Restoring EduSanity

There seems to be a serious lack of sanity in the education discussion these days. The past ten years of the NCLB era have witnessed a refocusing of American determination to once again be on top of the world when it comes to educating our future workforce.  This is certainly not the first time that we have turned the microscope on public education, as we tend to ratchet up scrutiny whenever the U.S. is viewed as slipping from the top spot in the industrialized world (e.g. the Soviet’s launch of Sputnik or the Japanese dominance of the electronics industry in the 1980’s).  Unfortunately, this time we have managed to lose almost all sense of perspective as the conversation about public education in the United States; productive conversations have been replaced with mud-slinging shouting matches.

It is hard not to notice that public education has been invaded by non-educators from around the country who were nowhere to be found when the quality of a student’s education was understood to be the complex and multifaceted endeavor that it truly is. However, now that educational success has been redefined by politicians as a series of easily measured test scores, public education has become the target of economists, entrepreneurs, think tanks, bureaucrats, and members of the public who have jumped at the opportunity to introduce narrowly focused “reforms” with the sole purpose of increasing test scores. These newly self-anointed “experts” have gained a lot of traction in the public sphere by using ambiguous yet seductive words such as “rigor” and “accountability” to oversimplify, privatize, and politicize the formative years of our nation’s youth. Our children’s education has been reduced to an easily understood metric that can be neatly graphed in the local newspaper and touted or decried by politicians but has very little meaning in the world outside the classroom. How sad.

The status quo is not acceptable either, and it is undeniably true that America’s educational system is in need of improvement.  This has been the case since the first hornbook was used in the first one-room schoolhouse in the first American colony, and if we are to move forward, it should always be the case. Education isn’t a sprint, a race, or even a marathon because there is no finish line that signifies the end of learning in either victory or defeat. That our current educational focus can be summed up with the rhetorical tag line of “Race to the Top,” is unfortunate because it perpetuates the misconception that educating children is a competition that can somehow be won. What happens to the losers of the race?

Of course, not everybody has bought into this modern wave of reform, and many of the holdouts are public educators who recognize that education cannot be simplified as the public has been misled to believe. These educators (authors of this essay included) have pushed back against the tide of misguided reform, resulting in an “us vs. them” mentality usually reserved for the bickering on cable news networks and the halls of Congress. The debate over education is currently framed as the “us”, or every blue-blooded American who favors better schools, rigor, and achievement, against the “them”, otherwise known as anybody who can be portrayed as standing in the way of this very particular brand of progress. And full advantage of this discord has been taken by many politicians and well-financed edu-mouthpieces who have convinced Americans that public educators belong squarely in the “them” category.  When real teachers resist the reforms they believe to be wrong, they are characterized as trying to protect the status quo and standing in the way of progress. We’ll admit there are a few teachers determined to do that, though they are vastly outnumbered by those who resist shortsighted reform efforts for the right reasons. Despite this, it has become fashionable to demonize all things “public” about public education and all too often, attempts at “education reform” are revealed to be little more than thinly veiled efforts to undermine districts, schools, teachers, and by default, even the very students in the classrooms.

EduSanity fears that the characterization of public educators as the enemy of progress combined with a single-minded approach to evaluating the education of young people could have catastrophic consequences.  We will use this platform to call attention to the many issues assaulting American education today, primarily the issues brought forth from outside of the classrooms, issues we consider to be antagonistic attacks on the sanity of education. There are too few voices in the dialogue about public education that are broadly focused, rational, well-informed by various ways of knowing, and truly concerned with making progress in helping our students prepare for life on a local, national and global scale. We aren’t the first to call attention to these issues, but we are in a unique position to use our experience and perspective on educating students to raise a voice of sanity in a country that has lost its EduSanity.

Our mission is to ask questions of current practice and policy and to provide a venue to discuss controversial issues.  We believe that our children are not numbers and that their (and thus our country’s) future should never be for sale, yet we fear that the sign has already been posted in the proverbial front yard of our schools.  We endeavor to support those who have not been buried by the educational antagonism tidal wave of the last decade and to use our voice in opposition of those who we believe have lost their EduSanity, whether they are well-meaning or not.

We welcome your ideas, comments and your criticisms.  It is past time to look critically at the current wave of short-sighted reform by telling the counter-stories and addressing the issues currently underrepresented.

If you want to follow us on Twitter or find our page on Facebook by using the links on the top of the page we will let you know when we’ve tried to restore EduSanity to another issue.

 

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suggested citation:
Endacott, J., & Goering, C.Z. (2012, August 30). Restoring edusanity. EduSanity. Retrieved from http://www.edusanity.com/2012/08/30/restoring-edusanity/

Comments

  1. I’d love to hear your take on the role of private interests (i.e. foundations, corporations, wealthy individuals) in education reform. How can we balance a desire for everyone to have a voice with the very real potential that at least some of these “voices” are attempting to push certain groups of children into a system of education that presupposes their political and economic subordination? I eagerly await your thoughts

  2. In the article, we wrote, “our children are not for sale,” but if you take a good hard look around, you’ll find that groups with certain agendas–whether well meaning or not–are controlling aspects of education by giving money to it. I find this particularly offensive because of the fact that our government seems to be complicit in allowing (promoting) this to happen (i.e., Gates Foundations heavy involvement in the Common Core State Standards development and implementation) all at a time when states are struggling for money.

  3. Let’s continue by developing a list of reforms put into place since the beginning of NCLB. The list can become a rational hook for debate.

    ITEM: Standardized Curriculum — based on a mistaken notion that every school and student body in the USA is exactly the same regardless of regional differences, local culture, available job opportunities, and community expectations.

    ITEM: Professional Development for Teachers — the move away from enhancing content-oriented knowledge (learning more about the subject one teaches) and toward short-term seminars based on trendy theories, weekend getaways, and entertaining dog-and-pony shows.

    ITEM: Career and College Readiness — the mantra that every student is university material and that the only avenue to successful post-secondary education is the pursuit of a college degree.