Two but Not Two Frauds: STEM and Education Technology

tultican

Last year, IBIS Capital produced a report for EdTechXGlobal stating, “Education technology is becoming a global phenomenon, … the market is projected to grow at 17.0% per annum, to $252bn by 2020.” Governments in Europe and Asia have joined the US in promoting what Dr. Nicholas Kardaras called a “$60 billion hoax.” He was referring specifically to the one to one initiatives.

An amazing paper from New Zealand, “Sell, sell, sell or learn, learn, learn? The EdTech market in New Zealand’s education system – privatisation by stealth?” exposes the promoters of EdTech there as being even more bullish on EdTech. “The New Zealand business organisation (they spell funny) EDTechNZ, indicates on its website that educational technology is the fastest growing sector of a global smart education market worth US$100 billion, forecast to grow to US$394 by 2019.”

These initiatives are fraud based agendas because they focus on…

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CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Simplifies the Issues

The slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: DeVos Simplifies the Issues

DeVos Simplifies the Issues

It is easy, once you start flying down the rabbit hole of the education debates, to get wrapped up in some complex issues and arguments. If Betsy DeVos has done anything for the ed debates, it is simplifying the privatizer position.

Charter fans have layered many arguments into their pitch. Look at those terrible public school test scores– how else can we spur excellence? Look at the terrible inequity– how else will we bring social justice to the poor? Look at those terrible teachers and their terrible unions– how else can we wrest control of schools away from them? Look at how backward they are– how else can we make schools modern? Only the market can force schools to innovate and protect students and educate the poor. We must fix low standards, special ed, facility issues! Course choices! Ending religious discrimination! Better school lunches! Ipads!

Much of this variegated noise was strategic– an attack on public education along many fronts. But it was also meant to collect allies, to build a huge coalition of various interests and line them up between privatization of public education. People using labels like conservative, progressive, Republican, Democratic, libertarian, apolitical technocrat– ignore for the moment the question of how accurately or honestly those labels were used, they were all there in the parade.

And then Trump-DeVos happened. Could you call yourself progressive and support them? Many former allies decided (perhaps a tad hypocritically) that the answer was no. People who are serious and sincere about their ed reform ideas (yes, there are such people) had to consider their position vis-a-vis an administration that is not serious or sincere about anything. The coalition frayed, splintered.

But there is DeVos herself. While she has paid lip service to some coalition talking points, if you listen and read, the through line is pretty clear:

Public schools are a dead end, to be abandoned and cur loose. If a few survive, well, good for them. But the market must reign, and it should reign unhampered by any regulation at all. DeVos has repeatedly indicated that she can not imagine an instance in which USED would step in and say, “If you accept public tax dollars, you must stop doing that.” Nor has she indicated any barriers to vendors who wish to enter the market. And there should be no institution, no system. Just parents acting as customers.

Her objective is plain. No more system of public education. Just private ed-flavored businesses. No more taxpayers who imagine that the system they pay for must work for them. Just customers– and no customer walks into a McDonalds or Macy’s and says, “You all work for me.”

Progressives who think reform should be an engine of uplift? Conservatives who think tax dollars should be accounted for? Charteristas who believe the deal is trading autonomy for accountability, or that charters should be part of a public system? Yeah, none of you are really at DeVos’s table, and trying to pretend that you are just hurts your cause, because DeVos can only barely bothered to pay lip service to your policy ideas.

DeVos has made it simple. There are groups out there that are calling her on it, some that have been seeing this coming for a while now. including the Network for Public Education. Listen to Diane Ravitch of NPE explain how simple it is.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/224735721

CURMUDGUCATION: Teachers and Fame

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Teachers and Fame

Teachers and Fame

Name ten famous teachers. No? Okay, name five. Yeah, me neither.

Jose Luis Vilson just asked the question– what does fame mean for education? It’s one of the continuing ripples spreading out from the NYT piece about the sponsored, branded teacher. 

I think we’d have to agree that teaching is generally not the pathway to fame and fortune. I mean, there are small fames of a sort. I mean, there’s Nicholas Ferroni, named America’s Sexiest Teacher by People magazine, which may seem like a frivolous sort of fame, but an awful lot of fame is frivolous and based on no real accomplishment of note.

So that may be one problem with education and fame– not very many people get famous for doing the kind of work that, in the words of Mike Rowe, makes civilized life possible for the rest of us. Nurses, welders, waitpersons, pilots– the world is filled with people who keep things moving in powerful ways that go unrecognized because of the dailiness of it.

Educational fame faces an obstacle of scale. You get to be a famous singer by singing (directly and through recordings) for millions of people. You get to be a famous you-tuber by getting millions of hits. No teacher in the course of her career is going to teach millions of students.

I have taught in the same small town for over thirty-five years (at the same high school I graduated from), so I’m known. Any time I walk into a restaurant or grocery store or church or just walk down the street, I will run into people who know me. But we’re still talking hundreds of people, and just a localized sort of well-knownness. If this is fame, half the people in my town are famous.

Nor do people in general pay that much attention to the field. When you get to a bookstore, look for the “education” section. Test prep books, make your kid smart books, and maybe two or three shelves of books about the actual work, always including books by people who have no business talking about the field.

Since no teacher is going to achieve fame-scale work in the classroom, and since the students in your actual classroom need every piece of heart and soul you can pour out, being famous would have to be a second job. Most of us don’t have time to be famous. To step up onto any sort of national platform, a teacher almost has to take at least one foot out of the classroom. It would be hard, I imagine, to do the job of faming while maintaining your professional balance– I think some really gifted individuals could do it, but it would take mindful concentration. Many famous-ish teachers are too busy building their brand by making a proprietary package out of what thousands of teachers already know, and their students are just props and lab rats.

Beyond the challenge of achieving fame, for teachers there is always the challenge of accepting recognition. As a profession, we tend to be self-effacing, disinclined to stand in the spotlight. If you have a huge ego, teaching probably didn’t call out to you as a way to get that ego fed. And there’s a “why me” factor as well– I consider myself a pretty decent teacher, but there isn’t a thing I could be recognized for that thousands of other teachers aren’t also doing in their classrooms, and some are doing it far better than I am. I’ve been recognized for my work once or twice, and everything I have to say on those occasions starts with this– “There isn’t a thing you can say about me that couldn’t also be said about uncounted other teachers.” Which is why I accept recognition when it comes my way– because I can point out that the community of teachers, the great collection of those of us who work in a classroom– we all deserve the recognition.

Fame requires some ego, some self-promotion. Almost nobody becomes famous because they just sat quietly doing their thing and the great fame machine just descended upon them. I know the teacher-bloggers who put each post on super-blast, pushing it out every way they know how. It’s something I have a hard time doing; it makes me uncomfortable to self-promote. But on this, they are right and I’m wrong. Certainly the rich amateurs who afflict our profession, the policy wonks and thinky tank wise men– they’re all perfectly comfortable saying, “World, I have Important Things to say, and you should listen to me.” We should all be doing that, and when we can’t do it for ourselves, we should be amplifying our fellow teachers. It’s good for all of us– when I pick up a teacher-written book, or see that an actual honest-to-God teacher is going to be featured at a conference about education, I feel good about that.

Fame for educators has some pitfalls. Like the brand-minded teacher in the NYT article (who teaches a grand total of ten kids), it can be easy to make a bad trade– give me recognition and a platform and I’ll use it to promote not our work, but your business. If you get a platform, make sure you know what you’re using it for.

The worst danger of teacher fame is the teacher fame that comes at the expense of students.

Think about it. Every Hero Teacher movie starts from the same place– look at these horrible creatures in this classroom. Every tale of teacher awesomeness is marked not by the qualities of the teacher, but by the deficits of the students. The message is not that it takes a special, capable, devoted, excellent person to teach, but that it takes a special, capable, devoted, excellent person to teach those God-awful kids. Don’t ever step up to your platform by standing on the necks of students.

Well, this turned out to be rambly. Let me try to circle back around–

Can teachers find fame? Man, I wish they could. There are teachers I know who deserve to be widely known, and who would use their platform for good and to elevate the work and the profession. It seems about as likely as a world-famous jazz tuba player. But I have one last thought–

People within a field don’t often become famous at first by being elevated by people outside that field, because those people don’t know what a good job looks like. Jazz cats are the first to know a good jazz tuba player when they hear one. Classroom teachers know a good classroom teacher when they encounter one. If you wait for someone from outside to elevate those people, they’ll probably elevate the wrong one.

What I’m saying is if we want to see more famous teachers, we should make more people within the profession famous. We should hold each other up for accolades (and I mean, rally– why are teachers of the year NOT selected by teachers) and attention. We should amplify names and buy the books and pass on the blog links and make the fuss. If we were a little more actively involved with the engines of fame, perhaps we could feel a little better about where they drive folks.

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