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Archive for the ‘Neoliberalism and Education’ Category

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.”


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.





EmpowerEd Georgia is Tracking the Cuts

In democracy, Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on May 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Teacher Morale is Low? How Could That Be?

In Education Policy, feminist work, high-stakes tests, Neoliberalism and Education, professional development resources, teacher education, teacher education resources on March 7, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Of course teacher morale is lower than it has been in two decades – no surprise there.

Maybe this recent study will provide lots of educators to jump up, yell, scream, write, speak out, organize, and figure out a way to be powerful once again!

A HUGE kudos goes out to Anabel Fender – one of my former students who wrote about her experiences during an independent study we had together last fall – now she has an editorial on the AJC blog Get Schooled (Maureen Downey) and it’s comin’ out in print too!

For your reading pleasure:

Future teachers – failures before we even start

4:37 am March 7, 2012, by Maureen Downey

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)

Anabel Fender is a graduate student in education at the University of Georgia. This is her first essay on the Get Schooled blog.

I think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now.

By Anabel Fender

I am an idealist. A dreamer.

An…Oh-My-Goodness-Scared-To-Death-Future Teacher.

And I am made out to be a failure before I even start.

I am battered and bruised from the war against teachers and I haven’t even started teaching yet.

Scripted curricula tell me that the “higher ups” have no faith in my words. My Words! An integral part of what makes me a teacher is not trusted, so I will be given a script telling me exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In what other profession do we not trust the words of the professional? Before I start, they make me question my words.

Merit pay initiatives imply that the teachers of America are not working as hard as they can already. In theory this initiative reflects the business world, but in the business world workers design their own goods and services. Teachers no longer have the freedom to design their goods and services – those are ready-made and required from above. It makes more sense to hold those creating the standards, curriculum guides, and scripted curriculum accountable for test scores – they are the ones making the “goods” and “services.” Before I start, they make me question my power.

In an effort to “improve” the teacher with scripted curriculum and merit pay, governors, federal government, and educational “reformers” favor alternative routes to certify teachers. Colleges of education are accused of using students as cash cows for funding research. Flyers for Teach for America hang on bulletin boards in the same universities. I am completely invested and have worked hard for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I have made personal and financial sacrifices for a profession that will not give me great returns monetarily.

And policy makers have the audacity to think that a 22-year old business major spending six weeks of summer training to be a teacher is better equipped for teaching than I am. They help pay her loans, find a job, and offer funding for further education. But me? I graduate with education degrees when no one is hiring, teachers have no job security, and my student loans equal a teacher’s annual salary. Before I start, everyone is questioning my capabilities.

Teachers want what is best for students, but the current war against teachers is enough to wear anyone down. Teachers are constantly being told they are not good enough and then considered a threat when they speak out against injustices in schools.

Teachers’ tenure has been all but eliminated, furlough days are required, salaries are stagnant, and policies are written to fire teachers for being tardy but not to compensate them for their long evening and weekend hours. And since Georgia is a right-to-work state with no union to protect its teachers, teachers do what they must to keep their jobs. Teachers are afraid to speak out as intellectuals. Before I start I am questioning whether I am “allowed” to be an intellectual as a teacher.

I am battered and bruised but I am not going to question my words, my power, and my ability to be an intellectual. I will not let others define me, but I need teacher allies – former, current, and future teachers who will stand up with me and for me against this war on teachers. This is not about competition or jobs or our future. This is about improving our quality of life in schools so we can make schools powerful places for idealists to make their dreams a reality.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog


The War Against Teachers

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, Teaching Work on March 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

A former student contacted me today. She’s a first year teacher and says she feels “super unsupported” and that her school wanted to dock her pay 1/4 of an hour for being tardy.

I wonder if the school is going to pay her overtime for the hours she spends at home preparing to teach.

First furloughs and now docked pay?

The war against teachers (and teaching, but that’s another rant) has really reached an unbelievable low.

This is from the Clayton News Daily (Georgia) about HR policies impacting teachers:

Goree: BOE’s personnel policy unfair to employees

By Jeylin White (174)
As of Thursday, March 1, 2012 
© Copyright 2012 Clayton News Daily
#During Monday night’s board of education meeting, school district officials presented several updates on the operation of the school system, but sparks seemed to ignite among board members over the district’s personnel policy.
#School Board Chairperson Pam Adamson and Board Member Jessie Goree clashed when Goree alleged that the board has undisclosed plans to dock the pay of teachers who are tardy too often, or even fire them.
#Adamson told Goree that her concern was not an item that was on the agenda, and was, therefore, not up for discussion. In the middle of Goree’s response to Adamson, her microphone was apparently turned off. According to Goree, it was turned off because board members are “turning their backs on addressing the needs and concerns of district employees.”
#Adamson, however, could not be reached for comment for this article.
#Another Goree concern is that –– according to her –– teachers and other district employees “are not being compensated for working more than 8 hours a day.”
#“I think that is just totally disrespectful to our employees,” said Goree. “We just shouldn’t treat people like this.”
#The current personnel policy, Goree said, allows Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley to make district employees work longer than an 8-hour day without monetary compensation. Goree added that the current policy is not treating school system employees fairly.
#Her complaint is that teachers and district employees are being forced to attend meetings after school hours, attend weekend events, and that it’s mandatory for all principals to attend board of education meetings, which are held twice a month, in the evenings.
#She stressed to board members that teachers are already overworked and underpaid, especially for the amount of responsibility they carry.
#“It’s more and more demands we keep making on [teachers] without taking them into consideration,” she said. “I understand that, when you take on a job as a principal, it’s a 24-7 position, but we’re not going to compensate principals for working on a Saturday? “It’s bad enough that we [have] principals [sitting] at board meetings on Monday night’s and then they have to be at work by 7 a.m., [the next day.]”
#Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, agreed with Goree. Chapman said the extra hours teachers have to work are excessive, and he said he’s not even sure if the current personnel policy is legal. If fact, he added, the district could be in violation of Georgia’s labor laws.
#“Teachers are being treated very poorly,” said Chapman. “I don’t see where in the policy you can terminate teachers for tardiness.”
#He said the reason why teachers are not coming forth with their concerns is because of fears of retaliation, or of losing their jobs. “The overall feeling is [teachers] are fed up and ready to leave,” he said. “It’s a very oppressive and toxic environment.”
#Goree said she is flooded with phone calls and e-mails from teachers and district employees expressing their concerns about the current working environment. She said teachers are telling her they cannot wait for the school year to be over, so they can find other jobs.
#Clayton County Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Doug Hendrix said the district is not in violation of any labor laws. According to Hendrix, fair labor standards list school system employees as exempt employees.
#“[In] our work in education as a profession, there are going to be things we do outside the normal hours,” said Hendrix. “School system employees having to work extra hours is something that comes with the territory.”
#Goree added that her discontentment extends to the personnel policy dealing with teachers’ resignations. She said the board can reject, or deny, an employee’s request to take family medical leave, or to resign from a position, if they need leave to take care of a sick family member. “How can you reject someone’s resignation?” Goree asked the board, at Monday’s meeting.
#Heatley responded by saying that certain criteria must be met before an employee is able to break his or her contract with the school system. He said the contract does not keep employees from leaving their jobs, but it will mean that they have abandoned their jobs.
#Chapman added that there is a lack of consideration for illness, and that the school district is unsympathetic to employees who are having medical difficulties. As a result, he said, they could be terminated. “This [policy] needs to change,” he said.
#“What is it that we are not understanding when we’re reading these policies?” Goree asked. “We have some hard-working people, who work for the school system. Teachers and administrators will do what they need to do to make things work.”
#Since Superintendent Heatley has been in office, Goree said, the personnel policy has changed several times. Her concern is that, when changes are being made, the immediate supervisors, who oversee employees, are “being taken out of the decision process.
#“Everything goes through [human resources,]” she said.
#Hendrix said he would not make a comment on Goree’s comments, or those of any other board member. “They’re the board members, It’s their policy, and they decide what the policy is going to be,” he said.

Love this – Confessions from a “Bad” Teacher

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, teacher education, Teaching Work on March 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Thanks to Maureen at the AJC for sharing this –

Great opinion piece from a nyc high school teacher.

Of course more ridiculous requirements from supervisors make teachers do ridiculous things that might even harm their students in the short- and long-run! Let teachers teach for crying out loud, and stop ruining our classrooms by walking through with “checklists” to make sure the teachers are “implementing” programs with “fidelity” and “fully compliance”!


We have entered an entirely new level of neoliberal management/surveillance of micro-movements of everyone and everything in schools.

And it’s killing us.

Occupy EDU – The Education version of Occupy Wall Street

In communities, creativity, democracy, economics and economies, Education Policy, high-stakes tests, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, social class on October 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Excellent piece here about how Wall Street and trends in corporate America impact public schools, teachers, children, and the institution of public education.

Take a read!

Can Non-Authoritarian Education find a space in Occupy Wall Street?

In institutions, justice, NCLB, Neoliberalism and Education, social action, social class on October 17, 2011 at 12:53 am

Thanks to Teri for sending this along!

With this amazing grassroots movement emerging against corporate power, corporate greed, and economic inequality – where might education find its space within it? If, for example, people in the U.S. are sick and tired of the corporate model of running a society, then people are likely also sick of the corporate model running schools. If that’s the case…what kinds of schools would be responsive to the needs and desires of the people?

Perhaps a non-authoritarian model where children/youth work individually and collectively toward socially responsible ends?

This might be the perfect time to insert educational goals in OWS!



Expose them to big houses? Thinking about Upper Middle-Class Bling

In American Dream, anti-bias teaching, communities, discourse, economics and economies, Education Policy, environmental issues, family-school relations, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, poverty, social class on September 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Big houses, fancy sedans, downtown boutiques filled with expensive clothing and shoes, trendy restaurant spots with hard-to-pronounce specials.

Some educators believe that the way to “motivate” working-class or poor students is to expose them to the ways  upper-middle class and wealthy people live their lives. Just let them see what else is “out there,” expose them to the bling (my word, not theirs) acquired through high paychecks, inheritances, good credit loans, and inspired by materialism and consumerism. Bigger and fancier is better – name brand purses, the most expensive imported cars, designer shoes, houses large enough to provide shelter for five families.

I sympathize with people frustrated that children and youth often grow up and find limited opportunities to sustain themselves financially. But this idea of exposing children and youth from “lower income” neighborhoods to the materialistic bling of upper middle-class wealth is more than disturbing.

People suggesting this exposure are often the same folks who demonize mothers who find a way to buy the newest sneakers for their children, or share quick glances of mortification when they see adolescents with gold caps on their teeth, or laugh out loud when a completely rebuilt older American made car slides down the street with the shiny wheels turning and a hip-hop beat thumping from the speakers.

“That’s why those kids grow up and sell drugs,” some people might say, “because they see those sneakers, those gold teeth and chains, those hooped up cars around their neighborhood and they want that bling too.”

Really now?

So you’re telling me that a $100.00 pair of shoes will make a child envious enough to become a drug runner, but showing him a $500,000.00 house will inspire him to stay in school, make good grades, go to college – and act like you?

This is really what we’re talking about folks. Upper middle-class people that say and believe these things are convinced that their own lifestyles (often of opulence and tremendous waste and materialism, though of course not always) are simply better than others’ lives. They secretly – or not so secretly – think that the gold chains and teeth and cars and music and sneakers are ugly, gaudy (is that how you spell gaudy?), disgraceful, “ghetto,” “low-class,” and disgusting. In other words, “Low Brow Bling.”

But that the material goods they acquire and consume are “classy” – pretty, understated, classic, “tasteful,” etc. etc. etc. In other words, “Aspirational Bling.”

We really need to wake up here. Bling is Bling, and using materialistic bling as a lure for supposedly getting kids to stay in school and “be like us, instead of like those people in your community” is the most absurd, classist, self-absorbent, egotistical, naive, ignorant, clueless, contradictory thing I’ve heard of.

Kids will stay in school and engage themselves when they feel like they belong, when they are valued, when they are treated with dignity and respect, when they are given some choice and power over their school experiences, and when they are motivated and inspired by the work they do there.

It’s as simple as that.

No bling required.

In fact, all that upper middle-class bling might just offend and alienate the very students some are trying to inspire and make them work extra hard to get away from anyone who represents it.

I haven’t even gotten to the unsustainability of persistent consumption of bling in the upper classes…but think about this: What if every family in North America had a 3,000 square foot home that required increasing amounts of energy to heat, cool, and water? What if every family in North America bought the newest, fanciest imported car from Europe? And on and on and on….you can see where I’m going with this.

Using one “class’s” Bling as a lure because it is positioned as infinitely better than the working-class or poor community’s Bling is simply unethical.

Encouraging more and more consumption of bigger and costlier things is simply wrong-headed and short-minded.

We have to really think long and hard about what it is we hope children and youth get out of our school systems – and surely it’s more than hoping they are envious enough to become like someone else, or motivated enough to work harder and harder so they can buy bigger and more things.

The American Dream – if there ever was one or ever can be one – must be about more than making yourself like someone else and aiming to buy  “classier” Bling.

Riots in London and Connections to U.S. Politics and “Society”

In American Dream, critical literacy, democracy, discourse, government, justice, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, poverty on August 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hey all – thanks to a friend for sending this along. I have grown more impatient with the “These are your children, control them!” response from UK officials to the riots in London that resulted from a police officer killing a young man of color. UK officials are now considering the eviction of all families related to any accused in the riots. Great – so then the disenfranchised, angry, resentful collection of working-class and poor (mostly) immigrants will be homeless. This is a terrific solution! That should certainly prevent any future uprisings.

Is this an uprising? Or is it just a bunch of hoodlum adolescents expressing their greed and self-righteousness the way UK officials make them out to be?

It may be an uprising.

We weren’t surprised by the uprisings in the Middle East this year, but somehow people are less inclined to speak of “uprisings” in the “civilized, western” world including metropolitan London.

But this may just be an uprising.

Margaret Thatcher (the woman who spoke the words “There is no such thing as society” quoted at the bottom of this article in The Guardian) and her cronies including everyone involved in the Reagan era politics wanted “individuals” who were solely responsible for themselves and no one else – just as no one else would be responsible for those individuals – would be bound to consumerism and market fetishes and not worry about something so abstract as “society.”


This is a terrific article and a nice primer for folks not familiar with “neoliberal” policies of the last 30-40 years and their implications.


The end of Corporations in the Classroom? Not quite, but some movement…

In corporations, creativity, critical literacy, democracy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources on August 3, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Check out this story on Scholastic’s decision  to end most of their corporate partnerships for distributing curriculum materials in schools after receiving sustained critique from organizations such as Rethinking Schools and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood

Some fabulous inquiries for K-12 classrooms might include:

In what ways do corporations influence children and youth directly through schools?

Study the history of advertising to better understand the strategies used to influence children/youth. In what ways have these marketing approaches been criticized or ended? What other measures could be taken toward a “commercial-free” childhood?

Are there curricular materials in your classroom/school that position you to buy/consume certain products/services?

Are there curricular materials in your classroom/school that position you to believe certain things that might benefit corporations?

What kinds of analytical tools can provide all children and youth with the ability to deconstruct texts of all kinds?

What role do testing corporations have in determining what is and is not taught/learned in schools? What can students and educators do about that?

Have fun!

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