The Perilous Pendulum
Anyone that has been in the education field for even the most limited time has felt the sweep of the pendulum.
It seems as though forces from one side or the other tend to push education reforms back and forth depending on who happens to have public opinion on their side. And there we lie, just as Poe described, tethered by the inquisitors of education reform, as the sharp blade gets closer and closer until we begin to feel it. We somehow manage to set ourselves free but face another perilous trap set by our tormentors. The pit, the lowly pit where our inquisitors say the ineffective ones shall be tossed into. Yet just as we are about to succumb we are rescued by those who understand that the inquisition is flawed and that freedom of thought shall prevail.
Will we be rescued this time? I believe so, but unlike General Lasalle in Poe’s masterpiece we’ll have to be our own saviors. The drums of our army are beginning to beat, our own forces are trying to grasp that pendulum and have it swing our way.
Look at the past week, President Obama during the State of the Union said,
“Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. And in return, grant schools flexibility: to teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn. That’s a bargain worth making.”
It’s a start.However, let’s remind him everyday that Race to the Top contradicts his statement. We need to capture public opinion on the correct way to understand that teachers really do matter, that we matter more than some bubble filling test, that wastes valuable time and effort.
Even in Texas, where I consider is the birthplace of NCLB, there has been a cry to grab that pendulum. AP reported:
“State Board of Education members pressed the Texas education commissioner on Thursday about whether an abundance of high-stakes standardized testing is warping classroom teaching to ensure students spend more time preparing for the exams then actual learning.”
California Governor Jerry Brown,
California’s Jerry Brown, who has gone further than any other governor in blasting modern test-based school reform, said Wednesday that he wants to reduce the number of standardized tests students take, give more authority to local school boards and design a system to measure education performance that is less test-centric than the one now in use. Thanks to Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post for this report.
Diane Ravitch has been all across the country educating teachers, administrators, policy makers and the public on the perils of our current course. Union leaders, are beginning to have some effect educating their members on how negotiate fairness and not be backed down by fear or intimidation.
The pendulum is slowing, ever so slightly, yet it’s slowing. The growing movement of real reform can be witness everyday in countless Twitter feeds, Facebook accounts, professional list serves, rallies, demonstrations, and political campaigns.
In New York, a growing movement, has started a campaign to reevaluate how teachers should be evaluated. They are holding an important town hall meeting on Feb. 15. If you are on Long island on that day, stop by and participate.
So what’s missing? How can we stop the pendulum ourselves, and become our own liberators? The solution is simple, yet the work is hard. Advocate!
Contact the media, when you hear a pundit spouting words from the inquisition. Call them on it, tweet about it, pick up the phone make noise.
Truth will garner public opinion. The masses were petrified to question the inquisition, because the inquisitors kept them ignorant. Do what we do best. Teach! Teach our students, teach their parents, teach our administrators, teach our colleagues, teach our elected officials, teach the media, teach the public.
Teach and we shall hear the loud blast as of many trumpets!