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October, 2015

  1. Judgement harsher of teachers – James 3:1

    October 30, 2015 by Tunya

    Educators Dodging The Judgment Of James 3:1

    “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” – James 3:1, Bible NIV

    In social media I have seen the occasional teacher mention that they are aware of the extra expectation of teachers — that judgment is justifiably harsher in this field than in any other. Yes, whether they mention James 3:1 or not, nonetheless, these few seem to be keenly aware of the extra responsibility as they deal with impressionable young minds.

    As I observe education trends internationally I see a decided move by education systems to inch away from accountability. As we head into more of the imposed 21st Century Learning “transformations” — involving such biggies as OECD, UNESCO, Common Core, OISE, etc. — we see the replacement of hard statistics with narratives, checklists and other subjective reports. This is to accommodate the shift away from hard skills such as reading, writing, arithmetic and knowledge to soft competencies as collaboration, creativity, etc. Is this shift away from accountability measures a consequence of James 3:1?

    One major way to sidestep accountability is sabotage. This has just been gloriously demonstrated in Ontario by timely organized teacher strikes that prevent some districts from doing standardized tests and certainly averting the calculation of a provincial score.

    The Windsor-Essex Catholic District Bd already has a math task force set up stemming from past concerns. The local newspaper reports: “ . . . the task force will look beyond the system and the country for examples of best practices.”

    Now, here is a hitch. The latest manifesto from the OECD — “Schooling Redesigned — Toward Innovative Learning Systems” — clearly states that this is “ . . . not a compendium of ‘best practices’.” And Andreas Schleicher himself, Director for Education and Skills responsible for PISA reports, an international benchmark setter for student achievement, says: “Some will call for a robust scientific evidence base . . . [but this report] avoids references to ‘proven’ or ‘best’ practices . . .”

    Furthermore, in the literature plugging this report is a testimonial from TUAC — Trade Union Advisory Committee to OECD, an interface for trade unions with OECD — “Teacher unions are, can and should be at the centre of creating the conditions for innovation.”

    Now, how do I feel about all this? After a half century of trying to be a good biological parent, and now grandparent, and after being told, interminably, that parents and the education system are two sides of the same coin, what can I say? Totally frustrated!

    I will simply ask: Why does the flipped coin always land with the producers on top and the consumers face down? Where is the justice for parents and their children in this equation? The only hopeful sign is to work for more options so that there is some relief and escape from such totalitarianism and accountability avoidance.

  2. beware! — community schools

    October 29, 2015 by Tunya

    How NICE WORDS Disarm Us 

    John Dewey in his march to transform education (and the world) in a collectivist direction used “democracy” as a convenient cover. His first book in this category, Democracy and Education (1916), was hugely popular in the English-speaking world and in the countries he visited, Russia and China. 

    “Democracy” was this nice, unthreatening concept that could lean in a number of directions and still remain the clarion call for reforms. In fact, Clarence Carson in his book “The Fateful Turn: from Individualism to Collectivism” shows how Dewey used the word “democracy” 30 different ways! 

    “Community” is another such nice, comforting word. And of course, it expands into “communitarian”, which is the term covering these devolution moves to community-based decision-making. 

    The movement for expanding community schools should be examined with sharp eyes. Sounding nice and comprehensive and even practical community schools could very well be a trap to further separate parents from their children and their responsibilities and duties to them. See: “Obama’s ‘Community Schools’ Aim to Replace Parents” 

    Just announced that Madison, WI will start implementing 'community schools' next fall.

  3. fuzzy math — stale-dated

    October 28, 2015 by Tunya

    [ published on Filling the Pail blog — ]

    The Same Conditions Are Ushering In Even More Education Malpractice

    Some say it’s government failure behind poor performing schools — failing to bring in quality control regulations . Some say it’s the education system itself that rules the roost, a job security haven for its workers and devil take the hindmost.

    At any rate, fads prevail in public education that drive logically minded people nuts, be they parents or concerned teachers. Whole language and fuzzy math should be movements that are way past their shelf life as research findings do not produce good ratings; but they persist.

    It was Dr Seuss who called-out the “whole language” movement. Years after publishing his “Cat in the Hat” (1957) he said: “I did it for a textbook house and they sent me a word list. That was due to the Dewey revolt in the Twenties, in which they threw out phonic reading and went to word recognition . . . I think killing phonics was one of the greatest causes of illiteracy in the country . . . there were two hundred and twenty-three words to use in this book . . . I read the list three times and I almost went out of my head. I said, I’ll read it once more and if I can find two words that rhyme that’ll be the title of my book . . . I found ‘cat’ and “hat”, , , “

    This photo should be a cautionary tale where fuzzy math prevails and where 2 + 2 = 5 if the student can show his work

    Now, these two movements are just dress rehearsal for what’s going on today. “Transformations” are the name of the game currently — Common Core, Personalized Learning, 21st Century Learning, etc. Hard skills as reading, writing, arithmetic and knowledge are being downplayed in favor of soft competences as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, etc. These have been deemed THE essentials that employers will demand in the future. Does anyone REALLY know what the future holds?

    Of course, a cynical observer would say these new competencies are not measurable by objective standards so deliberately avoid accountability. It’s time to adopt hardheaded policies and practices that support proven evidence instead of pie-in-the-sky philosophies.

  4. Tall poppies in Education – cut down to size

    October 23, 2015 by Tunya

    Call-out Against “Massachusetts Miracle” Tall-Poppy Syndrome

    [This was a reply submitted on Jay P Greene’s blog about Bill Gates] ]

    Thanks to Sandra Stotsky and others in Massachusetts, attention is focusing on the deliberate dumbing-down of a high scoring school system. But now, Common Core is being pushed. Education programs have been working so well for so many years that Mass. has a reputation for great reading, math and science scores. In the blogosphere, education consumers and critics often mention this American state as a model to be followed.

    It’s likely some kind of unprincipled envy that’s conspiring to bring Massachusetts education down to size. Cut down the tall poppy. See “The Tall Poppy Syndrome”

    That happened in Canada in the province of Alberta. For many years AB was the top scoring province in the country and measured highly against international education scores as well. The main reason performance was high was due to choices parents had between schools including charter schools since 1994.

    But, the usual culprits despising choice, plus the adoption of 21st Century Learning “transformation” (like CC) have cut down this “tall poppy” to size. Scores have been dropping and right now there is a huge parent effort to at least bring back some rigor to Math.

    An alien to Planet Earth would shake his head in sorrow and puzzlement. Why would excellent programs to help children learn be compromised by untested experiments? And, why do free-democratic nations that embrace human rights allow only a few to exit these programs? Thankfully people like Stotsky and Greene are calling-out against these kinds of absurdities!

  5. Brain-drain of young into social activism

    October 21, 2015 by Tunya

    Is Brain Drain Or Diversion Of Talented Youth Likely ?

    Reading the information on the Global Dignity Day site — which BTW is today, annually the third Wed of October — many thoughts come to mind.

    1) Of course, I’m for dignity and discussion of values, but where does it stop — the designation of school days as special, off-the-curriculum activity? Will there be competition from other idea-promoters for equal time — Grit, Empathy, Collaboration, Resilience, Growth Mindset, Character, etc. Days?

    2 I wonder and worry that so much money is being directed to values-teaching instead of being directed to gaining academic skills. Just what are the goals of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum with partners like Coca-Cola, etc?

    3 Will the youth selected to be leaders in these “social entrepreneurship” projects be encouraged and enticed into the fields of social promotion? These are fields, which really don’t pay for themselves and are not really self-supporting or pay taxes. They rely totally on donations and contributions from agencies, NGOs, government funds and corporate funds.

    4 Will these young talented leaders become a steadily increasing brain-drain from fields which DO contribute to economic and political civic health of communities and families?

    5 From the evidence gathered by this one blog, Invisible Serfs Collar, it seems convincing that there are MANY similar projects world-wide with these same characteristics as noted above. It appears like such a glaring avoidance of the basics needed by so many, many young people in this world. Many psychologists will tell you that self-esteem is highly correlated with mastery of the basics in literacy and math. Why is there such a concerted effort to steer away from the basics by so many education establishments and their generous voluntary donors? This trend should be mapped and tracked in some central war room — and publically being called-out. Let people see the red pins on the wall map and see if they’re part of this agenda to homogenize youth to collective mentalities.

    [to Insivisble Serfs Collar]