Friday, March 7, 2014

BAD TEACHER by Kevin Kumashiro -- A Review

Kumashiro, Kevin K. (2012-03-16). Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture (The Teaching for Social Justice Series)

I think I was expecting a funny, angry book…one that set up the myth of a ‘bad teacher’ and then railed. Instead, I got a measured discussion of the history of education reform in America…its darker implications.

Not a lot of new information, but connections...And the more connections I learn, the easier it is for me to see the big picture and the small one.

Kumashiro begins with questions; he thinks in questions, and he organizes this short book in questions. I like that.

Lani Guinier (some of us remember her)offers three questions people should be asking about power struggles: Who's winning and losing? Who made the rules? What is the story we tell losers to get them to want to keep playing. Powerful way to begin this discussion of the history of education reform, the difference between traditional philanthropists and today's venture philanthropists, who are definitely in the business for profit. They want influence, and they buy it.

He talks about standardized testing and the dangers of focusing ONLY on tests, and making scores the definition of good teaching. He talks about teacher preparation and why traditional education schools are under fire: "If schools should merely be following the offical script, then preparing independent-minded teachers is the problem, not the solution." We're dangerous.

Kumashiro says there's between $500 to $600 BILLION dollars to be skimmed by profiteers from public education, and we're just sitting here, letting it happen. He reckons venture philanthropists invest, perhaps, 1% of schools' budgets, but man, do they get a huge opportunity to influence policies.

More questions: Are current reforms making America's schools look more like the best schools in our nation, or are they widening the gap? Are current reforms building on sound research, or do they fall back on common sense ("RECEIVED WISDOM" -- a new term...we all know how schools work because we all attended them)Are current reforms guided by a vision in which all of America's children can flourish? We know the answers...but I appreciate the questions.

Then, Kumashiro discusses efforts in Chicago to build do the work of really talking about what works, to build the research base, and to assemble the players. CHICAGO SCHOOL REFORM: MYTHS: REALITIES, AND NEW VISIONS is their book. Here is their website...looks like it's still going strong.

Their four visions: bold leadership that addresses real problems; develop and implement initiatives that are research-driven, not market-driven; improve teaching and learning; support the human and civil rights of every student...I can get behind that.

More questions: Why movement-building? Who are our allies? What are the problems? When will we see our goals met? Where should we act? Why do we need to reframe? How do we do all this?

Important I need to do my own research on what's happening with them. We all know the schools in Chicago are really suffering...I have not heard of this movement at all...What can I use for our struggles here in OK?

I think we have a lot to learn from this book. I will include my highlights in a second post…too long to make one post…too important to NOT include.

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