Whatever you call it, Race to the Top has hurt children, demoralized teachers, closed community schools, fragmented communities, increased privatization, and doubled down on testing. But I have an idea for a new accountability system that relies on d...
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16 November 2014
In the Venn Diagram of a circle representing good pedagogy and a second circle representing the impact of attempts to assess the success of existing pedagogies, there are issues that appear to have been thrown into a sort of oubliette.*
Whether intended for the betterment of education or for less noble reasons, the question is what is it that is being forgotten and thereby left out of the very important conversation about how to improve education?
Remember that old saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"?
I can't help but wonder whether an application of that wisdom to the Venn diagram would consider assessment to be the baby and existing pedagogical practice the water. Or, whether pedagogical practice is the baby and current assessment is the water.
It's a rhetorical question. There is an upside and a downside to both current assessment structures and to current pedagogical practice.
Truthfully, to frame the question such is Jesuitical.**
I'd propose that what is best for educational reform is NOT a black and white issue. To see it as such is simplistic whether one takes the side of any of the article's mentioned attempts to improve education or one takes the side of any of the critics of those attempts to improve education.
I'd prefer to think of the situation as having to bathe two babies who happen to be siblings. What would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the CURRENT assessment structures baby? And similarly what would you consider worth cleansing and worth disposing of in the current pedagogical practices baby?
And, what would be a realistic plan to save the best of both babies while eliminating the dirty waters in which both currently exist that is not a plan merely built upon little more than a Panglossian*** brand of optimism?
What has been thrown into the oubliette are the many forgotten (overlooked) shades of gray that deserve to NOT be forgotten (or summarily dismissed by proponents of either side).
I will leave the question of which baby is "less dirty" than the other. I'll leave it at this; neither is clean enough. Both need serious bathing. But, one is probably dirtier than the other.
Annotated ENDNOTES: (or WHY Literary Reading is worthwhile)
* My first encounter with the word "OUBLIETTE" came when I first read Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
"An oubliette (from the French oubliette, literally "forgotten place") was a form of dungeon which was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling. The word comes from the same root as the French oublier, "to forget", as it was used for those prisoners the captors wished to forget."
** It should be recognized that this definition of a "JESUITICAL ARGUMENT" itself has proponents and opponents. I recognize the controversy. Though in this commentary, I'm referring to a common use of the term that takes the following position.
“In order to be successful, the Jesuitical Argument must be pursued articulately, aggressively and forcefully, but perhaps not always sincerely – indeed, the most effect Jesuitical must at times be cunningly downright deceitful – mixing emotional half-truths and rhetoric into the answer."
*** Thanks to having read Candide by Voltaire I came to understand an important distinction between the optimism of the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King jr,, and Mother Theresa and those who simply put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and scorn those who complain and feel no personal obligation to address those complaints
PANGLOSSIAN OPTIMISM (see: http://goo.gl/1eL5yo)
**** Most people would no doubt(?) be able to construct a fairly accurate understanding of the author's use of "GRADGRIND ACADEMY" without having an awareness of the term's origin.
I'll just suggest that being an English major does provide extremely valuable insights into the extent to which modern issues have existed throughout time.
The term actually references Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Consider this explanation of a Gradgrind academy from English Literature: A Very Short Introduction, by Jonathan Bate...
"... Gradgrind's academy sought to extirpate children's capacity for wonder, for poetry and imaginary play, in order to prepare them to become factory hands, mechanical cogs in the wheel of Victorian capitalist production. Conversely, the aim of literature teachers in the Leavisite tradition was to create beings of strong feeling and humane understanding. English was often taught with messianic zeal: the study of literature was to be a life-changing and, potentially, a society-changing experience."
Who was it who said, "The more things change, the more they remain the same"?
Was that pessimism or a challenge FOR ALL OF US WHO CARE to do better?
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