professornana (professornana) wrote,
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The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits

If you have never read this Lewis Carroll work, I urge you to locate the GN version below and give it a whirl. Why am I thinking about this poem? It is all the fault of Peter Smagorinsky's fabulous piece here: http://m.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2013/jun/13/snark-syndrome-educational-policymaking/.

snark GN

Each and every word of this piece is music to my ears, solid gold writing (to mix some metaphors. However, the final paragraph sums it up nicely: "Wouldn’t it be nice if educational policy were driven by reality instead of snark hunts and iggernance, driven by claims repeated so often that they are taken as axiomatic by stakeholders great and small, from the folks at the barbershop to the U.S. Secretary of Education and President of the College Board? Perhaps then we would not have one of the lowest levels of teacher morale ever measured, and instead have classrooms characterized by something more stimulating than preparing for yet another round of tests that even Arne Duncan finds mediocre."

I have been witnessing quite a bit of snark hunting as well (though when I was growing up, we called it hunting for snipe). Most recently, it was the hullabaloo about the recent outcry over books high school kids are reading brought to us by those reliable researchers at Reading Renaissance. According to their exhaustive research (insert sarcasm on your own here), they can state categorically that kids are reading easier books than they did 100 years ago. Of course, since this corporation does not bother to mention how their "research" was conducted, news organizations jumped on it and, BLAM!, here we go again criticizing the sad state of affairs when it comes to books and reading. Forget the PEW research to the contrary. After all, how dependable is that research, right? GAH!

If that were not enough, this morning's feed sent me to a listserv of English teachers who were asking for book recommendations by lexile and level. One person made a recommendation based only on what he or she had heard about a book at an AR conference. Really? This is the agony of the hunting of the snark in action for me. First, I never recommend a book I have not read. Second, when I provide recommendations, I do not do so by lexiles and levels. And I think the earth would open up and swallow me if I attended an AR conference (surely, that is the 9th circle, right). Rigor and complexity cannot be measured by a number. I have posted some of the insanity that results when we try to pigeonhole a book by syllable and sentence and scientific formulae, so I will not repeat it today. But make no mistake: it is insanity, like hunting a snark.

I am reading a lovely book of graphic nonfiction called BAD FOR YOU by Kevin C. Pyle. The sections deal with comics, video games, and other things that are "bad" for us. Pyle provides the history of hysteria (my term not his) that leads us over and over again to point to scapegoats rather than reality. I think it has given me some perspective on this lexile, level, fix education garbage that passes for educational policy these days. On a side note, the DNC just called me at the office (which explains all the missed calls by ANONYMOUS from the past week) to ask for my support. Nope, not gonna happen. I elect to spend my money instead on books, books that will pass into other hands, books that will ultimately make more of a difference than all the posturing and snark hunting going on now.
Tags: education policy, smagorinsky, snark hunting
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