WHO'S CRAZY? EXPERTS OR NON-EXPERTS?
Experts make disasters, then expand on them
by Dr. Joan E. Battey - February, 2005
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If you haven't yet taken up the idea of seeing clues in the news, you might want to do so immediately. Especially, in this example, if you value your children, your grandchildren, or your wallets. It's getting hard to pick which news to mine for clues, but so much of it seems to offer the greatest gems in stories connected in any way with "education."
This latest one is a literal Sutter's Mill sitting there waiting for the Gold Rush to begin!
"State Plan Would Let Middle Schools Drop 'Exploratory' Courses" It's out of Albany, NY -- where lately you hardly need a metal detector, just a bent spoon, to start digging for clues in news. (It's an AP story, by-line: Michael Gormley)
A little background may be in order here. For years and years, many non-experts called parents, taxpayers or simply those who recognize boulders in the roads that go through anything connected with education, have been routinely ignored and often ridiculed for describing the boulders and the massive damage they could inflict if not removed immediately.
Along the way, "experts" (those who have made often profitable careers out orchestrating waves of change) became very adept at knowing how to judge when new boulders could be marketed as a different rocky road, but better than the previous expertly-designed boulder-strewn road.
Old boulders? The largest and most effective one was "Infusion confusion," which was a high-speed shell game guaranteed to make students more able to compete in the modern world. Academic subjects soon became almost pointless, old-fashioned drudgery that would no longer be needed. Parents and taxpayers were made to understand that times had changed. Students had miraculously, in a generation, morphed into brilliant self-learners, no longer in need of orderly progression of solidly-built foundations of learning. They would be in great demand, the world over, because of their skills, their teamwork, their concern for righting community wrongs, their ability to step up and advise adults of all ages and persuasions on how to run everything that needed running. What do you mean they didn't know how to handle the basic details? Unimportant!
Experts, with the help of journalists recruited to the cause, and corporations in need of having a compliant and disposable workforce, sold the country next on "career skills," and "workforce training." Corporations and heir expert advisers, working with educators and their coterie of highly-paid bureaucrats and expert advisers, soon found that the biggest skills needed for any workforce were lacking in the academic sense of reading, writing and math ability. But, they were able to work this to their advantage because they were "experts," and commonsense "non-experts" were know-nothing trouble-makers. Solution? Re-define basics and infuse it with pseudo-skills.
The next round of expert advisers came up with the idea that students needed to have it proven to them that any education was necessary for any particular job, and so much time was lost trying to entice students to careers, whether they had the ability or not, or the interest or not.
Picking up on the old "home party" sales schemes, much school time was diverted to learning about all kinds of careers, enticing students to please be interested in becoming "professional" thises or thats. Actual time away from class often was devoted to job sampling where students were sent to workplaces to take part in whatever work was done there.
Portal-to-portal time overlapped class-to-class real education time, but this is the new millenium. Don't question why, just pay the bills?
But, all the fun and sampling, all the traveling around for "enrichment," all the "leadership" and "board advisory involvement" somehow came face-to-face with long-term needed remedial education in the basics at the college level, and a growing chorus of complaints by businesses and clients alike that "mistakes" cost us money as a business and frustration as a customer.
Expert solution: More rigorous exams. Problem? Ever-lower passing grades on the more rigorous exams -- which were incidentally devised by the same experts who made the mess. They were trying to prove how erudite they themselves were in coming up with nonsense "problem solving" based not on facts, but on agendas and process. They openly admitted that correct answers were not important, only knowing the process. And, this was to entice students to careers that needed correct and precise answers as the end procedures? Don't question the experts!
What kind of brainwashed public could possibly disagree with that? Even then, it didn't register that it was the expert advice that was the root cause of the problem!
Fast forward to the latest jargon -- but read all the way down through the "solutions" that merely flim-flam their way to the continuation of the shell game, at higher costs, which are already expensive and getting more so with every passing semester, tax bill and economic impact. It's even more tragic in terms of harsh reality as students try to take their expertly-devised education into a dwindling job market with lowered financial rewards.
Sounds great! "Drop the exploratory courses." This is a euphemism for "fun and games openly labeled career training." After lowering the passing grades to the point where even those distanced from paying attention to education can see what's happened. So, now, the experts realize, it's time to create new boulders, difficult as it might be to market them to a market which has shown signs of being suspicious of the "process."
They are going to drop the "exploratory courses" (aka career enticement shopping excursions, fun and games and visiting professionals with sales pitches for their own careers.) But, wait a minute. It's not "drop" in the usually-understood meaning of the word. Don't you believe it! The experts are ever at work, overtime pay, seminar reimbursements, travel expenses, in-service training and all! Drop the courses, but only here and there until you can finish crafting the new boulders! Offer options for what should have been an ironclad "Drop the exploratory courses; stop the nonsense; don't make a bad situation permanently worse!" Wrap the options in a nice new press-release gift-wrapped flim-flam and send it off to the non-experts to approve or get out of the way.
Solutions: If schools have poor performances, let them drop SOME of the "exploratory course" focus. BUT, the Lucy football pull-away LIVES! Then, the time COULD be spent on core subjects, BUT, integrate the "exploratory issues" into THOSE OTHER COURSES. Which is what lowered the real education to noticeably dismal levels in the first place. Same game, new name!
Second choice: same as all that preceded it. Schools which actually met the new gobbledegook standards of achievement, could be granted "relief from prescribed time requirements for units of study in ALL subject areas." Would this perhaps include the subject areas that were ready to be infused with the "exploratory career" focus????
The last choice really is a shell game -- because after being granted "relief" from meeting requirements, the schools could then "restructure their entire educational program".
It's being claimed that in order to get back to what was always real education prior to "expert" intervention, that students would be deprived of art and music. They would no longer, apparently, be able to whap out posters for every contest or charitable activity which could be pulled under the umbrella of "art education." They would no longer, apparently have any remotely ethereal exposure to music. Who were those teachers in earlier days who routinely exposed students to art and music, free of outside forces or expensive public performances and distant competition? Returning to basics would permanently stunt students' education!
Those who are part of the initial first thrust against any real change, are claiming that students will not have any way to release their creativity -- perhaps such as the news-making winning art exhibit which just included a fantastic creative effort of a high school student depicting side-by-side images of Hitler references and George Bush references.
They say now that exploratory courses are necessary because students need to be introduced to "areas they may choose to study in high school." Given a choice between fun electives with a hint of profitable careers included, what student is going to voluntarily choose academics?
And, (horrors!) if they take away the exploratory (fun-and-time-consuming) courses, then it might be that teachers might be laid off.! But, again, not to worry! Schools would continue to need their services because of infusing the exploratory careers into regular academics courses. Voila, without missing a beat, they would just shift gears. Business as usual, just under a different name.
The wonderful experts ensured this last new and improved boulder when they came up with the third alternative for schools to "choose." They could, if they hadn't yet fallen too far in passing exams, "redesign traditional exploratory courses into mini-courses, with input from students, colleges, YMCAs and corporations in the community." This would mean "high interest, relevant topics such as fad diets, youth fitness, student leadership, engineering design, science and techology research, and the arts as political expression." Could non-experts possibly come up with this expert gobbledegook, and market it without the requisite career training? Of course not! Get out of the way!
This, if you please, comes out of the same State Education Department that has never deviated from its own fun-and-games career enhancement path over all the years of tap-dancing around the lowered education expectations and achievements.
Another news item, regarding the need to get more money for "failing New York City schools," indicates how far from reality most of the experts operate. In referring to the new and ever-higher demands for "more money" for education, even though the lid is steadily lifting high enough to see waste, fraud, and abuse of both money and frequently students as well, one expert has confidently proposed a special education surcharge on those making $100,000 and a higher surcharge on those making $200,000. He is "sure they would have no objection to that surcharge" because it's for education. Oh, really? How many did he survey?
The saddest part of the whole education industry experts' permanent and ongoing advice for fixing all the problems? It is very likely that they will have no problem creating and marketing their lucrative boulder-building enterprise. However, the students will be the real losers, as pawns in the ongoing expert games.
Can't argue with success, can we?
Joan E. Battey is a freelance political writer from Apalachin, NY. Her love of logical dot connecting and writing developed over many years of typesetting and proof reading in small daily newspapers; ad agency and manufacturing office secretarial work, and volunteer work in libraries, animal welfare, political campaigns, and networks of people keeping abreast of the steady "reforms" in education.
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