Monday, April 29, 2013

A Litany Against Jindal and the Republican Right: Ranting against Sins of Omission and Commission in an Alphabetic Meditation

A Litany Against Jindal and the Republican Right:
Ranting against Sins of Omission and Commission in an Alphabetic Meditation

We pray at the altar of humanity and goodness for the remission of the evils of current politicians.
Let them be cleansed of their calumnies and viciousness. 
Deliver us from evil promulgated by Jindal and the Religious and Political Right.
For they:

Abolish the American Dream,
Abnegate abortion,
Abuse the absurdities of society,
Accept advocates of the apocalypse,
Afflict the afflicted,
Alter the assessments,
Argue against atheism,
Assassinate the act of humanists,

Batter benefits of work and saving,
Belittle the beneficent,
Benefit the billionaires,
Best businesses against the person,
Bruit the building of monopolistic corporations,
Bugger the bureaucracy,
Build belated tissues of lies to bugger the benighted,
Buy the broadband and televised advertainment industries,

Capture the cravings of the fearful with raving platitudes,
Celebrate the super-rich,
Collapse clear thinking,
Comfort the comfortable,
Control access to funds for disasters,
Cook the climate,
Crave the congratulations of their cronies,
Create creationism as if it were scientific theory,
Crush the cravings of children,
Curry favors with the crapulous,

Demonize democracy,
Demoralize the military,
Deplete the national defenses,
Destroy those who deviate,
Divide the destitute,
Dump in the destinations of beauty,

Eliminate evolution,
Encapsulate enmity among every class,
Envision excesses of power, except their own,
Eviscerate education,

Falsify their functions,
Fictionalize uncomfortable facts,
Forgive the fatuous,
Fractionalize the functions of government,
Fractionate the female,

Grate the messages of the newer generations,
Gratify their fatuous gratuities,
Grow the glutinous,
Grieve the generous,

Harbor the hateful,
Hate those who help others,
Heal the haters to hate more,
Hear only the appeals of the hyper-religious fanatics,
Help the hypocrites,
Heathenize the Christian,
Hide their healing of the health-care profiteers,

Immoralize Islam,
Imprison the nonviolent,
Incarcerate the illiterate and the insane,
Incriminate all opposition,
Indict the ingenuous,
Insure the insurance companies,

Junk the judicial system,

Keep current messages about change quiet,
Kick counter cultures to the curb,
Kill the Christian message and replace it with greed,
Kindle crises around every corner,
Kiss corrupt church officials while getting support from pulpits,
Knot politics into knots,
Know their truths beyond all doubt while thumping abandoned biblical chapters,

Leave the processes of logic,
Lecture against love,
Limit legitimate claims while legislating on fantasies,
Loath the lower classes,
Lose the voice of reason,
Lower the legal bars to imprison more poor,

Massacre those opposed to meanness,
Maximize monetary business profit in excess,
Mention morality while practicing immorality,
Mess with the marginalized,
Minimize all mental processes,
Mouth the monuments of mendacity,

Nationalize prescription care,
Negate the new in favor of old solutions
Neglect needs of the national good,
Neuter national exceptionalism,
Nix the needs of the nation,
Nullify new negotiations towards progress,
Nuzzle the nabobs of the military-industrial complex,

Obfuscate their obscure desires for power and control,
Open the way for oppressive theocracy,
Organize openings for billionaires to control politics and education,

Pander to the plutocrats,
Perpetuate poverty for their purposes,
Plunder the poor,
Premeditate all pregnancies,
Pontificate puritanism while living luxuriously

Promulgate the perversely parsimonious,
Propagandize against the public good,

Quantify the unquantifiable,
Quarrel with the quotidian,
Quash opponents with quarreling,
Question the morals of the others,
Quit the realms of careful compromise,

Reactivate regression to the 1950s model of society,
Re-compensate religions,
Redefine rape,
Redouble racism,
Regress the right of the people,
Regurgitate regulations of righteousness,
Reject the realities of marriage,
Religify education to the detriment of all,
Remove regulations protecting health and the poor,
Re-segregate the races in schools and communities,
Run from the caring for all in our republic,
Rupture the reputable who fight against them,

Sanctify the insincere,
Shoot the stragglers,
Simplify all situations to black and white,
Slander their own socialist roots,
Strap the students,
Starve services,
Strip science from schools and universities,
Stultify the sane,

Tax the tender,
Terrify teachers with untested tests,
Tergiversate their own transgressions,
Thump for trashing the environment,
Transfer tax funds to religions,
Treat technology as the answer,
Triple taxes on necessities,
Turn truths into falsehoods,

Ululate their utterances,
Undo the support for the unfortunate,
Uniform the underprivileged,
Upgrade the unknown and the unknowing,

Vent vitriol against the immigrant,
Violate the vital services to the poor,
Vitiate the vital protections of education,

Warm the wealthy,
Weaken the weak,
Wear out the woe-begotten,

eXacerbate the educated,
eXcise the enfranchised,
eXercise the enabled,
eXfolliate the forests,

Yield to the bullies,

Zip their mouths to the uttering of truths,

Thus, we pray this day in reaction to the sainthood of Ronaldus Reaganus Republicanus and his tergiversating apprentices,
Demanding attrition and removal of Jindal and the religious right from power,
With faith in the democratic values of our republic.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sycophantic Bureaucratic Weasels

Sycophantic Bureaucratic Weasels

How are teachers going to be prepared for changes in Educational Policies that aren't discussed with them?  The Louisiana Answer

The magically thinking policy wonks in Baton Rouge will all put on their pink tutus and get out their toe shoes and magic wands and dance around the legislators and bow to the governor. Then, John White, the State Superintendent of Education, will march on stage with a bunch of syncophantic bureaucratic weasels in Teach-for-America clogs to announce through dance the miraculous change of everything in every school and every teacher. He will proclaim that poverty, hardship, and disasters are henceforth banned from the mythical state of Louisiana forever and all children will be above average on every test. He will have teachers believe impossible things before breakfast while wealthy charter school companies rob them of everything they own and then imprison them in schools run by for-profit prison companies from outside Louisiana. Those teachers who refuse to kiss the feet (or other anatomical parts) of the Superintendent will lose their certifications or have their salaries reduced following the application of special herbs called "Value Added". The principals will be told what to tell teachers, but then the rules will be changed so they don't know what is going on either and their version of the magic plan will be completely different from the State Superintendent’s despite being danced to the same music. The climax will be when all schools are declared ineffective and their keys will be returned to the Governor to be given to those who back him for his next political office. Meanwhile, the governor will do grands jetés across the state chased by justices of the Louisiana supreme court who will regularly be lost in the potholes of Louisiana corruption.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Rant on Bad Administrators

Bad administrators mismanage schools. If you have a bad administrator, for your own sanity, find a different teaching job or figure out a way to get rid of the bad administrator. Bad administrators will put too many children in a classroom and not provide federally mandated services. They bully children and teachers. They often can’t understand complex classroom organization or do competent observations of classroom teaching. They may hide from the classrooms and students in meeting and their offices.

I know of situations where children were put in classrooms with an unqualified aide and received no instruction for much of a year. When administrators mismanage schedules, children and teachers are often stuck in a catch-22, but the only solution is to advocate for yourself and your students. Stop complaining. Come up with a good plan and calmly and rationally explain it to your administrator. Keep at it; giving up is giving in to a bad status quo. Sometimes several teachers have to work together to build a plan and then implement it, using the famous principle: It’s easier to receive forgiveness than permission. Together a group of teachers can change how a school works, and indeed they are the only ones who really can.

Teacher groups need to know more than the person(s) assigning them to impossible situations. It always comes down to a teacher or a group of teachers making the curriculum and the schedule work. Having children with abilities from non-reader through college-level in any classroom is difficult, but rearranging the schedule can help provide instruction for this diversity. Finally, published materials (the stuff that so often get misnamed curriculum) and standards are guides, not perfect absolute laws, so the teachers have to make everything work. The materials, ideas, strategies, organization, GLEs (grade level expectations),  standards, and assessments that teachers and children need to become a working community engaged in learning everything they can are available in a variety of media. Don’t let an administrator bully teachers into using only one thing. In that community, children can become tutors and teachers and model all sorts of things for each other. If an administrator or a teacher says, "Whatever is in the curriculum is law," then that administrator or teacher has a fundamental misunderstanding of curriculum.

Unfortunately under the testing regime built during the Clinton-Bush-Obama presidencies, rigidity is proclaimed, and children have been relegated to the null curriculum. They are more than hidden; only test scores are valued. Usually personal philosophies, values, beliefs, backgrounds, psychological stances, personalities, discipline processes, and attention are parts of the hidden curriculum, but so are gender differences and issues related to bullying and punishment. In many schools today, the needs of the children are hidden or nullified by attention to set procedures, scheduled rigidly, lists of skills or standards, books that must be taught, assessments of the testing regime, and a multitude of regulations that make the functional classroom impossible, including paperwork and red tape. The children and their needs must be acknowledged as part of the curriculum and everything can be changed to provide for them, flexing based on their knowledge, processes, skills, beliefs, and performances. Using the children’s knowledge base as a starting point for performance allows teachers to set high expectations for progress. Only idiot administrators and legislators mandate that every child perform the same way on the same test at the single assessment period.

Planning the year in advance can only work in very broad terms because with the real, active students and the teacher’s analysis of them, the real planning and curriculum must be built with the collusion of the students, using their skills, reading levels, analytical skills and creativity – and, of course, the teachers! Furthermore, if something doesn’t work, the teacher has to figure out new ways to reteach, changing teaching style, lesson orientation, practicality, real life application, hands-on materials, or something, to those who didn’t get it, and it takes time, especially if the teacher needs to back up and cover things that are necessary prerequisites to the concept being taught. In the current schools, the time frame is far to short for mastery of most concepts so the treatment must be superficial and spiraling (for which we have Jerome Bruner to thank). If we don’t take the time, the child is lost, and the administrator forcing the teacher to skip ahead is responsible for that failure. We need administrators who figure out how to do everything that’s needed for children to succeed, not ones who shove children on whether ready or not.

This policy rigidity from legislators and administrators cuts children out of the picture. It bruits a process of bullying teachers rather than developing them and implies the same for children. It destroys professional development. It posits that teachers’ test scores are more important than experiences. It promulgates the legalistic view that all teachers are bad and deserve punishment. It prevents administrators from seeing that some children are being lost, and those administrators seem powerless to provide remedies that should help teachers help the children who are floundering. The standard is taught regardless of whether the child is ready for it or already knows it. The same old response is given, and we relearn that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. These policies are constantly sacrificing the child on the altar of test scores. Now teachers are being fired and replaced with the cheapest possible labor which will only last for a maximum of two years. Thus, rigid policies lead to failing schools. But good administrators learn to work with teachers, parents, and students.

How do we close the gap? Learners’ background knowledge, vocabulary, and conceptual knowledge need to be the major focus – not the stuff or the strategies or the organization. The Curriculum-as-Stuff Model, promulgated by bad administrators adopting program without teacher involvement, holds the idea that children learn only through the consumption of published materials and tests. It includes teachers who teach with stuff rather than ideas and classroom organizations that meet the needs of the children. The Curriculum-as-Stuff Model is an outgrowth of mass consumerism and the testing regime, which opposes the idea that children need to encounter thinking, caring others who communicate and explore their worlds with them.

Obviously we tell learners that we care about them by having clean, well-supplied classrooms and schools; artifacts are useful and interesting, but the key idea is to know where the learners need to go (goals, standards, and objectives!) and to find interesting, fascinating activities that engage them towards those goals. Only the good teacher can build this complex idea-based curriculum. Even with everything the teacher needs, teaching is a hard job. Good teaching is even harder. Outstanding teaching is almost miraculous. It isn’t what’s portrayed in the movies. Getting children to have a wide range of experiences and the language to discuss those experiences is demanding! Field trips, especially for young children, are vital, but they only work if talk surrounds them, before, during, and after rather than drill, drill, drill and test, test, test.

Early literacy programs for disadvantaged children are essential. They need extremely skilled teachers and, ideally, involved parents. Usually children with low vocabulary levels come from literacy poor environments. These children need immersion in language rich environments. They need teachers and other adults to talk to them and to read to them (2-5 books a day, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes, charts, lists, names), but always high-interest, age appropriate materials. They need to play and talk while they’re playing, rather than silent classrooms. They need letter blocks, work magnets, class libraries, technology, and, of course, real libraries with librarians. Head Start is not working because in scaling it to a national program, quality was lost. The well trained teachers and aides were replaced with minimum-wage workers and not given adequate training. Very often it takes more cost to replicate a program than to start a new one.  Of course, that means that good teachers must control the curriculum not some "Big Brother" far from the classroom. Supposedly “scientifically verified” programs, like ‘Success for All’ under No Child Left Behind were the cures for all the problems in schools. The name is clever. The research is not. I’m still looking for empirical evidence that standards and testing are improving student performance on a range of standardized tests, but the evidence it that these two “innovations” are not producing any results other than minimal fluctuations.

Successful public schools are all around. Look at parishes outside New Orleans. Look at the Harlem Children’s Zone Project of Geoffrey Canada ( Dr. Canada has worked for years to bring health and wellness and literacy activities to pregnant mothers-to-be and help with their children from infancy. BUT there is enough money in the public school systems to do all this. There were funds available for other cities across the country to replicate The Harlem Children's Zone. NOLA applied, but I don't think anyone here received the funds.

We need teachers and administrators who have intellect and passion and caring.  We need administrators who were good teachers. We don’t need more rigid, inflexible rules. We must continue to talk and take action. We need policy makers who will reconsider the use of standardized tests as the only measurement. We need policies that prevent micromanagement. We need administrators who stand up and talk about the weaknesses and evil of the standardized testing regime, and who refuse to be bullied. We need to be gadflies in the ears of legislators and other elected officials. We need teachers who subversively meet the needs of children when the dictators say thou shalt teach things based on a schedule that puts the children in the Null Curriculum. We need politicians who listen to teachers and not just the moneyed interests. The bureaucracy of education needs to be flatter, and we need educators at the top and not just politicians and governor’s hand-picked weasels. Since teachers are usually in the trenches and do not have time to advocate for themselves, we need groups that do advocate for teachers and the children they teach. We have to continue saying the things we're saying about the failures of NCLB, the Common Core, and all the other federal measures related to education that have failed.

Politics is a part of education and human life, so that won’t disappear. Since those "scientifically-based" programs don't work outside of their more carefully controlled norming groups, policy wonks and legislators need to hear about alternatives like small community schools with caring teachers and administrators. Certainly schools need a head – someone “in charge” from the point of view of government bureaucrats, but "in charge" in a school is a vast contradiction (my Daoism is showing). We are talking about the lives of children!

Many administrators want the illusion of control and become god-emperors or goddess-empresses of their little kingdoms. They want everyone to obey their patriarchal aristocratic divinity. They are not the good ones! Some of them are in prison now for embezzling money from their schools. Good administrators and legislators with an interest in education need to spend time in schools, talking to children and teachers, rather than central office staff and state supervisory boards with noses hidden in computers where they’re typing madly for documentation or reading their e-mail. Of course, just a little power is addicting. Maybe one good thing about the post-Katrina school confusion is that the huge bureaucracy of the Orleans Parish Public Schools has been demolished.

We need administrators who can talk about good teaching and help teachers develop by making teachers the masters of the curriculum that they really need to be. Teachers need to be the leaders and the innovators because they are the ones working with children. They need to manage their professional development and be active, intellectually curious life-long learners who constantly seek new learning experiences and ideas to use with their students. We need teachers who get subversive and get good test scores because their students really have learned much more than what is on the tests. Administrators have hard jobs, too, but bus schedules, maintenance, and cafeteria workers should not be the main focus; instead, finding, keeping, and supporting good teachers and caring for the children in the school should be the main daily activity.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Movement to Reduce Standardized Testing

Here is the link to a resolution against the heavy use of standardized testing:

I've endorsed it. Unfortunately, test publishing companies are making big money, and they wield that money to influence politicians.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

NCTE Resolution

Here is a resolution that Marol Mikoda and others are presenting the the National Council of Teachers of English that clearly opposes the movement towards national standards and tests:

Carol Mikoda
NCTE Members Open Forum
10/11/2011 7:32:00 AM
OCCUPY U.S. Department of Education

This message has been cross posted to the following Discussions: CEL: Conference on English Leadership and NCTE Members Open Forum.
Submitted for consideration by the Committee on Resolutions, via e-mail, on October 10, 2011:

Resolution on National Standards and Tests

The movement for national standards and tests is based on these claims: (1) Our educational system is broken, as revealed by US students' scores on international tests; (2) We must improve education to improve the economy; (3) The way to improve education is to have national standards and national tests to reveal whether standards are being met.

Each of these claims is false. (1) Our schools are not broken. The problem is poverty. Test scores of students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools are among the best in world. Our mediocre scores are due to the fact that the US has the highest level of child poverty among all industrialized countries.  (2) Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves the status of families and children's educational outcomes. (3) There is no evidence that national standards and national tests have improved student learning in the past.

No educator is opposed to assessments that help students to improve their learning. We are, however, opposed to excessive and inappropriate assessments. The amount of testing proposed by the US Department of Education in connection to national standards is excessive, inappropriate and fruitless.

The standards that have been proposed and the kinds of testing they entail rob students of appropriate teaching, a broad-based education, and the time to learn well. Moreover, the cost of implementing standards and electronically delivered national tests will be enormous, bleeding money from legitimate and valuable school activities. Even if the standards and tests were of high quality, they would not serve educational excellence or the American economy.


Resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
* oppose the adoption of national standards as a concept and specifically the standards written by the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers
* alert its members to the counter-productiveness of devoting time, energy and funds to implementing student standards and the intensive testing that would be required.

Carol Mikoda (contact)
Harpur Writing Instructor, Binghamton University
Teacher Consultant, Seven Valleys Writing Project
Susan Ohanian, 2003 recipient of NCTE's George Orwell Award
for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language
Stephen Krashen 
Joanne Yatvin, NCTE Past President
Bess Altwerger
Richard J Meyer
Professor, director of the High Desert Writing Project,
incoming president of Whole Language Umbrella

Carol Mikoda
Windsor NY

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Curriculum-as-Stuff Model

The Curriculum-as-Stuff Model holds the idea that children learn only through the consumption of published materials and tests. It includes teachers who teach with stuff rather than ideas and classroom organizations that meet the needs of the children. The Curriculum-as-Stuff Model is an outgrowth of mass consumerism and the testing regime, which opposes the idea that children need to encounter thinking, caring others who communicate and explore their worlds with them. Obviously we tell learners that we care about them by having clean, well-supplied classrooms and schools; artifacts are useful and interesting, but the key idea is to know where the learners need to go (goals!) and to find interesting, fascinating activities that engage them towards those goals. Only the good teacher can build this complex idea-based curriculum.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

4th Paris International Conference on Education, Economy and Society

Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Paris, France  23-28 July 2012

Here's a conference in Paris -
4th Paris International Conference on Education, Economy and Society
Hotel Concorde La Fayette, Paris, France  23-28 July 2012
I'm planning to submit a paper or two to present.