Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Corporate Classroom

NY Times Op Ed on Education.

Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out.

“In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.

Whenever I read this type of article - I often wonder why we must continue to mention the "work force of tomorrow" as though this is the biggest problem we have to solve - our ability to compete in global industry.

Why are a third of our students dropping out? We are pushing them out. Joe Kincheloe says, "When technologies of power such as standardized testing and curricular standardization are in place, possibility decreases that marginalized students will gain the confidence to reshape their relation to power or even reshape power's relationship to them...Most students who find themselves in such disempowered situations don't have the confidence to continue" (Critical Pedagogy).

Isn't education about a vision of justice and equality? When we place corporate and capitalist interests at the center of our schooling, we create power structures and systems that are not in the best interest of our children. When we focus on creating a stable work force- aren't we creating a pedagogy of low expectations? Looking to keep our society as ordered and efficient as possible? Making sure that those who are at the "bottom" now continue to stay there?

Education is about alleviating suffering. It is about justice. It's not about training a work force so that the rich can get richer and power structures can stay the same.

Children in our schools need to learn how to ask questions and pose problems. To ask the questions of our society that forces those who are marginalized to enter lotteries to compete for decent educations or some sort of health care.

When we "standardize" our classrooms and schools, we continue to "standardize" our students and the status-quo of our society.


Dave said...

"We are pushing them out"

That is so far from the truth is close to outright falsification. As a contracted public school teacher, I deal on a daily basis with students who choose to drop out, come back, drop out again, refuse to do work, refuse to work on work, to work at school, and to devote outside time to bettering themselves educationally. Once again this is the typical liberal "blame anybody but myself" paradigm that we see at work at all levels. If I am poor it is because of socio-political forces that keep me down and oppress me. If I cannot get into college it because the white heirarchy doesn't want to give professional place to people of color, etc. If I am pregnant, it is the failure of my contraceptives that is to blame, so I should be entitled to abortion.

When do you propose we ask the students to take responsibility for dropping out? When do you propose we stop blaming someone else for the failings of the failing students?

Dave said...

Made some grammar errors there. I blame your blog for not having a grammar check.

LH said...

Thank you for commenting.

I believe that we can do better than 50% graduation rates in our urban schools.

Many people assume that because the education system was good to them, that it is good for all. “When one is part of different privileged groups, he or she is less likely to notice the ways that the marginalized are judged by particular norms” (Kincheloe – Critical Pedagogy).

The truth of the matter is, that in some (or perhaps many) cases, our education system hurts our students. Still, it is easier to place "blame" on our “dropouts” because if students are pushed out, we are forced to examine the forces that are doing the pushing..

Here, when we look at "discharge" v. "dropout" we can make some evident conclusions: http://www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/pushout-11-20-02.html

"Discharge rates were also significantly higher than dropout rates. In 2001, more than 55,015 students were discharged, compared with 14,549 who dropped out from the same group of schools. What is alarming is that discharge rates may be used to mask potentially higher drop out statistics. It appears that many children are moving from schools that offer regular diplomas to programs that offer a General Equivalency Diploma (GED)."

Equally important is the way that our education system does not take into account the social, cultural, and economic backgrounds of our students. Not taking into account the real life experience of many students is a force of alienation.

Particularly, when we label the life experiences of marginalized students and communities as those of failure or laziness, when we view poverty as an individual choice rather than a social construction, we continue to invalidate the lives of our students. And that is how we push them out, day by day.

When we ignore what is going on outside our school doors, when we strive to be “neutral” within the classroom, we pretend that schools can exist in a vacuum.

I hope and think that it is time that we take a good look at our system. We could settle for 50% and label our students failing. I choose not to.

I think we can do better.

LH said...

P.S. I do not blame "teachers" for what is happening today. It is the system that has sought to deskill teachers and make them transmitters of facts to students (banking model) rather than partners in dialectic exploration & problem-posing.