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Georgia on My Mind

Danny Weil offers a scathing appraisal of the "higher standards" math offered in Georgia.

by Danny Weil

Georgia: The "pillory and the stocks" as math standards

"In smaller cities and in the American colonies, the pillory was less common. Typically a person on public display was placed in the stocks. The stocks usually involved a yoke for the feet that was anchored to the ground. Sometimes a neck and hand yoke were used. The place of display was still in a busy public area or sometimes where ever the crime was committed. Despite being less elaborate in the presentation, the heaving of insults and garbage at the criminal was still the rule of the day and a person in the stocks could also die from injuries sustained while confined."( The Pyrates life punishment )

You will never see a town hall meeting on 'standards in education' on any corporate news channel and not much on other progressive venues either. The policies of Race to the Top are literally destroying lives in cities throughout the nation. According to the Atlantic Journal Constitution, May 20, 2010:

"Starting with the Class of 2012, every Georgia student must pass four years of math to receive a college prep diploma even if he or she plans to attend a technical school or enter the work force after graduation. Special needs students can appeal to opt out after completing Math III if they stay concurrently enrolled in math support classes and a review of their education plan makes it clear that the course would be the highest level they could achieve."

The Atlantic Journal Constitution then went on to note what many of us have been saying, or screaming for years:

"When the state initiated this new era of souped-up instruction in math, pushing students to grasp complex concepts in algebra, geometry and statistics sooner than ever before, the goal was to produce a new generation of college-ready teens to compete globally."

There you have it. It is really gets no clearer; the neo-cons are in control of the educational process for their delusional competitive free market that is failing as we read and write. So, in an effort to compete with low paid workers in China in areas of science, math and technology students, "higher standards were passed, standards so high even tutors for kids can't do the problems. Donna Aker, a veteran math teacher says the program is so accelerated that upperclassmen that used to help her tutor can't do the math the freshmen do (ibid).

The math overhaul was pushed by state Superintendent Kathy Cox. Now that Cox has announced she will not seek a third term, some parents and teachers wonder whether the program will continue at the same accelerated pace, be diluted or scrapped altogether by her successor. Slash and burn, Kathy and then retire on an administrator's salary after leaving a wake of bodies and minds under nourished by your vicious policies. Don't be surprised if old Kathy goes to work for one of the testing companies that is needed to support the curriculum she tube fed teachers and students paid for by tax dollars.

What it means on the ground for teachers and their students, parents and their children, society and its future

The hyperbolic math standards have meant that under the state's new math curriculum, lower scores plus a quicker pace of instruction equal greater anxiety for both students and their teachers. Donna Aker, a veteran math teacher at South Gwinnett High School stated:

"In my classes, I have 60 kids and only 17 are passing. You know how stressful that is on me?" (ibid)

Or take the story of Jessica O'Brien who was a straight A student with hopes of going to Harvard University.

Her hopes for Harvard were squelched when she got a D in math as a ninth-grader. She opted out of the accelerated program. Jessica, now a sophomore and cheerleader at Campbell High in Smyrna said:

"I'm worried I'm going to almost fail again," said. "I'm so used to being good at math."

Jessica's mother, Susan O'Brien, was not as sanguine as Jessica, remarking on the social impact as well as that to her daughter of the hyperbolic standards.

"Kids are failing left and right, I'm talking your high achievers who never fail," said O'Brien, who is concerned about Jessica's shot at Harvard. "My daughter loved math and had been on the math team but only got out with a D in Accelerated Math II. My biggest fear is that it is going to hurt her when she applies for college" (ibid).

Fear, anxiety, game theory and ruthless social Darwinism are being played out in Georgia as children are marooned.

The standards are literally destroying learning and vanquishing reasoning

The first year of the state's new ginned up math curriculum in high school meant nearly one in five ninth-graders in metro Atlanta last year got an F in Math I âl. The math failure rate was more than double that experienced by the same group of kids in the eighth grade the year before. The get-tough curriculum is already forcing some of the areaâs better students to reconsider signing on for another year of bench-pressing binomials. Some switched to general math their sophomore year, afraid of getting another low grade. And this is the point: culling students for financial monopoly capitalism's insatiable appetite for conquering the world in the endless pursuit of profits and hegemony.

The hyperbolic standards are of course keeping in chorus with the insidious Race to the Top and are designed to assure that only the brightest, the privileged and the elite get into the corridors of power. These standards have nothing to do with improving student achievement as they are cast. This is simply a mendacious forgery and sophistic rhetoric from the used car salesman. These inauthentic Chimeras have to do with garrisoning out proportions of our youth from access to centers of privileged institutions where decision making by the management elite is taught and cultivated for the 'philosopher kings'. To do this, standards become the gatekeepers to access to power.

The ruling class is very candid on their position when it comes to education and the role they think it plays as a sorting machine for world capitalism and the profit accumulation process. Take Matt Cardoza, a spokesman for the state Department of Education:

"On the SAT, when we looked at all of the kids who have taken math at different levels, we found that even our high achievers are still performing below the rest of the country. Our kids are just as smart as any other kids. They need to be able to compete with students around the world for jobs and collegeâ (ibid)."

Childhood, cultivating a love for learning, learning how to learn, citizen education, learning collaborative problem solving strategies and critical thinking is a waste of time for the new apparatchiks of the educational industry. Their ideology and their actions are assuring that kids like Jessica donât get a chance for they are not 'learning how to compete'; thus they become orphaned by a system that seeks to increase capital by commodifying students and education through 'manufacturing' the leaders of tomorrow. The rancid morality of it all makes one want to run to hug a toilet bowl but it is the actual beliefs of the purveyors of such psychological re-engineering that reside in the 'Bates Motel' of educational policy.

Fools and shills like Janet Davis, the state's math program manager, believe that "as students, teachers and parents become more comfortable with this curriculum we will see the scores increase" (ibid) Sure, as soon as they too become regimented by the standards beaten into them as ideology by the public relations sharpies; as they are told there is no alternative and resign themselves to social death and much like a grieving loved one, watch their children as dying patients in the gaols of Arne Duncan. Davis even went so far as to state:

"The new curriculum is giving our students an opportunity to do more math than they have ever done in the past, do it in a more meaningful way and to understand how that math is used in the real world" (ibid).

The shill is paid to say this for her job is also tethered to the test. The scores pay her mortgage and utilities; she needs the kids to do well or her consumer habits will retire and her salary possibly terminated.

Standards as lock-down

At Sylvan in Snellville, Mikera Gordon, a ninth-grader at Grayson High used to making A's, sat down with a teacher to get homework help. "I don't like math, it's too challenging," Mikera said. "The teacher never really has time to answer questions, so I just don't ask" (ibid). Memorization and bewilderment replace learning and childhood.

Teachers find they cannot teach the material with any authenticity, that the regime is a fast-food model aimed at denying an education for the vast majority of students, predominately black and Latino. Teachers faced with deplorable class sizes are themselves under the gun by administrators that act as Gestapos for the testing fraud; they see testing companies swooping down to cannibalize the human lives left in the wake of the muscle bound math standards that treat children as flotsam and jetsom.

Teachers can't teach to sixty students so they must then become engineers for crowd control and students with a thirst for knowledge soon figure out school is a twelve step program to despair. Like caged animals, they must by law come to the centers of disenchantment, sorting, policing, test prep, test taking and psychotic dungeons deprived of joy and a legitimate and human quest to learn and care. Teachers find they are now on call, day and night,and if they do not consent, their jobs are on the line or their stress levels rise as they feel they are not serving the children they teach. Take Camille Larkin:

"At Mill Creek High, Camille Larkin acts as a safety net. The teacher of 21 years follows their grades in Math I and calls parents, leaving her cell phone number if she learns a student is falling behind or cutting math class. "We spend time on the basics," she said. "I preview lessons they are going to struggle with [so] they can actively participate-- instead of sitting passively lost. Some of them just need a confidence boost" (ibid).

Camille Larkin is an advocate for children but she is finding that she must be on call like a 24/7 plumber and that her wages, benefits and pensions are hardly secure while her personal life is eaten up by overwork. Turning teachers into 24/7 call centers assures social breakdown of the teaching profession as teachers burn out or cope with the stress of trying to force feed so many children with junk food standards at lightening speeds they literally go suffer dementia.

It is the Wal Mart model where the attrition rate for teachers is two to three years. Few of the teachers know they are being ruthlessly used to segregate kids and provide an unequal education by weeding students out through useless and inauthentic test scores. But many are aware and many more are beginning to see how the standards set by those looking to 'produce children' through Hansel and Gretel social policies for capitalist competition with China, are bequeathing childhood to greed. This is the tragedy. The love of learning is now the pain of testing as childhood is transformed into test flogging.

Follow the money

When the Class of 2012 hit its freshman year, several local tutoring companies saw a spike in business. Now, this year's freshmen are following them to places like Kumon and Sylvan Learning for refreshers on math basics (ibid). Corporate salaries must be through the roof now and stockholders in these new 'interrogation techniques' must be delighted.

This is the set-up the new Orwellian-Duncan regime is using to manage the states. Teacher Donna Aker agrees, saying the state should consider spreading Math I and Math II over four years to give students more time to understand them.

"To have every child take this math, those who aren't going to college, those who are special ed in self-contained classrooms, to me feels like a conspiracy on how to make kids fail" (ibid).

It is not a conspiracy, Donna, it is a business plan hatched on Wall Street by very influential entrepreneurs and banksters and then made into policy by Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Mis-education. And the business plan means more tax dollars flowing to private testing companies, more students failing and falling through the cracks to be downsized in the new economy of lower expectations and living. It is an attack on social mobility and is being waged by the elite corporatist capitalist class and run and managed by their harlots and strumpets, city by city.

Where is the union?

As for the union response to the repressive testing regime, Donna Aker, who is also who is co-president of the Gwinnett County Association of Educators, once again weighed in:

"You have to cover everything. It's a lesson a day. There is no time to get them to master each section" (ibid).

If this is the best the union can do in terms of protecting children and the teachers that teach them, then we are all in big trouble -- but this seems to be the union's face in many cities, New Jersey comes to mind. This is a sad resignation from union leaders as they then enable the enforcement of the toxic standards on their own teachers and students thus digging the eventual grave for teacher unions. The short term thinking and lack of resistance is damning.

It is this capitulation and despair, or outright collusion on the part of the teacher union 'leaders' that will assure the last nail in the coffin is pounded into public education. We must get rid of union leadership that does not represent the best interests of students, parents and their children -- union leaders that are not willing to do more than lament about the state of our school labyrinths while carrying out the brutish policies. The impish leaders must step down or be challenged by union fighters who see the need to coalesce with other public union sectors to fight the brutality of the numerologists bent on destroying learning.

Education leaders like Donna Aker who know better must stop the hand wringing and begin the door bell wringing in her community and among her staff and teachers. For it will take concentrated struggle and solidarity to fight back against the egregious Social Darwinist policies of the ruling class who see people simply as utilities to be used for profit and education as a training ground for the failed capitalist economy.

The disposable population, those surplus kids who donât go to Harvard and never will, will now languish in classrooms where their youth is spent riding the Hamster wheel of their masters towards a dystopic future.

— Danny Weil
Daily Censored


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