Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs indicates the perception of a safe environment, along with basic physiological needs, are pre-requisites for the development of higher order needs eventually culminating in self-actualization. This podcast focuses on our ethical obligations as moral educators to speak out and take action when pedagogic crimes are taking place in our schools against students. The specific pedagogic crimes I address in this podcast include verbally threating elementary school children with the loss of their entire summer vacation if they don’t work harder and score better on high stakes tests, and the departmentalization of students in first grade. Neither of these actions are supported by educational research as ways to enhance student achievement or promote the sort of school culture in which learners of any age can thrive. Both of these actions have been and are being taken in a Texas elementary school, whose identity I am not disclosing for reasons I explain in the podcast. These reprehensible actions are NOT taking place everywhere in all our schools, and I am not wanting to further erode public perceptions of teachers and our schools in general by sharing these stories and ideas. I do believe, however, that cultures of fear are more prevalent than ever in many of our public schools today because of NCLB and our predominant, destructive political culture emphasizing high stakes accountability. As moral human beings in our communities, we have obligations to speak out when children are being harmed both physically and verbally, even if those actions are being taken in the name of “raising student achievement,” “improving test scores,” or “getting our kids ready for high school.”


Show Notes:

  1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs on WikiPedia
  2. Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse on WikiPedia
  3. Enron article on WikiPedia
  4. Whistleblower article on WikiPedia
  5. “The Power of Reading, Second Edition: Insights from the Research” by Stephen Krashen
  6. Website of Dr. Stephen Krashen
  7. “Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement” by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, Jane E. Pollock
  8. “Working on the Work: An Action Plan for Teachers, Principals, and Superintendents” by Phillip Schlechty
  9. Leadership Applied: Building Powerful Learning Communities by Dr. Tim Tyson @ Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference 2007
  10. The Blogging School by Dr. Tim Tyson @ Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference 2007
  11. Website of Dr. Tim Tyson
  12. Podcast of Dr. David Berliner’s 2006 presentation: “High Stakes Testing is the Enemy”
  13. “The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards”” by Alfie Kohn
  14. Podcast of Dr. Allan L. Beane’s 2007 presentation: How to Create Bully Free Classrooms and Schools

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4 Responses to Podcast228: Pedagogic Crimes Against Students

  1. Clay Burell says:

    That “getting our students ready for high school” mission really depresses me – and I’m a high school teacher.

    What does it usually mean? Teaching young minds to quit being independent learners, to surrender their curiosity, and to see high school as simply a series of exercises to score points that will get them into college.

    High school is a big part of the problem. And the SAT and AP exams are big culprits there.

  2. Rick Tanski says:


    I appreciate the acknowledgement in the beginning about publishing/posting/sending when under the influence of emotions; however, the emotions often inform the action. Most times we leave off after blasting, but your suggestions for action show the benefits of thinking through the source(s) of the frustrations. You mention that we have to move beyond the fear factor of various kinds. The identification and acknowledgement is critical, but we get stuck in avoiding the discomfort of change. I often joke, with a sense of seriousness, that some of Newton’s laws apply to people: A body in motion will stay in motion until an external force acts upon it. To be the change that you mentioned through Ghandi’s quote, we are morally obligated to be that external force -internally. Otherwise, an external force will act for us. It’s about setting up the dialogues and opportunities at the classroom level, changing the trajectory of education by degrees. Top down doesn’t work -as you illustrated.

  3. Joselyn Todd says:

    Wes, I enjoy your podcast and blog immensely and look forward to meeting you f2f sometime. In regards to this podcast/post, I agree that it is so sad that one’s value in our public education system often boils down to scores obtained from tradition testing whether this is NCLB mandated testing, SAT tests, etc. To think that a child’s total intellect and value could be encapsulated into these high stakes tests at a time when we have all the tools to provide differentiated assessment, is in my mind, pathetic at best. And all of this is occurring at a time when it is becoming apparent that creativity, which is largely not assessed, is becoming increasingly valued in the workplace.

    I do sympathize with many teachers, however, as they are products of the professional development they receive, the environment in which they work, and the stress they are under to produce student scores that will allow them to maintain their own employment in some cases. In spite of all of these obstacles, I agree, Wes, that no child, no matter what circumstance, should be made to feel inferior, fearful, etc. by a teacher trying to meet “the standards”. “We have obligations to speak out when children are being harmed both physically and verbally, even if those actions are being taken in the name of “raising student achievement,” “improving test scores,” or “getting our kids ready for high school.”- I could not agree more.

    I’ve written a couple of blog posts that you might find interesting as I touch on some of the topics you raise here:

    http://tinyurl.com/2eu238 and http://tinyurl.com/2eeq3x Love your thoughts! – Joselyn

  4. Kent Chesnut says:

    Very informative and insightful (or is that incite-ful) podcast. What would be surprising is if we didn’t feel some moral indignation over such repressive and cruel tactics – especially when they are being done in the name of “helping our students”.

    You mentioned Kohn in your podcast and show notes. His article on “Getting Hit on the Head Lessons” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/bguti.htm – bguti stands for better get used to it) addresses some of the same issues – especially the “high school” stuff that is being pushed down on the junior high and even elementary grades.

    Keep up the great work.

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