Cartoon gravity and reform logic


Most people who don’t work with them see teenagers as moody, impulsive, and unpredictable. Actually, the opposite is true. Teenagers are completely predictable—that is once you understand teenage logic. Teenage logic is sort of like cartoon gravity; it has its on set of strict rules, that just don’t always happen to align with reality. As a new kid on the block of the education policy blogosphere and twitterverse (really, did I just use those words?) I am beginning to see that education reformers seem to have their own form of cartoon gravity logic. So here we go in no particular order, the most head scratching logical fallacies I have seen so far (this is likely to be a reoccurring series).

  1. “The public school system is broken because it is horribly bureaucratic and inefficient…so lets make that same system give secure high stakes standardized tests…!” Seriously? You give a system a bureaucratic task to do and then try to deflect blame when ridiculousness ensues?
  2. “Democracy is not working and communities of poverty and color are disenfranchised…so lets break democracy even more and give those folks charter schools with unelected boards and start pumping money into local school board elections to impact the outcome…” So exactly how are those disenfranchised people now empowered? How exactly to they have a voice in their children’s education? Why do you trust their decision-making skills when it comes to school choice but not when it comes to authentic democracy?
  3. “The public schools system perpetuates systemic racism, so the solution is different systems run by for-profit companies.” Racism is not systemic, it is endemic; it impacts all systems, even the very education reform movement itself. Replacing public schools with charter schools does not address the problem, relying on another government system does not address the problem. Systemic racism can only be addressed by the building of solidarity, community, and authentic democracy.
  4. “Those darn selfish, greedy teachers are always using the union to what they want at the expense of students…lets give the money instead to these charter operators who are making ginormous profits at student expense.” Or the simpler way to say this: unions = bad, capitalists = good. Seriously, this is where I start cussing. Teachers are selfish and profiteering for daring to demand reasonable working conditions (that also benefit students) but testing companies and charter schools are just doing an honest business (despite the market forces that pit their interest against student interest)? Excuse me while I put on my Furman University t-shirt…
  5. “We want social justice for one group of people (students of color and disadvantaged students) and to accomplish it we engage in perpetuating oppression another group of people (the overwhelmingly female teaching force).” We are all fighting the same systems of power and privilege. Divide and conquer is a key tool of oppression—pit one group against another. Y’all quibble amongst yourselves and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…
  6. “We want social justice for these groups of students over here, but we don’t care if those same reforms actually oppress other disadvantaged youth in other contexts across the country.” Apparently reformers sleep well at night under the illusion that they have “saved” some young people and can ignore all the others that their policy decisions have negatively impacted.
  7. “Public schools perpetuate systemic racism; now where did all those teachers of color go after we weakened the unions and career protections…?” Really, did y’all think systemic racism is only a problem for students? Reformers have done everything they can to destroy the teaching profession and now wonder “where all the black and brown folks at?” Hint: there are several thousand of them y’all fired somewhere near New Orleans
  8. “Education solves poverty…” I have written at length on this one. Lets also add the fact that those who come from poverty and earn a college degree will make 91% more in their lifetime that high school graduate of similar demographics. A college graduate from a more affluent background will make 167% times that of a similar high school graduate (see this blog from EduSyster). Currently black women are the demographic with the highest rate of college attendance. Of course that fact is reflected a proportional representation in the workforce, leadership, and salary, right? (In case the sarcasm is not clear, the answer is no). No, equity in education does nothing to address the larger inequities in out society.

Unfortunately, I doubt any education reform minded folks actual read this as they tend to ignore and dismiss all voices outside of their own echo chambers. Despite painting all teachers and all traditional public schools with a broad brush they also get rather testy when the same is done to them, preferring to draw fine distinctions between what reforms they do and don’t support and between their ideological grounding and that of others. Most troubling is the fact that they eschew the very accountability that they demand of teachers and schools and stubbornly deflect any blame for the negative consequences of the policy efforts they have a been a part of.


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