Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ideologies that kill

Well, whadya know. The Times is reporting today that a new Research Partnership for NYC Schools has been created by BloomKlein to “gather reams of data” on the schools to figure out what works or doesn't work. And a certain Ms Wylde, the president of another Partnership (oy), is declaring, according to the paper, that this group or whatever they do (it’s not really clear) is “something that everyone needs.”

By “everyone” I assume she means all the people standing to make a buck from this statistics-infested business group that calls itself a school system.

I doubt anyone who sends their kids to NYC schools could give a rat’s ass about more data. They want their children to have greater access to the teacher (i.e., LOWER CLASS SIZES), better equipment, textbooks to go around, more than a minute and a half to see a counselor to help them through their problems, and vocational subjects so they can earn a living when they get out. More data? Are you kidding me?

There is a parallel here between two very rich men and their very twisted aspirations for society. George Bush and Michael Bloomberg are all about bringing their own financial empires into deep contact with governmental and public institutions.

The Bush family’s connections with the oil industry are already well documented, particularly by Greg Palast in “Bush Didn’t Bungle Iraq, You Fools”. Most people now think he took the country to war to get control of more of the stuff for his own family and friends.

Bloomberg built his wealth around what A&E Television calls a financial information computer “that revolutionized the way securities data was stored and consumed . . . [It] soon branched into the media business.” Data storage, media. Lights should already be flashing in your head.

The country has taken a tremendous hit by a foul president’s ideology of oil. We were duped, and we are paying for it dearly in human sacrifice and national debt.

Can we afford to be indifferent to this other kind of ideology, that the collection of data will somehow have all the answers to America’s educational and sociological problems? Because we’re being sold this line of thinking by BloomKlein and their ilk, who stand to gain in all kinds of ways from keeping us counted and pigeonholed, as well as undereducated and underserviced. It is a vast, self-important, expensive and irrational way to spend the public purse, because you can’t collect what is not collectable in the first place. Everything they will try to collect will be tainted in one way or another. Garbage in, garbage out.

It is time we start tuning into the tyranny of “data collection.” It will not get us better educated, or better prepared for life, or more functional in our complex, open society. It will allow a certain caste of people, the very rich and government- entwined, to keep a great segment of American citizens incapable of improving its quality of life.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Work is not going to do it for us anymore. If you want to avoid the caste system, you have to be a successful business owner or inherit from someone who is wealthy.

Anonymous said...

You are completely right, with the Blush goverment and the Bloomberg and Klein connection, Americans are not improving themselves academically. The No Child Left Behind nonsense could better be called ALL CHILDREN LEFT BEHIND. This new restructurization in education is sending American education to the bottom.

JUSTICE not "just us" said...

Fight the good fight!
All these lies have to come tumbling down.

Anonymous said...

I am a parent and have taken my child out of the private school and into the local PS and now IS. What I hear and see is the UFT/NEA saying that testing isn't the way to measure academic progress, I fail to see any viable suggestion or alternative to children being left behind. While test scores are not meant to stand alone in providing a quality measure of a students academic performance, I fail to see what can replace it. I ask, how can our education system put in a quality measurement to insure our children are learning what is being taught and not just passed along to the next grade with inflated, maybe undeserving grades that can't pass muster for having learned appropriate material to warrant promotion. Some teachers are outstanding and their students excell in the classroom. Others aren't taught and haven't learned enough to pass an exam that measures their academic progress. What is the plan? Surely with all the talent in our educators there can be an outstanding proposal that can be implemented realistically. Love to hear it....

Woodlass said...

It would really be impossible to give you a proposal for a "quality measurement to insure our children are learning what is being taught" because you just can't measure this.

Look at all the factors that make one student a successful learner and another not so good in school. The child's natural abilities (including a whole range of cognitive skills like flexibility, IQ, perception, intuition, etc.), his or her talents, physical well-being, family life, and resistance to what's being taught (e.g., evolution vs creationism), as well as peer pressure, sociological conditions, and the money available not only for food, clothing, and housing, but for outside tutoring. That's without mentioning the quality of the teachers, guidance counselors, or even the security agents a student comes in contact with at school.

How can tests take into account all of these factors? They obviously can't. And why, in fact, should they? What IS that notion of "success" that people are jumping all over themselves to measure year after year? How will those scores help the child survive in this world? I suspect tests per se are mostly useless. One knows pretty quickly who is understanding what's being taught and who isn't.

What you cannot do without are dedicated teachers, people who choose eduation as a vocation, something they want to be involved with for a long time, and who are willing to hone their skills and adapt to all kinds of learners.

What you also cannot do without are options for the kids. Those who can move easily through intellectual material should be given every opportunity to do that, and those who cannot must be given the chance to learn things they definitely can be successful at.

Decision-makers are spending big bucks on tests and data collection, but anyone can tell you without any of this that a certain percentage of students will score in the bottom third, another third in the middle, and the last third at the top. What's the point if we're not going to fix what we know needs fixing: lower class size and provide remediation to those who are not functioning well within a certain range of skills.

In a society as stratified as ours and with no political will to spend money on the less fortunate, tests and statistics become a ruse for the politicians. They want to look as if they are setting standards, but they are really only measuring what we already know: that students are unequal learners.

Instead of trying to measure success unilaterally, we should be providing a variety of programs and skill sets that ensure our kids will be successful at something when they leave the system. You don't need across-the-board testing for that. You need teachers with good skills who work hard to bring them along to the best of their abilities, you need reinforcements from the outside like social and health services, and you need educator officials who know how to manage the system and put taxpayer dollars where they are needed most.