My Son Is Not a Widget
Teacher Magazine online published this week a fantastic email exchange (what a great idea!) between Why School? author Mike Rose and Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. Very much worth reading.
One rhetorical question posed in the exchange really struck me: "How do we instill humility in our policymakers?" I wouldn’t have thought to articulate it that way, but I think it’s a perfect way to frame the where-do-we-go-now question. So much of the policy-level discussion about the state of education refers to students and teachers--the people who, obviously, matter most in the conversation--with a kind of implicit callousness that stuns me every time I encounter it.
A perfect demonstration of this lack of humility identified by Ravitch is a term I notice being bandied about a lot recently: "value-added." It’s being put forth, I think, as a slightly more humane and sensible approach to "accountability." Whether it is that or not hardly matters, as far as I’m concerned. Value-added? Value-added? The metaphor is sickening.
I can imagine some trying to excuse "value-added" as convenient shorthand for something understood to be more complex. But really, there’s no excuse. Teachers are not assembly line workers. Children are not products. Period.
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