Monday, August 29, 2016

Teacher Wars: Understanding the Chaos of the "Reform" Movement

Our last meeting of The Teacher Wars was a great one!

We continued working on a timeline of notable events mentioned in the book. We also talked about themes in the book. Throughout history, top down reforms have been put into place with little thought for how they will actually play out in schools. Also segregation, both in teacher and student populations, continues to be a huge issue in schools. Many people have concluded that school integration has been a failure, but looking at the history, schools were never properly integrated, to put it mildly. 

At the end of our last meeting we talked about what stood out for us individually, and participants had some amazing observations which I quote here. Jonathan observed how reforms were put into place with little thought of "administrative feasibility" and regard for the paperwork they require. Maureen commented on the "illogic of building instruction around data from assessment." She also noted the "faux civil rights movement" that has played out in education reforms, notably the community schools movement of the 1970s and the current charter school movement. As Maureen put it, some reforms have "manipulated the voice of the community" to gain popularity.  In addition, she noted how personal education is---these are people's children---and how "personal education stories shaped policies" and how "So rarely throughout history have people talked to the teachers." "Amen," said Jen Pour. 

James ended the session by asking about WE's plans for reform and asking how non-educators could get involved. I suggested speaking at SRC meetings, writing editorials, going to rallies/meetings, and staying informed about the issues. Janene suggested becoming involved with a "Friends of.." group at a neighborhood school and talking to teachers

For those who haven't read this book, it's not without its problems, but it does provide a comprehensive history of the profession and attempts at reform of all kinds. I recommend it for anyone who wants to gain a big picture view of the nonsensical and chaotic "reform" landscape of the moment.

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