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.*



Monday, November 23, 2015

NCTE 2015 Takes Stand Against Pearson; It's "Bloody"-well Time.

There are days when Paul Thomas is my hero. We have many similarities. We're both from working class, Southern backgrounds. We're both educators. We share an acute awareness of when our Southern accents are "showing." We share some thoughts on policy and education reform. We're both poor white boys what done good in edu-macating ourselves and others. We both doubt the existence of real academic and social meritocracies. We both study poverty. We have deep ties to the Carolinas. We both appreciate a good comic book.

N.o C.omment of Change is already upon us? 
He's a tenured professor at Furman University, though. Currently, I'm a substitute teacher. He's an established member of the National Council of Teachers of English. I protested the organization's involvement in education reform efforts several years ago by no longer giving them my membership dollars.

In terms of how academia protects its own, Thomas has provisions in place that I do not have and never had when I was a professor, mainly tenure.

For better or worse, this means he can more confidently say controversial things without serious retribution than can early career scholars or those who want to climb the career ladder in English Education.

I know I've paid a price in dropping my membership, encouraging others to protest NCTE via doing the same, and even suggesting it is time for a new literacy organization that would be unencumbered by the dirty money and persuasion of well-funded reformer representatives. Less infiltrated, if you will.

Indeed, when I tried to express my passion, concern, and frustration with Common Core and associated constructs to students, peers, and the senior English Education professor at Washington State University, my most-recent college-level gig, I was labeled "an angry young man." I was angry and still have angry moments regarding what is happening in public education, and surely I wanted my pre-service teachers to be aware of the histories, problematics, and realities of teaching in Obama-era education environs. But the label was slapped onto me as if it was the only word to describe me.

Interestingly enough, when NCTE members tweeted an advertisement for members to join them on the convention floor this weekend to protest Pearson, one tweet suggested by doing so they could "share their anger." I faced the accusation of being angry as an isolation tactic.  NCTE-goers were having theirs appealed to and embraced in an inclusionary, persuasive tactic approach.

Thomas has some strong words about the protest that took place this weekend, and they are absolutely must-read. See them *here*.

Thomas seems to embrace the protest, but he still feels that NCTE has "blood on its hands."

Me too.

While I appreciate the work of NCTE's Conference of English Education Social Justice Committee to organize the protest, I recognize that Pearson's presence has been even more overwhelming on NCTE's convention floors in years past, that NCTE members have had knowledge of the Common Core State Standards since at least 2010, that NCTE accepted almost $300,000 from the Gates Foundation and that the National Writing Project affiliated with NCTE has accepted even more Gates money, and that no protests were organized from 2010-2014.

My questions regarding the protest are: Why now? Why not in previous years? Who stands most to gain from press about the event? Why was Pearson the only target? Why not protest the whole of Race to the Top/No Child Left Behind reforms, including the Common Core and Gates' control of education policy? Is there a connection between staging the protest this year and it being held during an election cycle (did you know that Chelsea Clinton spoke at this year's NCTE conference?) when President Obama is winding up his last term as president?

Thomas is still an NCTE insider. Despite sincere efforts to find alternative venues for my on voice and activism, I remain on the fringe. With as many shared members between NCTE and the BATS, with whom I've also had some issues, and BATS connections to United Opt Out, perhaps this is not surprising. That's fine, though. It's easy to be brave when everyone is telling you to be brave. When you need to be your bravest, however, is when no one is telling you to be brave. 
At least Doom respects transparency. 

There are those of us who are or were once involved in NCTE who heeded the call to share our feelings without the warm embrace of the organization, who called "BS" years before this weekend, and who may have paid a precious price for it.

Thomas ends his column with a reference to Frankenstein:
I fully accept Pearson et al. are the monsters, but literature shows us we must look at the Drs. Frankenstein for how the monsters came about.
Indubitably. To refer to trends in superhero comics, a genre within a medium that Thomas and I both study, not even the bad guys think of themselves as villains anymore.

Dr. Doom, Magneto, and..... NCTE? 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

What's Wrong With This Image?: NPE's Bill Gates Infographic

The Network for Public Education is circulating an infographic detailing the history of Bill Gates' efforts to influence American schooling. It spans fifteen years in timeline fashion and illustrates a growing presence and ambition. The timeline ends in 2015 with the claim that NAEP scores are flat under Gates-era reforms: "US NAEP scores decline -- Time To End The Experiment."
A truly important indicator of our students' intelligence, growth and potential?

As infographics go, this one is a telling read. Links to articles act as evidence of the claims made in
most entries. However, there is one flaw. One can read the visual as suggesting that because NAEP scores are not improving, Gates' reform efforts need to end so that someone or something else can come along and get those scores up.

Those who are resisting current education reform efforts know not to put stock in the NAEP scores as any meaningful indicator. See Diane Ravitch's comments on the test in Reign of Error, for example. I believe what the graphic's creators meant to convey is that middling NAEP scores were part of the "problems" in American education that Gates wanted to "fix." His programs and influence have not accomplished a major goal that Gates focused on as a rhetorical means to gain as much control as he has. Since they failed to do what they said they would do, they shouldn't continue.

See the otherwise excellent graphic *here*  to see what I mean.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Critiquing the Meritocracy: Two Good Reads

I encourage you to read the following two short pieces and consider them in relation to poverty, schooling, and society. One is entitled "Don't Give My Kid an Award." Written by a conscientious mother, this text is an example of someone with privilege explicating that privilege while using her son's schooling experience as a vignetted informal case study. The other, "How the Myth of Meritocracy Ruins Students," reveals how even the most liberal and open-minded "check your privilegers"  benefit from embracing the meritocracy mindset, at the expense of more-vulnerable citizens.