Merry Christmas! Today I am writing about illusion and how K-12 education, despite some cursory remarks, is still ignored by Presidential candidates.
If you haven’t already noticed, while there are many topics discussed at Presidential debates, there is never, and I mean NEVER, any mention of the vast concerns about the privatization of America’s public schools, or other volatile issues surrounding K-12 education.
Here are two scenarios to illustrate my point and put a holiday spin on it.
This time of year always brings back memories, and one of those, for me, is of my daughter, when she was young and believed in elves. About a week before Christmas I would slip little treats under the Christmas tree. One night I put some cookies near a few gifts, and when I looked up there she was, big round eyes staring at me in disbelief.
We talked about it. I suppose there is a debate about whether you should lead children on with Santa and elves, but when you are a child (and parent) it sure is a lot of fun. And most kids accept reality when they get older.
That is, unless they are politicians running for President, union leaders and education reformers.
Along with the above story, the other day a friend sent me this funny video where two men carry on about the trouble they have had with their marshmallow crop. I am not sure how these guys carry on this conversation without laughing, but here it is.
Both of these stories are about deception. Both involve make-believe.
Similarly, Americans are barraged with misconceptions about public schools. We hear that they can fix the economy, and all children can learn if they have the perfect teacher.
We also are supposed to believe that Common Core involves the best standards ever, and that high-stakes testing and data teach.
Equally outrageous is the idea that less time learning how to teach somehow makes you better at it.
And, of course, we hear that if a school isn’t churning out above average students it should be closed–like that’s an easy solution. I am not sure if Hillary Clinton meant this the way it sounded, but it certainly made public school advocates uncomfortable.
These are just a few of the make-believe ideas floating around out there.
I believe one of the reasons this is happening, is because both union presidents, the AFT’s Randi Weingarten and the NEA’s Lily Eskelsen García, don’t press the candidates to deal with the many problems we have surrounding public schools. You could say they are collecting marshmallows at the marshmallow farm.
Here are topics neither of the party candidates discuss when live on television together, but these items would be worthy of a whole debate about education in America in and of itself. These are in no special order.
- Early childhood education.
- Special education—including dyslexia and autism.
- Teacher preparation.
- High schools and career-technical programs.
- Student employment without and after college.
- The conversion of public schools to charter schools.
- High-stakes testing.
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues.
- The arts.
- A balanced curriculum.
- Student information and privacy.
- The increase of online schooling called “personalized learning.”
- School funding.
- Public school partnerships.
- The significance of the local school board.
- The influence of the College Board.
- Common Core State Standards.
- The de-professionalization of teachers and education administrators.
- The harsh control involving classroom instruction.
- The teacher shortage.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act.
- Privatization—what it means to a democracy to have businesses or church groups run schools.
- The meaning of the community school.
- Separation of Church and State.
- The impact of corporate involvement in schooling.
- English Language Learners
I’m sure there are other issues I have left out.
I think the union leaders are caring people, but they don’t address the issues in a strong, forthright manner. They seem, at times, as disconnected as the Presidential candidates.
Consider the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Many on social media begged for, if nothing else, a slowing down before signing the NCLB/ESEA replacement. Only a week was given to look at the bill. It was wordy and difficult to understand. A lot of people saw it as a giveaway of public schools to charter companies—a selling out of America’s public schools.
Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with dissent, but after the bill was signed, Randi Weingarten sent out emails that completely disregarded any opposition. One I received asked that I sign an online thank you note to the policymakers for getting this bill passed!
This presents the illusion that all is well. But many educators and parents know that there are grave problems with education in America at this time and that the ESSA does little to address them.
I have been called fair-minded, and my daughter was O.K. after I told her about the elf, so I will try to be kind…
To Randi and Lily and all those who think great strides were made with the ESSA bill—and to those who believe all is running well, or great improvements are being made when it comes to schooling—there are no elves, and marshmallows don’t grow on a farm. They are a sugar based confection that, in its modern form, typically consists of sugar, water and gelatin whipped to a spongy consistency, molded into small cylindrical pieces, and coated with corn starch.
Americans are still waiting to hear an honest debate about the real difficulties surrounding education in this country. Will we see it anytime soon? What will the New Year bring?
Máté Wierdl says
Politicians never talk about the real issues, and especially the controversial ones. So they feed us marshmallows like gay marriage or cigar parties with Monica Lewinsky.
On the side: you have to be born in this country to like marshmallows.
Nancy Bailey says
Marshmallows! Spoken like a true Hungarian! Merry Christmas Máté!
Jeff Gaynor says
Love the citations. Glad to know you researched to make sure that farming marshmallows is not a productive activity. Good list of issues, as well.
In our district the following two are paramount:
* The de-professionalization of teachers and education administrators.
* The harsh control involving classroom instruction.
… Lily and Randi aside, the stripping away at union (i.e., teacher) protection and collaboration – here in Michigan, and I reckon elsewhere – is reducing teaching to assembly line line production. Also contributing is the lack of funding, resulting in less time for planning and collaboration, higher class size, etc. – not to mention ever lower salaries.
Nancy Bailey says
These issues need to be front and center and the unions need to make sure of it.
Ajay Srikanth says
Good list. I think bilingual education and the inclusion of “English Lamguage Learners” is crucial too. Everything is framed through an English only lens sadly
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for reminding me of this very important area? I cannot believe I left this issue off a list for the second time! I added. The last time I made this mistake I was able to get Linda Chantal Sullivan to write this terrific post that landed on The Answer Sheet blog.
Jim Arnold says
I enjoyed the analogies in this well written piece. My belief is that there is no discussion about education because it comprises less than 2% of the Federal budget and that the children and grandchildren of politicians go to private schools unaffected by intrusive reforms.