I think there is a fine line to walk when criticizing a government policy, like the NCLB law or the war in Iraq. The line is crossed, intentionally or unintentionally, when criticism for the policy is interpreted as a criticism of the people tasked to carry out that policy. For those criticizing current U.S. war policy, those tasked to carry it out are our servicemen and women in uniform. Similarly, I wonder if criticism of NCLB and current government education policy is often consciously or unconsciously interpreted as a criticism of those tasked to carry out those policies: The teachers and administrators in our classrooms, or the educational “trenches?”
I suspect this is the case. It is often interesting to see which blog posts invite commentary, and I have observed that those posts in which I take a strident political position are generally not commented on much. I can think of several hypotheses why this may be the case:
- Most people reading my blog are more interested in practical suggestions for using educational technology in the classroom, rather than pontifications about educational theory or politics.
- Readers agree with the sentiments expressed but don’t see a need or value in leaving a supportive comment.
- Readers disagree with the ideas, but don’t want to be confrontational or start a debate.
- Many readers are current school teachers or school district employees, so speaking out about educational policy issues is a bit risky. (Somewhat analogous to an active duty military person who might have a personal opinion about a government policy, but would not be able to freely share a dissenting political view.)
- Controversial issues (including most which touch on politics and religion) are often good to avoid, since people can get worked up and emotional about them.
- The first idea mentioned in this post is accurate in the reader’s opinion: The line between criticizing a policy and criticizing the people who are carrying out those policies (those under orders, so to speak) is sufficiently thin that the person does not want to come across as criticizing people. (In the case of educational policy, criticizing teachers.)
- Many readers of my blog (according to my ClustrMap) live outside the United States and aren’t particularly interested in my rants about U.S. politics!
I often take time during my presentations to share my sentiment that I am tired of hearing politicians, parents and the media beat up on schools and teachers. I think it was Sir Ken Robinson in his TED talk who reflected on the three primary, traditional influencers of young people: 1) the family, 2) the church, and 3) the schools. He observed that with the declining influence of the family (esp with the trend toward more nuclear rather than extended family living arrangements) and the declining influence of the church in many people’s lives, suddenly all this responsibility for shaping the perceptions and behaviors of young people has fallen to the school. It DOES take a village to raise a child, but unfortunately our society seems to be expecting schools to do all the raising in many cases.
The point I am wanting to express is that I do NOT intend to directly criticize or blame teachers or administrators as a group when I assert that NCLB has been a dismal failure and has taken our educational system in the wrong direction. Yes, as individuals educators (like everyone else) do bear responsibility for their actions. Corporately, however, just as the U.S. military has been required to promulgate an extended land war in Asia with an open-ended commitment by our political leaders, educators have similarly been tasked with the responsibility of establishing and enforcing a fear-laden educational culture of high-stakes accountability and testing for elementary and secondary students in public schools. The fact that these policies were created by elected officials is not the fault of teachers, any more than it is the fault of servicemen and women that our nation went to war in Iraq.
I think the line between criticizing a government policy and the perception that the person levying that criticism is simultaneously criticizing the people tasked to carry out the policy is a very thin one at best. I am not sure how to avoid or transcend this problem, other than to explain myself as I am attempting to do now. I guess this is sort of like a person who says “I support the troops,” but criticizes the President’s war policy. Some people would say, “You can’t support the troops and criticize the President.” Yet dissent and critical thinking about political issues are essential parts of our republican government and democratic culture. It’s always easier, I suppose, to not criticize and remain silent rather than enter into a discussion into which it is likely one may be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or rejected out of hand by those holding dissenting views.
I think we need more critical thinking in our schools and in our homes. We need more shepherds, not just sheep. Unfortunately, I think those encouraging “shepherd thinking” are often few and far between.
Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."
On this day..
- Student Oral Reports with School Hallway Dioramas via AudioBoo - 2013
- Manipulated FoxNews Video Shows Why eBooks are the WRONG Choice for K-12 1:1 Environments - 2011
- Civil War Augmented Reality Project Becomes HistoriQuest - 2011
- Photo memories in an old box - 2010
- WordPress for iPhone 2.2 Even Better - 2010
- Fun with XTimeline and myWebspiration - 2009
- Howe Oklahoma Students lead virtual field trip at Fort Smith, Arkansas - 2009
- BYOB - Bring Your Own Bandwidth - 2008
- Technical troubleshooting and tinkering are essential skills - 2008
- Podcasting from the Windows side - 2007