Sharing information and reporting on all that reeks in American education, especially corporate reform in K12 education, the agenda to privatize the right to a free public education for every child, and general corruption in K12-higher education. Calling out and exposing rather than cowering.

AND eager for your help. Have a story of power, manipulation, self-interest or injustice which needs attention? Let me know and we'll let the world discover "what's that smell."

"If you're a profession of sheep, then you'll be run by wolves." -- David C. Berliner

"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: Everything else is public relations." -- George Orwell

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." -- Paulo Freire

*A slideshow of Ed Reform-Critical Boxer's "Greatest Hits" memes runs at the bottom of this page.*



Friday, July 31, 2015

Studying Robert Putnam's _Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis_: Part 1

Below I begin a series of posts reflecting on my reading of Robert Putnam's 2015 release Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.

In coming posts, I’ll examine more of Our Kids in digestible chunks, offer critique, and attempt to expound upon connections I see to education and schooling, education reform, and my own experiences. I see this book as central to understanding contemporary exigencies regarding education policy and essential to building and actualizing an egalitarian social justice agenda. 

Chapter One: “The American Dream: Myths and Realities”

Robert Putman’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis begins in epigraph with a line from a Chrissie Hynde *song*: “I went back to Ohio, but my city was gone.” Putnam his team of researchers visited with residents or one-time residents of Putnam’s childhood hometown, Port Clinton, Ohio, in attempts to see how opportunities had changed for its young people over time. In the 1950s, Putman says, “My hometown was… a passable embodiment of the American Dream” (1). Research suggests, he says, that the 1950s were boom times for those seeking socioeconomic upward mobility, even for those in marginalized groups.

 But times have changed. Amid profiling several residents who were able to take advantages of the economic affordances of yesteryear and contrasting them with more-recent residents of the city in a county “once among the most egalitarian in the country,” Putnam posits his claim: We are experiencing a “nationwide increase in class inequity….[T]he class-based opportunity gap among young people has widened in recent decades” (19).

Today, young people in poverty are “in much worse shape” (29) than their well-off counterparts, Putman asserts. The confounding complication is not that rich families are able to pull ever-ahead so much as it is that poorer families are falling further behind. For any number of reasons, if bootstrapping is a sort of race, we have some running it with jet packs and roller skates while others, despite their best efforts, walk backwards.

Despite efforts to the contrary, poor Americans are moving further away from economic stability and upward mobility as their more affluent counterparts move ever forward and away from them. 

Rugged individualism and a belief that through hard work and enterprise one can accomplish great things, aspects of the “rags to riches” narrative, are so ingrained in the American psyche that a shrinking empathy might accompany the growing opportunity gap as people on one economic strata see less of people in others. Americans may be so sure that socioeconomic upwards mobility is such a reality that they feel those who do not obtain it have only themselves to blame (33).

As someone who grew up in a working class family which always seemed one step away from financial disaster but who was able to become the first member of his family to attend college and who, briefly, was able to live a specter of a middle class lifestyle before falling back into the one-step-from-ruination status so many of us experience currently, I connect with much in Putnam’s assertions and accounts. 

Indeed, often I remark to people when I travel that “I left my small town to see the big wide world, but I did so at a time the big wide world was becoming more like my small town.” By this I mean many things, but among them are parallels to Our Kids’ introductory points.

In coming posts, I’ll examine more of Our Kids in digestible chunks, offer critique, and attempt to expound upon connections I see to education and schooling, education reform, and my own experiences.

Next time: "Conflating Equalities"

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Employing" my "Schooling Onion" and "Shaking my Fist" @ Ed Reform

Does this meme hit the nail on the head? Would your "schooling onion" look different? Why?
I've interviewed for several secondary teaching positions this summer. Virtually every interview has required me to answer questions about "control," "rigor," the Common Core State Standards, and curriculum. I've responded by making a fist.

Not an intentionally threatening fist, mind you. I make my fist as a visualization of my philosophy on teaching. I tell the committees that I worry that we are being forced to see testing at the core (my fist)  of education, with standards and curriculum tethered to the test and students, who should be at the center of the teaching experience but are forced by teachers and others who favor this approach to conform to the inner circles. (I use my other hand to form these other layers around my fist.)

Instead, I say, we need to consider the standards and curriculum, sure, but to do everything we can to keep students at the center of education. Teachers need to be informed by curriculum and standards, of course, but the tests need to be the last of their concerns as they work to differentiate enriching experiences for their kids. I'll pat my fist: "Students need to remain at the center of learning, the center of curriculum. Education must be standards-informed; not standards based. Testing has its place, but not at the center of curriculum or learning."

I remain without a K12 teaching position going into fall of 2015, despite a doctorate in Education and experiences teaching or mentoring students at every level from 6th grade on up to doctoral studies.

Maybe that's because of my work experience and having left two university positions that I felt became untenable, the most-recent perhaps in no small part because of my stances on American education. CCSS, TFA, and more. Maybe I'm a cantankerous old curmudgeon with a "Go to Hell" gaze and an untrustworthy brow. Maybe my weight and age and health have finally caught up to me and teaching is, more than ever, the domain of the young (and cheap, and inexperienced, and naive -- or savvy enough to play the game in hopes of changing it from the inside).

My unemployment could be for any number of reasons. But, I worry for our nation if the main reason is because when I engage in my visualization, using my fist and hand to create a "schooling onion," I am indeed shaking my fist in a threatening manner to those controlling public schools.

Hegemony, "Matrimony" and Ed Reform Resistance

It takes some of us longer than others to realize our norms aren't working, especially if we're someone who is benefiting from perpetuating them. I liken continued membership in certain education unions and professional organizations to being in an abusive marriage. Sure, the partner provides, but how much of their crud is one willing to put up with? How many instances must reveal how the domineering party truly values the other partner until a change is made? At what time does having a roof over one's head, a place to go to be with sometimes like-minded partners, become so untenable that one is moved to take a risk and leave the power mongers to their own devises? Knowledge of a shrinking base of influence and diminishing transparency might not be enough to help some see it's time to leave. A dominant partner who endorses entrenchments without consulting their spouse or lover can be shrugged off. But for so long.
"Baby, I thought we could make it work.,
but then you endorsed Hillary and acted like I supported the decision." 

Eventually, one has to see the relationship for what it is. Escape is hard, but it might be the only answer. And things might not get better in the new set of circumstances, at least not as quickly as one might like.  Educators, teacher educators and those coming around to the education reform resistance need to note political endorsements, shrinking inner circles, and obstinance on behalf of unions and professional organizations to fully engage in radical change regarding eupraxis and education policy. They need to see that the hegemony is a matrimony, and a trial separation -- and maybe even a divorce -- is what is needed to live realized. New forms and new orders are what is needed to live healthily in education. 

To see more about hegemony and education reform and resistance, please click *here* to read a a  text recently delivered at  BAT event.  "Reflections on Hegemony & Revolution: A Conflicting Narrative of Hope and Skepticism" is a powerful read. 

Change is hard. We know many people choose to stay in relationships with an imbalance of power, and we know escape is not without its consequences. As someone who has left his last two teaching positions of his own volition upon realizing abuses I was unable to alter or abide and who now finds himself thrust to the margins of education discourse, I have a personal understanding of these facts. But it is time for members of entrenched education "support" institutions to decide if their partnerships are working. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Robo-Teacher No More: The "No Nonsense Nurturing" Pariah

"I am CT3, your cybernetic 'teaching' machine."
Please read *Amy Berard's account* of using earpiece technology during a year of middle school
teaching. Harrowing, disturbing, and outragious, Brerard's story offers evidence of how the education industry destroys the self-esteem and careers of future adults and teachers alike.  Coached on how to discipline and even respond to students in real-time, Brerard became a pedagogical cyborg who was forced to take commands at the expense of really seeing her students.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

War Always Has Victims; Social Justice Warrioring Is No Different

Please see Aristotelis Orginos' article "Social Justice Bullies: Authoritarianism of Millennial Social Justice" here. Perhaps I'll say more later. For now, I'll just say I sympathize with his assertions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

You Can Still Opt Out W/O Penalty: Mercedes Schneider Explains it All

American families take heart. The resistance his its own Clarissa! 
Much confusion surrounds the reauthorization of the government's Every Child Achieves Act, especially surrounding the ability of parents to opt out their children from testing. Mercedes Schneider, author of the on-the-nose Chronicle of Echoes and Common Core Dilemma, explains that both the Senate and the House versions of ECAA bills allow for opting out.

See her explanation and explications of the provision *here.*

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Students as Geraniums on the Window Sill: Students, Neoliberal Education Reform and Prophesy in Children's Literature"

That'd be a Hell of an article, wouldn't it? Who knew the 1971 classic could foretell so much about 21st-century education reform movements and, especially, about the teachers and teacher educators who go about their business as usual with no regard to fighting the worst elements of the movement -- Common Core, government over-reach, value-added metrics.

Of course, a counter story could be written in which the teacher or teacher educator character returns home and just tries to make ends meet on her meager salary, content to fly under the radar and not make waves so she can just barely put enough food on the table to feed her kids. "I'm not wearing blinders!" she might neigh. " I'm just laser-focused and not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth when it comes to having a job!"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Obama Goes to Prison, And That's a Good Thing (Wait. What?!?)

See for the source of this relevant cartoon.

President Obama recently visited El Reno federal prison. Most reports indicate he is the first standing president to do so. Who knew he'd get there before Bush and Cheney, eh?

Maybe, just maybe, seeing one of the stages of the school-to-prison pipeline in person will help him see that what he's doing in K12 education is part of the problem too.
While some of his commentary leading up to the visit focused on people of color in prison, I appreciated how some of his comments were race-neutral. Though he's right to mention Black and Latino youth as particularly at risk given police treatment and schooling ecologies sometimes averse to their successes, I hope, as he considers prison populations, he does bother to ask himself these questions in addition to others: 
1. What is the socioeconomic conditions of those white youths who end up in prison too? 
2. What are the common factors of inequity inherent across prison populations? 
3. How are my education policies contributing to the problems I see in prison systems and their inmate population?

I hope he sees that the majority of social issues associated with schooling and prisoning have a basis in economics. In poverty and having needs met or denied. He seems to get that. Let's see where he goes from here. 

Click these links for more details about his historic visit and its possible ramifications: Here, here, and here

For more on the school-to-prison pipeline, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Current Summer Reading

Putnam's book is a worthy complement to education titles recently published by Ravitch, Cody, and Schneider.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Teachers Take Note: One of Nation's Largest Literacy Events Happening This Week -- San Diego Comic Con 2015

Recently, some of the Badass Teachers (BATS) have caught on to a frustrating occurrence I've noticed over the last decade or so as well when it comes to superhero properties. Specifically, Marvel Comics characters, or perhaps the folks responsible for bringing them to life, don't always seem to hold public education in high regard. 

BATS have taken to twitter to criticize Marvel and Netflix for depictions of teachers and their unions.

BATS have scrutinized the Netflix Daredevil series for its depictions of public schools and teacher unions, for example. In 2012, I worried when I noted that Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man, won a lottery to attend a special charter school in the first few issues of his first series, Ultimate Spider-Man. Indeed, most troubling was that in the series it seemed Morales had no chance of making anything of himself until he was able to escape his crumbling public school. For a story featuring a new wall-crawler, that plot element feels ripped directly from the propaganda film Waiting for Superman.

More recently, I asked G. Willow Wilson about Kamala Kahn's learning institution. Willow writes Ms. Marvel. Kahn, the new Ms. Marvel, is one of Marvel's most exciting characters to emerge in recent years. She attends Cole Academic High School, an analogue of the quite real McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, NJ. If students at McNair don't meet academic demands, they're shipped back to their district schools. So, it appears if the analogues are pure, Kamala Kahn doesn't attend a traditional public school either. 

Some of this does not surprise me, a lifelong comics reader. Most super-hero teen characters "escape" a public school education in some way or another, and that has been the trend in comics since the 1970s. The X-Men, the New
Mutants, Avengers Academy members --  the list goes on. Public school just isn't equipped for mutant teens or inhuman teens, it seems. And, having to deal with pesky teachers does seem to limit a character's ability to go on interstellar space missions to fight dimension-spanning evils after all. 

So, much of the treatment of traditional education in super hero comics can be forgiven. But not all of it. BATS and others are smart to look at representations of public schooling in comics and all popular media. That said, Stan Lee and other early Spider-Man writers, and even Willow herself, have written about school-life balance in teen super heroes. It can be done. One of my favorite new teen heroes, DC Comics' Jaime Reyes (The Blue Beetle) attended El Paso High School, a traditional public institution if based on the actual EPHS in Texas. The latest teen version of Marvel's Nova attends Carefree High School in Arizona. As far as I can tell, CHS is a typical public high school. Indeed, the faith and trust in America's public schools as seen in 1960s Spider-Man comics versus in the Morales series and other current comics can make for intriguing reading and a timeline that might very well mirror the American public's thoughts on education -- or at least certain powered parties' desired  public view of schooling.

All this said, teachers and teacher educators have more to celebrate regarding comics and comics reading than they do to critique, whether they are staunch Common Core supporters or corporacratic education reform resistors like me. 

Take, for example. San Diego Comic Con, which kicks off this week. SDCC is, to this teacher's mind, one of the largest and most exciting literacy communities filled with some of the most savvy readers and consumers of literature, pop culture, and mass media.

Memories of my last Comic-Con from 2012 loom large. Attending this event, which, this year, will most-likely attract over 100,000 enthusiastic readers and viewers of popular culture, is an astounding experience. Educators at all levels should recognize comic conventions for what they are: Literacy events for reading communities.

Here's to San Diego Comic Con, all comics conventions, and the eager, critical, engaged, smart, savvy readers and fans who make them authentic literacy events worthy of educators' admiration and respect.

Seriously, you've never seen a deep reader if you've never experienced a conversation about what that one artifact in the corner of Uncanny X-Men #238 might signify. You've never met an informed, critical reader like the fangirl who can tell you ever reason Carol Danvers rocks and exactly how creators have mishandled her character throughout the years and exactly how  Kelly Sue DeConnick got her right.