Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Welcome to Educating. All Our Children., dedicated to building an informed community of advocacy on behalf of our children and their education. The public’s schools, so vital to democracy and to children’s wellbeing, are under siege.  Testing systems that once seemed to be an expensive bureaucratic nuisance that “one day too would pass” are now widely understood to be the Trojan horse of statistical tricks to triage students, discredit teachers, and cast suspicion on the very legitimacy of public education.  The urgency of this assault on the public’s schools calls for timely, informed, collective response:  a paradox of both immediacy and thoughtful deliberation. 

The “All Our Children” in our name means just that – every child must grow and learn and thrive under our care.  The “Educating” extends to us, the parents, teachers, scholars, activists, policy shapers – the grown-ups who must get smarter about what is going on before we can fully educate the children. 

Educating. All Our Children.  will keep the focus on the children as we share timely information, important research studies, voices from the classroom, and in doing so, work to recast – and reclaim --the debates about what our schools would be like if we were committed to a powerful, equitable, and democratic education for all our children.

To begin, a piece I wrote as an introduction to a special issue on Education and Democracy for the American Educational Research Journal – in 2002! Our struggle isn’t new, but energies must be:

“There has perhaps been no time in our history when the links between a public education and democracy have been as tenuous as they are right now, at the beginning of this new century.  From Jefferson to Dewey, from the common schools to the freedom schools, educational practices and policies in the United States have invoked the values of democracy for their legitimacy. Even when the reality has fallen far short of the ideal, the articulated premise surrounding public support for the education of children has been democracy’s need for an educated citizenry.  That an educated citizenry could prevent, discern, and even throw off tyranny underlay the presumption that the education of children was a shared and common good, an insurance, if you will, against tyrants and oppression, against those who would co-opt or silence the voices of the many. The denial of literacy to slaves spoke perversely of the power that Whites believed an educated mind to possess – a power multiplied when held not just by one slave, but by slaves in common. 

Our press and government chambers are filled with stories about education, advocacy for education, plans for education “reform.” Education would seem to be a vaunted priority, a collective good. Yet when closely exampled, many of the policies and practices being promoted as reforms are attempts to restructure even publicly funded education into forms of private goods.  Such efforts include privatization and standardization.

Privatization, particularly in the form of vouchers, removes public education dollars from public governance, transferring public funds into private entities that may or may not have any responsibility to serve a public purpose. . . a fairly transparent threat to a tradition of schooling that presumes both a democratic purpose and a democratic governance of schools. 

The symbolic language of education for democracy has dominated the history of education in the US, even when many of our schools were highly inequitable in the populations they served and extremely hierarchical in their bureaucratic structures.  That symbolic language. . . nevertheless provided a common ground where, from time to critical time, citizens could revisit not only their goals for schooling, but their ideals for their children and for their country."

Our hope in launching this blog – a decade after those concerns were raised -- is to create a space for reclaiming, re-asserting the many ways we need to be talking about children and the public’s schools – morally, developmentally, democratically, creatively, truly educationally.  Educating. All Our Children. aspires to be that common ground.

*An excerpt from “Private Asset or Public Good: Education and Democracy at the Crossroads,” the Editor’s Introduction to the Special Issue on Education and Democracy, American Educational Research Journal (summer 2000, vol 30,2; pp 243-238.)


Donna R. said...

Here is another source about the opt out movement in the Houston context.

pgee said...

I love that the focus of this blog will be what's good for our children and their education. As educators, we sometimes get lost in complaining about how hard this business of educating really is. There are so many dimensions to balance, to coordinate, to satisfy so that it all works. It is overwhelming. But teachers do it everyday, and the good ones don't even notice, until a forum such as this comes along to encourage and inform, to make us think about what it is we do. I hope this blog becomes a place to be energized to action in the the most important stage, the classroom and perhaps even on a broader platform to make change in policy, so that job is easier and makes sense again.
Let's keep an eye on each other and keep this on the track of doing what Dr. McNeil meant it to be--a place to inform and educate all those who are involved at each level so that we are sure that "every child must grow and learn and thrive under our care."