More Manifestos…Same Underlying Issue

The Asia Society has organized a group of groups to push for better international education using the competitiveness frame as a lever.  Good enough.   But, like “21st Century” skills it’s hard to find much in there that isn’t just a component of a good education.  And in terms of economic competitiveness giving that kind of education to students who don’t get it today (disproportionately low-income and minority students) seems like the most productive strategy and would radically increase civic equality and equity in this country at the same time.

Meanwhile, a big, and dare I say bold, new effort for common standards is underway with some noteworthy players involved.   It’s an important project so long as we remain alert to what educational challenges are indeed technocratic and which ones are political.  For instance, it’s hard to see the tremendous inequities in American education today as stemming from having the wrong standards or weak ones…

3 thoughts on “More Manifestos…Same Underlying Issue

  1. Detail Devil

    This is great. Standards are good. But there is a big problem with bureaucrats, legislators, and executives blowing hard about improving education.

    How does it improve the practice of teaching?

    Pointing out exemplar schools and teachers is great. Demanding better student learning is great. But by itself, it doesn’t translate into systemic improvement of instruction in schools across the board.

    If these bigwigs would really concentrate on the legislative levers that can improve teaching, that would be great. How about, for example, calling on the feds to fund research on teacher education? Is it possible that somewhere, there is an ed school that actually prepares teachers well?

    And not just the creme de la creme of TFA. I mean the vast numbers of college students getting teaching credentials. We can’t run a national public system using TFA as a model. We simply need too many teachers, and we can’t cherry pick. So how do we educate all those who are going to teach in classrooms so these new teachers are more capable and successful on Day One?

    I know you like to fawn over TFA and a handful of successful charters. While I applaud these, they are a mere drop in the bucket. Call on the bigwigs to do something for all teachers and children, to improve teaching and learning across the board, rather than focusing on select examples with special circumstances.

  2. N.astra

    Do teachers truly or have the time to truly care about their students? I think this is one issue which education legislators in developing and developed countries have yet to effectively and successfully addressed.

    Recent events in my life starkly revealed that hardly any of the school teachers of my students bother about getting to know them as well as they could (I’m a private tutor). For example, the form teacher of a particular student asked him and his classmates to look up a certain website to complete a homework task individually. The poor student doesn’t have a computer at home. When asked why he didn’t inform his teacher, he replied it’s because she didn’t bother to ask. Another student was facing a family crisis, and it’s showing on his perpetually crumpled school uniform and ever-dirty looking shoes. When asked if any of his teacher had ever stopped to ask him why, he said ‘no’. Unbelievable! There are many more of such examples and it’ll take pages for me to list them, trust me.

    Teachers must realise that whether they like it or not, they are role models to their students. How they treat their students reveals their personal values and the principles with which they live by or not. Their students will consciously or subconsciously pick up those attitudes and values from them.

    In turn, teachers’ attitudes towards their students reveal the values that the education legislators (which lead them)truly hold dear.

    So, education legislators of the world, please start doing some serious reflections on the long-term impact of the education policies that you are making or have made on the lives of the children who have been entrusted to your care.

    Will your conscience let you sleep peacefully tonight?

  3. Shafeen Charania

    Agree that this isn’t about standards (wrong or weak), but more about what outcomes we wish to pursue, and who we are. I also don’t think it’s specifically about the quality of our educators.

    The National Governors Association has taken the stand that we must compete with other countries to have the best test-takers. That seems naive on so many fronts – first who created the tests, and why does doing well in them = doing well in life? Second, if you’re tying yourself to that bandwagon, and we’re clearly behind, given the inertia of our system and theirs, we’ll never catch up, which means we’ve conceded already. Finally, why compete *against* anyone in the first place? (I can see it now – the “war on education.”)

    Why not instead compete inside this country *for* the best education for our students? There are so many great schools and great teachers in this country that have proven their understanding of our students, this society, its aptitude, etc., and created success. Why are the governors not looking inward instead of outward?

    (I wrote about this here: http://interacc.typepad.com/synthesis/2008/12/pointless-competition.html).

    Thanks as always for uncovering these links!

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