Childhood Is Taking A Beating

Childhood is taking a beating … pounded by ill-intentioned adults who seem in a special hurry to disease it with a certain regimentation. Quick to poison any spontaneity or innocence … and slam kids into adulthood before their own childhood is barely underway.

What the heck are we doing?

The last decade has seen furious educational reforms. With each passing year, education became more and more worded in terms of adults … teachers, administrators, unionists, legislators, and reformists.

Soon enough, childhood became an obstacle to be overcome. A pedagogical handicap that stood in the way of gritty, rigor-loving pupils who would fall in line … and become obedient acceptors of a fate constructed by others.

Childhood became the great distraction that undermined the neat and precise vision of the reform geniuses who imagined an ordered and deliberate society.

A civilization so tidy and neat it could offer education in a can.

So it was necessary to remove certain childhood distractions that might sabotage the new reform … recess, the arts, social skill building, creative expressions, and the less linear subjects.

And it also became essential to eliminate certain childhood amusements … creativity, fantasy, and imagination … because those had no role in the algorithmic future under construction. Neither did joy  … or  smiles … or laughter.

Childhood became a serious business. 

Too serious for some.

Which leads me to wonder … Who killed Mister Rogers?

Parents had to be convinced of the dire immediacy  … so they were deceived with selective statistics and the excitable language of reform. Led to believe that the current century would be America’s last as a superpower … unless education was completely reprioritized. Made over. Re-booted.

Parents had to be convinced that the decades beyond were more important than the moment at hand. That they … and their very young children … had to make certain sacrifices in order to alter a scary-certain future.

America was portrayed as the slipping giant … and childhood education was an important feature of the decline.  

Other nations had seen the light … Singapore, Denmark, South Korea … and made important adjustments. America had to do the same.

Parents were jolted by the impending doom that would swallow up their children before they even had their prime-time moment in life.

Reformists also lobbied their way into the political scene … and soon, bought-and-paid-for legislators were doing the bidding of savvy reform-entrepreneurs.

This coincided with the exit of an entire class of old guard master-teachers which left a stunning void filled by a new breed of educator-automatons who were very good at taking orders and collecting data.

And so the perfect storm of reform tsumanied American education. Destroying a system that had an undeniable history of innovation and successful evolution.

It was all abandoned because it was deemed obsolete. Dated. Not futuristic enough.

So mathematics was turned inside out … reading made an ordeal … and socialization became a guided, sterile activity rather than a natural process. 

Kids were bolted to their chairs … and testing became more important than friendships and kindness and empathy.  Reformists were determined to Miracle-Gro childhood at hyper-speed … to get it out of the way … and rob children of wonders they hadn’t had a chance to wonder about.

And now it’s all morphed into a pressurized hellhole for children who’ve begun falling apart. And it seems we are in no hurry to clean up the mess.

It’s been said that “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Of late … it seems we have a special talent for self-destruction.

Why Are Common Core Critics Against Personalized Learning?

Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat asks whether opponents of Common Core will “bring down” personalized learning. I certainly hope so.

He writes:

Major funders and the federal education department are promoting the idea.

Teachers are wary. Parents are perplexed.

Criticism is coming from both the political left and right.

It’s not the Common Core, though a few years ago, it would have been. Now, we’re talking about technology-based personalized learning, the latest, hottest, and best-funded idea to dominate the conversation about American schools.

The backlash to the Common Core standards, and their associated tests, was enough to get them revised or replaced in some states. Today, some teachers, political conservatives, and parents are beginning to mobilize against personalized learning, too. And in some cases, the very same people are taking up the fight.

I’m glad he points out that personalized learning has critics on the right and the left and that teachers and parents are skeptical. Unfortunately, he provides a superficial overview of the opposition. This is not a right vs. left issue. Also many on the right and the left oppose personalized learning for the same reasons.

There are several reasons why Common Core opponents are taking up the fight against personalized learning. Here are seven primary reasons (not exhaustive) why I oppose personalized learning.

  1. It’s another dataless, top-down reform, a fad of which there is no evidence showing it will increase student achievement.
  2. Personalized learning is the natural progression of standards-based learning many schools implemented under Common Core which was also a top-down reform.
  3. It reduces the teacher’s role in the classroom to a facilitator.
  4. It gives tech companies far, far too much influence on education.
  5. The data privacy threats under personalized learning are immense. What data is collected? How is that data used? How is it being protected?
  6. The increase in screen time is simply unhealthy for kids, and unlike personalized learning, there is a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that.
  7. Personalized learning contradicts the “science of learning.”

Read the whole article and the comments.

*Shocker* Education is the Worst Industry at Cybersecurity

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

SecurityScorecard, a New York City-based IT security company, said that the education industry is the worst at cybersecurity compared to 17 major industries, EdScoop reports:

In its 2018 Education Cybersecurity Report, the company found that the education industry is not taking many of the necessary steps to protect students from cyber-vulnerabilities. According to the study, the main areas of cybersecurity weaknesses in education are application security, endpoint security, patching cadence, and network security.

Schools collect sensitive information on every one of their students. Digitizing student data makes it easier for educators to view student information, as well as malicious actors. From health data to academic and financial records, a breached student record can provide malicious actors with a stereoscopic view of a student’s life. According to the report, although hackers are becoming more adept at accessing student and school data, the education industry has failed to keep pace with data protection.

Sam Kassoumeh, chief operating officer and co-founder of SecurityScorecard, said university networks are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks. “There is a large surface area of exposure at a university. It’s thousands and thousands of devices distributed over a campus,” he said.

Students often use more than one device on campus and in-class — computers, phones, tablets or other “internet of things” devices — that while beneficial, Kassoumeh said, create “a heterogeneous environment, where all of the devices are not secured equally.”

This primarily focuses on higher education, but I doubt that K-12 schools do any better. I suspect they are worse. 

Read the rest.

Education Reformers Don’t Really Listen

Rick Hess with American Enterprise Institute made an observation in an op/ed in Education Next. Education reformers don’t really listen. Parents who have attended public feedback sessions on education matters can confirm this. Rarely does our feedback even register with those who implement reforms, it’s just something they check off on their PR to-do list so they can say they offered a public forum.

He writes:

The education space has been gripped by a newfound love of listening. The same advocates and funders who, a few years back, were exhorting us to embrace a pretty specific slate of Big “R” Reforms (like test-heavy teacher evaluation and the Common Core) are now eager to listen and are busy exhorting others to join them. Meanwhile, those who felt ignored, slighted, and locked-out when Big “R” Reform was flying high are snidely pooh-poohing all this ostentatious listening as a dollar short and a day late.

I find this “we’re ready to listen” meme a decidedly mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s healthy. I mean, over the past decade or more, education policy did become increasingly disconnected from—or even hostile to—the concerns of many families and educators. And far too many advocates, funders, and policymakers have seemed deaf to the resulting complaints.

On the other hand, this enthusiasm is more than a little discomfiting. After all, many who insist that they’re eager to listen have proffered little evidence that they’re actually listening. Indeed, having already moved on from yesterday’s agenda (and pivoted to personalization, social and emotional learning, career and technical education, research-practice partnerships, early education, et al.) the complaints they’re hearing feel like old news. More tellingly, when it comes to critical feedback on today’s agenda, the listening—especially to criticism—is markedly less receptive.

If educrats really want to prove they are listening then they need to positively respond to criticism: jettison social-emotional learning, return to classical education instead of the hyperfocus on STEM, address data privacy concerns with real solutions.

They lost trust when they responded to calls to repeal Common Core by providing a rebrand and, in some states, just changed the name. Real listening will result in real changes and revisions to their agenda not just a pat on the head.

Read the rest.

Harvard Freshman Points Out Huge Flaw in K-12 Education System

Will Fitzhugh with The Concord Review forwarded me an email he received from a Harvard freshman, Ana Mundaca, who contributed to his publication when she attended Sidwell Friends School. With her permission I wanted to share that email in part with our readers because she offers an excellent insight into a flaw with the K-12 education system:

I am just wrapping up my first semester at Harvard College, and I am really enjoying it so far. As I’m sure you remember from your time here, there is a mandatory college writing class all first year students take either in the Fall or the Spring. I was lucky enough to be enrolled early in the Fall class, and was struck by how easy the collegiate level writing in the class was for me. I don’t mean to say I didn’t have to apply myself or that I was any smarter than my peers, because that would not be true at all. However, I found the writing that I did in that class (and in all my humanities classes so far) has closely paralleled the writing structure of the paper I submitted for TCR a few years back. 

While I have since improved my writing, it was a huge relief to me to already have had experience writing high level academic papers as it allowed me to focus on the content of my essay rather than the flow or style of the paper. Consequently, I found the final research assignment enjoyable and enthralling, and will be working on expanding the paper and hopefully publishing it in a music journal in the coming months. I would not have been ready for this rich experience in writing had it not been for The Concord ReviewOriginal research is a pillar of any well-rounded education, and it points to a huge flaw in our education system that humanities research and writing are not more emphasized in high school. TCR provides an outlet for the type of academic work that we should be encouraging, and the publication is incredibly valuable. Publishing my first work in TCR only inspired me to pursue my writing further, and has led me to declare my major in Economics with a secondary in East Asian Studies in order to continue my research and publication. I will most likely be taking an in-depth course covering North Korea in Seoul this summer, and hope to expand upon the paper I submitted to you as part of my final project.

(emphasis mine)

This is not a new problem. It was not emphasized when I was in high school either, but the hyper-emphasis on STEM and the poor ELA standards most states have as a result of Common Core I don’t see a fix coming anytime soon. K-12 education needs a return to classical education. 

Anyway, The Concord Review should be commended for providing students with an opportunity many do not receive while they are in high school.

Oregon Considers Mandatory Mental Health Exams for Students

Photo credit: Shaun DD (CC-By-SA 3.0

The Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would require middle school and high school students to undergo an annual mental health exam.

The Salem Statesman Journal reports:

The pervasiveness of mental health issues and child suicide rates leads Oregon to rank as the worst state in the country for the prevalence of mental illness.

And the state’s lack of child psychiatrists and school counselors leaves families waiting for months to get help.

Locally, multiple teen suicides have affected both Salem-Keizer Public Schools and the Jefferson School District this year.

Oregon lawmakers want to help with a proposed bill requiring every student in grades 6 through 12 to undergo a mental health wellness check once every school year.

Under Legislative Concept 2890, every school district and public charter school in the state would be required to participate.

The bill does not state who will administer the exam other than a “trained professional.” I think we can assume that will not be a child psychiatrist or school counselor since we were told part of the problem is that the state lacks this. 

Also, lacking in the bill is how much this will cost or who will pay

Also, the bill does not state what is information is gathered, how it will be used, or what screening tool will be used.

There is no mention of any kind of parental opt-out. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Is Federalism In Education “Misguided”?

Henry A.J. Ramos and Eric C. Abrams wrote an op/ed for EdSource entitled, “Public education must promote participation in democratic process.” Ramos is the author of the forthcoming book Democracy & The Next American Economy: Where Prosperity Meets Justice. Abrams is the chief inclusion officer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. 

They write something that is truly mind boggling. Do they really think federalism applied to K-12 education is “misguided”?

Recent adoption of the Common Core by most states has achieved mixed results through a higher degree of standardization in teaching and testing content. In most places, this has led to incremental improvements but few major breakthroughs, especially in lower and middle income communities. This, in turn, has led to growing calls for less regulated and more varied approaches.

The notion, however, that further privatizing and decentralizing school policy and practice is a better long-range plan for American culture is deeply misguided. The idea of each state having its own educational approach and standards seems appealing on its face: “Let a thousand flowers bloom” say those who oppose stronger national standards for public schools.

But in today’s context of globalization and rapid technological transformation—forces that should be compelling us to harmonize as a nation—the absence of a more unified, strategic and egalitarian education approach actually works in the opposite direction. Indeed, it is working against us.

Where are these modest gains? What I’ve seen under Common Core is a growing achievement gap though. Scores have been stagnant. What data are they looking at? 

In fact, what evidence do they cite? Nothing. Where has centralization gotten us? Nowhere. The beautiful thing about federalism, especially as it applies to K-12 education, is that we have the ability to see what works and what fails without subjecting the entire nation to some grand experiment. 

This way state policymakers and local school boards have the ability to emulate success by applying what works if they want. 

Those who pushed Common Core ignored that benefit of having 50 systems of K-12 education rather than one national system. They could have modeled Common Core on the most successful states, but they didn’t.

Now we have spent countless hours and dollars on an education reform that has produced nothing.

Also, top-down policymaking and centralized education do the exact opposite of what the title of their article suggests. If you want participation in public education then policymaking needs to be done at the most local level, otherwise, citizens and parents will be ignored. 

Not to mention decentralization is what the founders intended and is the Constitutional model. The centralization of K-12 education has occurred over decades, and we have nothing to show for it. It’s time to embrace federalism and localization of education.

The ​U.S. Department of Education Will Reorganize in January

The U.S. Department of Education will undergo an internal reorganization set for January 6th, but will take several months to implement, CNN reports:

The new Education Department structure consolidates a number of offices within the agency. The Office of the Secretary will merge with the Office of the Deputy Secretary. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer will merge with the Office of Management to become a new Office of Finance and Operations, according to the email.

The new Office of Finance and Operations will also take on certain responsibilities of other agency offices including the Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the Deputy Secretary, and the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, according to the email.

 The Office of Innovation and Improvement will also “integrate” into the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The internal email that CNN was provided did not say how many positions would be cut, but the department spokesperson, Liz Hill, said no full-time positions would be cut. The email stated the reorganization was due to, “an administration-wide commitment to making government more efficient, effective, and accountable.”

The Trump Administration in June recommended merging the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to form the U.S. Department of Education and the Workforce. That merger needs Congressional approval, something I think was going to have difficulty passing even when Republicans controlled both chambers. I definitely don’t see it happening with a divided Congress. 

As Kasich Leaves Office, He Promotes Education as the Workforce Pipeline

Ohio Governor John Kasich in Des Moines on 6/24/15.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

Ohioans dodged a bullet with Ohio Governor John Kasich leaving office. As he leaves he laments what he was unable to accomplish in the name of education reform and workforce development.

Jeremy Pelzer with Cleveland.com reports:

Outgoing Gov. John Kasich on Monday mulled openly about the future of Ohio’s economy, saying that the state’s K-12 education system needs a “fundamental restructuring” that involves more direct involvement by the business community.

Kasich, speaking to the board of JobsOhio, the state’s non-profit economic development corporation, said Ohio children need to learn skills that businesses need so they can get good-paying jobs as adults.

“And who can do that better than business? Who can explain this to kids better?” Kasich asked.

The governor lamented that two of his proposals in recent years to directly involve businesspeople in K-12 education were shot down. One was to put two non-elected businesspeople on every school board in the state so they could offer guidance on school curricula. The other sought to require Ohio teachers to shadow a local businessperson before they could renew their teaching licenses.

Fortunately, the Ohio Legislature had the good sense to realize those proposals were utter nonsense. If a member of the business community wants to serve on the school board they can run for office. Also, what in the world were teachers supposed to gain by shadowing a local businessperson? What a colossal waste of time. 

His proposals would have doubled down on stupid. The purpose of education is not workforce development. It’s not the job of K-12 schools to feed the workforce pipeline.

Homeschooling: Education’s Armageddon

Homeschoolers … you’re next.

The feds have captured the public schools …  and now they wanna make sure you can never escape.

Orwell yourself and come to terms with what awaits your children on the horizon of government controlled education.

Huxley yourself into the world of tomorrow when they will be pluggedinto lifetime situations based not on their passions … but on some algorithmic prescription burped out by some electronic ouija-motherboard.

 Pushing Parents Around  is a time-honored tradition among America’s snob class.

Meet Horace Mann.

He was America’s first authoritarian educrat to view public schools as social engineering centers … where the ills of the masses could be made … um … less disgusting.

He was a social-snot … with a special loathing for the Irish. Irish Catholics, to be precise.

Listen in …

“Those now pouring in upon us, in masses of thousands upon thousands, are wholly of another kind in morals and intellect …”

He said it … not me.

So other Massachusetts’ highbrows put him in charge … saw him as the society-saving antidote to “perverse moral education provided to children by their corrupt parents.”

Why do all these school folks hate parents anyway?

Horace Mann also hated homeschooling … even though the Massachusetts literacy rate in 1850 was 97 percent. That’s better than right now!

It wasn’t that parents were doing a lousy job … they were doing too good of a job!  And that had to stop! 

They were raising free thinkers. Independent sorts. With ethics preferred by mom and dad.

Mann thought youngsters should be sufficiently educated … but not too sufficiently educated. Just enough to fill the more menial and obedient roles that were important to Mr. Mann’s comfort. Sniff! Sniff!

Fast forward a century and a half … and parents face nearly identical threats from today’s government magistrates … and from the teachers they pay.

Remember Arne Duncan? The Obama reform czar? He went full Horace Mann on suburban mothers. Said they were deluded about their children … and their education.

“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought … “

And he said government would rescue these kids … because you ladies are just like those 19th century Irish yucks.

So it’s deja vu all over again …  

Your children must be saved … from you.  Even if you’re not Irish. And that’s what they’ve been doing for the last decade. Except they’ve made a mess of things.

They’ve imposed the weird and wild on your kids. New theories about math and reading  and testing. New attitudes about play and rigor. New codes of speech. New mores. New tolerances. New traditions. Even new histories.

And they never bother with your approval …

just your total compliance.

The National Education Association … the nation’s largest teachers’ union … is threatened by homeschoolers. Afraid they might create a popular alternative to government schools. Fearful they might embarrass public education.

The union desperately claims that “parental choice  [to homeschool] cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience …”

Yet “homeschooled students typically score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than public school students on standardized academic achievement tests.”  

They also “earn higher GPAs in college and graduate at higher rates than their public school peers.”

Unions want homeschooled kids banned from public school sports and other activities …  even though their parents pay public school taxes. They make up stuff … say that homeschooled kids lack proper socialization … but there’s no proof at all.

Homeschoolers threaten the government monopoly on education … and that boils their wrath. That’s why they want them back … under their thumb.

So it’s gauntlet time.

Another David and Goliath moment.

They want your children and your schools stuffed into that-one-size-fits-all box. And no child gets out … because parents cannot be trusted to do right by their own children.

Time to walk right up to this fight. 

CLICK HERE to LISTEN “Mad World” – Gary Jules

Referenced:

NHERI Research Facts On Homeschooling

NEA RESOLUTIONS – Opposition to Private & Homeschooling 

NEA Global Education Initiative

Cross-post.