IMG_4227 flickr photo by Jemimus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Select Readings and Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in the Digital AgeApologies for the late delivery, it has been quite a long week, to be honest. My reading habits took a bit of a hit, as a result. So the breadth of articles that came across my navigation of the internets was not what it normally is.
Still, these three pieces have a distinctly historical tone. There are some reflective looks into the past of varying depth and perhaps a glimpse of the future that may be already racing upon us. In some ways, however, these are the kinds of articles that made me want to start this newsletter. I try to include the kinds of pieces that a teacher might not necessarily notice or take the time to read but nevertheless help explain and give their context deeper understanding, in hopes of inspiring motivation and maybe even a positive change.
Interestingly there were some notable responses to the MCAS piece I included last week. They included two short letters that call the whole apparatus into question. One is a response from a teacher that might be more easily dismissed in the current climate, which is as frustrating as it is foolish. The second, however, is from a policymaker, which is refreshing and offers a glimmer of hope.
If you read only one article, take a look at the last one, How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party. As usual, it is the long one but it the kind of curated how-we-got-here article that is both introductory and informative with a heaping of insight.
Here are three+ curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
What 150 Years of Education Statistics Say About Schools Today – Education Week – Sarah D. Sparks (10-minute read)
This is a fascinating window into an organization I reckon few teachers knew existed, the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as a nice primer on just how long some of the current tensions in the field have existed. The need to compare ourselves to other schools around the world has existed almost since the creation of our system, long predating things like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) or Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Also interesting is just how much equity has played a central role in our nation’s efforts at public education. The shape of the problem may have changed somewhat but so many of the same populations remain affected. These are just two strong reminders of how much some of these problems may be bigger than education itself. They may never completely disappear but they might be at the core of what education attempts to forever address.
Stop shooting silver bullets and learn to trust our teachers again – The Guardian – Rebecca Allen (9-minute read)
This is a piece from England and may not seem quite as relevant but, as I have often mentioned in this newsletter, so much of the kind of failed edreforms called for in the United States have already floundered in England. In that sense, England could easily serve as our canary-in-a-coal-mine harbinger of what not to do if only we were more thoughtful.
So many of the facts and figures itemized in this article look very familiar to a teacher in America. Ever-increasing demands “to create a paper trail that proves learning has happened, for people who were not present in the room at the time” have been felt as acutely on this side of the Atlantic. Endless curriculum reforms, initiatives, and accountability measures have negatively impacted our profession for some time now. As Dr. Allen so insightfully points out, “auditing teaching isn’t actually possible.” Anyone suggesting otherwise is simply peddling pseudo-science and politics not what is in the best interest of students and certainly not teachers.
How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party – The Baffler – Jennifer C. Berkshire (21-minute read)
Berkshire is a local education journalist who has built quite a reputation over the past few years. Her work is excellently researched and insightful. This piece is no different. If you want a deeper understanding of the history and forces that currently shape the nearly the entire education conversation in our country at the moment, you can not do much better than this read. It weaves together a number of threads that have been mentioned at times in this newsletter and more that I has been affirmed by wider reading (here is just one example).
As much as this should be read by teachers it remains a hard read. Teachers and their unions are often the single largest line items on any municipal budget. That makes a large target for blunt instrument cost reductions. Still all cuts come at a cost – somewhere. The real challenge is deepening understanding of history and politics in the context of public education without feeling a sense of bleakness. Yet, teachers, unions and all, are capable of becoming enormously powerful platforms for political grassroots movement, enlisting parents, other municipal workers, and more. And contrary to billionaires and neoliberal Democrats insistence, that teacher-led platform has never been terribly interested in perpetuating poverty, discrimination, or limitations on social mobility, at least in any way that I am aware.