I would honestly prefer to read, think and write about poetry, about Bei Dao or Margaret Fuller in The Dial, or “the tyranny of vision” that I fear is our only REAL problem (vision becomes language: narrow what you look at, narrow what you think and say).
But I think it might do us all some good to try to understand the aggressive and now well under way attacks on the idea of what is Public and what is Private and how these lines are being blurred and “hybridized” purposely and in ways that “sound” quite reasonable and even seem to make sense, if you only attend to the verbiage of the ones doing the dirty work.
First, there are two books that have come to be somewhat indispensable to my understanding of the course of our primary public institution, schools. One is “Capitalizing on Disaster: Taking and Breaking Public Schools” by Kenneth J. Saltman and the other is “A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized Testing” by Mark J. Garrison. Both are short.
Saltman is the book that details the way that, via government intervention through policy initiatives like No Child Left Behind, the public system of education is being graded, failed, and taken over in order to implement business models of management and profit.
Garrison’s book is an historical look at the very idea of “measure.” We measure to establish dominant norms and we measure to legitimize that dominance. We then measure to show failure in order to change to a new method of domination. Measurement becomes then an extremely powerful tool used by government and corporations to create convincing narratives that foster “self-management” under the strictures of standards.
First, and maybe this is obvious, we have to really try to understand what our schools are for, and that means thinking through what role they play in our social and cognitive development. If we can see this somewhat clearly then we might be able to understand what is going on in our current climate of “reform.”
Also, “school” is an idea and its implementation is variable to say the least, even as we try to think about it as a place of “equalizing” our opportunities to learn.
And once we start thinking about it, all we do is start asking questions.
What is learning? If there are multiple types of learning and multiple ways to learn and multiple kinds of learners, aren’t we already facing a very real difficulty?
And then we consider the actual temporal-spatial relationship of “attending” school as it operates within our social construction of work and home. School is a place; a good place, bad place, ugly place, beautiful place. School is “home” in many respects and what students learn there are ways to act, think and be that may or may not “clash” with their family attitudes.
Of course then there is the “school economy”–which includes the cost to run a school but also the type of “socio-economic” citizens that will be served by the school.
In some ways all these difficulties create the need for a very open and very broad idea of what this place could be. It must be expansive and deep. It must try to manage a multivariate population.
Quickly we come to the realization that this is massively complex.
And this very realization should serve to put a HOLD on all “hurry up” change that comes out of a reform movement. Reform movements are political and they are about power and control. This is why, “when the time is ripe,” you find so much legislation rammed through state governments where there is a single ideology in ascendancy in order to pave the way for “outside” control of all the “local” issues of school systems.
Have you spent any time trying to define in as granular a way as possible what a school is, what it does, what it is for?
School serves a purpose. What is it?
Unless you first commit your mind to this definition you will have no way to assess what is being done, in your name, and with your tax dollars, and under the guise of “reform”: you’ve got to know what is the “form” of the thing before you can assent to any reformation of said thing.
Can we answer what we think school should be graded on if we don’t all agree on what it is in the first place?
So, it’s your turn here at the Errant: what is a school? Why is there school? What do we want school to do for us?
Have your say.