Friday, August 22, 2014

The Lathe of Heaven...or Hell?

In Ursula Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, the main character, George Orr, has the power to change reality through his dreams.  A psychiatrist attempts to harness the power of his dreams to create a better world, but every attempt backfires in completely unexpected ways.

The premise of the story reminds me of the predicaments we will find ourselves in if left in the hands of some educational "reformers."  There are those with well-meaning intentions, loads of money and political pull; and then, there are others, only too happy to do most anything if there is profit to be had.

Just as the side effects of Orr's dreams create terrible nightmares, so, too, do the plans of ed. reformers, wearing thick blinders to unintended consequences.  Some abbreviated examples follow.

The federal and state promotion of Charter Schools has

1.  led to co-location, strangling and starving  NYC public schools
2.  led to the exclusion of some students with special needs from these "special" schools and the over-suspension and expulsion of others who do not make the grade.
3.  forced the City to pay charter-school rent when public schools are strapped for funds.
4.  led to Test-Prep mania to please donors with high scores.
5.  led to increased segregation.

If tenure or due process is eliminated:

1.  Teachers will be more fearful than ever to point out policies that endanger the community or threaten the legally mandated rights of students.
2.  Academic freedom will be squashed.
3.  Teachers may be run out of town by patronage-loving principals.
4.  Older teachers may face more fluffed-up charges so that cheaper, less-experienced teachers may replace them.  We have witnessed how cheap labor filled vacancies in schools while older ATRs languished as subs.
5.  Teachers may be subject to written or unwritten loyalty oaths--like those faced by our Unity "reps" who will rubber stamp probably even a rubber chicken to retain their privileges.

The promotion of the Common Core has

1.  attempted to make us march in lockstep to the tune of destructive and sometimes inane test questions.
2.  replaced the love of learning with nonsensical and dull test prep.
3.  made so many supposedly civil servants deaf to the pleas of parents, teachers and students.
4.  turned so many teachers off from the profession by ignoring so many needs and interests of students and teachers.
5.  made me wonder which planet we're living on, where one set of standards supported by a power elite academically massacres the majority and pulls down even the successful.

Obviously, there is always room for improvement, but when one set of copyrighted standards by an SAT-worshiping crew is seen as a golden solution for all, it's time for everyone to remember that we live in a democracy and that young people need something more than Stanley Kaplan and his test-driven curriculum as their teacher.  
blog comments powered by Disqus