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13 December 2013 @ 01:07 pm
Deaf, Dumb, and Blind  
"A nation that destroys its systems of education, degrades its public information, guts its public libraries and turns its airwaves into vehicles for cheap, mindless amusement becomes deaf, dumb and blind. It prizes test scores above critical thinking and literacy. It celebrates rote vocational training and the singular, amoral skill of making money. It churns out stunted human products, lacking the capacity and vocabulary to challenge the assumptions and structures of the corporate state. It funnels them into a caste system of drones and systems managers. It transforms a democratic state into a feudal system of corporate masters and serfs."

When this is the opening paragraph of an op-ed piece (http://www.opednews.com/populum/pagem.php?f=Why-the-United-States-Is-D-by-Chris-Hedges-110411-63.html), one has to wonder where it will go next, right? This is a strong piece by Chris Hedges which includes quotes from teachers who are concerned about CCSS and the reformers who seem to be more spurred on by profit than by change. It encapsulates many of my fears about education which seems to be at yet another crossroads.

I, too, worry about the aim of the new reform movement: college and career ready seems to be the catchphrase. And it is this phrase with which I take issue before I even begin to tackle the CCSS. When I was working with middle school kids, I did not see my task as preparing them for high school. My task was to help them find their voice in writing, their interests in reading, their skills as speakers, and so much more. I wanted them to connect with me, with each other, and with books and reading and writing. When my kids were in high school, many teachers told them that the projects they were doing would help them be successful in college. Since I was already working at the university, I knew that this was NOT the case. Learning to write the 5 paragraph essay or complete a term paper with a minimum of 50 references, or pass the state test would not make them "college ready." Because college is not just about knowledge of skills in reading and math and the like. College ready includes being responsible, establishing calendars, setting up schedules for meeting deadlines, and other somewhat more esoteric personal skills. Career readiness is not just about possessing some requisite skills. It is also about collegiality, about shared responsibilities, about accepting personal responsibility. To suggest that CCSS will somehow transform kids is ludicrous, perhaps foolhardy.

I teach folks who want to become school librarians. My task, as I see it, is not to make them career ready. I am not certain that is possible. I do not think there is a program that can anticipate every scenario the school librarian will encounter and provide all the materials needed for each and every situation. So, I try to convey to them a wide array of books and materials, a sense of how to deal with challenges (censorship in particular), an understanding of how to evaluate books and recommend books to others, some ideas for matching kids to books. I want them to be blind and deaf to the calls of the censors which think only certain books are appropriate for kids. I want them not to be dumb when districts consider eliminating school librarians or libraries. I want them to see opportunities to promote libraries (school AND public), I want them to hear from kids about the kinds of books they like. I want them to talk about good new books with kids and teachers. If they do that, then they are "career ready."
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