Sunday, September 7, 2014

#178 September 7, 2014- Fear's Impact on Public Schools

Fearing What We 
Don't Understand. . .
Fear and anxiety have a powerful influence on our beliefs and actions.  People will go to great lengths to avoid situations that cause them to experience these emotions.  They will also accept and believe things that may not actually be in their self-interest if they believe that they will be protected and will be safer because of them.  We can see how this aspect of human nature is used to manipulate public opinion, to establish a power base and to motivate citizens to take action in one way or another.  We've fought wars, changed economic directions and enacted social policies based on our desire to protect ourselves and our values. 

The deeper we look into policies and politics based on fear, the more we recognize that fear and anxiety may be good defenses in the case of an immediate crises, but these emotions do not generate sustainable, equitable policies for a society to be governed by.  We can see how true leaders, those who are seeking to advance the causes of a majority of citizens, attempt to alleviate fear and anxiety, while those who represent a specific interest or group tend to amplify these emotions.  True leaders seek to build understanding among citizens and to share decision making powers in order to build consensus and move society forward. 
Those who seek to exploit fear and anxiety for their own gain try to mislead, misinform or otherwise limit the sharing of information and power.  They create "enemies" and a sense of perpetual crisis in order to maintain their control of the dialog around issues.     

In recent years the American public has been pulled into a dialog about public education that plays on fear instead of building on the promise of what public education could be.  We can clearly see the efforts to build a sense of fear and crisis around our public schools being used for both power and profit.  Our schools have been attacked on many fronts, and yet, the attacks have been based on very weak (or even completely false) premises that have created a sense of crises that allow harmful educational policies to appear reasonable and needed. 

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University of Georgia professor and frequent AJC Get Schooled contributor Peter Smagorinsky discusses an interesting new book exposing the misperceptions and distortions about America's schools.

These "reformers" have vilified educators and attempted to undermine their credibility with the public. 

A report http //www psea...|By Mary Wilson

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They have used misleading information and even outright lies to attempt to privatize our schools. 

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"Reformers" have worked to enact policies and implement changes that are questionable in nature in order to shift the focus of educational discussions away from students and learning and on to policy and standardization. 

A school district leader sends home an unusual letter back-to-school letter to parents

The have tried to portray our students as the "other", something to be questioned and feared.  The increase in diversity that should be a positive, is used to build a sense of crisis around education.  We speak about the challenges that our diverse student populations bring, and forget that they are the future of America. 

Mirroring demographic trends, a new survey shows minorities—led by...

All of these challenges to public education find a common root in their impact on the political landscape of our state and nation.  Our students and schools have become political pawns and are too often forgotten in all the rhetoric.  They are also victims of those who seek short term profits at the expense of sustainable long-term success.  Our current leaders who are making these harmful decisions will have moved on before the full impacts of their actions are felt.  The "benefits" of Act 10 are an excellent example of short term "savings" (all be it on the backs of educators and students) that will do lasting harm to out schools and students.     

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Pat Bomhack (D), Howard Marklein (R)

There is a relatively "easy" way to combat all of the fear-mongering and to change the discourse about our public schools, returning the focus to our students, our communities and keeping our vision about education not profits.  To accomplish this we must remember that most of the fear and anxiety that has been generated around public education is based on misunderstandings and faulty "common sense."  We do face many challenges in our public schools, but as a nation we have the resources of all types necessary to overcome these obstacles.  If we believe Yoda when he says, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering,” or FDR who stated, ". . .let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory," then we must recognize the importance of our efforts to change the dialog about our public schools, our educators and our efforts to educate all students.  It is up to us to make the decision of what side we are on and side with social justice and progress for all.      

We asked education historian Diane Ravitch what she hopes people will do to help children in public schools thrive. Here's what she had to say.

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The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good . . . While we've had a few losses in the courts recently, here's a win for Progressive ideals. 

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The Bad . . . Too many of us are becoming tied to our "devices" and allowing our free time to be taken from us.  

And what smart CEOs can do about it.

The Ugly . . . We can't ignore or forget the importance of race in our society.  However, it is important to remember that a majority of citizens, regardless of race, experience a reality that is controlled by a small number of people.  We need to build unity around issues and not allow ourselves to be divided and then conquered. 
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The underlying anger that goes unnoticed.

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