Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Is it really fair to label reformers as "Eugenicists"

We've really slowed down on the blogging lately. We'll blame it on our day jobs. Not to mention the fact that winter just won't seem to pass. This post was originally intended for Monday, March 3. With several snow days between then and now, it got lost in the shuffle. It starts with a little "declaration" of sorts, because oddly enough from the TU, it defends the reformers a bit. But only just a bit. We can't get too carried away.

I believe that “corporate reform” is bad for U.S. education. I believe that test based accountability has gone too far and become a hindrance to progress. I believe that education is an integral part of the economic and social structure of our society, but not the single driving force. I don’t doubt that nearly everyone involved in public education policy and debate want to create a better system of education in the United States, even if I question their ability to understand the reality of these complex systems.

If you’ve read most anything we’ve written, you know our position.

I needed to write that because I’ve noticed lately an increasing rhetoric pointed toward those who disagree. I’m appalled by how many people have begun tossing around the accusation of “Eugenicists” toward people who hold a different view of how students learn and how to best serve them. The most recent and perhaps highest profile use of this accusation came from Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

She summarizes a brief history of testing that every high school Psychology teacher should know. An honest test devised by Binet in response to Universal Education Laws in France. A test to identify and best meet the needs of children arriving in school. For much of the rest of the twentieth century, this style of testing and identifying would devolve and became a backbone of the science of Eugenics. A science that resulted in great harm and immoral actions by individuals and societies reaching it’s apex under Adolph Hitler and the Nazis.

It is important to stay mindful of the past and avoid its mistakes (an understatement in this case) but, equating current proponents of test based accountability and Grit with Eugenicists is a logical fallacy pushing the discussion of what’s best for students on the backburner while the adults who think they know best attack one another over who is right. (And might I take the time to point out that while this is going on, a caring teacher is in the classroom doing their best to take care of and educate their children)

Frankly, I’m surprised that any conversation comes from this type of talk.

As a teacher, when my voice is countered with the argument “it’s about the kids, not the adults”, I’m out of the dialogue. Whomever says this to me has indicated they believe I’m making decisions for my own benefit and not that of my students. If they really believe that’s true then they should have little reason to respect anything else that I say.

Likewise, if I truly believed someone’s primary motivation is rooted in the desire to purify the gene pool, I wouldn’t want to even hear their opinion.

So, let’s watch the rhetoric. It might sound good and get a rise out of people. It might lift your profile and get people talking about you on the internet. But, from where I sit everyday facing a hundred or so children, it doesn’t do anything to advance the cause of our students in public schools. So stop. And do something helpful.