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We've Waited Eight Years for This?

Ohanian Comment: I agree with Bill Spady that this Obama meeting with parents and educators is just a smokescreen. I disagree with him that eight years ago there was any reason to hope Barack Obama would behave differently. After all, as Senator, he had the Center for American Progress write his first policy piece on education. The title, Teaching Our Kids in a 21st Century Economy, was certainly a warning--and the speech itself spelled out the corporate plan.

As a a Presidential candidate, Obama repeated this message via satellite hookup at the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) convention in 2008 in Chicago. In the presence of the Obama aura--even via a video hookup--union delegates were unwilling to say, "Hell, no!" to his program for de-professionalizing teaching. Instead, they stood and applauded. I was there, bearing witness.

Did I vote for Barack Obama? Hell, no. I voted Third Party.

by Bill Spady

If there was ever a time to shout, "Too little, too late!" this is it. I was flabbergasted to read last evening that President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are hosting a group of parents and educators at the White House on October 26 to discuss ways of reducing the amount of time public school students spend taking standardized tests in the U.S. Not preparing for them. Not worrying about them. Not panicking over them. No, just taking them.

What about eight years ago when he could have completely elevated the discourse about education in America by noting during his election campaign the rigid, superficial, and destructive nature of No Child Left Behind and all its derivatives? Or nearly seven years ago before appointing the undistinguished Duncan -- the great promoter and legitimator of standardized testing during his entire Administration -- to such an influential position? And now that Duncan has already announced that he's stepping down -- some would suggest that he was already as 'down' as he could get -- why is he, of all people, joining the President at the meeting?

The reason, friends, is continuity. The meeting is a smoke screen for continuing the policy, not changing or scrubbing it. Yes, the President admits that there̢۪s too much testing, that it might be getting too much valuable school time, and that there's more to learning than filling in bubbles on a scoring sheet. And he even admits that the Federal Government has made these problems worse, rather than better.

But this isn't a meeting to rethink or discard testing. The meeting is to explore ways to reduce it a bit, that's all. Testing shall go on, said Obama, and you can be sure that the juggernaut will not be diverted, given that Duncan's replacement is just as avid as he is on the subject. Only its frequency will be reduced . . . a bit.

There will surely be no examination of America's Industrial Age/assembly-line/factory-model paradigm of education at the meeting; nor of the Core Curriculum that is alleged to be 'essential' for career success in the 21st Century; nor of how the brain develops and functions; nor of the nature of learning itself. No, it will be about which test or two over a student̢۪s lifetime can 'safely' be eliminated.

I truly thought he knew better . . . eight years ago!

— Bill Spady with Ohanian Comment




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