Just Say No

In a commentary in response to the Democratic National Convention, Mark Naison, a Professor of African-American Studies and History at Fordham University and Director of Fordham’s Urban Studies Program, points out the gap between what Obama said and the realities of his education initiatives. After the election, no matter who wins, there is going to be a tremendous amount of work for educators at all levels if we hope to reverse the trends of the last twelve years (and more, actually).

Naison lists four “facts” that are going to have to be addressed:

  1. “Teacher morale is at the lowest level it has been in recorded history. This is in part because virtually every major leadership group in the society has blamed teachers for the nation’s problems, but also because teachers job protections and job rights are under attack and because they are increasingly evaluated on the basis of student test scores.”
  2. “Special needs students and ELL students are everywhere experiencing humiliation, and occasionally outright discrimination, because students who do not test well are seen as threatening the careers of teachers and school administrators.”
  3. “The teaching force in the nation is being steadily ‘whitened’ as a result of school closing and teacher firings mandated by Race to the Top and the replacement of experienced union teachers in large city school districts with Teach for America Corps members.”
  4. “Students throughout the country, even in middle class, high performing districts, are increasingly complaining that they hate school because of an enormous rise in the number and frequency of standardized tests and the elimination of gym, recess, sports and the arts to make room for test prep.”

We who teach college are already seeing the results of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top in entering students showing less initiative and lower ability to utilize reading, writing, and math skills than in the past. We need to join with educators at all levels and start saying “no” loudly (and making the word effective) to the dismantling of our American systems of education through a system of “reform” that has resulted in nothing but destruction.

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