Saturday, June 21, 2014

John Thompson's Response to My Response to John Thompson's Post

I recently (oh, good lord, it was this morning-- am I still sitting here at the computer) wrote a piece in response to historian John Thompson's guest post on Living in Dialogue. That piece is here.  John attempted to post a very thoughtful response in the comments section, but apparently it was so thoughtful that it broke the internet. He asked for my help in posting it, and I asked if I could instead post it as a guest post here on the main stage.  So here it is-- John Thompson's response to my morning post.
Curmudgucation’s  response to my post, like Wag the Dog’s and Paul Thomas’s response to the Gates call for a moratorium and the comments on both posts, are indicative of a fundamental difference between the two sides in this education civil war. Corporate reformers refuse to submit their hypotheses to peer review by professionals or the give and take of democracy. We, the coalition of educators and families who do not even have a name, respect the clash of ideas.

Obviously, I knew my post would annoy friends. Honestly, the first drafts were more supportive of the moratorium, and less confrontational to Gates. I knew I had to listen and temper my call for offering an olive branch after thinking through the arguments it would provoke.

For instance, it makes an excellent point about Pearson and the profits that motivate them. Originally, I ducked that reason entirely, and I did so for a reason which many will reject. Especially in my first drafts, I tried to be as diplomatic as possible, hoping that Gates and other reformers would listen. Even in my final draft, I soft pedaled that issue, which of course is one of the dangers of trying to stress communication over confrontation.

Yes, I believe that Gates probably is taking the attitude of “Let's get our PR and politics lined up and relaunch more effectively in a year or two." Naively or not, my first drafts focused on explaining to reformers why that’s a bad idea. They won a lot of political victories for the first decade of two of reform, but they’ve wracked up one implementation failure after another. I don’t expect them to give up the political fight, but neither do I expect that they will find a bigger and better political gun to pull out. (We in schools and in the rest of society may lose to the worst of Big Data; we can’t deny the possibility of defeat or dwell on it.)

The last third of my posts stressed the political benefits that I see in working for a moratorium, as long as we are in stark contrast with reformers and don’t obscure our intentions. We’re in the fight against testing and other reward and punish schemes for the long run.

Yeah, the commenter, Eric Baldwin, is right, and I think it is great that Hanna Skandera, Kevin Huffman, and other Chiefs for Change have blown their gaskets and I bet the billionaires don’t like being called ridiculous by reformers an more than they do by teachers.

I agree with the great post below,   Data is the Fools Gold of Common Core

Paul Thomas didn’t mention me, but I often ask myself what his response will be to some of my posts.  He responded to Gate’s call with a brilliant passage from Hemingway. Yes, the “Road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs.”

His post prompted an equally good metaphor by Anthony Cody. Common Core is like a road through the Amazon forest. Stop the road and you can save the forest. (That explains why I said that I can’t see myself supporting a new set of NATIONAL standards, after Common Core is defeated.)  

I’d say that that metaphor is supportive of both sides on the point that separates Curmudguation and me. In the overall fight against the road, don’t we accept as many temporary delays as we can get while trying to kill it? Students who would be damaged next year by Common Core testing are like a village that is first in the road’s path. Saving that village is a first step. Saving the village of teachers who would have been punished in the next two years is a second step.

Whether we’re environmentalists fighting a road or educators fighting corporate reform, we must discuss and debate the best ways to win short term and long term political victories. By the time I finished the post, I knew I had toughened it up to the point where Gates people would dismiss it, but where it would still rile up allies. I went ahead with it because we need to converse about these issues.   

I see Anthony has also responded.

I need to now think through his post. On first reading, I would stress that we agree that the first priority is the “impact our students. Does it relieve them of a test-centered education? Does it alter the path we are on towards an education system monitored by tests, increasingly delivered by technological devices, all aligned to a master set of standards? Or does it simply slow the pace slightly, in order to placate and silence critics?”

Yes, as Anthony says, Common Core “will yield terrible results for our students, especially those facing the greatest challenges in life and in school.”

We and the increasing number of families who are rejecting tests must continue to fight those who “will continue to label these students, and the schools they attend, as failures.”

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