Response to the Times' "Storm"
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- Subject: Response to the Times' "Storm"
- From: "James Horn" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2006 10:57:27 -0500 (EST)
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Let's Have a Gathering Storm
In 1988 noted historian of education, Lawrence Cremin, responded to the
diversionary tactic taken by the Reaganites to blame the schools in A
Nation at Risk for the rise of foreign economic competition. In a Carnegie
report (as cited by Tyack & Cuban, 1995) on saving urban schools, Cremin
pointed out the manipulative strategy to shift the focus of schools from
equity to economics by falsely blaming the schools for economic
?to contend that problems of economic competitiveness can be solved by
educational reform . . . is not merely utopian and millennialist, it
is at best foolish and at worst a crass effort to direct attention
away from those truly responsible for doing something about
competitiveness and to lay the burden instead on the schools? (p. 35).
If anything has changed since then, it is simply in the intensification of
the dishonest demonizing of schools. If another generation can be duped in
viewing the schools as the source of economic uncertainty, no one will
notice, perhaps, the steady rise of corporate profits or zooming CEO
salaries at a time of record layoffs, or the dwindling percentage of
federal and state tax revenues paid by corporations while the tax burden
shifts downward, or the reduced corporate investment in R&D while
corporate lobbyists lead in the pillaging of the federal treasury. Perhaps
we won?t even notice that the current fear mongering is intended to create
an oversupply of science, math, and engineering folks in order to have a
domestic supply that will settle for third world wages and benefits. And
maybe, just maybe, the corporate socialists can get taxpayers to take up
the slack for their own miserly contributions to the R&D that will
guarantee their survival.
One thing that distinguishes the current battle in the war against the
public schools is the prominent front opened up against the schools that
prepare teachers. If one were to believe the rhetoric oozing from sludgy
think tanks and the paid institutes for ?research,? those damn Deweyans in
the colleges of education don?t care about our economic competitiveness,
nor do they take seriously the apocalyptic metaphors in this generation?s
equivalent to A Nation . . ., this once called Rising Above the Gathering
Storm. . .
And if you were to believe the continuing unwavering stupidity of the NY
Times Editorial Board, colleges of education have given up on science
education and math education, just as the colleges are somehow to blame
for the fact that many American children are taught by teachers who are
not qualified to teach math or science.
Is this true? Jane Leibbrand, NCATE VP for Communications, was able to
clear that up for Diane Ravitch the other day during Ed Week?s online
chat, after Ravitch spouted the Party line by blaming state and college
certification programs for the weakness in areas math and science
a majority of states now require a degree or the equivalent in subject
matter. Candidates must know the subject they plan to teach to be
recommended for licensure in accredited schools of education.
Knowledge of subject matter is front and center, Standard 1, in
NCATE's accreditation system. The problem comes when individuals who
never planned to teach enter the system, usually teaching at-risk
children in low-income areas. These individuals are not from "ed
Unlike the situation in 1980s, this time America's schools are, indeed, in
trouble, but not because they have failed to churn out enough high school
graduates intent upon becoming scientists, engineers, or mathematicians.
So when you hear the President next week reads off the litany of
manufactured education shortcomings and seeks to seed fear of the
?gathering storm,? remember this: The real threat to America is not from
an absence of education reform but, rather, from too much of a particular
kind that now threatens to replace the intellectual, cultural, and civic
mission of the public schools with a sterile, amoral, and metastasizing
competition for test scores that has, as its endgame, the privatization of
public schools by vouchers and for-profit charters. In the meantime, the
25-30% of America?s children living in poverty will be left behind again
without qualified math and science teachers, just as they were by the last
It is time for another kind of gathering storm, a real one generated by
the loud and clear voices of citizens and teachers, academics, and
students, all intent upon taking back our schools, the same ones that once
aimed at the preservation of a democratic republic and the full
participation in democratic living as primary educational missions.
Jim Horn, PhD
As long as learning is connected with earning, as long as certain jobs can
only be reached through exams, so long must we take the examination system
seriously. If another ladder to employment were contrived, much so-called
education would disappear, and no one would be a penny the stupider. --E.
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