a few companies are making quite a bit of money from the emphasis on standardized testing in the executions of the tests themselves as well as in the production of textbooks to suit the tests and even schools and teaching programs in which to embed the whole thing.*  By bringing out the pineapple imagery, she links edu-business to the absurd, offering an effective satire on the institution and calling therefore for a change to it.

I find it interesting that it is okay in the prevailing public mind for companies--who are not hired at the local level, but whose products are enforced by a top-down mandate--to make millions upon millions of dollars to write tests, but for teachers to make a decent wage as they administer the tests and work with the students for months beforehand to ensure that they are able to pass them--and for the time after the test to try to teach them something that they can take forward with them--is objectionable.

I find it interesting that complaints about bad teachers lead to calls to dismantle or restructure the whole educational system--and answers to those calls--but complaints about bad police officers, about bad soldiers, about bad sailors, about bad airmen, about bad Marines (and there are poor examples of all of these) do not prompt public outcry or legislative action to privatize the whole system and to take away from those who are trained in how to do things the actual doing of those things, putting it into the hands of those whose primary focus is not the activity but making money off of it.

I find it interesting that the same people who seek to enforce "accountability" are those who complain about schools getting worse, as though the major shift in educational policy has not been the move away from teachers having secure positions of respect and authority and towards automation, widespread homogeneity, distancing of the school from the student, top-down command and control, and the test as the be-all and end-all of teaching.

I find it interesting in the way that Shakespeare's Anthony calls Brutus "an honorable man."

*Full disclosure: I work at a for-profit college.  College, however, is not a legally compulsory activity, and it is one in which many if not most students have choices of institutions, as opposed to primary and secondary schooling, which are largely systematic and operate under expansive, unifying programs such as those outlined in the article.

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