More feedback on Janet Swenson’s keynote

These are notes I’m making from an interactive dialog with Janet following her SITE keynote.

Janet Swenson & Wesley Fryer

Maxine Green’s work on creativity is relevant here
– Janet’s interests and focus in educational reform

Michael Apple’s view: we have to learn from neo-liberals and neo-conservatives, they have infiltrated the system and put themselves in positions of power

South China Morning post is reporting that students in Hong Kong are among the most dissatisfied students in global education system
– this was reported recently in the press

We are reducing kids to multiple choice tests

Concern of what to do is something we need to talk about
– how can we organize this information
– keynote speech at Janet’s disciplinary conference last year (NCTE I think) focused on the stories of children, sharing the lived experiences of children

Janet: 1 book to read: George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives”
– there is a free CD/video you can get with this
– author explains the last US Presidential election what happened when Kerry was defending his medals against GW’s allegations, he was reinforcing GW’s frame
– when we defend NCLB, we are stepping into that same frame
– so instead, we need to proactively think about constructing and reinforcing our own frame

Accumulations of additional bodies of research is probably not what is going to win the hearts of minds of the broader audience
– it is appeals to ethos that will win it
– right now people believe that teachers are not doing their job, and we have to reverse that through FRAMING

I am most interested in how pictures and sound connected together in terms of the reading of the text impacts me with ethos (feeling differently) not logos impact
– Jonathan Kozal’s videotape, “America’s Schools” is great, visits to Ohio schools in same athletic conference
– in one school that have ubiquitous computing, in the other the kids brought umbrella’s to school because of leaking pipes

How are schools funded in communities is really the bottom line to a lot of this
– HOW is the textbook used
– in Iowa, about 95% of kids go to school, by and large it is a middle class society

One issue: everyone is an expert in education and so everyone speaks out on it

My question: Where is the window? How do we help people understand education as conversations and relationships being important to the education

Janet’s answer: so many districts now have pacing guides, teachers don’t have latitude to go off those guides
– had conversation about teachers doing podcasting and innovative things
– teachers that report they don’t have TIME to fit anything new or innovative into the day
– a Michigan dissertation coming out: “The 41st minute” (The 41st minute the teachers get to start teaching what they really feel they should be

For one group: work with parents, parents need to make demands on behalf of teachers
– teachers are being put in ethically compromised positions, with curriculum pacing, etc.
– keeps teachers from doing what they think and know is ethically right for children
– cast the positive side of that: Story for teachers to tell, “the things I want to do with your children”


Educators when they testify before the legislature are seen as just defending their jobs
– when parents go to the legislature and talk about their children, it becomes a bill and action is taken
– legislators respond to the stories of parents

How many of you are part of Chambers of Commerce, Councils for Economic Development?
– I was involved in driver education, found when we went to legislature, parents who lost children on the road went out, children went out, and spoke up– then it had a different response

Legislature doesn’t want to hear it from us: they want to hear from parents, from student groups like student government

Janet’s comment on national writing project success: This has bipartisan support
– Thad Cochran (Mississippi conservative) – his best friend’s daughter directs the National Writing Project, so his support of this is very relevant to personal, relational connections

We need to ask people, do any of you know legislators?
– this is the 7 degrees of separation, getting others to come listen

When we start talking about thinks like “framing” we have to ask ourselves about ethics
– are we getting into gamesmanship?
– my courses are in critical literacy, language use, I look at how language works with people
– I view this as using language strategically

Lakoff’s point: we want people to stop thinking about NCLB
– instead we want people to think of a technologically rich environment where engagement is an essential element
– continuing to describe the space we want to be in, rather than focusing on the attacker’s ideas and just defending ourselves

What is produced by the marketplace is for the pedagogy of the 20th century
– it is a real challenge to think about education now, how educators should learn in interdisciplinary teams, using technology within it in clever ways
– what is on the market today is pedagogical nonsense, based


Where are the models?
– High Tech High?
– GLEF examples?
– What are the commonalities between islands of excellence

What are alternative structures for SITE
– just “sit and get?”
– those are generally not very effective models of professional development
– rather than throwing that away, can we integrate some of those things into the conference
– models of excellence?

I find students we are getting are increasingly conservative (in Dublin)
– students want school safer, controlled by the teacher

Janet: one of my primary teachers is my 25 year old son, who is so ethical
– is a vegetarian, has thought through his place in the world and what his role is
– he apologized after the last political election for remaining in an echo-chamber and not speaking out in the world among people who

Many kids can’t wait to get out of school so their education can really begin

We need to recognize that we have lots of diversity, we often disagree on our goals
– some people think we have to have agreement first before we start a dialog
– maybe we need to have a dialog to try and sketch out our goals and move toward consensus

We have an export-ready mentality for education, thinking we can come up with the one best educational model and export it to everyone
– there is not A WAY, there are multiple ways

Talking about the conference: where are the kids? where are the preservice teachers?
– we are good with coming up with theory, but how do we test it if we don’t have the people we are trying to benefit here at the conference?
– spring break is a great time to bring in kids, undergrads, etc– who doesn’t want to come to Orlando for Spring Break?

Janet’s closing thought:
– these ARE scary times we are living in: who can pick up a newspaper and not wonder about the future?
– when we get afraid, do we try to make things simpler so we feel like we have a handle on it?
– maybe the approach we should take is to understand others and their fears, and their desire to move us forward, but let’s recognize and embrace the complexities of human beings
– breaking us down into component pieces and trying to make us all fit into the same mold is really not the best/constructive thing we need to be doing at this point.

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One Response to Advocacy in Education

  1. Toma says:

    Hi all! I just started my first semester. I was wondering if anyone could provide me with some information on “the role and functions of education”. Does anyone really believe education is the only priority? People say that education is vital and is a priority. Like a list of the points or something like that, and email it to me please: I would really appreciate the help! I need it before Thursday!
    Thanks! Toma

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