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March, 2014

  1. Training of the Servile Mind

    March 25, 2014 by Tunya

    Training Of The Servile Mind

    “And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only the lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the event.” – Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527), The Prince, Chapter 4

    The Machiavelli quote describes very well the perilous terrain a reformer has to navigate in this story of Newark’s mayoral contenders.

    Firstly, the accomplices in the tyranny who are already well off will oppose the reformer.  All these rent-seekers, these “favor traders”, those privileged insiders, will oppose and work to undermine any reforms.  Andrew Coulson* in graph after graph shows how exponentially increasing taxpayer funded expenditures does not improve flat-lined education outcomes.  The public education industry is an arrogant self-perpetuating malignancy that continues — unchecked — to escalate and drain public funds with little improvement to the mission intended.  A predatory, parasite class has arisen on the backs of children.

    Secondly, those who do stand to gain from reform will still be intimidated and fearful of backlash from those in power.  Even if a reformer is voted in, there is the anxiety that disruptions, sabotage, turmoil will occur.  It would not be “smooth sailing”.  Would reforms occur to help the intended students in their lifetimes?

    Thirdly, the mystique of government is so well inculcated into the populace — yes, by public schools — that there is need for proofs and guarantees that new models will work. The training of the servile, compliant mass in a democracy is well accomplished by the monopoly public school regime. The reformer in this Newark story will have to show proven models that work.  Yes, the model of mayoral control of education is one such that is working in a number of places.

    Two models of successful education, unfortunately, will not apply in this instance.  I refer to home education that would be inappropriate for a mayor to promote (just as long as it’s not disallowed).  And the model of low-cost private schools which are gaining so much traction in poor countries would not be in the mayoral candidate’s repertoire, at least not in this round.  Research the topic — low cost private schools — and see videos.  Here is one

    And, for those accomplices who will work hard to retain their self-serving powers to destabilize opportunities for good education for all, here is a quote from a book, written in response (also in the 16th C) to the Machiavelli declarations:

    “Let us therefore learn while there is yet time, let us learn to do good . . . I truly believe that I am right, since there is nothing so contrary to a generous and loving God as tyranny — I believe He has reserved, in a separate spot in Hell, some very special punishment for tyrants and their accomplices.” – Etienne de la Boetie (1530 – 1563), The Politics of Obedience.

    * State Education Trends, CATO, 2014, as discussed in SQE post March 19, 2014, How much more money, O Lord?

    [posted on SQE 25 March 2014 on topic — Change is Hard]

  2. Teacher Credentialing Needs Serious Scrutiny

    March 23, 2014 by Tunya

    SQE March 23, 2014, on topic — More education doesn’t necessarily make teachers better

    Credentialing Of Teachers Needs Serious Scrutiny

    1          NO, teachers should not get automatic pay raises with increased points on their credentials.  This has little relationship to effectiveness, especially if added points are gained from the teacher’s own choices — which maybe just satisfy a personal interest.  However, if administration recommends further training to acquire more competence, say in special education, that’s a different story.

    2          Teachers can get credits just by going to conferences or some strange PD days put on  by the union.  This also does not necessarily have a relation to competence in the classroom and might even have a negative effect.  What if after one day a teacher thinks they know all about “discovery math” for example but cannot apply skills necessary?  What if a teacher takes a critical thinking one-day PD session and the texts and styles recommended are critical theory, critical literacy or critical pedagogy — pure Marxism?

    3          People are wondering just what teacher training is all about.  Does it actually train teachers to teach reading, when phonics is still disparaged by so many faculties?  Why are there so many theory courses which intend to radicalize teachers .  See this report:  Radicalization of Teacher Education Programs in the United States, Lexington Institute, 2012.

    4          At least one national government is concerned about teacher training.  Australia has TWO Reviews on the go:  one on the National Curriculum, and one on teacher training.  These two reviews were undertaken because education became a big issue in the last federal election and when a Coalition government came in it decided to follow-up concerns expressed about the “slanted” curriculum developed during Labour years.

    5          What if a PhD is actually counterproductive to the mission?  There is this bizarre story of a community breathing a big sigh of relief on hearing a PhD in Math was hired for the department.  But scores did not go up.  The school board failed to note the specialty of the teacher. The dissertation was on Equity Pedagogy — declaring traditional mathematics to be a form of social oppression. The “expert” was intent on moving the coursework “away” from the transmission of math knowledge, skills, and practices. That’s on pg 34 of this new book criticizing Common Core and 21st Century Learning projects — Credentialed to Destroy: How and Why Education Became a Weapon, Robin Eubanks.

  3. Alberta’s High Scores Need Leveling-down

    March 14, 2014 by Tunya

    Tall Poppies Need Clipping

    Alberta’s education system has been envied by the rest of Canada. But, now, a levelling-down is happening

    Just a quick check into the 56-page document — Inspiring Education — provides telltale evidence that Alberta is just following an international contrived change to harmonize state education systems with global agendas. 

    These are just a few of the words you will find that align with others in the field — transformation (9X), competencies (21X), deep (5X), shift (15X), global (15X). These concepts appear in our BC Ed plan, Common Core initiative in the US and 21st Century Learning projects in the UK, NZ and Australia. The “shift” of course relates to the swing away from content, knowledge and skills to soft competencies as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking — moving from the measurable to checklist observations.

    The noteworthy thing about Australia is that the education transformation became an important issue in campaigning preceding the recent federal election Sept 2013 — with a Coalition government winning over the long-term Labour government. At the moment there are two Australian Reviews taking place — one into the Curriculum and one into Teacher Training. ]

  4. a pox on both their houses — a quizz

    March 8, 2014 by Tunya

    BC news is highlighting — once again — the disruptive clashes between the teachers’ union and government.

    Score 0-10 if, and how much, you believe these statements are true.

    ___ 1 The BCTF and the government of the day — conservative, socialist, liberal — have been vying for dominance in matters educational in BC for 40 years.

    ___ 2 The BCTF gained a strategic foothold in the 70s after the NDP first came to power and “radical Marxist” Jim MacFarlan, started the drive to use schools as “instruments of social change.”

    ___ 3 Fast forward to March 2014 a twitter post said: “Gov reps testified under oath that teachers = tough to bargain w/ because they aren't self-interested, they have a social agenda.” Does this mean a “social agenda” is more important than bread and butter issues?

    ___ 4 In the 2011-12 teacher job actions the government side totally approved the teacher demand to withhold report cards from parents and not engage in parent/teacher conferences.

    ___ 5 The BC Ed Plan is revising the public school curriculum to align with global 21st Century Skills. Hopefully, experts in subject fields are involved, but are they? After a Globe & Mail story on Math: "In BC, the worst math teacher I know, the one who confused my kid so much we had to hire a tutor, is now part of the panel developing the math curriculum. Why? Not because of any math knowledge, but because he's high-up in the union." This comment is upsetting, if true.

    ___ 6 Professional opinion also seems upset with the direction of BC curriculum development. Robert Craigen, Math professor (Manitoba) said on a blog: “What possessed the Ministry to give the BCTF full control over design and content of the curriculum? I’ve seen some of their modules and sample course plans, lessons, etc. and if they are any indication you’re in for province-wide in-class political indoctrination . . . If I lived there and had small children I’d be seriously thinking about leaving the province, for their sake.” This is doubly upsetting coming from someone within the teaching profession.

    ___ 7 Sophistication of BCTF bargaining prowess is in the literature. “The Future of Our Schools” (2012) says : “The British Columbia Teachers Federation is a fine example of how to organize for a successful strike, even when defying the courts.” Larry Kuehn, ex BCTF President and now staff at HQ provided this tip to an Osgoode Hall Law professor: “The key to our strategy was to restructure ourselves in a way which assumed that we had the right to bargain the whole range of things and then to try to take that into the bargaining arena . . . the strategic view was that if we did that for a period of time and we have restructured the reality then the law would follow.” Theatrics and cunning strategies are used by both sides to try to sway public opinion.

    ___ 8 The BC Ed Plan is claiming local development for provincial needs. Yet gurus who are consultants and turnaround experts in other countries and jurisdictions have been frequent flyers here. A Ministry official told a group of parents last April, 1 month before the provincial election — “regardless which party wins — the BC Ed Plan will go ahead: Because it’s international!” This is appalling, if true, that the current government is not in control but in league with international agents.

    ___ 9 While both sides in these disputes claim they are working in the public interest and on behalf of the children, it seems obvious that they are in general collusion because of a mutual need to retain the monopoly system which primarily serves system needs first. The system will never allow parents and public to be included. A court case would prove that this exclusion is harmful to democracy and education. 

    ___ 10 Australia has two Reviews active at the moment — A Curriculum Review and A Review Into Teacher Training. BC also should have similar Reviews. 

  5. Teachers ruling “bittersweet”

    March 5, 2014 by Tunya

    In the ongoing School Wars of British Columbia the latest "Victory" was achieved by the teachers' union, the BCTF.  Judge Griffin ruled that the government did no bargain in good faith cvoncerning issues of class size and composition, that previous arrangements should be restored and fined the government $2million.

    Teacher unionists were of mixed mind since appeals and negotiations were ongoing. I wrote a letter-to-the editor to our local paper, but it did not get published.  Below is a copy:


    The patience of parents and public alike has been sorely tested by the endless conflicts between the teachers’ union and the government.

    What we fail to remember is that these struggles have been going on for over 40 years, not the 12-year period recently highlighted by the recent BC Supreme Court decision (BCTF vs BC, 2014).  Furthermore, this happens regardless of the political stripe of the government of the day — be it Social Credit, NDP or Liberal.

    This is a power struggle that may never be sorted out. Legal actions bankrupt resources. Students are shortchanged.  And parents, who are ultimately responsible for their children’s education, are left unsure, frustrated and unable to pursue their children’s best interests.

    Much of the problem rests with the service model adopted to ensure an educated public.  The mistake is to consider education as a public utility that only a government monopoly can provide.  The predictable happens — special interests vie for control and interfere with the intended mission.

    However, if the common good of appropriately educated students is to be served, why not seek alternative models to deliver the desired outcomes?

    Even now, economists are warning that many school graduates are not meeting career or college expectations. But so much is known about what works in education and much more can be achieved with greater innovation, flexibility and stability.

    Why not release the public education dollar and have it follow the student?  Charter schools are working elsewhere.  Education Savings Accounts are being used in some US states for parents to shop and mix-and-match education choices for their kids. In particular, special needs and talents are better served in this manner.

    This current impasse provides a great opportunity to try different ways to help our kids and grandkids get the education they need for the 21st Century.