Ohanian Comment: Before reading this important insight, I recommend watching the video. Then read this definition of Reculturing carefully. Then watch the video again. I like this quote on how to suppress dissension or even questions.
Your pompoms are out and it's very hard for someone to come up when you're shaking your pompoms. . . .
I would note that Andy Hargreaves heads the list of the School Improvement Network "Experts," but Willard Daggett (whose expertise was roundly debunked in Gerald Bracey's Rotten Apple Awards) I note others who were eager to carry Reading First into schools--for a professional development fee. Reculturists are ever willing to move on. You can check the list of experts by scrolling to the bottom of the About Us page.
I recommend thinking about how you are being recultured by your school chiefs, your required professional development, your union, your professional organizations. Think about it and then ignore the pom poms and speak up. Your professional life is at stake.
Reculturing: from For Public School blog
As reform gathered momentum in the 1990s, it became apparent that it wouldn't be enough to simply restructure schools into corporate entities which focus their missions on "continuous improvement" and "high performance," euphemisms for an obsession with raising test score production and graduation rates. This repurposing of schools into what has now become almost exclusively a Race to the Top also requires that the leaders of reform find ways to capture the hearts and minds of educators. Typical histories of failed 1990s reforms recount that "Not only was student performance lagging--with nearly half of the 52,000 students performing in the bottom third in the nation--but also buildings were in disrepair, the morale of teachers and administrators was sagging. . . ."
This "low morale" is problematic strictly because of lower output, and it is presumed in the above statement that low output somehow correlates with increases in fear levels. The kinder, gentler face put on reform is one which attempts to counter the "political" nature of earlier reform, wherein teachers were forced under a regime of anti-union propaganda, cutbacks and concessions to raise their productivity in every conceivable way. In Education Week, Scott Thompson explains "That a politicized, fear-based, excuse-prone, top-down culture is antithetical to sustainable high performance in public education. . . ." In other words, the old "culture" of educators needed to be consciously redesigned by their employers in order to create "an optimal culture for high performance." Thompson's title reveals the subversive and exploitative nature of reculturing: it is a kind of "mining" of the educator's soul: The Importance of 'Reculturing: Case studies in mining the 'mother lode of leverage' for school change.
Thus, while the larger goals of reform would remain precisely the same--the transformation of public education into a business--the way of getting there had to be changed, largely through a broad array of strategies for creating "buy in" from the front line educators and getting them to "take responsibility" for reforms that are imposed from above. It is a kind of cultural brainswashing for the collective psyche of the school; what must be re-written by the leaders are "the underlying shared beliefs, history, assumptions, norms, and values that manifest themselves in patterns of behavior or, in other words, as 'the way we do things around here.'"
The necessary illusion of reculturing is that the impulse to convert schools to improvement factories is coming from the employees themselves--"top down" reform must be replaced by false grassroots reform. It is a kind of ventriloquism in which the victims of reform are made to seem empowered: "It's also axiomatic that a culture of trust, openness, and collaboration--one built on shared ownership of a compelling vision--is crucial for sustaining high performance in public schools."
Reculturing can be done in any number of ways. It is being done most significantly through re-languaging, which insinuates complete acceptance of the values of reform by using nothing but the kinds of terms summarized in this Dictionary of Reform--truly a language unto itself. Sometimes mistakenly referred to as jargon or eduspeak, the language of reform is far more than a mere fad, distraction or obfuscation: it is a powerful vehicle of thought control.
Another key signpost of reculturing is the "professional learning community" which has risen to prominence in the post NCLB period. Such groups, which are formed to supposedly allow for voluntary input and democratic changes to pedagogy, are in fact a kind of voluntary self and peer surveillance revolving around the singular theme of raising productivity. Hence, much "input" from education workers is solicited, but the missions are all carefully selected to ensure that their "input" is always steered towards the school or board missions of raising student outputs, maximizing teacher effectiveness, improving a school's or district's performance in competition with others, and meeting other conditions of the school improvement contract with boards, states or nations.
It is beyond the scope of this article to provide a survey of all types of re-culturing, but it needs to be kept in mind that just about all of the recent changes to "the way we do things around here" involve re-culturing. It is the "spoonful of sugar" that lets the tough medicine of reform go down. It has the goals of removing all political knowledge from educational consciousness, replacing it with new "best practices" and a new, completely altruistic commitment to raising production and optimizing efficiency in every conceivable way. Reculturing is the implantation of a new morality or superego and the removal of the bargaining table, political consciousness, genuine questioning and, most importantly, honesty.
For a typical example of reculturing in action, an instructional video for principals at the School Improvement Network demonstrates how to deal with teachers who are "resistant to change", how to "honor" and "celebrate" the more productive teachers while "encouraging" the worst of her teachers to "move on." By "focusing on the superstar teachers the remaining mediocres became less vocal." Meetings began with teachers "celebrating their successes". Dissenters were "marginalized" and "shoved to the back."
Dictionary of Reform