Virtual School Meanderings

December 29, 2010

Blogging For Real Education Reform – The Sequel

Kind of proud of the adapted logo I made for this week's event! Simple, but useful...

Last month, I participated 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 spin of mainstream and talk show media, political figures, and business celebrities.  But there is another narrative: a narrative of student-centered systemic change that captures the spirit and voice of invention, passion, and abiding commitment found within America’s public educational community–among the people who serve young people in the least and most challenged of our public schools.

And educational bloggers were asked to “use that day to give thanks for our educational successes, share your ideas for real reform, describe an educational community that makes a  difference for contemporary learners.”

As a follow-up to this effort, Cooperative Catalyst posted an entry entitled “Sessions, Conversations or Actions?“, where sometime this week they asked us:

People all over are calling for actions behind the words that have been calling for action.   So will you share how you are acting out on your words?  Will you give the rest of us additional strategies to build new ways for schools, to honor students, to support learning and growing and living together?

Since I participated the first time around I figured that it was only right that I give it a shot on the second pass…  In my original entry, I discussed an entry posted by Marion Brady entitled, “Delegitimizing Public Education,” which outlined an eight step process the dominant voices of educational reform have followed. Then I offered three suggestions that I felt would help get us on the right track:

  1. Stop trying to privatize public education.
  2. Stop blaming teachers and teachers’ unions.
  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.

These three suggestions are already kind of in the form of strategies for others to enact.  For example, I try to use this blog to challenge the dominant narrative provided by folks like Innosight Institute (see their recent entry entitled Three Christmas wishes for a good example of that dominant narrative around the privatization of public education).  Those of you who follow this blog are well aware that most of the folks within the K-12 online learning field believe in this dominant narrative, that online education equals quality education and that we must allow these for profit companies to come in to speed the process of reform (hey, if Bill Gates believes it than it must be true, right?).

On the second point, those readers familiar with the State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada reports that I have written over the past three years will know I regularly point out how the teachers unions in Canada have generally been supportive of K-12 online learning.  They have also regularly worked with Governments to determine ways that ensure these opportunities are available to students, while still protecting the quality of life of online teachers compared to their classroom-based counterparts.  This is a point that I have made several times in this space (most recently in an entry entitled Reason Magazine: Teachers Unions vs. Online Education).

Finally, long-term readers of this blog will also know that I have often compared the type of instruction provided by some of the full-time, for profit providers as online Skinner boxes.  I’ve suggested that if the goal is simply for students to be able to perform on bubble tests and pass state graduation exams, than these online Skinner boxes do a wonderful job.  However, life isn’t made up of bubble tests and the kinds of skills we want our children to have can’t be adequately measured in this way.  And I’m not talking about this myth of twenty-first century skills either (see VSS2007 – Virtual Schools and 21st Century Skills for an earlier rant on that topic).  What I am talking about are the knowledge, skills and abilities we need to have a literate citizenry that is prepared to actively participate in this democratic society.  A literate citizenry that would have honest debates about how to change education, as opposed to demonizing those who work hard each day to undue the damaged caused to children by circumstance of the social class they were born into in the United States.

This is my action plan…  One that I have tried to enact in my own research, my interactions with practitioners, and my blogging in this space.  Just hoping that there will be others to pass the torch on to…  Sooner, rather than later – as later may already be too late if the dominant ideology prevails!!!


  1. […] Blogging For Real Education Reform – By Michael Barbour […]

    Pingback by Blog 4 Real Education Reform – The Sequel « Cooperative Catalyst — December 29, 2010 @ 9:26 am | Reply

  2. Good post…and I’m all for the reforms you mentioned. What I continually run into as a teacher is that the people at the bottom know what is needed (students and teachers), but the people at the top are in control and don’t want to change anything. The first thing that needs to go is the stifling schedule of 6 or 7 classes a day in a rigid class subject.

    Comment by theteachingwhore — December 29, 2010 @ 9:46 am | Reply

  3. Teaching Whore, I agree that the further you move from the classroom, the further removed you are from the real impact of the decisions. When I taught K-12, it was interesting because most of our administrators still taught in the classroom (some for significant periods of their day in our rural schools), and most of our district folks were recently classroom teachers or administrators with teaching duties. We had a sense that the folks in the main office and in the district office knew what it was like to be on our shoes, which meant we trusted them a little more to make decisions.

    This is one of the problem with what we have in the K-12 online learning movement (and I think in the educational reform movement in general). We have all of these people who have never studied education, never been a classroom teacher, have little concept of what constitutes good pedagogy or how hard it is to actually implement on a daily basis with 25, 30, even 35+ students in a room… And these are the people who are trying to tell everyone else how to fix the education system.

    It would be like Chrysler or some other major corporation that is in financial trouble hiring me to fix their problems. I don’t understand business or the auto industry, so what good would I really be at it. Yet, for some reason we have all of these business people running around telling us what needs to be done with the education system, and even though they have no background in our field we – and everyone else – are listening to them. In all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me much in the United States, where there is this inherent belief that the free market is the solution to almost any problem. It is just sad that it is being applied to the field of education.

    Comment by mkbnl — December 29, 2010 @ 10:42 am | Reply

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by mkbwsu, Daniel Taylor. Daniel Taylor said: Blogging For Real Education Reform – The Sequel […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Blogging For Real Education Reform – The Sequel « Virtual School Meanderings -- — December 29, 2010 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  5. Blogging For Real Education Reform – The Sequel…

    The narrative of public education today reflects the spin of mainstream and talk show media, political figures, and business celebrities. But there is another narrative: a narrative of student-centered systemic change that captures the spirit and voice…

    Trackback by Teaching and Developing Online — December 29, 2010 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

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