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Learning at its Best

Evaluating our Values

NOTE: This was originally posted in the EdWeek Teacher in a Strange Land blog. I put the article here in its entirety at first and then learned that I was not supposed to repost content from that blog elsewhere. Guess I’ll just leave the link here




2 thoughts on “Evaluating our Values

  1. Great post. I’d like to push it just a bit further: I think this is one of the spots where the intrinsic contradiction between the deeply democratic idea of publicly supported education and the deeply anti-democratic idea of state-controlled education is thrown into relief.

    If you can control what’s on the test, you can control what is taught. That’s why initiatives that promise alternative approaches to learning but then require standardized forms of “accountability” are pointless.

    There’s a fascinating book called “Short Route to Chaos” by a constitutional scholar named Stephen Arons that explores this issue in depth relative to the wave of standardization that followed the passage of “Goals 2000.” Arons is taking a position that transcends typical Democratic, Republican, and Libertarian politics to simply point out that education is clearly part of the “sphere of intellect and spirit” which the First Amendment is intended to protect from government intrusion.

    Arons stresses that democracy in and of itself does not protect these fundamental rights; there is a “tyranny of the majority” which can operate at the local, state, or federal level to ban books, impose religion, ban or impose sex education, etc. on people of minority dissenting beliefs. So he believes the right to freedom of education needs to be in the Constitution.

    And that would mean no government-imposed standardized tests, except maybe for very limited purposes where there is arguably a “compelling state interest” — like knowledge of the Constitution, of our system of government, etc. — sort of like what’s on a citizenship test.

    The problem is that in a free society there is no such thing (again, beyond a very limited point, like “thou shalt not kill”) as “our highest values.” It’s easy not to notice this if you are part of the majority that is controlling education, but if you are part of a dissenting minority, you notice it real quick! One person’s highest values include a duty to “take non-violent action to alter the contract when it is unjust” and another person’s values require obedience to authority. In Arizona, apparently the highest values of the majority of citizens involve banning ethnic studies and removing Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” from classrooms.

    I think that this is a structural problem that can only have a structural solution. But it’s baked into the system at a deep level.

    Posted by Carol Black | January 21, 2012, 3:48 pm
  2. Corey, I think your posts suggests some questions we should be asking ourselves – including our supervisors. For example, “Is our school creating informed and powerful citizens?”, is a question that comes to mind as a useful one for each school to explore.

    Many thanks,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | January 25, 2012, 9:25 am

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