Friday, June 08, 2012

Slowly Winning the Rhetorical War

This post from Eduflack deserves a little close reading. :

Yes, there is no criticism too vicious or too fact-free for opponents to use against education reform. Or perhaps, to be a little more generous and to paraphrase a line from Seinfeld, when it comes to defending the status quo, it isn't a lie if you believe it to be true.

Don't believe it? Take a look at the opinions and vitriol that follow education reform across the nation. In state after state, those who defend the status quo issue the same lines and look like carbon copies of other status quoers.

OK, so what are these vicious accusations (emphasis added below)?

If one is for greater accountability, then one is pro-bubble sheets and only teaching to the test.

Reformers aren't pro-bubble sheets: they prefer next generation computer adaptive tests! Or constructed response tests scored by computers or low-paid temps. But bubble tests will do if the preceding are not available because then there is no alternative available for assessing student achievement and those that contribute to it.

Reformers are not in favor of only teaching to the test in a direct and straightforward manner. They are also in favor of indirectly teaching to the test. For example, at Harlem Success Academy, sometimes they visit farms, because farms come up on readings on the test. See, that's a great example of going beyond "teaching to the test."

Reformers do not, however, defend any practice that makes no claim to eventually raise test scores. I guess one exception to that is regarding graduation rates and post-graduation statistics. They seem willing to sacrifice test stats to increase those numbers.

Also, if they think the test is a good one (e.g., AP), they have no problem with teaching to it.

If one supports public school choice, then one is stealing dollars from our community schools.

It is not stealing! It is a perfectly legal transfer based on competition, marketing and consumer choice!

If one demands increased parental involvement and parental rights, then one is anti-teacher.

If reformers were "anti-teacher" in this context, they would support parental rights in all public schools, which they do not. They only support parental involvement and rights in district schools, not charters!

If one calls for teacher evaluations, then one is anti-collective bargaining.

Like Scott Walker, many reformers believe it is acceptable for teachers to collectively bargain wages (only, within reasonable constraints)!

If one provides philanthropic support to improve public schools, then one must be a profiteer looking to make personal fortunes off public education.

Indeed, no philanthropist is making a personal fortune off his education giving. It is completely different people who are benefiting financially. And $270,000 a year (or so) is not a fortune!

If one highlights the achievement gap and the disparities in both quality and outcome for Black and Latino students, then one must be a race-baiter.

I don't even think this one makes any sense. I'm sure somebody has accused reformers of "race-baiting," but since the dominant pattern in contemporary school reform is white-run schools for minority students, race-baiting doesn't even seem like it could possibly work as a reform strategy.

Maybe the word Eduflack is looking for is "paternalism." On the other hand, they've actually embraced that one already so you can hardly call it a vicious accusation.

If one asks for public school improvement, then one must be trying to privatize the schools and enact a voucher system.

Reformers aren't trying to privatize the schools, they are only trying to privatize the management of public schools! There is a big difference! And many reformers only support giving students the choice of privately managed public schools, not including entirely private schools!

If one believes we can do better and wears the tag of education reformer proudly, then one must be an anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public school Republican looking to take over the system.

In closing, reformers aren't against all teachers, only the bad ones (who are very, very bad). They do not seek the complete abolition of unions! Unions may be allowed to exist! And they are in favor of privately managed public schools! Very much so!

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