The teacher movements across the country are clearly being driven by a partisan agenda.
If it was truly a grassroots movement, you wouldn’t see cookie-cutter movements happening in targeted red states during an important election year.
If it was truly about education, the movement in Arizona would have played out differently. There was absolutely zero chance of anyone outside of the pre-selected leadership group influencing strategy in any way. If someone disagreed with Red for Ed (read: progressive) doctrine, they were quickly censored.
Noah Karvelis is the Donald Trump of educational politics. He tapped into the emotions of an aggrieved profession, and then manipulated people’s anger into support for a self-destructive strategy.
Teachers don’t need more money to do the same job.
Teachers need to be unleashed. Teachers need creative freedom.
Our students need creative freedom.
We don’t need newer versions of textbooks. We need to stop using textbooks.
We don’t need more school psychologists. We need to stop shuffling kids through a psychologically destructive institution.
Young people have a natural curiosity about the world, and an innate sense of what’s meaningful in their society.
Young people today were born into a digital ecosystem, and they see every adult person immersed, doing important things on digital devices.
Then they go to school and teacher says: Get off your phone. Open up this boring textbook. Read it. Fill out this worksheet.
I’m not saying students should have unfettered access to technology. I’m not saying some schools don’t utilize technology well.
There’s a philosophy of learning called “unschooling” which preaches unfettered everything, free-range education. I’m not preaching that.
However, I think we need an entirely new model for public education in America.
It starts with a new method of evaluation. Right now we measure using test scores. Better test scores means better school. Better test scores means better student.
This method of evaluation doesn’t work. Sure, it makes things easy for a politicians, administrators, and college admissions officers. One clean number to compare schools and students. A clear goal to focus energy.
But it’s destructive to authentic learning, and it perpetuates the current system which is costly and ineffective.
You can’t measure learning. You just can’t. Every student is wired differently, has different proclivities, passions, demeanors, etc.
You can’t measure everyone with the same damn test.
I’ve known brilliant students who were crappy multiple-choice test takers. Young people with the talent to become productive team members or entrepreneurs … punished under this backwards system.
Standardized education causes you to demand the same skill-set from different people. It doesn’t work. Kids rebel.
I know bright students who refuse to do academic work for the simple reason that someone told them to do it. Their fiercely independent mindset is punished in schools, when it could be harnessed into productive outlets.
Instead of allowing a variety of human flourishing, schools reward blind obedience to authority and punish originality. Over time, certain students start to internalize the punishment, and the negative consequences multiply.
Don’t worry, we can evaluate schools and student performance with something other than standardized test scores.
How do we evaluate the quality of music? How do we figure out the best restaurants? How are the Phoenix Suns going to decide who to choose with the first overall draft pick?
Eliminating standardized tests won’t solve all the problems of school, but it’s the biggest first step.
When standardized tests are removed as the method of evaluation, other benefits and reforms will unfold from there. It will change pedagogy, required curriculum, professional development, school culture.
Focus will return to the intangible things that everyone already knows are more important: Love of learning. Discovering one’s passions. Creating something meaningful. Getting lost in a good book. Having a lively conversation. Proving a point. Solving a problem. Going on an internet deep dive.
Maybe my vision is a pipe dream. Maybe standardized tests have some virtue I’m not seeing. Maybe they’re too politically entrenched. Even if we did get rid of them, they’re just one of many obstacles to shaping authentic learning communities.
Either way, this type of conversation needs to happen, and it’s been lost in the manufactured populism of this education movement, which now feels like an old order clinging to the last vestiges of legitimacy.
As Bob Dylan (a college dropout) once wrote, the times they are a changin’.
We need an education system that can keep up.
This was the third and final post in my Red for Ed reflection series.
Part 1: “A Red for Ed Reflection — Part 1”
Part 2: “The So-Called Vote”