Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Friedman on education: In a class of his own

Image used (post-ironically) at JudWilhite.com.
I wanted to write something about last Sunday's column by Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, the Mystax Sapientis, on this year's Program for International Assessment (PISA) results in the evaluation of American 10th-graders, but the Jersey Jazzman just about has it completely covered in fine style, and you really have to read his post if you have not already done so.

The Jazzman does, as it happens, miss the one little thing that got me most overwhelmingly exercised. His Mustacherie quotes at length from the views of the head of the Pisa project, Andreas Schleicher, on what makes a successful school, in words that make a great deal of sense:

The highest performing PISA schools, he added, all have “ownership” cultures — a high degree of professional autonomy for teachers in the classrooms, where teachers get to participate in shaping standards and curriculum and have ample time for continuous professional development. So teaching is not treated as an industry where teachers just spew out and implement the ideas of others, but rather is “a profession where teachers have ownership of their practice and standards, and hold each other accountable,” said Schleicher
Friedman believes that he agrees with Schleicher on this point, and comments:
Democrats who protect teachers’ unions that block reforms to give teachers more ownership and accountability, and who refuse to address long-term entitlement spending that threatens to deprive us of funds to invest in the young, are harming our future.
What the phuck??!! Leaving aside this endless stupidity about Social Security, which has no effect on discretionary budget items whatsoever, and Medicare, which should not (why doesn't it threaten to deprive us of funds to build the fighter jet that can't fly in the rain?), the rephorms opposed by teachers' unions as far as I know, from the high-stakes Pearson-managed perpetual testing environment for students and teachers alike through the charter-school menace of ineluctible zero-tolerance discipline codes and start-to-finish scripted lesson plans down to the shift under the federal Common Core curriculum from reading literature to reading I don't know, furniture assembly instructions—all these are precisely treating teaching as "an industry where teachers just spew out and implement the ideas of others," lowering the "degree of professional autonomy for teachers in the classroom" to a point where you can't bend down far enough to see it.

Or does Friedman mean something by "ownership" that I just don't understand?
Mustaches by Etsy, via Stilsucht.

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