DePARCCing

Official photo of Florida Governor Rick Scott

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While education has always been a matter for politics, the United States has seen an ever increasing politicization of education. One reason for this was the financial meltdown—with less revenue the states and federal government had to make cuts. As usual, education was a target of opportunity for such cuts. Another reason is that the education system is now regarded as an exploitable resource with excellent opportunities for money-making. Making the system ripe for harvest involved a concerted effort to demonize educators and the education system. It also involved a concerted push for assessment and standardization. The assessment that is being advanced is the sort that is provided by well-paid contractors, such as standardized tests. The standardization, in addition to the tests, includes having a standard curriculum to make it easy for the private sector to monetize education.  This was all done under the guise of reform.

Florida’s former governor Jeb Bush helped bring about the Common Core State Standards for the public education system, so it is somewhat ironic that current Florida governor Rick Scott wants to remove Florida from this system.

The governor has made it clear that he wants Florida to ditch the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). He is not, of course, abandoning assessment—that is a lucrative business for private contractors. As such, his plan is to have “competitive bidding” to determine the new assessment method. Naturally, the schools will not be allowed to create their own assessment—money is too precious to waste on public schools when it could go instead to private sector contractors.

Speaking of money, Florida had been selected to be the “fiscal agent” for PARCC, but Scott informed the Education Secretary of the United States that Florida would no longer have ties to PARCC. It might be wondered why the governor would pass up the opportunity to be a fiscal agent. Fortunately, the answer is rather straightforward: a large part of Scott’s base is made up of Tea Party members. Apparently, the Tea Party membership believes that the Common Core and PARCC are federal impositions. The Tea Party (thanks to anti-government rhetoric put forth by certain conservative pundits and, ironically, some conservative politicians) tends to be against the federal government (although generally not against government programs like Medicare). As such, they are against both Common Core and PARCC.

One rather obvious problem with the claim that Florida should bail because of the federal involvement is the fact that the Common Core was developed by the National Governors Association, not the federal government. That is, the states developed the core and this, oddly enough, should match up with the Tea Party values. I am not sure if the Tea Party (and perhaps Rick Scott) are confused in this matter or not. In any case, Scott needs the Tea Party support to get re-elected and hence he is ditching PARCC and the Common Core in hopes of keeping their votes. This has led to something of a conflict in the Republican Party. Some Republicans, like Jeb Bush, have been strongly backing the Common Core and certainly want the states to adopt it. However, if the Tea Party ire at Common Core and PARCC spreads, there might be a change in this support.

Oddly enough, I am also suspicious of the Common Core and PARRC. However, this is not due to a fear of the federal government (other than the NSA and drones). Rather, it is because of concerns with the academic impact of Common Core and PARRC. Ironically, I might well find myself allied with the Tea Party on some aspects of this matter.

My Amazon Author Page

My Paizo Page

My DriveThru RPG Page

Enhanced by Zemanta
Leave a comment ?

11 Comments.

  1. Two of the most revered institutions of the modern society are democracy and the university. Democracy was an invention of the 18th century; it was invented and designed for a society without the telephone or railroads.

    University was invented 900 years ago and before the printing press. It continues to have lecturers even though that job involved reading the only campus copy of a hand-written text.

    In the new age, we will have one big university for the whole world with each department having lecturers that are the best in their fields. It’ll be ultra-modern, highly distributed and darn inexpensive… perhaps.

  2. Boreas,

    “In the new age, we will have one big university for the whole world with each department having lecturers that are the best in their fields. It’ll be ultra-modern, highly distributed and darn inexpensive… perhaps.”

    Welcomes to de Internetz…..It’s not all Lolcats.

    Over the last few days I’ve watched a few classroom lectures given by Leonard Suskind – posted by Stanford to Youtube. I can access thousands of texts, that not even two decades ago would have nearly been impossible for me to see.

  3. JMRC,
    What is it that makes the university what it essentially is? Well… I can answer that. In sum, the university teaches, certifies and socializes.

    In the New Age, there will be a shift from teaching to learning. Educational knowledge will become a commodity. And value will migrate from what is taught to what is learned.

    When it comes to paying $200,000 in tuition and other fees, what is the educational uniqueness that the paying student receives from her up-scale institution? Well.. that has to be the socialization of it all. Or as the old boys used to say, ‘Our phratery phorever’.

  4. Boreas,

    “What is it that makes the university what it essentially is? Well… I can answer that. In sum, the university teaches, certifies and socializes.”

    Here by defining the university in such terms you’re undermining it. If those elements do not stand up to scrutiny, then its’ whole existence is threatened. An element of power is its’ mystique – The Wizard of Oz is powerful until Toto pulls the curtain back.

    If what it teaches is socialisation, and what it certifies is the person’s degree of socialisation, then the ice it stands on is either thick or thin, depending on the qualities of its’ particular form of socialisation and how it relates to the world – and how the world relates to it.

    And that’s debatable.

    “In the New Age, there will be a shift from teaching to learning. Educational knowledge will become a commodity. And value will migrate from what is taught to what is learned.”

    We’re already in the strange age. Reputable universities (we’ll see how long their reputations last) in an effort to maintain their bloated bureaucracies are adopting the Anders Breivik model. (Anders was running a distance learning institute from his mom’s basement – a great distance from learning.)

    “When it comes to paying $200,000 in tuition and other fees, what is the educational uniqueness that the paying student receives from her up-scale institution? Well.. that has to be the socialization of it all. Or as the old boys used to say, ‘Our phratery phorever’.”

    There are graduates of elite universities who often find themselves working in McDonalds. I don’t know how stable this thing is. If the path to power and riches, is fetching Larry Summers coffee, and picking up his dry cleaning.

  5. On the one hand, I really like the idea of the “edunet” or “learningspace.” After all, it can allow people who would not otherwise have access to higher education gain access to it. On the other hand, I have concerns about the monetization of education in this domain as well as concerns about the quality of such education.

    In terms of learning, the online experience can replicate the traditional lecture-after all, sitting in a lecture hall listening to Prof Talkystuff ramble about Plato is pretty much the same as watching a YouTube video of that lecture. The online experience can also have interactive lessons-essentially learning games. However, what would tend to be absent is actual interaction with a professor.

    However, I will admit that some students have little or no interest in interaction-they want to get through the process, get the degree and be job fillers for the job creators. As such, perhaps the online education would nicely replicate the sort of education they would get on campus (listening to lectures, taking tests and completing assignments).

  6. I thought that this post was overly cynical. Moreover, it seems like political commentary as opposed to philosophical analysis. What’s the ‘big issue’ at stake philosophically here?

  7. Just keeping up the Cynical tradition.

    Two of the main points of interest here are 1) the topics of standardization and assessment and 2) an examination of the reasoning process behind the decision making. In the case of the decision making, this provides an excellent example of how people make political decisions based primarily on erroneous perceptions rather than what is true. In this case, the opposition is based on a false view, namely that this is an imposition of the federal government when, in fact, it was the work of the governors of the states.

  8. Mike LaBossiere,

    “On the one hand, I really like the idea of the “edunet” or “learningspace.” After all, it can allow people who would not otherwise have access to higher education gain access to it.”

    Okay this kind of thing has already existed for a long time. Formally, you would have something like the UK’s Open University. They would broadcast lectures and documentaries on television in the early hours of the morning – which made for interesting post-pub viewing. As American universities also broadcast on public access TV – you know the boring stuff, not the really exciting stuff on American television, like Paris Hilton goes shopping, or gets her dogs washed, or does her nails, whatever. (This disease has spread – every country now has its’ own Paris Hiltons)

    But the internet is taking several things that did already have form, and putting them on steroids and amphetamines.

    “On the other hand, I have concerns about the monetization of education in this domain as well as concerns about the quality of such education.”

    This isn’t new either. I think American correspondence degrees start as far back, or maybe even further, than the 19th century. Slight iffy, and there were operators trying to make a fast buck. The diploma mill, is as old as the diploma.

    But back to the Open University. Initially it was a conceived as a means of allowing people who had been economically excluded from education a chance to study – it was something a working class person on low wages could afford. You can read Nigel Waburton’s reasons for leaving the OU on this site. One reason is the fees have climbed to a point OU degrees cost nearly as much as attending a university full time. Where is all the money going. Is it going into the pockets of a top hat wearing, cigar chomping capitalist, or somewhere else…..You could understand if an evil capitalist was turning the OU into a cash machine – it is just in their evil nature to do so. It can’t be terribly nice middle-class people, who are well educated and liberal, and wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing.

    Warburton’s other reason was the OU were hiring clones. This has always been a problem in education. Everywhere. To make an Ayn Rand reference, many of the panels who do the recruiting, will always chose a Keating over a Roark. It’s often the case that a brilliant teacher is hired completely by accident – if the panel knew the person was that bright, they would never have given them a job.

    This is not an iron law of “this is just how the world works”. Ayn is definitely a misanthrope – but it could be a low burning but intense anger over some of her own personal experiences – and it could be as much about Russian society as American society. You can see this with all kinds of institutions and organisations. They can go through a period where many of their players are consistently hitting the ball out the park. And then… a long period of death like mediocrity. The brilliant rejects can coalesce in a marginal technical institute, and give the directors of the elite universities red faces. Or they move to Vienna, and plot a revolution. Or move to America and write crazy books.

    “In terms of learning, the online experience can replicate the traditional lecture-after all, sitting in a lecture hall listening to Prof Talkystuff ramble about Plato is pretty much the same as watching a YouTube video of that lecture.”

    Youtube, and the other online resources are radically changing how students learn. There’s Prof AwfulKnenawful, who never makes any sense, is tortuously contradictory, always answers a question with the answer to a completely different question, gets angry with his students for not understanding him – the student can pop on Youtube and find someone who does make sense.

    “The online experience can also have interactive lessons-essentially learning games. However, what would tend to be absent is actual interaction with a professor.”

    There’s lots of different kinds of interactions you can have with the professor.

    “However, I will admit that some students have little or no interest in interaction-they want to get through the process, get the degree and be job fillers for the job creators.”

    A friendly professor can help you get a job. A recommendation from a celebrity professor can open a few doors. I don’t know if it would made a difference to Sheryl Sandberg’s intellect whether her lectures came over Youtube, or in a class room. I can say firmly, that without access to Larry Summers she would not be where she is today. Her political connections are existentially important to Facebook. But universities also do these kind of things. (Be sure to hire the minister for education’s nephew, or life might not be as smooth as it could be – the road of life could become very bumpy, indeed).

    AC Grayling, a person who works in the field of philosophy, was floating the idea of setting up a small , celebrity driven university. Private, expensive, but with access to celebrities. The Paris Hiltons of academia.

    “As such, perhaps the online education would nicely replicate the sort of education they would get on campus (listening to lectures, taking tests and completing assignments).”

    I believe it is the dream of many university bureaucracies to completely eliminate students and teachers from their campuses. And turn all the lecture theaters into office space. The final solution.

  9. For me, many many years ago, the most intellectually stimulating part of going to the university was not classes with eminent professors, but the dialogue with fellow students, boys of my own age, with my generation’s ideals and life projects, reading the books that they read and debating about them.

    It was much easier to open up with my peers than with professors old enough to be my father and at times conservative enough to be my grandmother and for one of the few periods in my life I was able to talk about “almost anything” with the people whom I was in daily contact with.

    Since we were all young and in love with ideas and books and theories, our conversations about
    “almost anything” at least strived for intelligence and critical analysis.

    Online learning does away with horizontal peer debate and that is unfortunate.

  10. Swallerstein,

    That is a good point. Like you, a large chunk of my college learning experience was interacting with other students outside of class. While people can interact online, the type of interaction and the quality of the interaction would seem to be markedly different. The online classes would probably do reasonably well in regards to preparing people to be job fillers for many jobs-that seems to be the trend being pushed for in the US-the idea that education is almost entirely about employment training.

    But, to give an opposing view, perhaps students of today are well-accustomed to interacting in the virtual world and they can do so in a way that matches the experience of interacting in person in the context of a university.

  11. JMRC,

    True-the crude predecessors of these things go way back. Heck, the monetization of education can be traced back at least to the sophists.

Leave a Comment


NOTE - You can use these HTML tags and attributes:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>