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Yeah, I do find it ironic that the same business juggernaut dictating policy in current educational reform is starting to embrace so-called “softy” educational ideas. But I guess at this point, any application of business ideas into educational policy is in for a mediocre translation at best.
I’m hesitant about inviting businesses into education b/c I’ve seen what happens in a business where the bottom line is the only goal. Morality is sacrificed in favor of cheap labor and personal livelihood is waived so a CEO can have a bigger yacht. I’m afraid that if the business model gains momentum in education, it will change the nature of our priorities (at least of those in power that make decisions). Suddenly, we don’t care about a person’s right to a liberal arts education b/c it’s not efficient.
Let’s tank all arts and music programs b/c we can’t produce a standardized test that gives us some fictitious “unit” of understanding (sound familiar?).
But even w/ my skepticism, perhaps there are some situations where the two ideologies can overlap and maybe this article is an example of one. Group work is a common thread between the two, and I think this is an area where American education is lacking; as a result, businesses suffer. And when they start suffering, they search out the source, which means they start to care about educational ideas concerning group work.
Perhaps this current deficiency in group-work ability will cause big business to lobby for more progressive educational policy and shift the pendulum back the other way (makes me wonder about the political and business atmosphere of 60’s). I wonder if this educational “controversy” is more a function of political climate than a reality. I’d imagine there are many folks who agree w/ progressive ideas: if that’s the current political flavor of the moment, then there’s no controversy. If it’s not, their ideas are seen as radical. I don’t know enough history to answer this question, but I am curious.
I’d also imagine this controversy over progressive ideas is rooted in the fact that progressive education is so damn hard to pull off. It’s hard to craft environments where group work will be successful, it’s hard to come up with enough alternative assessment to please and meet everyone, especially given the numbers we have to work with; this stuff requires a level of creativity beyond what most of us are capable of. As a first year teacher, I find myself constantly resorting to the pre-packaged materials from the book when I don’t have enough time to create my own. Now this is a condition I plan to remedy, but I can see how many teachers get caught in the textbook trap.
Progressive ed is also more qualitative in nature than quantitative, more rooted in alternative assessment than EOC’s. And given the bureaucratic machine that is education, I can see why a quantitative system is more popular than a qualitative one. It’s easier to “interpret” and manipulate test scores than try and actually assess understanding. It’s easier to standardize than diversify. It’s easier to tell the teachers what to say to the class than come up w/ a general rubric of topics and give them options.
Unfortunately, the harder road is not the one most often followed, even if it is the better road…
Sorry to write a book here, but I’ve got a lot of thoughts and questions on this topic.

rob h.

i wonder, though...can we use the business rhetoric to push forward the progressive agenda? i've commented before that if Bill Gates writes a chapter on education more people read than everyone who's read John Dewey. maybe we should start thinking strategically.


I feel sick by the use of business rhetoric by my superintendent. In a meeting I recently attended, he repeatedly called parents and students "customers." Customers.... I was appalled by this term. Over and over....on and on. I wanted to stand up and protest, but of course I did not. I sat in my plastic cafeteria chair and drank my lukewarm coffee.

Within my second week of school, my principal asked to see my grading policy...I guess to see if I really knew what I was doing. Of course, I had an average grading model, but he was puzzled by my 15% Participation Grade. When I went on to explain that this would be Warm Ups, Notebook checks, etc., he seemed concerned that this was too vague. He thought my 30% for tests was too little. I kindly said that I thought participation in class (paying attention, putting forth effort, contributing to class) was just as important if not more important than test scores. He looked as if I had just shot him in the foot. Of course, I immediately realized that he was having doubts about my final outcome. All he could think was....what about EOGs? What about our numbers? What about our school numbers at the end of the year? Sometimes I think he can only think numbers, think business, think how it will all come out on paper. And of course about whether he made a mistake hiring a liberal minded 24 year old female from UNC.


yeah, my superintendent gave us the customer service speech and i got pretty nervous.
his justification for adopting that mentality seemed well-intentioned, but the words just didn't seem to fit...

of course, that speech came following the realization that my county (like every other county in nc) is obsessed with numbers.
while i think this is completely off-base, i'm conceding to the fact that it's a reality right now and will probably be around for a few more years.

while i don't think business rhetoric completely fits with the progressive agenda, i would hope that this whole group- work issue at least gets people in power thinking about the value of education. of course, this can be a double-edged sword if they start dictating some dangerous policy (like an obsession with numbers).
but i guess simply acknowledging education is a start.

about the bill gates comment. i definitely agree, and i think this a reflection of a societal and cultural view on education. the profession doesn't get much respect, so scholars and important figures in education aren't given nearly as much status as someone like bill gates. to change that requires a different view on education (one that all educators share).

i am hopeful however. my last few years in college and grad school, i came across a lot of folks that were thinking about teaching. now i doubt that many of them will go through with it, but the fact that so many highly intelligent individuals were even thinking about education as a profession gets me really excited. perhaps the tide is turning, and people in my generation are acknowledging the importance of education. maybe that will translate into a long-overdo bump in our societal status....


Sorry not to comment on the group work mentality...just had nothing to add. So well put, Kudos Jeff and Rob H.


Amazing comments on this topic...

Strategy. Great word. Imagine if the educational world actually came up with a strategy. I'm not talking about NCLB. I'm talking about a conceptualization-an awareness of the goal of education, an awareness of the purpose of education, and an awareness of the effects of education. So many teachers struggle within their classroom walls to forward the progressive movement. (Perhaps not progressive by educational standards, but certainly progressive by general societal and political standards.) If teachers were able to get on the same page, then students would feel the tremendous effect of teacher unity. We are so often concerned with changing the minds of the students we see each day. Perhaps, the focus should be shifted to changing the minds of teachers and educators first so that we can work full force to change students and society for the better. Rob, maybe this answers the prompt on teacher education, too.

That being said, I still have to enter my classroom tomorrow and work with the students before I spend anytime working with other teachers. The topic is cooperative learning. My greatest success with cooperative learning has come as a result of monitoring the abilities-both social and academic-of my students. I have a good idea of the levels of my students, the students have a good idea of their own levels and the levels of their peers, so the students work together based on ability in any given situation. Picking the groups ahead of time is tedious, absences often wreak havoc on the groups, but when it all comes together, the students' learning grows by leaps and bounds when they work as a team. The difference is clear-it's ind of like basketball. Here's an ACC example: UNC and Duke-great team chemistry, therefore, great team record. NCSU-just a bunch of ball hogs and thugs (I hate to say that about my ama mater), therefore, dissapointing team record.

Jeff-Societal status. Come teach in Culpeper with me. When people find out that I am a teacher, the waves part and I walk on the bottom of the Red Sea. These few short months in a blue collar area have taught me something: teachers don't make as much as doctors, lawyers, etc, even though a lot of us have advanced degrees; however, we make a decent wage in comparison with parents of the kids that I teach, a very decent wage. For me, living in RDU suburbia skewed my perception of normal. Living here puts it all in perspective, an acceptable perspective. Of course, Mr. Budweiser helps with that perspective, too. Speaking of which....


Number of Ivy league teachers in an alternative certification program (Teach Kentucky) put together for other new teachers:

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