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I Am Not an Edubabbler

Posted By: Dick Schutz on September 25, 2010
Think of George Lakoff's, "Don't Think of an Elephant."

Dissing Rick will lead nowhere other than to a pejoirtive cat and dog fight. The thing is, we're talking in metaphors and talking past each other.

Rick has a point. Stop and think a minute. Individuals do differ, right? They differ in terms of physical characteristics and in terms of--well for lack of a better term--academic abilities. We do normatively compare people. You do, I do, everybody do. So to contend that the flaw in the Race to the Top is its “normative based assumptions” gets you nowhere.
Your initial article, www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentID=16020 ends:
“…we are suggesting the need to question the ability-normative assumptions in which the Race to the Top is based.”

Grammatically “in” should be “on” but this isn’t about grammar. The thing is, RttT is a bumper sticker slogan. The logic behind the slogan goes back to the late 1980s when a few people at the top of the EdChain thought that the route to improving el-hi education was by “Standards.” Thus came “Goals 2000” legislation.

When the year 2000 came and went with none of the 5 goals met—not even close—the “reformers” had learned nothing. What is needed, they concluded, is something that can be used to get “adequate yearly progress”—standardized tests--to accompany the standards. Thus came “NCLB.”

Fast forward to now. Of course, rather than teaching all kids how to read by 2014, all public schools will be labeled failing by that year. The “soft bigotry of low expectations” has been replaced by a hard bigotry that the aspiration “was unrealistic.” So what did the reformers conclude? One, the states messed up the standards. We’ll have to take charge of that. Two, teachers unions thwarted change. We’ll have to co-opt or discredit them. We need a new bumper sticker policy and a new goal. RttT and “all kids graduating from high school and college and career ready by 2020” will do.

It’s a much longer story than the above sketch. My point is that there is NOT “need to question the ability-normative assumptions in which the Race to the Top is based” because the initiative isn’t so based. It’s so, only from your frame of reference.

The fatal flaw in RttT is that its “pillars” have no scientific or technical foundation as the National Academy of Sciences has warned.

Much of what you say about RttT is supported by the record. Much isn’t. Rick and the Reformers can write it all off as “edu-babble.” That’s unfortunate, but it’s a done deed. Perhaps all of us can learn something from it.

Dick Schutz
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 I Am Not an Edubabbler by Dick Schutz on September 25, 2010
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