Tag Archives: politics

Education Evolutions Newsletter #15


sas-ipad flickr photo by zandwacht shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

Welcome back to the fray of the school year. Hope you enjoyed the holiday respite. Here is a bumper selection after a week off the regular schedule. Enjoy.

Education Evolutions:

Select Readings on Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age

Happy New Year, here are four curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.

  • How Massachusetts Built a World-Class School SystemTop Performers blog @ EdWeek – Marc Tucker  (9 minute read)
    This blogpost is a nice reminder of just how well Massachusetts has been able to perform amidst all the edreforms of the last 20+ years. Sadly, the metric used to make the case is always about testing, in particular, PISA which is a significantly more dubious measure than is generally recognized. Yet, if there have to be standardized tests, Massachusetts certainly has been able to develop and administer ones that are clearly better than about any other state in the union, something worthy of consideration since Education Commissioner Mitch Chester has opted for MCAS 2.0. The commissioner, however, was the initial PARCC chair but seemingly no longer occupies that position, despite no official statement ever being released. While the commonwealth has been able to reach remarkable heights in these international league tables, the real item worthy of replication are the attempts to support the youngest and most disadvantaged students in a statewide, systematic way. Of course, there is still room to improve but it is good to recognize some of the success too.
  • No Test Left Behind: How Pearson Made a Killing on the US Testing CrazeTalking Points Memo Features – Owen Davis  (16 minute read)
    This is a long form piece that sheds some bright light on just how shady K12 education policy has become over the last 15 years. The impact of A Nation at Risk is stunning, despite having been thoroughly debunked and dismantled. So much of the free-market-style reform movement is predicated on the falsehoods presented in that Reagan era document. What remains even more remarkable is just how much facts and evidence have no purchase with the political and economic machine that wants and needs an “education market” to exist. Sadly, “Pearson and its similarly sized rivals aren’t going away” is far truer than is healthy or beneficial for anyone other than those seeking to profit from the public coffers. By the way, guess who makes the PARCC test?
  • This may be the best way to train teachers – and yes, we can afford itThe Hechinger Report – Marisa Bier and Sara Morris (5 minute read)
    This opinion piece presents a case for a residency-based model for teacher training. There are a lot of compelling reasons to give this idea some consideration. The argument here is “we can’t afford not to train teachers this way.” That may be the case but it is difficult to see a model like this succeeding anywhere but in larger, urban districts. It is no surprise that this is working in a city the size of Seattle. There are not many contexts that can hope to shoulder the upfront, capital costs of instituting such a program without some kind of government subsidy. However, think of how much funding could be made available if less money was spent on the kind of standardized testing profiled in the previous piece. The price of admission into the teaching profession is often financially quite high, without a lot of mobility, which is a factor worthy of considering in the rush to fire “bad” teachers. Yet, it is something that accountability hawks seem to summarily dismiss.
  • How Comedy Became Education’s Best CritiqueThe AtlanticAlia Wong  (6 minute read)
    This is a fascinating installment from a series examining intersections between education and entertainment that The Atlantic is conducting. This particular article is worth a look if for no other reason than it includes the embedded video segments it references. Anyone that has not seen John Oliver’s monologues on the School Segregation and Charter Schools should click this link immediately. Oliver has an impressive knack for making exceedingly complex issues understandable while being ridiculously funny. He amplifies absurdity and hammers home a point better than anyone. The subtext of this piece highlights just how much education has been politicized in recent years. Were it not, what is the likelihood that late-night comedy would have even taken an interest.
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Digital Citizenship in the New Global Reality

This last couple of weeks has proven to be a good place to circle back and think about all of the material we have been investigating in the Flat Classroom Certification course. A lot of the initial material was not the newest for me. There were a few added wrinkles, but it was pretty familiar fare. Yet, once we got into the digital citizenship material, while not new in concept, it certainly was newly articulated for me in a framework that I both appreciated and needed some time to consider. The concept, as advanced by Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay, has been particularly interesting to me. For me at least, it adds a far clearer political dimension to our work, for better, worse, or perhaps both.

Shortly after reading the chapter, international events in Germany started catching my attention. perhaps it is the mid-term elections here in the States that has my radar more attenuated to the political arena. Still, a couple of weeks ago Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about her native Germany’s multicultural approach having “failed, utterly failed” got my attention almost as immediately as her words were published and translated. Subsequently, a slightly more nuanced version of Merkel’s words began to appear in English language media. To my surprise, the story didn’t have the legs I thought it would.

Fortunately, it did not disappear completely. I was bolstered by the sentiments of James Carroll’s op-ed piece in my local daily newspaper, The Boston Globe. Reading his column, I almost felt that he had read my original message to the Flat Classroom Certification cohort. Additionally, Carroll was a guest on National Public Radio‘s daily show Talk of the Nation, which had a segment called “Multiculturalism Debated In The U.S. And Abroad.” In both entries to the public discourse, Carroll echoed many of my thoughts on the subject.

In particular, Carroll’s comment, “To date, no responsible American government figure feels free to openly echo Merkel’s “Christian values’’ excommunication. But multiculturalism can fail in the United States, too, as mounting negativity toward immigrants (“aliens’’) suggests,” strikes to the heart of why efforts like the Flat Classroom Projects, in all flavors, are such worthy ones.

Alluding to lessons of history, I found the German Chancellor’s comments particularly alarming. Yet these sentiments are definitely part of a dark undercurrent in the States. Of course the US is not Germany. The US has a long history of multiculturalism, however contentious, even violent, it may be. It also has a history of isolationism, especially in times of difficulty. Yet, there is a code, as Carroll puts it, that is designed to incite a more insidious part of the American body politic. Merkel’s statements may have been uttered in German but they too read as the same code. Only education can combat the kind of ignorance, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia that threatens “to swamp the foundation of liberal democracy,” as Carroll evocatively suggests.

Ultimately, the digital citizenship we are promoting is really built upon a modern global citizenship with a long, wide digital footprint, as well as deeper understanding of etiquette and international protocols. Digital citizenship is definitely a more expansive concept and I have already voiced my problems with the term. Regardless of what its called, the concept has never been more needed as an underpinning of education in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Like it or not, this new reality have a political dimension that is full of its own codes, subtlety, nuance, and rhetoric. Students need to be prepared to navigate their way through this reality, hopefully with a more sensitivity, enlightened compassion, and recognition of just how interdependent humanity has become.