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Rise Above

How Did We Get Here? (Part 3)

About five years ago I wrote and published an article entitle “Nos Censuimos Igitur Essemus—We Thought Therefore We Were.” In that article, I explain the history of the American public education system and how the issues citizens decry evolved over time from America’s founding. I decided to post it in excerpts and to change none of the original language or tone. At the time, I had experienced public and charter school environments and was highly discouraged by the lack of care or consideration given to the learning/teaching process. While my verbiage has become far less combative, my sentiments remain unchanged.

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The “Neo-Modern” Era

We have now caught up to the present time period: the 1990s to the present. If the degradation of our college system was the final layer of the proverbial cake, then the last twenty years have been extremely rich and fattening icing. Ultraliberal social reformers have used and influenced legislation of the early and mid 1990s to spark several movements financed and fueled almost entirely through fear-mongering and falsified data. They have inflicted, many could argue, irreparable damage on the public school system. The problem with such institutions at the forefront of these movements—non-profit organizations like Teach For America (TFA), The New Teacher Project (TNTP) who own and operate the Teaching Fellows Programs, Friendship-Edison, the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), and the frighteningly large amount of one-size-fit-all charter schools—is that they consistently proffer theories and “best practices” that fall prey to the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc translates to mean "after this, therefore because of this."  Using this fallacious reasoning, people conclude that correlation implies causality, which is just wrong. Many of our current premier educational “reformers” have noticed that many inner-city communities lack resources, thus resulting in a disproportionate ability for the citizens to access meaningful educational materials and experiences. From this, reformers and pundits have concluded that poor citizens must be uneducated because they are poor. Remember the how the jejune adoption of rhetoric would be noticed in the future? Couple those consequences with theconsequences of the "popcorn" generations and the fact that children and students will reflect what we expect of them (which, as was stated, is very little). As such, the more correct conclusion is that: citizens in poorer communities are uneducated because their parents, communities, and thus government have made it an acceptable state of being.

This is not an opinion. We the people have made it clear through our expression of impulsivity and apathy that we are so reconciled with the idea that our public education system is hopeless that we actually incentivize students' and parents' lack of vigor for rigor with monetary reward. One example is the use of capital gains tax revenues to compensate students for attendance, but not work. The best example of said incentives is the issuance of Social Security Insurance (SSI) checks to parents of children with "disabilities" (e.g. false positive ADHD diagnoses). There are too many children and adults with valid diagnoses who cannot receive proper care because the system is inundated with false cases—all from slothful parents trying to collect money without working—that overwhelm the teachers’ and therapists’ abilities to effectively teach and treat their clients, respectively. Essentially, we have demanded that our legislators devise and then defend a system that basically pays people to raise their own children!

Where is the public outcry when a parent or guardian receives $500 to $1,300 per child, per month because they have a "disability" that causes them to do nothing more than “act out” in class? Rather, the public chooses to castigate teachers for being unable to control their students when the reality is that students are often told, by their parents, not to listen to the teacher. Almost anything that represents or represented reasonable discipline practice has been outlawed. In some states it is even considered corporal punishment to expect that a child clean up spilled milk if they deliberately pour it on the floor! What educational professional could endeavor to be successful, by any standard or measure, in this age where mediocrity is celebrated and sociopathy is encouraged? Who could effectually teach in these predominantly minority inner-city schools—with their nominal resources, high incidents of mental illness, and high crime rates—with their hands tied behind their backs? Of course: middle and upper middle-class ultraliberal men and women.

It is difficult not to say that we the people must be stupid or insane, but how else would you qualify a citizenry that adopts and passionately defends the belief that nascent college graduates with (1) little to no classroom experience, (2) childhood and adolescent experiences in neighborhoods the antithesis of those they are serving, and (3) incomparable world experiences to those of the students they service, would make effective classroom educators simply because they are promising matriculates? How can we laud and applaud organizations that place inexperienced and nescient first-year teachers in the neediest American classrooms to teach subjects that are completely and utterly different than those they studied? How do we defend institutions that implement standards of practice that contribute to the greatest issue inner-city schools have faced since the 1960s—teacher retention? To top it all off, how can we fund and applaud organizations that blatantly state that their mission is NOT to develop effective teachers who achieve effectual results that will stay in the neediest American classrooms and schools (one of the primary factors that research has purported time and time again leads to student achievement and thus school success) but rather to fill Americas classrooms with obscenely ideological antidisestablishmentarians with political or administrative aspirations? Of the more than 600,000 words in the English lexicon, the only words that accurately describe any informed citizen or party that defends, justifies, and then has the audacity to promote and fund such a counterproductive approach to our public schools' dilemma are "stupid" and "insane."

In the 1990s, we realized that we had more problems than solutions. The level of the crisis probably accounts for our policy makers’ reactionary "fund any idea that sounds good and see if it works" approach to school reform. E.D. Hirsch Jr. opens his text, The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them (1996), with the sobering admonition that American "K-12 education is among the least effective in the developed world" (a statement that holds even more truth today). He then goes on to further explain "why the slogans promulgated by this monolithic system of ideas have turned out to be positive barriers to school improvement, and why alternative ideas are not readily accepted even in the name of radical reform" (pp.1-2). He notes that this new age of progressivism and strict adherence to ideological rhetoric over sound empirical methodology could only herald further systemic degradation. He concludes that he:

...placed the progressive movement within the tradition of American Romanticism, which began in the early nineteenth century and has persisted powerfully in our culture ever since. It is this pervasive, deep-dyed Romanticism, not just its one-time expression in the progressive movement, which continues to thwart a balanced educational approach that would emphasize high standards book learning, and hard work in school. Persistent educational Romanticism is the source of many assumptions about childhood and human nature that still pervade our minds and hearts. These deep-lying assumptions need to be modified—no easy task (p. 215).

In the mid 1990s, liberal ideologues, punch-drunk on the political capital gained by President Clinton's "successes" and the economic rebound (which economists had predicted would occur and then naturally be followed by recession), were given an incredible amount of latitude in their development and implementation of school policies and reforms. Two great evils arose from this unchecked exercise of liberality: the Accountability and Choice Movements.

(To be continued…)

 ©2017 Kevin J. Quail, II. All rights reserved

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Kevin J. Quail, II is an experienced, certified Special Educator and Advocate. For over a decade, he has worked as a direct hire and independent contractor in public, private, and charter K-12 as well as college school environments in various capacities, including: Test Prep teacher, IB Librarian/Media Specialist, Tutor, Substitute, ESL teacher, Humanities/College Prep teacher, English, and GED prep teacher. He currently works as an independent research-practitioner and service provider serving in both the Honolulu and Washington, DC metropolitan areas to provide tutoring, homeschool support, test preparation, substitute teaching, special education services, curriculum design, advocacy, professional development and coaching for students, parents, schools, and other independent educators.