October 31, 2007

Edu-babble and the News Journal

Here's a big problem with education today: You take a very basic common-sense "No Duh!"-type statement and make it some profound revelation -- like the following leading off a News Journal article from yesterday:

Research shows family engagement in a child's education can lead to greater student success.

Y'see? Research is even needed to "inform" us of this revelation.

Next, you bring in some "consultants" -- like the "60 education and social service leaders from across the state" -- to not only inform you of these revelations, but to make some really head-scratching philosophical judgments and arguments. Take this for instance:

"If you want to change your relationship with families, there's a way to do it," North Carolina-based consultant Laura Weber said. "Change what you're doing."

That means shifting the way teachers and administrators view parents, she said.

They are taught to recognize "children's value systems may be different than yours," said Marquita Davis, director of student services. "Try to go beyond the surface."

Rather than approaching parents with the philosophy, "What is wrong with this person, and how can I fix it?", the thinking becomes: "What is strong with this family, and how can we build upon it?"

Rather than assuming the professional must know best, families are seen as the experts in their own lives.

If this sounds really touchy-feelie ... it's because it is. It is just more of the "values-free" and "no judgments" approach to education that has infested it for too long. Granted, I'll be the first in line to stand up for parents being of first importance in children's lives. But one must always be aware of how values-free advocates phrase their sentences -- "... experts in their own lives." What does that mean, precisely? The article, circa the middle, says that sessions are regularly held for parents to get more info on proper nutrition and how to get their kids to succeed in school. "All our parents want our children to succeed. They might just not know the steps to take," Davis said. But then how can families be seen "as the experts in their own lives" if they aren't aware of even basic nutrition, or even the need to arrive on time? (See below.) This is an inherent contradiction of their own philosophy!

Here's what "experts in their own lives" means: You (or I) cannot make a value judgment on someone else because we don't know "their life." As an example, take this from the article:

Last year, they (Edison Charter School) gave out alarm clocks to parents who were perpetually late dropping off their children. This year, 50 students will take home backpacks each Friday filled with nutritious food to carry them through the weekend.

Instead of informing parents of the necessity of getting their kids to school on time, they BUY alarm clocks for them. Are alarm clocks really prohibitively expensive? What kind of message does the school's action send? "Be irresponsible, and things will be done for you." (OK, maybe school officials did inform parents of the need to be on time. But what happens when the alarm clocks don't do what they're supposed to -- not malfunction, but get the kids to school on time?) I am reminded here of what far-left education author Jonathan Kozol once wrote about his teaching experience in a Boston school: He didn't hold his students responsible for stealing because they were poor and minority ... and "historically oppressed."

It seems to me that Kozol, like the education "consultants" of the article, are more interested in advancing their nebulous "revolutionary" education theories than making sure students are best prepared for the real world. Will these future employees' bosses and managers send home alarm clocks if they're perpetually late for work? Will law enforcement not consider it stealing if these former students shoplift ... based on the country's [racial] historical record?

This values-free approach perfectly exemplifies the "bigotry of low expectations." We cannot expect poor (or minority) people to value a work ethic, or to take responsibility for their own actions. This is what it ultimately comes down to, after all. Let's stop beating around the bush. And, as has been noted here at Colossus too often to count, this sort of edu-babble is self-contradicting, elitist, and condescending.

Posted by Hube at October 31, 2007 04:00 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

So much for rooting out the achievement gap at the primary school level. With these types of attitudes, we'll have affirmative action for the next 100 years.

Posted by: Jon at October 31, 2007 04:41 PM