Entries Tagged 'Manuscripts & Presentations' ↓

“See No Child’s Left Behind”

In 2003 I submitted a satire to Phi Delta Kappan.  I should have saved the postage.  The editor rejected it, saying, “It’s not funny.”  Driving home that day, I thought, “Of course it’s not funny,  Jonathan Swift was not “ha ha — funny,” either.  Good satire is biting and ridiculous — not hilarious.

Later that year the American Association of School Administrators solicited reflections on No Child Left Behind.  They published my satire in The School Administrator.

You be the judge.  Is it biting, a little bit funny, and a lot ridiculous?

MWERA Keynote Address

Thursday, October 13, 2011, St. Louis, Missouri

Midwest Educational Research Association Annual Conference

Conference Theme: What does it mean to be educated?


First I want to thank everyone who attended last night’s Fireside Chat. We had an interesting conversation.  I left with important things to think about. I also want to thank Ellen Sigler for inviting my presentation and for all her hard work on the program.

I am going to talk to you about something you already know, but have probably never thought about. An example of this is that you already know American life is driven by the buying and selling of goods and services, but you probably never thought about it that way.

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NASSP Doesn’t Know the 6 Virtues (With an update)

The May issue of Principal Leadership published by NASSP (the National Association of Secondary School Principals) describes the award winners of the “MetLife Foundation — NASSP Breakthrough School Project.”  Ten schools were honored for meeting “academic requirements despite high poverty and other challenges” (Umphrey, p. 4).

None of the school turnaround stories mentioned either the word “virtue,” or any of the six virtues of the educated person.  As I read the accounts, however, it was clear that, in every case the adults and students in those schools brought to bear understanding, imagination, strong character, courage, humility and generosity.

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The Failed Experiments of American Public Education

In a recent Learning for Democracy essay I argued that the following American public education experiments have failed:

(1) providing equal educational opportunity via democratically elected governors at the local and state levels,
(2) improving education via the social science improvement paradigm.

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Articles and Blogging

My ASCD, PDK and NASSP memberships expired. I am not renewing.  Education will not improve until we define what it means to be educated, and these organizations are not interested in defining “educated.”  Instead, they are devoted to the democratic governance of public education, which means they are devoted to a never-ending debate about the purposes of American public education — a debate about which random knowledge and skills should be taught in schools.  For the last 60 years this debate has been framed by the social science improvement paradigm, even though what it means to be educated is a philosophical question and teaching is an art.

These organizations’ journals don’t publish my articles.  That is fine.  I publish them here.  When I get Education Week newsletters, they have links to both commentaries and blogs. Links to the newspaper commentaries are inactive because I am not a paid-up subscriber.  But the blog links work. Blogs are available to everybody online, free of charge. It will soon be the case (if not already), that educators will read more online blogs than Education Week articles.

Blogging is like a return to the good ol’ days of the internet — when people of good will shared worthwhile content free of charge. Imagine that — an internet site devoted to the free sharing of valuable ideas, instead of a thinly veiled plea to purchase something of little value. I like that my blogs are available to anybody with a computer and an internet connection. And I like that people can comment and reply here, too. (And there are no advertisements!)

Readers might be interested in this irreverent look at public education.  The writer uses profanity because that is part of his style and part of the message.  If you don’t like profanity, don’t go there, but if you have a sense of aesthetics and humor, you will appreciate it — profanity and all.

If you want to discuss what it means to be educated, which is the foundation for improving education, that is my “beat,” and nobody else has it. Simply log in and type in the comment box.

Effectiveness and Appreciation #2

Effectiveness and Appreciation, Part 2

The main job of teachers is to start the cycle of appreciation.  They begin by communicating appreciation for their subject matter, the art of teaching and their students.  They will know this has been adequately communicated, when students reciprocate with appreciation for their teachers and lessons.

This is not a new idea. Elliot Eisner has written about educational connoisseurship for a long time.

This idea is incomprehensible, though, to those who believe teaching is an applied social science. They can’t put “appreciation” first, until research provides evidence that it belongs there. That is how paradigms work — they make some ideas comprehensible and others incomprehensible.

Have social science paradigm promoters (researchers and professors) ever been teachers, themselves? If they were, did they apply theory to their practice?  What did that look like? Or did they create learning environments and activities that emerged from their unique teaching styles?  Did they imagine new ways to connect with students? If so, why do they ask teachers to pay attention to the ideas of researchers who have never been in their classrooms? Why do they have so little appreciation for the art of teaching?

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Effectiveness and Appreciation #1

Now that my submission to Educational Leadership has been rejected, I can re-post the two blogs that discuss TSVOTEP’s chapter 8. Enjoy.

Here is the possibility that drives Chapter 8:

If the social science paradigm is based on the false assumption that it informs practitioners about effectiveness . . . maybe the reason schools do not improve is that our improvement paradigm is the wrong one.

Yes — we use the wrong paradigm, but I should have said it differently. I should have explained that research findings inform practitioners about “effectiveness,” but “effectiveness” in every study has a much narrower meaning than what we commonly give to something we call “effective.”

In common usage, “effective” means several things at the same time. It means successful, meaningful, useful, efficient, desired, or combinations of these. But social scientific “effectiveness” means none of these. It points only to the explicit definition it was given in the study — nothing more, nothing less. Social scientific effectiveness is a good thing, but it never has the luster associated with something that is “effective.” Continue reading →

A Letter from Teachers and Principals

The following letter from reform-minded teachers and principals is adapted from chapter 6 of The Six Virtues of the Educated Person.

It was rejected by Phi Delta Kappan because, according to the editor, “It is not compelling.” Let me know what you think. Is this, or is this not, more interesting than what you read in PDK?

Dear School Board Members and State Legislators:

You have good intentions as you work to improve education. Because we work daily with students, we see both the good and the bad accomplished by your policies. We are sure you want to hear from us, if public education is going in the wrong direction.

That is the first purpose of this letter—to tell you we are going in the wrong direction. Our second purpose is to explain how we can go in the right direction.
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Does Effectiveness or Appreciation Improve Education?

The following piece was submitted to Educational Leadership for “The Effective Educator” issue (December– January, 2011). It was rejected.  TSVOTEP readers might find it interesting.

The call for manuscripts asked, “. . . what does effective teaching look like?” This is an important question, but it is a peripheral one. Research has found so many effective materials, methods, and tools that “effectiveness” can’t fit at the center of teaching. In other words, it can’t be the focal point of the profession, simply because there are too many ways to be “effective.”

This creates a problem for what Cochran-Smith (2002) calls the social science metaphor.

It is assumed first that there is a body of knowledge based on cutting edge empirical research in various academic disciplines that is relevant to teaching, learning, and schooling, and second, that when teachers know and act on this knowledge, schooling is more effective (p. 284).

I call this idea the social science paradigm for improving education.  The problem with this metaphor (paradigm) is that effectiveness is the desired outcome, but it can’t be the central focus of teachers because there are an infinite number of ways to be effective, which renders effectiveness an empty concept in teaching, just as it is in the arts. Why have we adopted a teaching improvement paradigm that does not guide teaching?
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A Standards Satire

The following satire was rejected by one editor who said, “It’s not funny.”  At first I was disappointed. I thought I had failed as a satirist because he was right — it’s not funny in the sense of being hilarious. (It was later accepted for publication in The School Administrator, February, 2004).

Then I remembered enjoying Jonathan Swift as an English major.  He was a classic satirist, but his works never made me laugh or think, “This is hilarious!”

So, be warned — this satire is not funny (although astute readers will find word plays and political commentary). In fact I even describe the ending as sad. But, if you know the history of American public education, the whole piece is sad because you know that its silliness is no more silly than today’s educational politics.

See No Child’s Left Behind (A Standards Satire)

Many are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” An emperor was duped by scoundrels who claimed they could weave the finest clothing in the world. The key to their scheme was convincing the Emperor that their magic cloth was visible only to those who were not fools or incompetents. They got rich by demanding gold and fine fabrics, which they kept for themselves, while weaving nothing.

The first of the double ironies at the end of the story was that the Emperor, not wanting to be considered a fool or an incompetent, and believing he was wearing fine clothes, paraded naked down Main Street — proving himself to be an incompetent fool. The second irony was that the adults, hoping not to be seen as fools, denied the obvious, proving themselves to be fools, too. Only a small child had the sense to say, “He’s got nothing on.”

The following story tells what happened many years, later, in a federal republic of fifty empires, each with its own emperor. These emperors knew their ancestor had been tricked by scoundrel weavers, so they were wary of weavers. They rarely associated with any, and didn’t seek their advice about clothing. Nevertheless, the prime responsibility of each empire, was to provide citizens with an equal clothing opportunity.
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