Monthly Archives: April 2012

Horton Hears an Idiot

This story in the Globe and Mail gets the story wrong, but the fact that a school administrator is sneaking around snooping in teachers’ cars to see what written materials they possess makes this story quite noteworthy. This Prince Rupert teacher wasn’t using Dr. Suess’ Yertle the Turtle in class, but instead was using a quote from Yertle in a meeting with management. Perhaps, by extension, the director of instruction for the Prince Rupert School District judged Yertle’s political message would creep into the classroom. Well, the question this begs is why wouldn’t one want kids to consider Yertle’s claim: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights.” Equality is now ‘political’ and should not be a ‘value’ that we would want everyone to seriously consider? Theodor Geisel’s work, like many children’s book authors’ work, is not apolitical, nor should we expect it to be. Teaching about politics, discussing political ideas, developing political perspectives is what teachers ought to be doing… where else do children learn about ‘citizenship?’

US National Resolution on High Stakes Testing

This resolution is modeled on the resolution passed by more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012. It was written by Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education – Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

To sign the resolution, click here.

WHEREAS, our nation’s future well-being relies on a high-quality public education system that prepares all students for college, careers, citizenship and lifelong learning, and strengthens the nation’s social and economic well-being; and

WHEREAS, our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools; and

WHEREAS, the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing in state and federal accountability systems is undermining educational quality and equity in U.S. public schools by hampering educators’ efforts to focus on the broad range of learning experiences that promote the innovation, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and deep subject-matter knowledge that will allow students to thrive in a democracy and an increasingly global society and economy; and

WHEREAS, it is widely recognized that standardized testing is an inadequate and often unreliable measure of both student learning and educator effectiveness; and

WHEREAS, the over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in too many schools, including narrowing the curriculum, teaching to the test, reducing love of learning, pushing students out of school, driving excellent teachers out of the profession, and undermining school climate; and

WHEREAS, high-stakes standardized testing has negative effects for students from all backgrounds, and especially for low-income students, English language learners, children of color, and those with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the culture and structure of the systems in which students learn must change in order to foster engaging school experiences that promote joy in learning, depth of thought and breadth of knowledge for students; therefore be it

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the governor, state legislature and state education boards and administrators to reexamine public school accountability systems in this state, and to develop a system based on multiple forms of assessment which does not require extensive standardized testing, more accurately reflects the broad range of student learning, and is used to support students and improve schools; and

RESOLVED, that [your organization name] calls on the U.S. Congress and Administration to overhaul the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as the “No Child Left Behind Act,” reduce the testing mandates, promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality in accountability, and not mandate any fixed role for the use of student test scores in evaluating educators.

The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of

The Chronicle of Higher Education: The Biggest Student Uprising You’ve Never Heard Of
April 23, 2012, 5:32 am

By Marc Bousquet

250,000 students pack the streets in largest demo in Quebec history

A guest post by Lilian Radovac. (BTW, SoCal readers may want to know that Marc is speaking at UC-Irvine a 4 p.m. 4/23 on New Media/New Protests.)

On an unseasonably warm day in late March, aquarter of a million postsecondary students and their supporters gathered in the streets of Montreal to protest against the Liberal government’s plan to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years.  As the crowd marched in seemingly endless waves from Place du Canada, dotted with the carrés rouges, or red squares, that have become the symbol of the Quebec student movement, it was plainly obvious that this demonstration was the largest in Quebec’s, and perhaps Canadian, history.

The March 22nd Manifestation nationale was not the culmination but the midpoint of a 10-week-long student uprising that has seen, at its height, over 300,000 college and university students join an unlimited and superbly coordinated general strike.  As of today, almost 180,000 students remain on picket lines in departments and faculties that have been shuttered since February, not only in university-dense Montreal but also insmaller communities throughout Quebec.
Aerial news footage of the March 22nd Manifestation nationale

Manifesto for universities that live up to their missions

Manifesto for universities that live up to their missions (to sign click here)

Publicly subsidized universities ought to fulfil three missions – teaching, research, and service to the community – as defined by their objectives and their mutual implication.

For signatories of the present manifesto these missions have the following objectives:

  • preserving knowledge as accumulated through history, producing new knowledge and passing on both old and new knowledge to as many students as possible along with the questions they have prompted;
  • training students in research methodologies, in critical analysis of the social consequences of scientific issues, practices and findings, in the development of free thinking, avoiding any form of dogma, with the common good as an objective as well as the acquisition of competence for a responsible professional activity;
  • contributing to the reflection of social systems on themselves, particularly on the kind of model they use for their own development.

Nowadays current modes of governance in universities run against the above definition of what a university ought to be. Their mantras are efficiency, profitability, competitiveness. Universities are invited to become the agents of maximum production in as little time as possible, to turn out scientists and professionals that are competitive, flexible and adapted to market demands – the improvement of humanity is then measured in terms of economic growth and technical breakthroughs, and the progress of universities in terms of ‘critical mass.’

Consequently, universities are subjected to more and more frequent international evaluations and audits that measure their respective productivity and contribute to their positions in various rankings.

Though they do not deny that university practices and their effects have to be assessed, the signatories note that current evaluations are based on narrow criteria, that are often formal and fashioned on standardized practices; that the competition they foster among universities leads to a race to publish, with the number of published papers sometimes prevailing on their interest; that procedures involve cumbersome red tape with recurrent reminders that the logic universities have to comply with is the logic of markets and globalization.

Beyond the minimum endowments granted to universities, the selection of research that can be financed is largely determined by calls for tenders and the size and reputation of the teams that apply. Such a situation distorts the purpose of university research, which ought to be open to projects carried by small, relatively unknown teams. Rather, it favours the submission of well presented projects rather than of projects that could further knowledge.

Subsidies granted to universities often depend on student populations. In the case of a closed envelope, this leads to ‘hunting for students,’ which in turn may entail a lesser quality teaching as well as the risk of doing away with important but small departments.

University teachers are expected to explain what profession-related forms of expertise they are to develop in students. While it is imperative to teach students the skills they will need in their professional activities, highlighting these skills might lead teachers to overly stress utilitarian and saleable knowledge at the expense of basic sciences and of reflexive and critical knowledge.

The involvement of university staff in domestic management and representation is more and more numerous and encroaches on services to society at large.

The above mentioned elements contribute to increase the strain to which university staff are subjected and may possibly destroy the ideals of once passionate teachers and researchers.

To support their vision of the university, the signatories of the present manifesto call for the following measures:

  • making sure that university research is allowed the kind of freedom that is necessary to any finding, the right to waver and the right to fail;
  • reaching a correct balance between critical and operational knowledge and between general and profession-related skills in the various study courses offered by the universities;
  • promoting services to society;
  • reining in the production of red-tape, the rat-race and other stress factors that prevent university staff from carrying out their duties properly;
  • assessing university practices and their consequences in view of the specific objectives of universities and not of market expectations.

To meet these requirements they consider that it is necessary:

  • to assert the objectives of the university as defined above;
  • to provide global subsidies for higher education;
  • to use criteria for awarding public money that promote diversity in research and that preserve the quality and plurality of study courses on offer.

They call upon:

Public authorities and academic bodies to recognize that universities ought to try and achieve objectives that are in tune with their identity and social function, and provide the means thereof;

University staff to oppose measures and practices that go against the positions defined in this manifesto; to promote an in-depth analysis of the growing unease among university staff, of its causes and of possible solutions; to participate in concrete actions – to be decided on depending on contexts – to put forward their positions and proposals wherever necessary; to support movements and actions outside the university that aim at the common good.

(to sign click here)

School improvement in USA and Canada requires an ‘attitude adjustment’

We all want to live in Finland when it comes to education… well respected teachers, successful students, adequately funded schools, free higher education. Many are the educators, policy makers and politicians who make the pilgrimage to Finland looking for the major bullet, the key technique, the secret to success. In this op ed (What the U.S. can’t learn from Finland about ed reform) Pali Salhsberg eloquently sets us all straight… there is no magic bullet. He identifies three key foundational starting points (and remedies) that make Finnish education what it is, which highlights our own fundamental shortcomings.

Funding of schools: Finnish schools are funded based on a formula guaranteeing equal allocation of resources to each school regardless of location or wealth of its community.

Well-being of children: All children in Finland have, by law, access to childcare, comprehensive health care, and pre-school in their own communities. Every school must have a welfare team to advance child happiness in school.

Education as a human right: All education from preschool to university is free of charge for anybody living in Finland. This makes higher education affordable and accessible for all.

There will be no simple copying of Finnish educational practices in hopes of achieving Finnish educational nirvana. Instead we need an attitude adjustment, different value positions that run counter to the individualist, capitalist values that permeate our current cultural contexts.

Weaker teacher unions won’t improve schools

In the Connecticut state legislature a bill was passed last month that establishes the important role unions play school reform: “The lawmakers’ vote indicates they recognize that collective bargaining helps establish mutual respect between teachers and management, essential to accelerating student improvement. It also anchors the change process in good faith, written agreements, and a formal dispute resolution process, making everyone accountable by clearly setting expectations.” Read more.

Anarchist scholar to speak at RF@AERA denied entry to Canada

Abraham P. DeLeon, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas, San Antonio was refused entry to Canada today. He was scheduled to deliver a papers at the American Educational Research Association meeting and the pre-conference meeting of the Rouge Forum @ AERA, both which are being held in Vancouver, BC this weekend.

DeLeon, who holds a PhD from the University of Connecticut, does research in the areas of cultural studies, anarchist theory, post-colonialism, and animal studies in educational theory. His articles that have appeared in The Social Studies, The Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, Educational Studies, Equity & Excellence in Education, and Theory and Research in Social Education. He is associate editor of Critical Education, which is based at the University of British Columbia. He has also co-edited two books: Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchy in the Academy (Routledge, 2009) and Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education: Towards New Perspectives for Social Studies Education (Sense Publishers, 2010).

DeLeon was scheduled to deliver an AERA paper titled: “Lured by the Animal: Rethinking Nonhuman Animals in Educational Discourses” and he was also scheduled to speak at the pre-conference Rouge Forum @ AERA on “What might happen when teachers and other academics connect reason to power and power to resistance?”

Canada Border Services Agency refused to give a reasons for denying DeLeon entry to Canada. CBSA has also repeatedly denied entry to American educator Bill Ayers, a Distinguished Professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago. The CBSA’s actions raise serious concerns for Canadians and Americans who value free speech, open debate and academic freedom.

Welcome Rouge Forum @ AERA 2012 Participants!

The Institute for Critical Education Studies (ICES) extends a warm welcome to all Rouge Forum @ AERA 2012 participants, international, national, and local! We look forward to a lively, engaged conversation or perhaps debate at Friday’s conference, with our intent of exploring what it means for scholars, and educators in general, to move beyond “knowing” to the pursuit of activist agendas for social change.

  • What happens when teachers and other academics connect reason to power and power to resistance?
  • How can academic work (in universities and other learning environments) support local and global resistance to global neoliberal capitalism?
  • How do we respond to the obstacles and threats faced as activist scholars?

For more information and directions, go to Rouge Forum @ AERA.  We are meeting Friday April 13, 2012 (9:00am – 6:00pm) at the University of British Columbia Robson Square Campus (downtown Vancouver).  See you there! *Remember it is free and all are welcome!

Chomsky sounds off… the assault on public education

Not a new message, but a good op ed nonetheless. Chomsky describes the “failure by design” that has lead to the current financial crises in higher education, including the lack of public moneys to fund PUBLIC education, as well as the push for privitization, and the corporatization of higher education.

CFP Rouge Forum 2012 (Deadline April 15)

The Rouge Forum 2012 will be held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The University’s picturesque campus is located 50 minutes northwest of Cincinnati. The conference will be held June 22-24, 2012.

Proposals for papers, panels, performances, workshops, and other multimedia presentations should include title(s) and names and contact information for presenter(s). The deadline for sending proposals is April 15.  The Steering Committee will email acceptance notices by May 1.

Read the Call for Proposals.

Featured speakers this year include Mike Prysner, Paul Street, and Susan Ohanian.