Monday, October 24, 2011

Maybe the DFER-type Democrats should live abroad

Democrats Abroad, the official Democratic Party organization for Americans who are living outside the United States, has issued this very sane education platform proposal to the Democratic National Committee, in great conceptual contrast to what so many Democrats are pushing here. Democrats Abroad is recognized as a "state" Party by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and is represented on the DNC by eight voting members, as well as at the quadrennial Democratic National Convention. 


Proposed by Chair Democrats Abroad France, Constance Borde assisted by the Democrats Abroad France Education Policy Group Chair: Dr. Leslie J. Limage

(Originally submitted to DA Resolutions Committee on September 14, 2011, Approved for transmission to the DA Platform Committee by the DCPA on October 17, 2011, Washington, D.C.)

WHEREAS education is a human right and public responsibility to provide all children and young people with the opportunity to realize their full potential (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26).

WHEREAS ongoing policies inherited from the previous U.S. Administration and carried forward by current leadership are undermining the quality of education as well as our longstanding commitment to equal opportunity, the alleviation of poverty, civil rights and respect for linguistic, social and cultural diversity in a misplaced reliance on business practices and privatization of public education.

WHEREAS what we need to improve education is a strong, highly respected education profession; a rich curriculum in the arts and sciences, available in every school for every child; assessments that gauge what students know and can do, and a government that is prepared to change the economic and social conditions that interfere with children’s readiness to learn.

WHEREAS we cannot improve education by quick fixes, by handing over our public schools to entrepreneurs, by driving out experienced professionals replacing them with enthusiastic amateurs, or by closing them and firing teachers and entire staff. No country in the world follows such strategies.

WHEREAS disadvantage in our country is exacerbated by unsafe and crumbling schools. Over the past three years, investments in school improvements have benefited the wealthier districts disproportionately. The President’s new job’s creation legislation announced in his September 9, 2011 speech to Congress on an “American Jobs Act” is intended to remedy this situation and we need to ensure that it does in fact do so.

BE IT RESOLVED that Democrats Abroad adopt the following education policy foundations for our platform in 2012 many of which already figured in our 2008 Platform and that these principles figure in our 2012 Party Platform:

The Purpose of education: is to enable all children and young people to reach their full potential as individuals and become socially responsible citizens of our country and the world.

Equality of opportunity and non-discrimination are the foundations of our democratic society and must be reflected in all aspects of educational governance, management, finance, school facilities, teaching and support professions.

Formative Evaluation and Assessment should encourage learning. The evaluation of students should be diagnostic. The results of student evaluation should not be used to evaluate teachers and schools as institutions. The evaluation of schools should celebrate the strengths of community ownership of and improvement by school communities.

The teaching and school leadership professions. Teachers and their organizations should be viewed by governments as equal partners, independent but committed to the common endeavor of achieving successful education systems. School leadership, governance and management also require professional knowledge and the specificity of public service and education. Outsourcing any aspect of educational leadership de-professionalizes key foundations of our education systems and decision-making based on knowledge, experience, trust and democratic principles. Education professionals’ collective bargaining rights acquired over many years should be respected rather than threatened.

Educational facilities: quality, safe and environmentally friendly schools. Public schools are an important element of our nation’s infrastructure. Repairing strengthening, upgrading and constructing schools are essential. A nationwide effort needs to be initiated to anticipate and improve the adaptability of the nations’  existing and yet to be built school infrastructure, including regular rehabilitation and upgrades.

Promoting Equality through Inclusive Education. It is the responsibility of public authorities to ensure that all citizens have access to high quality education services appropriate to their needs. All barriers to education must be removed in order to make school accessible for all persons. Any school receiving public funding should not be permitted to select its students based on their likelihood of meeting testing standards, much less because of race, ethnic origin, sex, or religion.

Early Childhood Care and Education: Free, High Quality Public Preschool Programs

Early childhood care and education is intended to meet the needs of the whole child. The Federal government should provide assistance to states for the creation of free, universal, voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. They should encourage linkage of universal preschool with the resources, infrastructure and talent of the public school system. The Federal government should also ensure that states require the licensing and certification of all preschool instructors.

Primary and Secondary Education. Quality primary and secondary education are the basis on which all further learning takes place and young adults are equipped with the critical thinking skills and knowledge to make further educational and professional choice throughout their lives. These levels of education are public responsibility. The Federal government’s first responsibility is to set the bar higher than it has ever been in terms of equality of access and service, rather than lowering it to enable “market” forces to play.

Higher Education: Access, Academic Freedom and Quality. Action must be taken to improve equal access to all forms of tertiary education and reduce the cost of higher education. A key characteristic of successful individuals and societies is the quality of higher education. It is not a matter of “competition” worldwide or for scarce “jobs” within our country. It is an absolutely necessary building block for realizing human potential and constructing democratic, open and globally responsible world citizens.

Protection of education as a public good in a period of economic austerity. All concerned citizens should work to re-take and then re-build quality public education. The trends towards privatization and outsourcing of our children’s future are undermining democratic institutions at home and internationally. We need informed citizenry to begin to re-establish democratic values and institutions that respect them.


Anonymous said...

LAUSD/San Fernando Valley

----Teachers are under constant threat/pressure to do more & more prep, plus are increasingly held responsible for student behaviors in the classroom. “Off-task” students and excessive noise are seen as almost entirely the teacher’s fault, rather than as the complex personal situation that it may actually be for the student.

----Specified administrators have been made into ”hit-people” to conduct ongoing “hammer” operations
against selected teachers (i.e. the older ones, higher-paid ones, and/or ones who are perceived as less in-command of the current SDAIE techniques, standards-based teaching style, etc) Some teachers admit to friends that they feel near the breaking point, but keep soldiering on, as a target for administration criticism and pressure.

----Heavy emphasis on standards-based teaching rather than critical-thinking exercises (which kids tend to resist nowadays), and a heavy focus on BITS of information in prep for multiple-choice evaluation rather than more concept-based subject matter. A District Standards SDAIE Trainer announced at a large-room training session several years ago that, “Teaching English is not about Literature anymore; It’s now all about the standards.”
Everyone nodded;No one disagreed.


Anonymous said...


----The intense focus and pressure constantly put to bear on teachers and administration, is not missed by students, who, when upset at the teacher (which is often these days), are likely to say things like,”I can get you in trouble”, or,”I can get you fired, so watch out!”

----This intense spotlight on teachers especially, has helped grow a new level of NARCISSISM within many
students, who sense that most of the focus is OFF them and ONTO the adults, as if kids aren’t really responsible for test scores (afterall, it is the SCHOOL which is penalized, and it is TEACHERS AND STAFF who are let go due to low scores.)
Kids are generally treated with way too much deference, IMO, and painful accountability is avoided for our youths, who seem to lose a little more maturity and sense of personal responsibility,
each year.

----Kids, overall, these days in my reform-obsessed high school, seem less-concerned with the little “studently” duties that used to be done automatically by most students in a past generation (circa 80s/90s). Some kids will hand in a 4-page essay and never go thru the painful inconvenience of stapling the pages together.
When I take 5 or 10 points off the paper and staple it myself, this generally has small effect on students, many of whom blithely continue their non-stapling habit all year, in spite of the ongoing points hemorrhage. Other tasks, such as putting a title On the top of every assignment
(for keeping order in their work portfolio), never gets done by about 1/3 of the students. Just too difficult I guess.
Another relatively new problem is kids who wait until the teacher is helping someone across the room, and when the teacher’s desk is unwatched, they STEAL things from the desk—pens, pencils, candy, Class rosters, etc. Sometime this is dictated by student “need”, but sometimes it is just to throw out something valuable to the teacher so the class will be slowed-down for a time while the teacher copes with the missing material.
Even more egregious, IMO, are the students who STEAL OTHER STUDENTS’ COMPLETED ASSIGNMENTS from the turn-in tray, and erase the original student’s name and put on their own.

----A surprising number of kids put only their 1st name at the top of the paper. This is only a problem when the first name is “Juan”, Brandon, Maria or Brittany, which is a lot of the time.

----Student copying of papers is rampant, ofcourse, especially when short-answer formats are employed (which teachers everywhere are being pushed to use). And since schools are judged, and closed or taken over, on the basis of multiple-choice tests, short-answer format work is far more common in high school classes than it used to be.
We do quite a bit less writing-at-length, as a result.

----There is more distance, and sense of alienation between kids and teachers than 10-20 years ago.
And kids spit out far, far, far more direct insults and
Profanities at teachers than ever before.

For myself, I cannot imagine a climate in which I could have said “Fuck You” to my unpopular HS Chemistry teacher back in 1969. It would have felt great (to me), but how would such allowed behaviors have affected ME & my social functioning, years later? We will see with the current crop of kids, who, in actuality, are guinea pigs in a vast, American experiment with Neoliberal Corporatized Education, that goes on as we speak, and seemingly without end.