Virtual School Meanderings

November 22, 2010

Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform

I came across the blog Cooperative Catalyst a day or two ago (I think on Twitter or Plurk) and was directed to an entry entitled “You Want Ideas? We Have Ideas!”  In this entry, the author proposes that today (i.e., 22 November 2010) that bloggers participate in a Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform.  Around the same time, I came across an op-ed (likely from Twitter or Plurk again) on truthout entitled “Delegitimizing Public Education” – and the two entries seemed to fuse together for me in a single idea on how I could participate in the Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform.

In “Delegitimizing Public Education,” Marion Brady outlines an eight step process that she see’s in the process of delegitimizing public education.  See if you recognize any of them from the proponents of and main professional associations associated with K-12 online learning.

Step One: Start with what was once a relatively simple educational system.

Step Two: Close the school, build a big one, buy school buses, open a district office, and hire administrators to tell teachers what they can and can’t do.

Step Three: When problems with the new, more complicated system develop, expand the administrative pyramid, with each successive layer of authority knowing less about educating than the layer below it.

Step Four: As problems escalate, expand the bureaucracy, moving decision-making ever higher up the pyramid until state and then federal politicians make all the important calls.

Step Five: Give corporate America – the Gates, Broads, Waltons, etc. – control of the politicians who control the bureaucracy that controls the administrators who control the teachers.

Step Six: Pay no attention as the rich who, enamored of market forces, in love with the idea of privatizing schools, and attracted by the half-trillion dollars a year America spends on education, use the media to destroy confidence in public education.

Step Seven: As a confidence-destroying strategy, zero in on teachers. Say that they hate change and played a major role in the de-industrialization of America and the decline of the American Empire.

Step Eight: As the de-professionalization of teaching and the down-grading of teachers progress, point to the resultant poor school performance as proof of the need for centralized control of education.

Steps one through four are education wide, and really have nothing to do with K-12 online learning.  But once you hit step five you begin to see the influence of the for-profit cyber charter school industry.  Steps seven and eight apply to both cyber charter schools and the supplemental virtual schools, because for the most part neither group enjoy the protection or collective strengthen that their brick-and-mortar counterparts have.  In both online environments there is no formal process in place that would allow for teachers that legitimately need professional development to become better educators to receive it (and in both environments they have as good a chance of getting a pink slip as they do that needed professional development).

Regardless of what you may have heard any recent professional trade shows, online learning is not THE answer to the problems of K-12 education.  In some instances, well designed K-12 online learning can address the needs of different sub-sets of students.  But not all K-12 online learning is well designed, nor will K-12 online learning be the best option for ALL students.  Cyber charter schooling is also NOT the answer to the problems of K-12 education, regardless of what you might hear from the chair of the iNACOL board (who voices political positions quite often on behalf of the entire organization).

If the goal of K-12 education is to create an active and productive citizenry that is capable of critical thinking and problem solving, than we need to take a close look at what is happening in K-12 online learning.  Does mastery learning as evidenced by student performance on standardized exams that measure largely knowledge and comprehension level questions really prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers, and computer programmers (or artists and musicians for that matter)?  Look at the research into K-12 online learning and try to find a study that examines how we can use the medium to create citizens that are able to compete in that global economy everyone is taking about…  You won’t find them.  What you will find are studies that try to justify the use of K-12 online learning, that try to figure out the best way to design, delivery and support online learning for all students, and a lot of methodologically questionable work.

How should we go about trying to achieve real educational reform in the United States?  Well, finding a way to get back to step one would be a good start.  Do whatever we can to stop steps five and six would be another step in the right direction.  The problem is that isn’t what the conservative element within the K-12 online learning movement want to hear.  In their mind the free market is never wrong and if we could only apply more free market principles and thinking to the education system, it would get better.  How’s that working out for the uninsured in American when it comes to health care?  For that matter, how are those free market principles working out for the free market when financial institutions are allowed to essentially do what they want?  Do we really want that kind of collapse for the education system in the United States?  That is where we are heading right now…  One education system for those with social and economic capital, and other for those without.

I know one of the things that we are supposed to be doing with this Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform is to try and offer solutions.  So let me offer three suggestions

  1. Stop trying to privatize public education.  The more business interests that are invited into the public education system the more they will work to undermine that system.  Business are about bottom line thinking, education shouldn’t be!
  2. Stop blaming teachers and teachers’ unions.  As I’ve discussed in the past (see Reason Magazine: Teachers Unions vs. Online Education for one of the more recent examples), the us and them attitude that has developed around public education is not helpful and primarily serves as a way to scapegoat one or more groups, instead of trying to address the real issues.  Almost all of the research that we have available – regardless if it is focused on education in general or online learning specifically – indicates that teachers matter.  They are part of the solution.
  3. Finally, focus upon what kind of citizenry we need as a society, and then design an education system that would create that kind of citizenry.  And requiring that all students meet certain basic (often knowledge and comprehension level) standards that can be measured by bubble tests is probably not the answer to the kind of citizenry we want.

I’m not sure how much these are solutions, so much as they are suggesting that we stop doing things that are taking us down the wrong road.


  1. […] Day of National Blogging For Real Educational Reform […]

    Pingback by You Want Ideas? We Have Ideas! « Cooperative Catalyst — November 22, 2010 @ 5:03 pm | Reply

  2. Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform…

    I know one of the things that we are supposed to be doing with this Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform is to try and offer solutions. So let me offer three suggestions Stop trying to privatize public education. The more business interes…

    Trackback by Teaching and Developing Online — November 24, 2010 @ 12:55 am | Reply

  3. […] in a Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform (see my contribution, of the same name, at Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform).  The idea behind this original effort was: The narrative of public education today reflects the […]

    Pingback by Blogging For Real Education Reform – The Sequel « Virtual School Meanderings — December 29, 2010 @ 8:34 am | Reply

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