Announcement of change of focus of new book and probably this blog

I have moved “my history of the left” book to backburner and focused on my day job as a source for my writing: education.  I am writing a book on educational pedagogy and a lot of my notes for it are going to be posted here.

Fascinating, I discovered this for this essay book I am writing on ed: So one thing I am finding out from studying education is that US, France, and UK actually run in a tight packet in race-down on education. US sometimes is at bottom, but sometimes the UK and France slip beneath the US. All have tried various reform: for example, Labour government’s early 1990s “scientific management” reform was the back-bone for Texas’s standards based reforms in the late 1990s, which because basis for US NCLB and even for the implementation of “Race to the Top” and “Common Core” after the UK government abandoned those reforms as a failure. Lately the US slipped lower than the UK and France, but also it has hit over 50% kids in poverty from the long “recovery” and from the rich abandoning public schools. Now, here’s the outlier that I was trying to figure out, if it is school systems to blame, why do Canada schools do so well? Teaching is a competative job there and they over train teachers, but so was the states for a while and that didn’t matter. Some of the highest paying states in the US are still low preforming too, so that isn’t it either. You know what the US, France, and Uk that Canada does: high levels of poverty, including rule poverty, and entire demographic groups which are subsumed with a history of poverty, which Canada does have, but only with First Peoples. I have not looked up the Canadian “success rates” with First Peoples students, but I suspect that it would map simiarly to the impoverished students across the three countries mentioned.

Now poverty doesn’t explain all of it.  There are outliers, but then again, we have focus on more than test scores too.  Furthermore, some of the rubrics of poverty are quite imprecise. I once tried to unpack this for German schools and I could not find the statistics clearly even in German except for immigrant groups who did not track well.  Lastly, a lot of times we are merely comparing test scores or PISA scores, but other more long-term measures make all this more complicated.  Diana Ravich recently pointed that out in the comparison between countries.

What people have not understood when I say “privilege theory is problematic”

May I be honest? I don’t really understand the ‪#‎crimingwhilewhite‬ hashtag as it seems to often imply not that non-white (and let’s be honest, non-most-Asian too) shouldn’t get mistreated, but often just as easily could imply that everyone should be treated equally shitty, it would be okay. This is one of the implications of the privilege discourse that I don’t like people don’t seem to get: you can remove EVERYONE’S privilege equally just by oppressing the shit out of everyone, but not by liberating anyone. Again, I am not saying what “privilege” theory is trying to describe is not real, but what is actually going on structurally coded oppression and privilege is way too soft a word and with implications people don’t think about. I sometimes think its acceptance now by all but the most reactionary elements of our society indicates that people in the know actually realize the implication.

While basic human rights was a myth, the moving from “formal rights” to “formal privilege” is an objective degeneration of liberal discourse. It is more honest about how things function, but the idea that everything is being framed negatively in this matter doesn’t even get acknowledged. One points that out, one is told one is denying privilege and thus rejecting oppression, but honestly the former does not follow from the latter.   Furthermore, while racial, sexual, and gender issues cannot be subsumed under a rubric of class, trying to understand them outside of class or as something that is not structural necessary to an economic system is not helpful. (In use of the term, “classism,” for example, makes acknowledging class something of a moral failing instead of a structural result of our current economic relations).

I do not think it is derailing to point this out as an obvious implication of the way liberalized framing of stand-point epistemology have moved the “discourse.”   This is what I have meant by that–not a denial of the realities of both exploitative and repressive structures built around ethnicity, race, gender, etc.  We must be specific about them, we can’t conflate everything under the rubric of a passive word like “privilege.”

A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Educational Fads by Linda Elder and Richard W. Paul

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A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Educational Fads by  Linda Elder and Richard W. Paul (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2007, 96 pages)

While the two Phd’s who wrote this do have an implicitly sound point: most educational fads stem from sound pedagogical practice misapplied and over-simplified. The authors are long on assertions and short on evidence themselves. For example, while critiquing character education, they talk about universal moral principals as if that were uncontroversial among those who study meta-ethics. They also actually have a virtue ethics theory of holistic values of education that does not even attempt to separate those values out from intelligences or logics, and are stated as natural facts. While they talk about separating “indoctrination” from clear thinking, these assertions are akin to indoctrination as they are unquestioned philosophical positions accepted because of a larger framework or ideology that is taken as natural. This is highly problematic as it claims these virtue traits are essential to learning but does not pedagogically or epistemologically try to prove those assertions.

While there some more recent fads are discussed such as “brain-based learning” and discussed well if it an abstract way, but most of the fads discussed were popularized in 1990s from research in the in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so even when this book came out in 2007, these fads were largely not operating assumptions in education. Another frustrating thing is there are few citations of research and most of the citations there are just to work done around the two authors own centre and movement.

The basic assumption of this book is sound in main, and many of the specific points are insightful, but the paradigm it argues for is asserted but not given a lot of evidential weight itself and many of the arguments are effectively generalizations and straw-men who function polemically. The fact this book is so mixed in its quality is frustrating to me because the premise that fads in education are based on incomplete uses of often valid research or out of date science that has been transformed pre-maturely into fragmented “best practices” is both very important and under-explored. The assumptions about cognition and kinds of knowledge alone dominant in most education schools (learning styles, left-brain and right-brain) has been problemized by both behavioral science and neuroscience and sometimes outright rejected in psychological models for one or two generations but are still basic assumptions in pedagogical training. Perhaps if this book were longer and more interested in establishing its own paradigm and more up-to-date on what contemporary fads are instead of a short polemical pamphlet, it would do justice to its premise. Overall, worth reading but with the same skepticism it asks us to apply to implementation of fads.