Monday, March 18, 2013

Education - A Politicking Time Bomb

[Updated August, 2017]

Language teaching – well, all teaching, really – is political territory. If you teach structure and correctness, or teach to any kind of “standard,” you practice hegemony, and are some kind of imperialist swine who is so swollen with privilege that you obviously have no moral center. If you practice a holistic, communicative, or social constructivist-inspired method, then you are averse to objective standards and are a politically correct commie-lib anti-American historical apologist.

Extremists love the either-or fallacy.

The irony is this: It is true that our educators are, and have been, among the greatest purveyors of mass propaganda. (Or at least the governments, Boards, and agencies that control them are.) Just look at a few select bullet points:
  • From the Right: This worrisome tidbit, the 2012 Texas G.O.P.’s official platform with regard to education; read it and tell me that there aren’t those in the government trying to “program” minds (note - this language has been scrubbed from the platform as of 2016, thank goodness):
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
  • From the Left: Recent attempts by New York State to remove "offensive" words from their standardized tests, such terrifying and corrupting words as "birthday." Test makers are not allowed to even reference anything that might make a student feel bad, such as mention of private ownership of personal computers (because not all students have them so it's unfair to mention it, as it might upset the students in the class who don't?) So instead of celebrating diversity, the State is propagandizing a fake homogeneity?
  • From both sides: Modern iterations of teacher education and evaluation programs, often not set up to reward teachers for powerful teaching (whatever the heck that means) but to reward teachers for cleaving to the prescribed ideological dicta of a particular district or state; naysayers and activists, free-thinkers and rabble-rousers, are expurgated summarily, denied tenure, etc... under the guise of their being anti-social or disharmonious. 

With regard to the last bullet point comment about the hive mind of educational administration and its desire to root out any behavior that is "anti-social," "unmutual," or "disharmonious," that is, not lock-step with their stated principles (even when their guiding principles are destructive to educational and pedagogical integrity), take 48 minutes of your time for this excellent allegory from 60s classic British cult TV show The Prisoner. Watch the whole episode here. It's okay if you're not familiar with the overall premise of the show, all you need to know is that it centers on a secret agent who has resigned unexpectedly due to matters of conscience, and the "powers that be" are trying systematically to break him down to get him to spill his secrets and cooperate with them, and either fall (back) in line, or be destroyed. Very surreal, Kafkaesque, classic 60s British camp TV, but with a searing counter-cultural (some would say, and have said, subversive) message. EVERY teacher should watch this episode, and tell me if they don't feel the same more with alarming frequency.

When we celebrate diversity, should it not be more than skin (color) deep? Should it not include a diversity of ideas, experiences, perspectives, and should it not respect and protect the right and abilities of members of the educational community to hold, offer, and share such?

No comments:

Post a Comment