One of the old education reformers is Chester E. Finn, Jr. of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. He referred to himself as aging–not me. But he is old, and my point with this is that the push to destroy public schools, as we know them, started a long time ago.
Finn just wrote a letter to Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg for all of us to see, like we are the bystanders in their goofball, grand design of schools. Schools will no longer be public–other than they will still receive our tax dollars.
It is hard not to be struck by the arrogance of it all.
If one understands what a democracy is, and how it relates to public schools, they will be puzzled as to why Finn isn’t writing a letter to the American people–you know–the ones who are supposed to be the real owners of their schools.
But instead, he writes to Chan and Zuckerberg. He wants them to think about school reform. He sees them as the owners of America’s schools. They, like Gates and the other wealthy oligarchs, assume they know best how children learn because they made a lot of money and got rich.
That school design is laid out best in Finn’s mention of special education, where he calls IEPs a clumsy version of “personalized learning.”
Individual Educational Plans really are the key to understanding the wide range of needs that students present when they come to school. Teachers have known this for a long time.
But that’s not what Finn is referring to. If you don’t get it yet, and unfortunately there seem to be a lot of people who still don’t get it, the new personalized learning (or competency-based learning) is online–where a student’s narrow academic skills can be measured continuously, and teachers can forgo any kind of learning to understand the real all-encompassing needs of children.
How children will relate to each other and to teachers is not explained well with the new online escapade.
All one will need to do is make sure the student sits in place at their computer station and doesn’t act out.
My first reaction was, how dare Finn speak of children and special education this way! Those of us who studied and taught in this area saw firsthand the struggles of children with disabilities, gifted and talented students, and twice exceptional students and the problems they and their parents face.
Where was Chester E. Finn, Jr. when special education teachers were trying to sort out the mysterious, albeit fascinating, needs required to create programs for students with autism?
Did he sit and counsel a student on the brink of a behavioral meltdown?
How will a computer do this?
Has he ever struggled in a school that is falling apart, or stood in front of a class with not enough desks for students in the room?
When did he ever advocate for creating decent schools and really helping children–instead of tearing their institutions and those trying to do the job down?
Relationships with people?
Should we be not be concerned with his idea of a future generation of adults who idolize machines and not people? Sounds like a utopian, sci-fi plan gone wrong to me.
Finn has plenty of praise for Relay and all the other reformy groups that have been around for years and done nothing to make public schools better. They now create fast-track programs to put computer patrol dogs out in force in today’s charter schools. They will be prepared well in enforcement but know little about the children themselves–unless you call data collection perfect information in the new utopian world.
A lot is being said online right now about the serious takeover over of our public schools and their remaking into online warehouses–ironically on Zuckerberg’s Facebook. Will Americans who understand what’s happening to their schools be able to stop such a takeover?
Time will tell. In the meantime, Finn should apologize to America’s teachers, students, and parents. He still doesn’t understand what real school reform should be, and he is still being compliant in walking our students towards a disastrous future.
Or, the older one. HERE.