I posted the following as a comment response to Andrew Pass, who was commenting on Angela Stevens’ post “Laptop Initiatives and Standardized Testing.” I feel strongly about this, so I’m reposting here with a few additional thoughts. The part of Andrew’s comment I responded to was:

Perhaps educational bloggers haven’t discussed this topic [standards and high stakes testing] because they don’t think that standards are the right way to go in education. But our own perspectives on standards and standardized tests don’t matter that much. Standards are here to stay. If we don’t figure out how to integrate technology and teaching for standards mastery many teachers won’t touch technology.

My response was:

I agree with you Andrew, we definitely need to take up the issue of standards in edublogs– write about them, debate them, and collaboratively find better ways to address and deal with them. But I strongly disagree that our voices and opinions don’t matter. They do. They matter because we shape each other’s thoughts and practices whenever we read and respond to each other. I agree that the entire standards movement is not likely to reverse direction or course based solely on the writing of a few edubloggers, but I do know that IDEAS MATTER and the ideas many are writing, reflecting, and responding on and to here in the edublogosphere are making a difference now. They have made a difference in the things I do as a teacher myself, and as a professional development collaborator with teachers.

I feel strongly that the legislative agenda on high stakes testing is poorly conceived and counterproductive. I believe that as educators and moral professionals, we have obligations to act in the best interests of students– not just politicians whose primary mission seems often to just get re-elected at all costs– and to respond to administrators who at times can be more led by perceptions of fear rather than a vision for what is best for children and our communities.

Our discussions about standards and testing should be far ranging, and I think out-of-the-box ideas should be welcomed as well as vigorously analyzed/critiqued. But I don’t think we should ever deceive ourselves with the idea that our own perceptions, ideas, dreams and visions don’t matter. They do, both in the narrow spheres of experiences where we each live separate lives, and in a broader sense– because we are all connected via the Internet ether in a powerful way that I think few are truly able to appreciate–because our life experiences are by nature so limited.

Thanks for sharing your blog address and your thoughts, I’ll look forward to reading more of what you think. We change the world one conversation at a time– that is what blogging can and should be all about for educators, and what education itself is about.

So what should we do? There are many things, but one of the most straightforward tasks is to invite more people into these conversations. There are still many people who don’t know about “these meetings” we’re having online via the edublogosphere. As fellow teachers, we need to make them aware and invite them to join these interactive exchanges. Any teacher worth his/her salt is always on the lookout for new ideas and strategies that can potentially improve his/her teaching practice. Doing this is the essence of being “a reflective practitioner,” which I think all educators are called to be by nature. Will all teachers be drawn to and voluntarily participate in edublog conversations? No, of course not. We’re a diverse group, and we have different interests and preferred pathways to learning– just like the students we teach.

That being said, however, because of the the long tail, the blogosphere offers unprecedented opportunities for like-minded and like-interested people to get together and visit. When this happens of course, there is always inherent danger of groupthink due to the echo-chamber effect, but none-the-less these are powerful dynamics we have only begun to comprehend and leverage to powerful effect. I can’t think of a more exciting day of human history to be alive than RIGHT NOW. Ask Mikhail Gorbachev if ideas matter. Of course they do. There were many factors contributing to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall/Iron Curtain and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, but one of the most powerful was the freer spread of ideas. Powerful ideas move people, they can move nations– and yes, they can even change legislative policies on education. NCLB is the rule of the day today, but that fact should not deter us from visioning and strategizing a better educational landscape for ourselves, our children, and our posterity. I’ll close with one of my favorite quotations from George Bernard Shaw, who wrote in “Maxims for Revolutionists:”

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

Is it unreasonable to proclaim the virtue of an educational environment where high stakes tests are not the focus of not only the day, but the entire school year? Perhaps to some. But that perceived unreasonability is an ineffective deterrant to me, and to many other educators out there. As edubloggers we may not have the positional authority often associated with political and social change, but we do not need it. Our power resides in our ideas, our abilities to collaborate and think together, and our unprecedented abilities to share and work over the Internet ether at the speed of creativity. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Sea change is coming, and we need to not only surf this wave, but surf it together– instead of fighting the tide.

Speak out. Blog. Read and reflect. And invite other teachers you know to the conversation. We’re just getting started, and we need as many diverse voices as we can get. Ain’t no reactionary, statist administrator that’s going to be able to stop us. Your school district may block Flickr and even Blogger, but no administrator can control your mind or limit your imagination.

So let’s keep reflecting and dreaming together, so we can take actions in the real world that make positive differences for kids! We’re on an educational journey, and it’s up to each of us to extend invitations to others to join us.

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3 Responses to Our voices DO matter

  1. Andrew Pass says:

    Thanks for your comment and response to my comment. I must admit that I agree with you. We don’t have an argument. It is important for us to speak up. However, perhaps there are two domains: the first one is practice in the classroom. As educators I think it is important for us to remember that we work for institutions and we must implement the policies of our institutions. We can certainly disagree with these policies and even encourage our students to think about their merit. But we must implement those policies or we should stop accepting our paychecks. The second domain is one of political discourse. As Americans we certainly have the right, nay the obligation to think about our government’s policies and speak out when we disagree with them. As teachers we can not only speak as citizens but as professional educators. We can work hard to change these policies, but until they are changed we have an obligation to implement them or leave our jobs. These are just some thoughts.

    Andrew Pass

  2. astephens says:

    Thanks for the optimistic viewpoint and encouraging words!

  3. Brian Crosby says:

    Wesley, well said – I’m tired of teachers not speaking up in meetings, trainings etc. and then “off the rercord” listing all their issues with a policy. Then those hoisting the policy figure … “Hey no one is seems to have a problem with this, so we’ll just keep plugging along.” It’s unprofessional to not have the discusion(s) – the lack of open discussion is one of the issues that adversly impacts education the most in my opinion.
    I have to disagree with Andrew – if what I’m asked to implement as an educator is not in my students’ best interest in my professional opinion – it is my obligation as an educator and professional and citizen to not only speak up about it, but to not implement that policy (or parts of that policy) and only leave my job if I am forced to so by legal means that show that my actions were not in my students’ best interest. Otherwise I’m not much of a educator or professional or citizen.
    Learning is messy.

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