Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama on Education

One of the most difficult political identities to understand comes from views on education. Today, Obama signaled a rather conservative (merit pay) and liberal (federalized mandate) direction for education reform (read it here). He stated that, under this administration, we would treat "teachers like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable."

This makes sense at one level. More responsibility, more pay, more accountability. But, truth be told, "accountability" means more standards to pass and more tests to teach to. If anything this proposal will only exacerbate the problems of No Child Left Behind.

If Obama wants to reform education, then, he may want to think about re-envisioning the very thing itself. That is, be sober enough to realize that this student is not a person, not a homo-sapien. This is a resource-person, a homo-economicus, whose sole value is in her ability to collect information and use it in the ways deemed worthy by that other tyrant: science.

Schooling has never--and I mean never--been intended to educate at the federal policy level. It is well understood that such a thing is not the purpose of schooling. However, many teachers try their best in spite of it and succeed. Succeed in executing the art of teaching, the art of teaching human persons to be artists themselves in whatever they do.

The failure of reforms today and the ones to come, lie in this basic conflation: teaching and education as a science, or, to put it another way, science as science. Science is not a science, it too is an art, and the same goes for the rest, I think.


Brett W said...

I am not ready to condemn Obama's reform just yet. What I beleive he addresses with this bit of reform is trying to get teachers to pull more out of themselves. I think he is cognizant of the fact that he cannot just make the education of future teachers more demanding, there is not enough time. But what he can do is to begin to put pressure on the teachers, and the number would be staggering I feel but unfortunately who is going to admit to shortchanging their students with lack of effort, to produce pedagogy that is of higher quality. Too many teachers have become complacent with their job, especially against the backdrop of reliable pay, benefits, and the yearly pay raise. Trust me, I am one of them.

Brett W said...

But I also need to add, in defense of teachers, if Obama does plan to institute merit pay, I hope that he clears teachers' desks of some of the clutter left by testing, spontaneous curriculum reform, and other things that do make it difficult for teachers to teach. I am in favor of merit pay when teachers actually get a chance to teach and practice their craft. I am also in favor of merit pay for professional athletes.....maybe we would get more out of the BROWNS!!