The purpose of this blog is to know and understand the teacher's perspective concerning current issues on education reform and the teaching profession. Inputs from the ones who probably knows what is best for students academically -- the teachers -- are rarely considered in decision making of policies. Yet, these so-called education experts and lawmakers dictate how we do our jobs and what we should teach. That's not right!

Friday, December 3, 2010

To have...or to have not...

Right now, in Raleigh, NC, the NAACP is holding its Education Summit to primarily address the current trend of re-segregation in American public schools. In addition, the oldest civil rights organization will also be tackling the following areas as well during its 3-day conference:

...stopping re-segregation and promoting diversity, equity in funding, high quality facilities and leadership, high quality teachers and smaller classrooms, parental and community involvement; a focus on math, science, history and reading, and addressing the disparities with minorities in graduation, suspension and drop-out rates.

While racism is an issue that still plague every aspect of American way of life, including its public schools, in my honest opinion, it doesn't compare to the adverse effects of classism. Even in the current education reform movement, classism is so overt as the wealthy strives to dictate education reform policies and run our public school systems. Yet, the children of the wealthy still attend private schools. The wealthy is funding and promoting education reform tactics that their children will never be exposed to. If charter schools, for example, are supposed to be "the saving grace" of public education, then why aren't the wealthy children attending them? Most Teach for America recruits, who are typically from a privileged family background and graduates of Ivy-league schools, leave the classroom after fulfilling their two-year commitment for greener pastures. Yet, these are the type of teachers the wealthy wants in our public and charter schools.

It's not odd that the ed deformers -- all of them, by the way, are wealthy and/or come from privileged backgrounds -- fail to address the heart of the problem with our public schools -- poverty. Since public schools are mainly funded via property taxes, many urban and rural school districts suffer due to the lack of funding and resources. In addition, many of the items expected to be covered in the Education Summit, which I colored bold for emphasis, are largely due to low socioeconomic status of most families in the community. While school improvement is still needed, research studies have shown non-school factors affect student performance more than in-school factors. To the wealthy, poverty is an excuse to hinder reform in our schools. Yet again, their kids don't attend our schools. In fact, in the beginning of the celebrated, yet controversial film Waiting for Superman, privileged director Davis Guggenheim narrates his perspective on how frustrating it is for him as he drive pass four "failing" public schools in DC each morning to bring his children to their private school. Let's be real here: Guggenheim himself attend private schools. Even if those public school he passes every morning were "blue-ribbon", successful schools, would he have enrolled his kids in one of those schools? I seriously doubt it!

Recently, via research for a graduate school assignment, I came across an interesting, yet thought-provoking article entitled "The pedagogy of poverty versus good teaching" by education professor Martin Haberman. Essentially, it touches on two points: (a) the "pedagogy of poverty" -- fourteen typical acts of urban school teachers that focus more on maintaining order than meaningful teaching and (b) promoting the use of "good teaching" strategies to reverse "the pedagogy of poverty" in urban classrooms. While Haberman emphasized the importance of a school-wide initiative to foster good teaching and high expectations, he failed to discuss the lack of resources and funding plaguing many of these schools, which can affect teacher performance as well as student performance. Nevertheless, for the most part, I agree with his assessment on the "pedagogy of poverty"; for every child -- rich or poor -- can learn and poor children deserve a quality education like the rich. Perhaps one of the most striking assertions Haberman makes is concerning those individuals who wants to continue perpetuating the "pedagogy of poverty":

The pedagogy of poverty appeals to several constituencies:

1. It appeals to those who themselves did not do well in schools. People who have been
brutalized are usually not rich sources of compassion. And those who have failed or done
poorly in school do not typically take personal responsibility for that failure. They
generally find it easier to believe that they would have succeeded if only somebody had
forced them to learn.
2. It appeals to those who rely on common sense rather than on thoughtful analysis. It is
easy to criticize humane and developmental teaching aimed at educating a free people as
mere "permissiveness," and it is well known that "permissiveness" is the root cause of our
nation's educational problems.
3. It appeals to those who fear minorities and the poor. Bigots typically become obsessed
with the need for control.
4. It appeals to those who have low expectations for minorities and the poor. People with
limited vision frequently see value in limited and limiting forms of pedagogy. They
believe that at-risk students are served best by a directive, controlling pedagogy.

5. It appeals to those who do not know the full range of pedagogical options available. This
group includes most school administrators, most business and political reformers, and
many teachers.

But why the wealthy still wants to perpetuate "the pedagogy of poverty", yet they claimed they're not? Aren't giving and reviewing for tests, particularly in reading and math, two of the acts of the"pedagogy of poverty"? The overemphasis of standardized testing that is being pushed by wealthy ed deformers and NCLB exacerbates the fight against such pedagogical practices for our neediest students. Thanks to school accountability measures, public and charter school teachers are coerced to "teach the test" and used test data to "drive instruction" so not only their students pass these tests, but also to save their careers and livelihoods. These teachers have to overcome obstacles beyond their control to ensure student success due to the risk of losing their jobs; how are they supposed to enjoy what they do under this type of  extreme pressure? Private school teachers don't have those types of concerns to contend with.

Due to the current economic decline, some of the ed deformers, like the privileged Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the wealthy Bill Gates, are now calling for school districts to "do more with less" by anticipating and making additional cuts, increasing class sizes, and dismissing teachers' advanced credentials for compensation purposes. Gentlemen, do you suggest the same for the private schools your children attend? Would you want your children to attend a school that lack resources, have overcrowded classrooms, and hires inexperienced teachers? So what gives? Are your children entitled to a different kind of educational experiences than other children? During yesterday's protest against Cathie Black's appointment as the next NYC School Chancellor, NYC Board of Education member, Patrick Sullivan, believes so.

What ever happen to the golden rule: Treat others like you want to be treated? I guess it doesn't apply to the wealthy and the privileged.

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