Guest Speaker: False Assumptions

Posted on October 24, 2009Filed Under Guest artist, Marion Brady, Middle-L Listserv, School Reform | Leave a Comment

Previously I have posted about the Middle-L e-mail listserv. I am again recommending it, especially for newer teachers, and those interested in education policy and the “big picture.” As I said before, sometimes you’ll go days without seeing anything new, but all you have to do is introduce yourself, and ask questions, and you’ll get answers and suggestions from some pretty intelligent and talented people.

One of those people is Marion Brady. In fact, he’s the main reason I’m still a subscriber. Just Google “Marion Brady” and you’ll see why. He just had a column printed in the Washington Post that, as usual, hits the nail(s) on the head. I won’t reprint the whole thing here (even though Marion wouldn’t mind – he just wants the ideas out there), because I think you should also read the commentary after.

Here are some choice excerpts.

False Assumption 1:
America’s teachers deserve most of the blame for decades of flat school performance. Other factors affecting learning—language problems, hunger, stress, mass media exposure, transience, cultural differences, a sense of hopelessness, and so on and on—are minor and can be overcome by well-qualified teachers. To teacher protests that they’re scapegoats taking the blame for broader social ills, the proper response is, “No excuses!” While it’s true teachers can’t choose their students, textbooks, working conditions, curricula, tests, or the bureaucracies that circumscribe and limit their autonomy, they should be held fully accountable for poor student test scores.

False Assumption 2:
Professional educators are responsible for bringing education to crisis, so they can’t be trusted. School systems should instead be headed by business CEOs, mayors, ex-military officers, and others accustomed to running a “tight ship.” Their managerial expertise more than compensates for how little they know about educating.

False Assumption 4:
Teaching is just a matter of distributing information. Indeed, the process is so simple that recent college graduates, fresh from “covering” that information, should be encouraged to join “Teach For America” for a couple of years before moving on to more intellectually demanding professions. Experienced teachers may argue that, as Socrates demonstrated, nothing is more intellectually demanding than figuring out what’s going on in another person’s head, then getting that person herself or himself to examine and change it, but they’re just blowing smoke.

False Assumption 9:
Notwithstanding charter schools’ present high rates of teacher turnover, their growing standardization by profit-seeking corporations, or their failure to demonstrate that they can do things all public schools couldn’t do if freed from bureaucratic constraints, charters attract the most highly qualified and experienced teachers and are hotbeds of innovation.

“Human history,” said H.G. Wells, “is a race between education and catastrophe.”If amateurs continue to control American education policy, put your money on catastrophe. It’s a sure thing.

The entire column can be found here. You can subscribe to the Middle-L listserve here.

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