stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

Are Georgia Families Opting Out of Tests in 2014?

In communities, democracy, Education Policy, families, high-stakes tests, Standing up for Kids on February 28, 2014 at 3:25 am

My blog Stop the CRCT Madness is starting to get some hits again even though I never add any content to it. Everything has already been said about the insanity of the testing regime, the billions of dollars poured into corporate pockets every year as a result, the shrinking budgets for teachers and students and what really matters to them, and the inhumanity of the conditions of schools where nothing really matters except for the test scores.

It’s very quiet over there on that blog all year long, but when testing season emerges the comments emerge as well. These are likely from parents in Georgia desperately googling and trying to figure out how they can act against this testing machine. But I also get comments from students themselves – usually self-identified middle schoolers – who are desperate and feeling helpless and hopeless about the trap they find themselves in.

My reply to a recent comment:

There is a national “opt-out” movement happening. I’m not aware of any Georgia group doing this, I am well aware of many Georgia families being sick and tired of the hyper-focus on the tests, recess being taken away, Saturday school being mandatory, after-school being mandatory, and summer school being mandatory all in the name of passing some test. Kids are stressed out and anxious, and learning that school is a place where anxiety is normal, and that the only real reason to “learn” something in school is so that you can pass a test at the end of the year.

We are in desperate times and perhaps they are calling for desperate measures. It’s time for an opt-out movement in Georgia.

Check out this website for some opt-out options:
Fair Test – Opting Out

Is there an opt-out group forming in Georgia? Let me know –

Will you and/or your child be a conscientious objector to this war against children and youth? 

We are, indeed, in the midst of a legalized form of abuse – a war being waged in schools all over the country. We have a right to stand up, walk out, opt-out, speak out, object, and refuse to participate.

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Be on the Right Side of History – Vote No on Georgia HB 797

In democracy, discourse, Education Policy, politics on October 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Another essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective…

Be On the Right Side of History: Vote No on House Bill 797

An essay by the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

As Georgia citizens, stakeholders, and voters we sit at a crossroads in deciding the long-term health of our public education system. Opening the floodgates to for-profit charter schools across the state of Georgia will have devastating long-term effects on our state’s public education. Vote No on House Bill 797 this November, but don’t do it because we want you to. Vote No because you know the facts.

Some Facts

Voting No will not change the authority of local school districts and the state to approve charter schools. Charter schools will still exist, and they will still be approved. If passed, the constitutional amendment will shift more authority to the state for approval with strings attached to state funds that will flow to those charter schools when we aren’t even fully funding our existing public schools.

On May 3, 2012, the Governor Deal signed a bill that will restore the state’s power to approve and finance charter schools without local school district approval. The legislation, however, needs voter approval in November because this bill – HB 797 – is a constitutional amendment.

The governor signed the bill at Cherokee Charter Academy, in Canton, Georgia, a school that received in excess of $1,000,000 in state funds as start-up capital. That is a million dollars just to get started, in an era of austerity when public schools are forced to furlough and lay-off teachers, shorten the school year calendar, and cut crucial support for media centers and the arts. If our state can’t afford to fully fund our public schools right now, why would we invite for-profit charters in and promise them dollars we don’t have? This, alone, should cause an eyebrow or two to be raised.

Without the approval of local districts, Georgia will open its educational system to a stampede of charter school corporations and real estate brokers who see this bill as a cash cow. These out-of-state corporations are funneling dollars into Georgia right now to get this amendment passed, and if we pass the amendment, we will funnel those dollars and many more right back into their corporate pockets.

How well do charter schools perform?

Most charter schools simply do not do as well as their public school counterparts, and according to research most students would be better off going to public schools.

Why would politicians be willing to “sell off” our public good – state education – and turn it over to other interests? Michael Klonsky claims that powerful conservative forces are pushing for less regulation over charter schools, and more teacher evaluations tied directly to student test scores. These moves by the Georgia legislature will result in the overall weakening of Georgia Public Schools. Pushing professional educators to the sidelines and moving corporate interests into public education is a huge mistake.

Corporate interests?

Yes, behind this move to make it easier to establish charter schools is the existence of for-profit charter school organizations that are ready to move in and use state and local funds to manage charter schools. In some states, new charter schools receive start up funds at a time when public schools are having to furlough teachers and administrators and cut jobs and services just to meet the budget.

According to a report by Dick Yarbrough, charter schools appear to be about money and politics and influence peddling. He wonders why, with the Georgia Department of Education reporting that charter schools don’t perform as well as traditional public schools and their graduation rates are no better, the Georgia legislature is so bent on changing the State Constitution to allow charters to be created by an appointed state commission. The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that doing so is unconstitutional – which is why we are now faced with a vote that would change the constitution.

Charter schools in other states do not compete favorably with traditional public schools. Why this big push for more charter schools?

Answer: For-profit charter networks

As Yarbrough reported, the Miami-Herald did a study of charter school operators in Florida, and found that it is nearly a half-billion dollar business, and one of the fastest growing industries in Florida. According to the newspaper report, charter school industry is “backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians” and “rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.”

In Florida, management companies run almost two-thirds of charters. The management companies charge fees that sometime exceed $1 million per year per school. On top of such fees, these management companies frequently own the land and/or the buildings where the school is housed, and charge either the state or the local school system rent.

Would the state use taxpayers’ dollars to fund McDonald’s?

Let’s think about this in terms we might better understand given our limited experience with for-profit schooling: Imagine McDonald’s receiving money from the state to build its restaurants and open the doors; after its restaurants are built the state gives McDonald’s money for every customer that walks in the door; then state money has to go to pay the annual fee to McDonald’s to pay for its accounting and human resources management; and since McDonald’s owns the land or the building where the restaurant is housed, it charges the state rent.

What if the result of this kind of business model? McDonald’s (or the privately owned and run charter school) accumulates more and more money from taxpayers, leaving them with a good they can no longer call their own and no longer have control over. Would we ever put up with McDonald’s siphoning off taxpayer dollars to this extent? Would we amend the constitution to allow this to happen at the state level with no local approval?

No.

Vote No on the Charter Bill Legislation in November and tell Georgia Legislators that we don’t want to end up like Florida. Tell them we don’t want the locus of control of public school districts outside of local elected school boards, and placed in the hands of for-profit charter schools run by corporations that don’t understand or care about local needs.

Our political leaders have turned what started out as a good idea—the creation of charter schools to meet particular local needs—into a political battleground where money takes precedent over education. Lurking in the fringes of this battleground are corporations that see public education as a new market in which to make bets and money – on the backs of our Georgia children and youth.

Be on the right side of history in November, and on the right side of our children and their futures. Vote No on House Bill 797.

Teachers and Public Education are Not the Problem – They are the Solution

In democracy, Education Policy, teacher education resources on September 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Great piece from PAGE…

By Jim Arnold, Superintendent, Pelham City Schools
Drug abuse education, alcohol abuse education, parenting, character ed, special ed, gender equity, environmental ed, women’s studies, African-American education, school breakfast, school lunch, daily attendance, computer education, multi-cultural ed, ESL (ELL, ESOL), teen pregnancy, Jump Start, Even Start, Head Start, Prime Start, Bright from the Start, Kindergarten, Pre-K, alternative ed, stranger/danger, anti-smoking ed, mandated reporting, CPR training, defibrillator training, anaphylactic shock recognition training, inclusion, internet ed, distance learning, Tech Prep, School to Work, Gifted and Talented, at-risk programs, keyboarding, dropout prevention, gang education, homeless ed, service learning, gun safety, bus safety, bicycle safety, drivers ed, bullying ed, obesity monitoring, BMI (body mass index) monitoring, financial literacy, diabetes monitoring, media literacy, hearing and vision screening, on-line education, CRCT, EOCT, GHSWT, GHSGT phase out, SAT prep, ACT prep, dual enrollment options, post -secondary options, AP, honors, IB, STEM, STEAM, adult ed, career ed, after-school programs, psychological services, RTTT, CCGPS, CCRPI and oh yes – classes……………..shall I go on?

Wonderful ideas all, and each deserving attention – and all have come to be the responsibilities of our schools and teachers.

On top of these (and other duties) we add furlough days, tight budgets, longer school days, larger classes, higher expectations, a political agenda that actively encourages blaming teachers for societal issues, the denigration of public education, market based solutions, teacher evaluations tied to student test scores despite all evidence to the contrary and a continued reliance upon standardized test scores as an accurate depiction of student learning and achievement with no substantive research to support such a position. No wonder teachers are discouraged. No wonder teacher morale is at an all- time low. So in the face of all that and more, is there a silver lining somewhere in that big black thundercloud?

 

Not really.

Add to that burden the daily diatribes blaming teachers for their failure to successfully raise and, almost as anin loco parentis afterthought, educate our country’s children and we begin to see the need for something to replace our outdated, shopworn, hideously corrupt, inefficient and failing system of public education. Hold on just a second…can that be right?

 

Is this a new phenomenon? Has public education deteriorated over the past 30 years or so to its current level, where the Mariana Trench seems a high point by comparison? Not by any stretch of a politician’s fertile imagination. In 1996 E. D. Hirsch called for a return to a traditional approach to public education in “The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them.”

In 1983, “A Nation at Risk” told us of the apparent failure of our system of public education. The Educational Testing Service discovered in 1976 that college freshmen could correctly answer only half of 40 or so multiple choice questions. In 1969, the chancellor of New York schools, Harvey Scribner, said that for every student schools educated there was another that was “scarred as a result of his school experience.”

 

Admiral Rickover published “American Education, a National Failure” in 1963, and, in 1959. LIFE magazine published “Crisis in Education” that noted the Russians beat us into space with Sputnik because “the standards of education are shockingly low.”

In 1955, “Why Johnny Can’t Read” became a bestseller, and, in 1942 ,the New York Times noted only 6 percent of college freshmen could name the 13 original colonies and 75 percent did not know who was president during the Civil War.

 

The U.S. Navy in 1940 tested new pilots on their mastery of 4th grade math and found that 60 percent of the high school graduates failed. In 1889, the top 3 percent of U.S .high school students went to college, and 84 percent of all American colleges reported remedial courses in core subjects were required for incoming freshmen. The list continues.

You see the harrowing cry “public education is failing” is not new. Sixty years ago, for the majority of the population in the United States, it was true. The reiteration of that cry in temporal terms does not, however, make it so. “To fall short; to be unsuccessful,” says Webster.

 

If 100 percent success is the only acceptable goal, mea culpa. If progress toward that goal is to be a consideration, then perhaps this data from the U.S. Census Bureau casts a new light upon that supposed “failure.”

While there most certainly are individual schools or systems with serious issues, to proclaim the entire system of public education as failing would seem to make as much sense as trading in your car because a tire went flat. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that a significant portion of our Legislature wants us to believe public education is a massive failure because they have something to gain from doing so.

 

I find it more than a little interesting that many of the same group of Georgia legislators who attempt to add significantly to the burden of public school teachers through legislative micromanagement, unfunded mandates and financial underfunding are also among the most vociferous supporters of the Constitutional amendment on charter schools. It would be easier for me to believe their efforts were altruistically based and less motivated by selfish considerations were their children enrolled in public schools.

 

Politicians have never let the truth stand in the way of getting what they want. The Legislature’s insistence on accountability for everyone except themselves would be laughable if the consequences were not so severe for students, teachers and schools working diligently every day to overcome the effects of poverty. They have proposed, through the constitutional amendment, a process that would dismantle the system that offers hope for many in the name of using public money to pay for the education of the privileged few as if public schools and students were only there to allow someone the opportunity to make a gigantic profit. The abandonment of public education will only serve to keep those dependent upon public education as a traditional lifeline as uneducated as possible for as long as possible.

See how well “market based” strategies have worked for schools in Florida. (Here is one exampleHere is a list of many more.)

 

Once again, teachers and public education are not the problem, they are the solution. Sooner or later even legislators must see it’s not about race, it’s about poverty; it’s not about a test score, it’s about student achievement; it’s not about a standardized curriculum, it’s about good teaching; it’s not about the business model, it’s about personalization; it’s not about competition, it’s about cooperation. Vote smart – vote “NO “on Nov. 6.
 

 

“Thank you Chicago Teachers” from Georgia Educators

In American Dream, democracy, Education Policy, social class, Standing up for Kids on September 23, 2012 at 2:03 pm

This piece is from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective,  first posted on Maureen Downey’s AJC Get School Blog:

Dear Chicago Teachers,

The Chicago Teachers Union strike will go down as a significant event in history when educators stood up against the destructive powers of privatization and for workers’ job security and a strong middle-class in the United States. We want to thank you for standing up for yourselves, for your students, for public education, and for every teacher who is faced with constant criticism and attacks on their professional dignity. Your courage to stand up, walk out, and demand national attention inspires us and makes us hopeful that your actions will have a positive impact for the working conditions of all teachers, regardless of whether they have union protection or not.

Thank you for challenging the narrow-minded vision of using high-stakes standardized test scores to evaluate student learning, teacher effectiveness, and school rankings.

Thank you for showing America and the world that most teachers do not agree with the heavy-handed policies that have narrowed curriculum and made school a less interesting and enjoyable place for most kids.

Thank you for fighting for the rights of children, youth and families to have access to fully funded public schools that aren’t destroyed by for-profit charters not held to the same level of scrutiny.

Thank you for demanding rights for laid-off teachers.

Thank you for demonstrating to everyone in our country that working conditions for teachers have been deteriorating since before NCLB and won’t be improved by Race to the Top.

Thank you for reminding workers everywhere that they have a right to stand up for injustices in their workplace.

Thank you for teaching your students – and all of us – an important lesson about democracy, labor, and the vision of public education that is handed to us by “reformers” who rarely know anything about real schools and real kids and real teaching. We should all strive to be as courageous as you.

Sincerely,

Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

Enough of the “Teachers are Villains” Narrative

In American Dream, anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, films for teacher education, justice on September 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Thanks to L.S. for sharing this on a listserv.

I am going to add some highlighting to the article for those of you reading this during your only bathroom break of the day, or during your leisurely 10-minute lunch time, or as you are rushing to write some notes home to families about how great their kids are.

 

 
Standing up for teachers

By Eugene Robinson, Published: September 17

 

Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them.

 

It has become fashionable to blame all of society’s manifold sins and wickedness on “teachers unions,” as if it were possible to separate these supposedly evil organizations from the dedicated public servants who belong to them. News flash: Collective bargaining is not the problem, and taking that right away from teachers will not fix the schools.

 

It is true that teachers in Chicago have dug in their heels against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s demands for “reform,” some of which are not unreasonable. I’d dig in, too, if I were constantly being lectured by self-righteous crusaders whose knowledge of the inner-city schools crisis comes from a Hollywood movie.

 

The problems that afflict public education go far beyond what George W. Bush memorably called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” They go beyond whatever measure of institutional sclerosis may be attributed to tenure, beyond the inevitable cases of burnout, beyond the fact that teachers in some jurisdictions actually earn halfway decent salaries.

The fact is that teachers are being saddled with absurdly high expectations. Some studies have shown a correlation between student performance and teacher “effectiveness,” depending how this elusive quality is measured. But there is a whole body of academic literature proving the stronger correlation between student performance and a much more important variable: family income.

 

Yes, I’m talking about poverty. Sorry to be so gauche, but when teachers point out the relationship between income and achievement, they’re not shirking responsibility. They’re just stating an inconvenient truth.
According to figures compiled by the College Board, students from families making more than $200,000 score more than 300 points higher on the SAT, on average, than students from families making less than $20,000 a year. There is, in fact, a clear relationship all the way along the scale: Each increment in higher family income translates into points on the test.

Sean Reardon of Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis concluded in a recent study that the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students is actually widening. It is unclear why this might be happening; maybe it is due to increased income inequality, maybe the relationship between income and achievement has somehow become stronger, maybe there is some other reason.

 

Whatever the cause, our society’s answer seems to be: Beat up the teachers.

 

The brie-and-chablis “reform” movement would have us believe that most of the teachers in low-income, low-performing schools are incompetent — and, by extension, that most of the teachers in upper-crust schools, where students perform well, are paragons of pedagogical virtue.

 

But some of the most dedicated and talented teachers I’ve ever met were working in “failing” inner-city schools. And yes, in award-winning schools where, as in Lake Wobegon, “all the children are above average,” I’ve met some unimaginative hacks who should never be allowed near a classroom.

 

It is reasonable to hold teachers accountable for their performance. But it is not reasonable — or, in the end, productive — to hold them accountable for factors that lie far beyond their control. It is fair to insist that teachers approach their jobs with the assumption that every single child, rich or poor, can succeed. It is not fair to expect teachers to correct all the imbalances and remedy all the pathologies that result from growing inequality in our society.

 

You didn’t see any of this reality in “Waiting for ‘Superman,’ ” the 2010 documentary that argued we should “solve” the education crisis by establishing more charter schools and, of course, stomping the teachers unions. You won’t see it later this month in “Won’t Back Down,” starring Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which argues for “parent trigger” laws designed to produce yet more charter schools and yet more teacher-bashing.

 

I’ve always considered myself an apostate from liberal orthodoxy on the subject of education. I have no fundamental objection to charter schools, as long as they produce results. I believe in the centrality and primacy of public education, but I believe it’s immoral to tell parents, in effect, “Too bad for your kids, but we’ll fix the schools someday.”
But portraying teachers as villains doesn’t help a single child. Ignoring the reasons for the education gap in this country is no way to close it. And there’s a better way to learn about the crisis than going to the movies. Visit a school instead.

Still not teaching about the strike?

In class-sensitive teaching, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, politics, professional development resources on September 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Thanks to JT for sending this along…

 

Not teaching about the striking teachers yet? See the real faces behind unions and the fight for public education:

Click here for interviews on-site interviews with teachers.

Chicago Teachers Strike – Great Opportunity for Teaching Work

In class-sensitive teaching, classism, democracy, discourse, economics and economies, poverty, social class on September 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

One week after Labor Day, Chicago public school students get a front row seat to lessons in work, labor, unions, and the persistent struggle between workers and employers. The story is everywhere this morning – union teachers in Chicago are striking for the first time in 25 years.

Given the erosion of workers’ rights across the country, even in strongholds like Chicago and New York, it is imperative that workers stand strong and go public about struggles for working conditions and pay that provide respect, dignity, and a decent living. Who better than educators to teach us all a lesson about work?

Some of the big issues for Chicago teachers? 1) Teacher evaluation (working conditions – how we are evaluated matters); 2) Policies that take funding away from existing schools and give it to charter schools that are often for-profit (this is also about working conditions – how workplaces are funded/equipped appropriately or not).

If you decide to open up an inquiry about work, workers, labor, unions, strikes, etc. some questions you might consider:

Why were labor unions formed to begin with, and what were the working conditions that made them necessary?

Labor unions claim to protect the middle-class, in what ways might that be possible?

With global “labor” now available to many multinational corporations, some say that national labor unions aren’t enough. What might global labor unions look like in the future? What kinds of goals would these unions have for our global future in 10, 15, 20 years?

And some really important questions given the rhetoric of teacher strikes “hurting our children” – 

In what ways can unions, and even strikes, protect all of us from being further exploited by employers?

In what ways might unions, and even strikes, protect the “customers” (or clients, or students, or recipients of the services) of the organization or business?

Who benefits from workers unionizing and striking?

Who benefits from  non-union and anti-collective bargaining laws?

Some resources that might be helpful for teachers digging into this with students:

Unionstats.com has a pretty exhaustive database of union membership by state and sector

United States Department of Labor collects data on union membership – compare these stats to Unionstats.com

Interested in basketball? Check out the NBA Players’ Union

Football fan? Check out the NFL Players Association

One of the strongest unions in the country is the United Federation of Teachers in New York City

Service workers have unions and continue to unionize – here’s one example

Trades have their unions too – check out the Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Technicians No. 72 in Atlanta of all “Right-to-Work” places!

 

Don’t forget the international contextminers are striking in South Africa where events have been deadly, Spanish miners are striking, and the London Olympics took place among threats of transit strikes and taxi strikes. And the Chinese factory workers who have been said to be willing to work for lower and lower wages under worse working conditions? They started striking last year.

 

 

Dare we stop cannibalizing one another in the name of education?

In class-sensitive teaching, corporations, democracy, economics and economies, Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education on September 8, 2012 at 5:46 pm

We’ve heard it a million times over – what can we learn from Finland? Here’s yet another article about lessons from Finland. The online discussion is depressing at best. Most people – even so-called “smart” people – have literally bought into cannibalism competition so much in this country that they can’t see beyond the water in which they swim. While most of the teachers I know and work with are fighting tooth and nail against the negativity of competition in their own classrooms and schools, I still hear educators say things that seem absolutely nonsensical to me – things like “Why should we provide the school supplies for them? That’s not preparing them for the real world at all, no one in the real world will give them anything.”

Really?

In those moments I have to look people in the eye and realize that we are not only speaking completely different languages, we are literally living in different universes and when we look at the same children, our vision and perception couldn’t be more different. Communication across universes hasn’t worked well up to this point, and though I hate it, I have realized that sometimes I need to just walk away and hope that somewhere in the future that person will realize how unethical their stance was in our moment of conversation.

Even if our “real world” is war-torn, filled with hatred, abusive, exclusive, and cannibal-like, is that really how we should create our schools and prepare our children and youth to perpetuate?

Of course not. Any half-way grounded human being knows that. Anyone with even an ounce of empathy or compassion would know that.

But apparently the corporate cannibalism of our country has filled every crevice of our collective consciousness, so much so that many of us see this damaging way of life as the only way.

Dare we stop cannibalizing one another in the name of education? Dare we dream that our youth might envision a more peaceful, collaborative, and equitable future for themselves and all of us? If we dare to dream it, we have to actively speak out – and act out – against the implosive competition that has ravaged our educational system for far too long.

 

 

 

How do you Rage Against the Machine when you are the Machine?

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, corporations, critical literacy, democracy, justice, politics on September 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Paul Ryan’s claim that one of his favorite bands is Rage Against the Machine was met with some criticism from the band’s Tom Morello.

Morello’s poignant op-ed in Rolling Stone responded to Ryan’s claim and pointed out what should have been obvious to Ryan – Ryan advocates  for the Machine that chews people up and spits them out, takes care of the elite rather than the masses, and manufactures -isms of every kind (racism, sexism, heterosexism…) that feeds hatred and divisiveness. “The Machine” works to destroy collectivity and solidarity among people who constantly get the short end of the stick because of the very kind of policies that Ryan supports.

How can he rage against the machine when he is the machine? Listen to the Lyrics, Ryan. Music is political, man, and if you haven’t figured that out by now, you are more lost than we thought you were.

And how can teachers rage against the machine from the inside?


Don’t be the teacher, and don’t teach the curriculum that is the subject of this song:

Take the Power Back 

 

 

The “Frantic Class,” Time, and another plea for Slow Schooling

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, creativity, democracy, Education Policy, Standing up for Kids on July 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I love the way Paul Thomas thinks and writes, and he has another great post at the Daily Kos called “Time as Capital: The Rise of the Frantic Class” that is worth the read, and it has inspired me to watch the film In Time. Paul’s right about a lot of things in the post, but one issue rises to the top of my list of concerns that I’ve been fretting over for years – the way time is connected to the earning potential of a working body (and how that earning potential is always regulated by people who have access to money). Simply put, if you are a painter who works for yourself, for a small business, or for lots of different people depending on who has the work, the money you are capable of earning is at most equal to the amount of money offered by someone else and the time your body can physically be present on the jobsite painting. Doing an outside job and it rains three days in a row? You’re screwed – and to add insult to injury the person who hired you is probably pissed because the job isn’t finished when you said it would be. Body too sore to climb on a ladder? Too bad, you can’t afford to miss even one hour of work much less a whole day.

I know workers who schedule themselves 7 days a week as many weeks in a row as they possibly can because they know the work won’t be there soon. Sore bodies, injuries, sicknesses, emergencies at home are all set aside so they can put in the physical hours to earn their wages. Leisure? Recreation? Healthcare? Not much of it – and when time is on their hands as a direct result of having no work, that time is filled with anxiety and worry about how to fill up time with wage-earning work.

This “frantic distraction of surviving” (as Paul puts it) is a deeply entrenched injustice in the United States, and one that is rarely known by privileged Americans. It is an unethical way to organize a society, an inhumane project aimed only at keeping wealth and power exactly where it already is.

Why might this matter in schools or in the greater idea of education writ large?

What if we taught that time is an important part of our human rights – integral to our dignity? That time equals not “money” but opportunities to be in the world in meaningful ways. Some of that time will be devoted to work to earn a living, other parts of that time devoted to being with nature and cultivating relationships with our family and friends. Some of that time will be committed to caring for ourselves, for playing, dancing, creating, for growing things, cooking, and cleaning.

Even for being silent – just being.

If educators believed this about time, we would organize school days differently – no bells marking “tardies” and rushing us from place to place. No rigid lines taking full groups of people to the restroom. No silent lunchrooms where everyone is forced to eat a lunch they don’t know anything about and forced to throw away uneaten food. Time would be cared for in gentle ways, and we would be generous with time. We would use time to teach that there are, indeed, a thousand paths to happiness and that it is within our rights to demand those paths be open to us. And we, as educators and parents and students and citizens, would demand that time take its rightful place in schooling – as a gift. Time would not be used as a “benchmark” or “restriction” or “retention” or “progress” or “development” or “advancement” or so many other ways we steal time from people and use it as punishment. Steal enough hours, days, weeks, months, semesters, and you have stolen a childhood. A lifetime. A life. We wouldn’t stand for that if we took time seriously.

Parents – including myself – have been crying out for a more humane use of schooltime and the time of our children’s lives.  We live with the disastrous results of a frantic-paced schooling that literally pushes kids to the edge of their sanity, taking their families along for the hellish ride that sometimes never stops. Schools are, indeed, catapulting kids into a “race to nowhere” that creates time as capital – but without human rewards.

Another plea for slow schooling

I have written before about what I see as some of the basic rewards of a school school movement, though it’s far from being fleshed out in any kind of productive way. This notion of time, though, and the life-changing decision about how to “teach” time in schools, how to “use” time in schools, and how to “expect” time to play out across one’s life is a provocative way of exploring a slow school movement. The word slow, alone, signifies a use of time that is in contrast to something else already in place – something fast. And the notion of bodies, too, should be a central part of moving this idea forward. How do we teach, use, and what do we expect of bodies in schools and across one’s life? How do bodies and time come together to create meaningful living and learning and being?

These questions are beyond the scope of a blog post, but I will continue my work on them both in my academic writing and in my personal life.

 

 

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