Is critical thinking what they really want? (Part 1)

What it is thinkers are thinking about:

School reform, common core standards, and standardized test-based accountability have all faced some resistance from those looking for more truthful and transparent discussions regarding what is needed to improve student outcomes. The resistance to what is being called reform can’t be explained away as simply as calling it “special interest” interference or knee-jerk opposition to those three ideas (reform, standards, tests)-it’s rising up because of the ideology often hidden in those reform ideas-as well as the apparent lack of a clear and consistent position in favor of a weaving agenda-driven narrative instead.

In pointing out how ideology and agenda can interfere with progress, I’m not just speaking about the pie eyed, money backed reform-zombies and the sudden crop of traveling non-profit/non-teacher salespeople and politicians working for them. I am also talking about boot-licking/crumb-diver teacher union folks and how they supposedly represent/promote/ defend the profession…or don’t-whichever is most convenient and effective in preserving a seat at the table when the opportunity to give voice presents itself.

Common Core stresses critical thinking, so…

Public parents and public students are rising up to take back their public schools, their public education; and the narrative. These are the true critical thinkers because they have already watched for years as our leaders sent large chunks of our public economy overseas-now some 2 trillion held privately (but always available to the wealthiest and most powerful). Despite this, the group once called investors and job creators have failed to fuel our domestic economy in a meaningful way. The absence of jobs; the disappearance of the middle class; the widespread and crushing college debt in a nation that demands college and career readiness but has been failing to give a return on that investment….the outcomes disparity created by these conditions is one that can’t be denied-even  by the most angry public school critics who push aside correlated variables then provide examples of it themselves in their critiques

When it comes to  two parties mentioned earlier (the zombies and the boot-lickers): you’d better pay attention and decide how relevant and useful you want to be. Union leaders have been far too conciliatory in reinforcing the value of the profession and have become part of the problem out of self preservation. Only after substantial community-based outrage did leaders begin to step up and back away from almost-apologetic claims that teacher-improvement was priority one and brand new tests for brand new teaching/learning standards was the way to get it done. It was a lead from behind approach that set the reputation of dedicated teaching professionals back considerably-allowing for a host of on-the-cheap suggestions to gain undeserved credibility. On the other side, the highly promoted test-and-punish brand of school reform does little but assimilate school for the masses into the free market formula Borg-collective holding far too much sway in defining our morals and our mission already. So resistance movements like opting out of or refusing to participate in state tests isn’t just activists spurred on by teacher unions afraid of accountability, or parents who just don’t understand the supposed “importance of these tests” .

The New York Times article linked to there is a great example of an anonymous large-scale insult to a group’s intelligence in two ways:

  1. The proposition that these tests, testing in this way, making “accountability” (vs formative assessment data) the most important part of testing…basically putting targets and numbers on people is the most vital thing we need to do to help students and teachers
  2. The continuing suggestions that parents just don’t understand, and if they resist they have either been compromised by special interests or just haven’t been told enough about #1

This is an insult to a group that has made ongoing attempts to have open and honest critical-thinking fueled conversation, and been faced by short-lived listening tours by a former commissioner, a smooth exit/promotion under fire for him and another top NY state ed official, as well as a new commissioner proudly taking up the charge of disrespecting critical thinkers.

Citizens and learners want more equitable opportunities and diminished focus on isolated snapshots designed and scored secretly in a system not based on achievement-but designed to categorize, separate and find failure. Accountability and progress can both be delivered in a more holistic, student-centered way, and the test pressure reeks of an agenda that is about something other than maximizing student outcomes. Critical thinking citizens know that unstable testing corporations and disingenuous data-speak are far from actually investing in future citizens…and they also know it’s a great way for the politicians and jackals to maintain access to their power and their profits.

So…do reformers truly want critical thinking? Are they willing to be held accountable as well?


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