By P. L. Thomas @ The Becoming Radical blog
Alright I admit it, I just kind of love takedown writing. The point by point refutation and exposure of falsehoods. It is one of the reasons why I like good, old, honest debate. In some ways, I think it is one of the purest forms of argument. Here P. L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education at Furman University and column editor for English Journal takes on some prevailing “common sense” claims at the heart of media myth-making about education. Quoting three current published pieces from three different voices, Thomas unravels the oversimplifications and lack of expertise.
The problem highlighted and represented in these three examples involves several key flaws inherent in education reform being analyzed and driven by people without expertise and experience as educators themselves. The media, politicians, reformers, b/millionaires, and celebrities dominate the debate, formation, and implementation of education policy—all of which focuses on how best to design (and redesign) accountability plans and thus ignores the possibility that accountability based on standards and high-stakes testing is the problem.
In an interesting example, Thomas dashes the idea of ever increasing expectations as not only empty but misguided. In a lengthier dismantling, Thomas exposes an arrogance of the elite, only an outsider can truly see attitudes, and their complete dismissal of research, expertise, and experience from the actual field of education.
Not only would I echo that “the key challenges of education have nothing to do with a lack of or the quality of accountability, standards, and testing,” I would submit that much of the reforms that are trumpeted to achieve those aims are vestiges of industrial, assembly-line thinking. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, what edreformers typically present are one-size-fits-all, uniform expectations on “efficient,” quota-like timelines, with the hopes of compelling students and teachers alike with old-school, reward and punishment motivational techniques.
Interestingly, these are precisely the qualities claimed of the current education system, albeit rooted in NCLB’s previous wave of accountability, standards, and high-stakes tests. Thomas makes a compelling case that the reset needed is not about results anyway. It is about creating conditions for successful teaching and learning environments. Then the results will likely take care of themselves.