Re: You asked for it . . .
- Subject: Re: You asked for it . . .
- From: "D. Selwyn" <dselwyn@U.WASHINGTON.EDU>
- Date: Thu, 29 Jun 2000 10:16:45 -0700
- In-reply-to: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Sorry for the very delayed response but was at the detroit conference
(which was wonderful) and just got back. Just want to add ta note to the
metaphor that speaks for itself. One of the ways that Washington State
pays for education is by selling trees on land that it owns. Cut the
trees, pay for schools....
On Sat, 24 Jun 2000, George Sheridan wrote:
> Your explanation of timber management practices seems to me clear and
> accurate for the purposes of your op-ed. I'm not aware of companies using
> chemical fertilizers to grow trees, but you could say "Such practices tend
> to require heavy amounts of chemical herbicide and insecticide use..."
> In your first paragraph you refer to "plain vanilla" tree farms, which I
> think is too positive a term, implying a basic model with no frills. You
> might try "tree plantation" as well as "monoculture." The relationships of
> "plantation" to exploitation and of "mono-" to monotony and monopoly create
> the right associations.
> In the case of Pacific Lumber, the drive to increase short-term profits
> came after a leveraged buyout by Maxxam. So while there is a relationship
> to shareholder value, it might be more precise to talk about paying off
> speculative debt.
> You don't really mean to say "Schools are places where trees grow slowly."
> Maybe, "Schools are places where growth and development occur over time."
> But as I read this paragraph, your key idea is not that students need lots
> of time but rather that individuals grow in unique ways and at different
> rates. You might be interested to know that timber companies are
> experimenting with genetically identical trees that can all be harvested at
> the same time, a practice analogous to expecting all students to earn the
> same score on SAT 9 in the eighth month of third grade.
> As a teacher, I would prefer not to be called a "pruner." You might be able
> to recast this sentence as a metaphor: "Teachers are the foresters..."
> Be very careful with your comments about soil quality. Your concluding
> paragraph makes clear your position that bad government policy can damage
> communities, but your initial comments about poor soil and poorly developed
> root systems might be read as blaming low-income urban families for their
> children's lack of success in school.
> At 05:24 PM 6/22/2000 -0400, you wrote:
> >Here is an Op-Ed piece I threw together. Anyone care to have a crack at
> >editing? I am particularly interested in someone knowledgeable about
> >forestry checking the veracity of the things I say about the subject (George
> >Sheridan, maybe?) And of course, input about the educational side of the
> >analogy is welcome, too.
> >CAN'T SEE THE FOREST
> >A recent TV show about a tree sitter in a California Redwood forest got me
> >thinking about what is happening in education these days. One of the points
> >that forest advocates on the show were making was that good stewardship of a
> >forest requires thinking about what will be happening 50 or 100 years in the
> >future. The health of habitat in old growth forests is due in no small part
> >to the diversity of species within the forest. Lumber companies looking for
> >quick profits can cut down every tree in a forest, but the soil will quickly
> >become barren. Lumber companies then may spray herbicides and try to
> >establish a monoculture forest, with a single species of tree planted. Such
> >practices tend to require heavy amounts of chemical fertilizing and
> >herbicide use, lead to runoff and erosion problems, and fundamentally alter
> >the character of the forest environment. Ultimately, such a "plain vanilla"
> >tree farm does not serve the interests of the community, because the
> >environmental damage wrought by such short-sighted and disruptive practices
> >harms the community and ultimately harms the company which depends on both
> >the forest and the community for economic survival. Responsible lumber and
> >forestry companies now try to practice "sustainable forestry", where an
> >emphasis is placed on maintaining a diverse environment in the forest,
> >including different species and different ages of trees within the forest.
> >Such diversity helps to maintain the health of the environment, which
> >benefits the forestry activities and profitability, and enriches the
> >community surrounding the forest.
> >The quick profit-taking chronicled on the Frontline show I was watching
> >occurred after an established lumber company was taken over by a corporate
> >raider. The new owners were interested primarily in increasing shareholder
> >value, so they started clearcutting and doubling lumber production to make
> >the company balance sheet (and by implication, themselves) look good in the
> >short term. This is the kind of thing that highly paid CEOs brought in to
> >run companies often do. CEO's like Lou Gerstner, who is moonlighting now as
> >an education expert.
> >Like forests, schools are places where trees grow slowly. Schooling takes
> >time. Different species of trees (kids) are different. Good stewardship of
> >a precious natural resource, our future generation, is called for. So what
> >is happening in our schools these days? Unfortunately, the corporate raider
> >types and politicians are struggling to turn our schools into "monoculture"
> >forests with their one-size-fits-all standards and tests. Uniformity is the
> >goal. By third grade, each child must know this, this, and this, and score
> >at least that on their state test. If you don't fit the mold of a good test
> >taker who enjoys regurgitating facts, too bad. Is this really good forestry
> >Teachers are analogous to pruners and foresters. The soil itself is
> >provided in the home and the community in which children live; schools can
> >try and supplement poor soil and poorly developed root systems, but as James
> >Traub pointed out in the NY Times, schools, particularly overburdened urban
> >schools, can only hope to do so much. Political leaders are ignoring the
> >fundamental problem of poor educational soil quality (poverty and its
> >effects on educational and economic prospects), which is hardly surprising,
> >but now they are making things worse by ignoring good forestry practices and
> >trying to raise nothing but scrub pines. They hope to make the balance
> >sheet look good by getting test scores to rise, but the health of our
> >schools will suffer in the long run as a result of this short-sighted and
> >simplistic focus on test scores.
> >Uniformity and lack of diversity is the bane of a healthy forest, and it is
> >the bane of healthy school systems. Even the conservative Milton Friedman
> >recognized this when he wrote 4 decades ago about government standards and
> >their effect on progress and the quality of schools:
> > "Government can never duplicate the variety and diversity
> > of individual action . . . by imposing uniform standards in housing, or
> > nutrition, or clothing, government could undoubtedly improve the level of
> > living of many individuals; by imposing uniform standards in schooling,
> > road construction, or sanitation, central government could undoubtedly
> > improve the level of performance in many local areas and perhaps even on
> > the average of all communities. But in the process, government would
> > replace progress by stagnation, it would substitute uniform mediocrity
> > for the variety essential for that experimentation which can bring
> > tomorrow's laggards above today's mean."
> >We need to wake up to the fact that there is no quick fix for improving
> >schools; no magic wand that can be waved to raise test scores and simply
> >pronounce the schools "fixed". Ultimately, we need better stewardship not
> >only of our schools but of the soil that sustains them; our communities. We
> >need to recognize that a diversity of species (kids with different talents
> >and needs) and a diversity of forestry techniques (teaching methods attuned
> >to the needs of diverse students) are needed to give us healthy and
> >sustainable schools which can in turn enrich the communities in which they
> >are planted.
> >Allen Flanigan
> To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L
> to LISTSERV@LISTS.CUA.EDU.
To unsubscribe from the ARN-L list, send command SIGNOFF ARN-L
Post a Message to arn-l: