If, as Zhao concludes, the purpose of education should be to liberate (notice that there is only one letter separating liberate and literate), to empower, and to enhance, what can we do? Interestingly enough, part of my answer comes from a meeting I was in yesterday. One of my colleagues talked about the need for us to show how we meet the standards instead of allowing the standards to drive our curriculum. I think I have been saying that in all sorts of ways as I talk about the CCSS madness: we are already addressing much of what is in the ELAR standards (and I focus on these because this is where I have some expertise). It is why I get a tad crazy when I see comments that laud the standards as new or innovative. Identifying the main idea, pointing out the use of figurative language, determining author bias: all of these are skills that have been part of the curriculum for some time. So, let's liberate ourselves from the tyranny of the CCSS by pointing out over and over again the fact that HOTS (higher order thinking skills) are not new, that we have engaged kids in deeper reading, that we have routinely included nonfiction, and that a one-size-fits-all approach in the classroom addresses the needs of very few students in reality.
We need to empower other stakeholders in the process, most notably the parents and the students. Parental pushback is making some headway in derailing the testing frenzy. Parents need to be informed about the nature of the tests and what they truly reveal about their kids. Kids need to be encouraged to speak up as well. But the real empowerment needs to happen within our own profession. We are educators. We are teachers because we love kids, love teaching, love learning. Let's take the lead here. Let's all SpeakLoudly about how top down demands prevent us from doing what we know is good for kids. Let's talk to one another about how to juggle the demands and still maintain a classroom community.
Here is the Webster definition of enhance: improve: to improve or add to the strength, worth, beauty, or other desirable quality of something. Let's enhance the profession of teaching by being active professionals. Develop your PLN this summer. Join #bookaday. Start a reading club among your colleagues. Attend conferences and workshops. And offer workshops, submit conference proposals. Together (collaboration) we can refocus the discussion. As Zhao concludes: "Education is different from indoctrination."