Three Inherent Contradictions Within the Corporate Ed Reform Movement

Modern man {sic} must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.

Vaclav Havel

1. By emphasizing “accountability,” and then “holding teachers accountable” to teaching content through high stakes testing, corporate ed reformers reinforce the artificial, all too rigid silos (math separated from science, etc.) of traditional curriculum and then complain that students aren’t prepared with “21st Century Skills.”

2. By focusing on knowledge acquisition within the silos of this curriculum and then holding teachers accountable for such content through high stakes testing, corporate ed reformers ignore the far more important issue of the fundamental dispositions needed for what Michael Fullan calls “The New Pedagogy,” which is learning how to learn. The result is students who are bored and struggle with the relevancy of their time in school, and teachers who are stuck with an imposed, limited way of imagining the why and what of schools.

3. Given the above, teachers are then ignored in the ed reform conversation in favor of charismatic, and rich, corporate innovators and their ilk, because, although teachers are set up to fail within the parameters created by policy makers, they are also blamed for this failure and accused of protecting the status quo when they are actually working to protect the souls and imaginations of the students they work with from the corroding effects of a hyper- achievement oriented culture.

It’s crazy.


2 responses to “Three Inherent Contradictions Within the Corporate Ed Reform Movement

  1. I think the contradictions you note arise because there are two distinct “forks” of the ed reform movement. One fork is the long-standing Rousseauian group that has a distinctly romantic quality to it. This is the group that wants their students to be individuals who think creatively and pursue knowledge with passion. The other part of the ed. reform movement are the corporate vultures who are circling the public sphere, hoping to pad their profits with technology and centralized curricula.

    I don’t see a contradiction so much as two competing interests. Furthermore, I don’t really agree with either side, but I suspect the former will unwittingly do the dirty work so the latter triumphs.

  2. There sure are two different approaches to Education Reform: The Finnish Way …. and then the standardization/testing craze (often called GERM). The need for individualization is not solely Rousseaun heritage, but more of a product of modern age: in multicultural societies we have more choices than ever before, our life direction is not determined by the line of the work of parents, and secondary/tertiary education is more available, too. I mentor teachers pursuing their master’s degrees, and in my university 2/3 of students are first generation college students. I think that is great!

    The second paragraph in the blog post holds the key: student empowerment by helping them learn independently – and become accountable for their own learning. Teachers truly are between the bark and the tree (Finnish version of the rock and the hard place 😀 ), but even there they are able to ignite wondering and curiosity in students’ minds. I work with awesome teachers every single day!


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