Sunday, December 10, 2006

Rethinking American Education

The link I have provided associated with this posting is for a diary posted today at dailykos. I have been a visible poster there for a number of years, and last year organized a panel session for the first Yearlykos in Las Vegas with Jamie Vollmer and Governor Tom Vilsack, discussion the situation in American Education today. I have been tasked to organize another session this year, with the unenviable and impossible task of totally rethinking American education. After reading several posts here recently, I thought it not inappropriate to share what we have been doing, and that plural pronoun includes Sherman, who has been participating with me in these efforts.

I have below pasted in the entire contents of my post today to dailykos, links and all. If you are a registered member of dailykos feel free to comment over there is you want, although you can offer any suggestions you think might be of use directly to Sherman and me on this thread, or if you choose offline.

The original diary might be worth reading for the discussion in the comments, but what is below will still let you know what we are doing.

Hope people don't view this as too far from social foundations.

Yearlykos - the education panel - an update

It all began with an invitation in October:
One of the biggest successes we had with YK '06 was Jerome's "Energize
America" plan. Along with some other Kossacks, Jerome put together an
intelligent, well-thought-out, comprehensive plan to reform America's energy policy, and then got a probable Presidential Candidate (Bill Richardson), to sign on to it at the Convention. We would like to replicate Jerome's success on other subject matters for YK '07. How do you feel about putting together a paper and comprehensive plan to reform our education system, similar to Jerome's effort with energy, and presenting it at YK '07?
. I shortly thereafter posted a diary announcing the effort entitled YEARLYKOS 2007 - Educate America - what do you think? A group of us began some discussions offline, and our last communication with the community was in November, Educate America - Yearlykos 2007 - doing the impossible? At that time we solicited input and asked for additional help. Now it is time for an interim report.

First I can tell you we have an active group communicating through a Yahoo Group so that we can easily archive our communications and post files for all of us to examine. Our earliest participant posted his first diary in October of 2003, and we have several participants who will be joining dailykos because we wanted their expertise to help us. Our individual backgrounds cover classroom teaching from the pre-school through the post-graduate, and includes classroom teachers, university professors and researchers, principals, administrators, book authors, newspaper columnists, researchers, and so on. We have had some assistance from the members of the energy group and some ongoing guidance from one of the FPers. It is a good group, and when we get a bit further along we will introduce you to all the members.

We took the material from the two aforementioned diaries, and also from one diary I had written before the formal invitation came entitled I think we have lost our way. From this we came up with 11 key areas to address, as well as a catchall category into which we placed the remaining comments that did not otherwise fit into the 11 specified categories. These categories are
1. History

2. Where we are now (standardization, punishment, lack of innovation)

3. The goals of education (humanization, democracy, work, thousand flowers bloom)

4. Who is taught (customization and integration, the child and the community, nutrition, IDEA, IEP)

5. The teacher (professionalism, diversity, experimentation)

6. What is taught (the canon, inquiry, engagement, resiliency, the arts)

7. How we teach (experiment, replication, repetition, engagement)

8. What the interaction is like in classrooms/schools (the importance of failure)

9. How school systems are structured (increase fluidity, break down traditional barriers, open in the evenings for parents/community members, k-college funding)

10. How we define progress in education

11. How we talk about education in a democratic society (where is the line between school and not school?, can't different schools "talk" differently?)

Shortly after the first of the year we will begin with several diaries on the History of Education. This will be written by kossack SDorn, who is an educational historian and also editor of one of the principal professional journals on educational policy. We hope this will helop people understand how many of things often discussed about education have been discussed before. We also hope that this will enable our subsequent discussions to be based on some common background of knowledge.

We will then begin to roll out the topic diaries. Please note that the current structure outlined above is subject to change as we get further along in this process. Our happy few (and additional help is welcomed - if you are interested contact me offline at kber at earthlink dot net) is dividing up areas of responsibility. Each subject diary will be primarily written by one person, although there will be several helping with the draft and all of us will be offering input. I expect that we will establish a website at which we will post supporting documents and links so that the diaries do not become too long.

Like the energy folks, we will welcome feedback on what we post, will take that in and process it. This will be an iterative process, attempting to take advantage of the insights of the broader dailykos community.

That’s the snapshot of where we currently find ourselves. There is a lot going on behind the scenes. You will still see diaries on educational subjects independent of this effort, as you did recently from two of our key members, DeweyCounts and me.

We are still interested in additional suggestions. So that we avoid too much repetition, I have posted the organized list of comments at my own blog, because putting them in a diary here would make this totqlly unwieldy. I suggest you take a look to see the ideas your fellow kossacks have already shared. I apologize in advance for the poor layout of my blog. I assure you that if you scroll down you will eventually see the text for the diary whose title appears above all the blank space! (and if someone is so inclined to look at my dasher board and find the error I would be eternally grateful - but let’s do that offline as well).

Here’s the link for the previous comments,entitled Comments for the Yearlykos2007 education project.

That completes this update. We welcome your additional comments and suggestions. As noted, we are developing the process at the same time as we are developing the content. We promise to inform the dailykos community on a regular basis, and before we get too far into the new year you can expect to see material from us on a regular basis.

One last point - we have NOT settled on a name for our project. There is a bit of disagreement among the group. Since this is a group effort, we will try to hash that out so that we can have one phrase that will link all of our efforts together. For now you can consider this as either Educate America or Redesigning American Education, and I have included both as tags for this diary.


Mary Ann Doyle said...

Please seriously consider deepening our understanding of ed foundations at this particular moment in history with a conception of its roots in nature, not just environmental education. We need to stop turning our thinking about education as deep ecology over to science departments and science educators who are willing to think about the implications of cosmology for education as a side show. We are at the end of the creation stories era; Please incorporate the work of Thomas Berry into these conversations about ed foundations now. Let's not wait another thirty years. Social includes nature; we are in relationship with Earth, Solar system, universe, cosmos. Jump this gap and let's get started redesigning american education in collaboration with evolution, since we've taken over the controls, sadly, of this planet.

My two cents.
MaryAnn Doyle

Dan W. Butin said...

Mary Ann,

You might be interested in "Ecojustice Education" ( Rebecca Martusewicz is one of the main driving forces behind this and she is a professor of social foundations at Eastern Michigan University. She has written a lot about such a perspective and her work might be relevant to thinking through how to link education with our greater world.


Mary Ann Doyle said...

Thanks, Dan. I agree Rebecca's work is a great start, just as is the work of Chet Bowers. Our struggle to reconceptualize our relationship to nature and Earth reminds me of our struggles with multiculturalism and cultural studies. We added many courses and programs to address multiculturalism but the politics often resulted in 'add-on' effects. That's where it seems to me we are when I consider the topic list for redesigning american ed. Even ecopedagogy seems harnessed to a view of humanism that is still one-step removed from an intimate relationship with nature. I do thank you for the response and the work at hand.