Friday, November 19, 2004


Dave Huber thinks the gobbledegook below is another Sokal Hoax. If so, it has certainly hoisted "Education News". But if it's seriously meant, I wouldn't be surprised either.

"The American racial project is the cornerstone of an overarching paradigm of white supremacy or a white racial order that has matured within our racialized society since its birth some 350 years ago. Today, the operation of our racialized social systems is most obviously articulated in the push for privatization, and expressed through the propaganda of colorblindness. It is also camouflaged (or coded) by the ideology of colorblindness that insists we now live in a race-less or race-neutral state in which the color of one's skin makes no difference in the attainment of society's fruits. The basis or defining features of the reigning ideology itself hints at the association being disguised, that is, the relationship between whites and blacks in which the historically raced and now race-lessed are black people (categorically, conceptually, or as construct-those person who cannot or will not whiten). The binary positing of identity formation and the meaning of conceptual blackness and whiteness in the development of commonsense understandings remain unchanged. Colorblindness allows the masking of immigration issues, housing segregation, etc. to be discussed without the mention of race.

In this colorblind condition we are at task to deconstruct or decipher the latest version of Johnson's ESEA, that is, President GW Bush's NCLB, in whose title itself begins the subterfuge, as we all know which children are being referenced, though never mentioned. Use of coded language is also visible in the heading of Title 1, Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, where again the Disadvantaged are never raced, and at most are referenced according to economic status, i.e. the poor. The admiral goal of closing the achievement gap has also been pitted as the latest panacea for racism and all social ailments; an almost absurd proposition in a society with institutionalized racism, and a history of schooling in the service of business interests. These seemingly benign examples of language manipulation appealing to a white-normed commonsense highlight the real danger of NCLB, that is, all the ways in which it reinforces and contributes to colorblind racism..... "

(From "Education News". More here)


Education or social inclusion? A teacher argues that you can't have both.

'This National Curriculum includes for the first time a detailed, overarching statement on inclusion which makes clear the principles schools must follow in their teaching right across the curriculum, to ensure that all pupils have the chance to succeed, whatever their individual needs and the potential barriers to their learning may be.'

The above statement from Britain's National Curriculum online shows that inclusion has been placed at the heart of the UK's school curriculum. Today, cradle-to-grave educational initiatives are justified in terms of social inclusion.... In schools, teaching in an inclusive style is a compulsory requirement of the curriculum, to be inspected by the Office For Standards in Education (OFSTED). Teachers will be checked to ensure they 'plan their approaches to teaching and learning so that all pupils can take part in lessons fully and effectively'. The logical consequence of this is either individualised tasks for each pupil, or a lesson that lacks challenge for anyone.....

What is social inclusion? Writers have commented that the term social inclusion is being used with such frequency that it has become a politically correct cliche - according to one author, 'obligatory in the discourse of all right thinking people'. An irony is that the more frequently the term is used, the more difficult it becomes to pin down exactly what is meant by 'social inclusion'. Projects aiming to promote social inclusion have a wide array of aims: to tackle teenage pregnancy; obesity; high unemployment rates; low literacy levels; low life-expectancy rates; higher incidences of criminality or non-participation in elections.....

In education, the social inclusion debate emerged from policies aimed at integrating children with special needs or behaviour problems into mainstream schools. From the mid-1980s onwards, campaigns by parents and teachers gathered momentum to keep children with learning difficulties, Down's syndrome or a range of physical disabilities, in mainstream schools. 'Special schools' began to close. Including special needs children within the mainstream of the education system was considered to benefit not just the individual concerned but all the other children in the class who would gain 'a greater degree of understanding, more knowledge about certain disabilities and a generally more positive outlook towards those who have them'.

Today, the debate has moved on. Ever-expanding definitions of 'special needs' mean that, incredibly, in 2001 21 per cent of primary school age children in England and Wales were on the special needs register. The concept of special needs has been relativised to such an extent that all children are now considered, to apply the euphemism, 'special'. This may mean the child has special gifts or talents or has any one of a long list of learning or social difficulties from ADHD to dyslexia via Asperger's Syndrome. Teachers concerned with special needs are finding more and more parents queuing at their doors demanding labels for their child.....

Today, inclusion is no longer about how best to teach special needs pupils: it is about how to foster certain values in every child. Where inclusion policies are challenged, it tends to be in cases of older pupils with behaviour problems. Previously, expulsion from school was the punishment of last resort for head teachers. Now, with the closure of Pupil Referral Units and Home School Services, head teachers are under pressure to keep such pupils within the mainstream. For the most part, however, it is assumed that 'anything other than the total integration of all pupils is tantamount to supporting a form of educational apartheid'....

The obsession with self-esteem is the second major consequence of building education around social inclusion. This is a very recent phenomenon; when I trained to be a teacher 10 years ago, not one reference was made to our self-esteem or the self-esteem of the pupils we were to meet. Low self-esteem was never articulated as being a problem. Today, every pupil a teacher comes into contact with is deemed to be at risk of low self-esteem and it is the assumed responsibility of teachers to do all they can to challenge this epidemic.

Kathryn Ecclestone exposes the common assumption that 'education plays a fundamental role in remedying the apparently growing problem of low self-esteem'. A widespread fear of confronting students with failure results in teachers suppressing anything considered too challenging for pupils: the role of the teacher is now not to challenge but to praise and ego-massage pupils. This inevitably results in a focus on pupils' feelings as opposed to pupils' learning. Teachers become therapists, counselling pupils about their state of mind; the danger is that, 'therapeutic pedagogy starts where learners are and leaves them and their teachers in the same 'safe place'....

Teaching and including are two distinctly different aims. Including involves promoting values, boosting self-esteem and seeking whole group participation in an activity that may be essentially contentless; teaching, by contrast, involves rigorously challenging pupils with new and unfamiliar material, pushing them to the boundaries of their understanding and potentially making them feel uncomfortable with their limited understanding of the world. Teachers cannot use the same finite pot of time and money to do both. Put simply, while I'm organising a whole class litter-picking activity or investigating playground squabbles I am not teaching literature.

But there is more to it than this. Teachers are not expected to teach and include as separate activities but to turn teaching itself into an exercise in social inclusion. Yet because including and teaching are fundamentally contradictory aims, it is just not possible to fulfil the requirement of the National Curriculum and teach in an inclusive manner. I cannot include everyone in my mixed ability class and create an environment that is stimulating and challenging to all. It is impossible to boost the self-esteem of my pupils while simultaneously making them feel uncomfortable as they are pushed to the limits of their understanding. It is impossible to inculcate a prescribed list of values while undertaking a rigorous analysis of academic content. To include everyone means no one gets challenged and lessons are reduced to the lowest intellectual common denominator.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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