Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Commentary on Education in Dothan with a Lifetime Perspectiv

A Commentary on Education in Dothan 
with a Lifetime Perspective

by Sharman Burson Ramsey

I graduated from Dothan City Schools during the Golden Age of Education (or so said Nell Brown, one of Dothan’s premier teachers). At that time, it meant something to have attended Dothan City Schools. Then, according to Lois Baker, another of Dothan’s stellar teachers, with the close of the sixties we acquired a new batch of administrators who advocated the new and improved methods taught in the colleges of education. I graduated from the University of Alabama about that time and know personally what she was talking about. I also graduated thinking that what I was taught was “research based” and the best of current knowledge.

I was wrong. The older traditional teachers had it right.

In the meantime, Dothan threw away money on buildings with pods that had to be divided up because of the noise and confusion.  Then came the 90s and Goals 2000. The community was “Delphied” into acceptance of Whole Language /Progressive Education.

What is the Delphi technique?

 The gist of it is that the technique is used to reach a predetermined conclusion. In other words,to manipulate the group. It has evidently become popular within politics to give the impression that public input is actually having an impact on decisions when in reality, the decision has been made already, and the group is being guided, unknowingly, toward that end."

That does sound unethical, and to be sure maybe we should look at the definition of 'ethical'. I think we all know and understand what is and isn't ethical behavior. It's doing the right thing for the right reasons. However, the actual definition of the word places it in the context of the standards of the profession. 

There is an old axiom that the only difference between motivation and manipulation is intent, and I think that is the issue here. There are ethical ways to employ the Delphi Technique and there are unethical ways to use it to manipulate data and people.

Consider the difference between motivation and manipulation. But, of course, the ends justify the means.

The first time I remember getting Delphied was when Auburn’s Dean Kunkel came to Dothan to speak at Northview in support of Goals 2000. I cornered him there and asked for research supporting the effectiveness of Whole Language. He said and I quote, “I can’t give you any. It’s current wisdom.”

Obviously not good enough or we would not still be battling continuing illiteracy in our schools.

It was the early 90s. Goals 2000 won. Drill and kill--what the “current wisdom” labeled Phonics --lost. Except in sports where coaches always knew that drill developed skill. 
That matters because winning teams on sports fields brought money into the coffers of the schools. Unlike Reading and Math. Failure there brings in more money.

Those who sold Kentucky its education reform also sold Alabama its “reform” plan incorporating the Progressive methodology that dominated the colleges of education. Dothan City Schools paid a consultant to rewrite their Bylaws.  SEQUENTIAL  (skill upon skill) learning was replaced by THEMATIC (take a whole and break it into parts) learning. GROUP LEARNING and PEER TUTORING made the teacher the GUIDE ON THE SIDE as students became “independent," “”hands on” learners recreating the wheel rather than “standing on the shoulders of giants,” being taught what others had already discovered. 

Psychologically the group became Alpha. Blooms Taxonomy taught that children should be taken to the point of moral development where they “challenge the fixed beliefs of their parents.”  They were successful. 

The Dare program taught young children where drugs were sold and how people used them. Marijuana and alcohol, gateway drugs, became more prevalent. New Age Techniques such as role-playing opened doors that should have remained shut. 

Conflict Resolution also brought New Age techniques into the classroom encouraging children to mentally withdraw into their happy place.  Words of non-violence conflicted with the images the Southern Poverty Law Center thought necessary for small children see in the films that came with the curriculum our administration thought necessary. Topics like Bullying and Death Education guided by untrained teachers in the "therapeutic" classroom led some children to commit acts they would not otherwise commit due to the depression of those topics and the images they evoked. Cognitive dissonance.

Education did not improve. Then came another drive to “fix” our schools that wound up with the Chamber of Commerce “Delphi-ing” the community into accepting Common Core. Bill Gates of “Pirates of Silcon Valley” fame sold the community on  
"21st-century skills” generally referring to certain core “competencies” such as “collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today's world.”

"The idea that the richest man in the U.S. can purchase and --working closely with 
the U.S.Department of Education--impose new and untested academic standards 
on the nation's public schools is a national scandal,” wrote one skeptic. 

The funding of the NGA (National Governor's Association) and CCSSO (Council
of Chief State School Officers) suggests where their accountability lies. Since 2007, NGA and CCSSO have accepted approximately $100 million from the Gates Foundation alone to advance the standards and the connected data-collection and assessments. These organizations do not answer to the people, they answer to an enormously powerful funder with a definite agenda. NGA and CCCSO also get substantial funding from the federal government for CCSSO, about half its operating funds). The Gates foundation spread money across the political spectrum to entities including various teachers organizations, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association and business organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce. Money flowed to policy groups on the Left and the Right funding research to scholars who supported the idea of common standards.   

Surely sales opportunities/filthy lucre would have nothing to do with Gates in partnership with UNESCO. Microsoft joined Pearson, the world's largest educational publisher to load Pearson's Common Core classroom materials on Microsoft's tablet, the Surface. That product allows Microsoft to compete for school district spending with Apple, whose iPad is the dominant tablet in classrooms. 

And how about the sales of that data on your child collected through those computers? 

What proof did they have of Common Core improving education? Other than as in the Alinsky Rules for Radicals No. 11, “If you push a negative hard enough it will push through and become a positive.” 

Sentiments prevalent in the World Core Curriculum of UNESCO permeates Common Core aligned texts. Concepts found in grade school children’s textbooks such as justice and equality are given politically biased meanings. Justice is newly defined to mean the redistribution of wealth and resources. Equality is used to dismantle preference for one’s own culture, religion and social customs. “Predictive information,” data ostensibly gathered on each student to improve performance, is in truth a measurement of a student’s adjusted attitude and behavior—a Soviet style “managed outcome” as Crisis Magazine explains. 

"Skills based" learning rather than “knowledge based” ranks right up there with one of those negatives pushed hard enough to convince the public it was a positive. And they succeeded. 

You must believe that “21st century learners” “balk at rote learning and memorizing…” Throw away direct instruction, phonics in reading instruction, memorizing math facts … and allow the political activists like defrocked priest, guru of Whole Language and Harvard saint, Paolo Freire to revolutionize Math and Reading with his “liberation pedagogy.” Planned Parenthood develops the Sex Education curriculum integrated into curriculum on every grade level. 

And now Dothan’s newest Superintendent has “innovated” the system to do away with the old Dothan High School to bring all Dothan Middle Schoolers under one roof at the old Dothan High School building calling it Dothan Preparatory School. An elite sounding name for recycled Progressive concepts. And Northview is now Dothan High School …with a different mascot.

During the late nineties Dothan Director of Instruction Susan Lockwood got the Board to back the “four period day.” They paid for teachers to fly to Frederick, Maryland to “see” a school that had used that method for a couple of months and then come home enthused enough for the system to print glossy brochures and a video on the “method” …and then send our own teachers out to sell the method. Lockwood used AP Geometry and Algebra students in our system as guinea pigs for her dissertation. Their scores on the Advanced Placement Test showed they scored poorly and eventually the method (which gave Band and Sports students 1/4th of their school year to their extracurricular “subject”) was replaced. ONLY TO RETURN WITH THIS NEW SUPERINTENDENT. 

Since our child would be affected when this “innovation” was first proposed, we got the principal of the Frederick, Maryland high school to cite to us a study on block scheduling. We called Dr. David Bateson, author of a study on Block Scheduling of over 20 years, who was then on vacation on an island off the coast of British Columbia. He sent us his study. His conclusions? "The four period day is detrimental to academic achievement."

 Lockwood saw scores drop six points for minority students from 42 to 36.White student's scores dropped 2 points. Although Lockwood drew the conclusion that this was not statistically significant thereby enabling her to recommend block scheduling. Yet, before long, Block Scheduling was dropped. 

By the way, Lockwood, then became Dr. Lockwood with a PH.D. (She used our daughter as a guinea pig for her dissertation WITHOUT OUR PERMISSION and went on to become superintendent of Eufaula City Schools in Alabama.

They say we are no longer Common Core schools. Yet, the laptops still utilize Pearson curriculum and the same Progressive methods. Point being there has been no improvement on the curriculum of our schools. It is still based on “current wisdom” (Progressive Education) as Dean Kunkel explained thirty years ago. Only now it is on steroids as a consequence of Common Core. The current Superintendent appears to be a Master of that philosophy.

So be it…as long as the community understands what their tax dollars support. Though it appears to some of us that the chairs on this Titanic continue to be rearranged for the benefit of administrators making points with their fellow educrats, getting degrees, promotions, and recognition from their colleagues. Not for the benefit of our children.

We took a wrong turn in the late 60s and have only gone further off course. Like sheep our School Boards have followed the dictates of the automatons in administration who no longer look to the children they serve as proof of their success but for promotion to the next pay raise to elevate retirement pay. 

Now, we must rethink our schools as a consequence of Covid 19. Does a crowded single high school and middle school make sense? Should those abandoned schools be reopened to alleviate crowding? In the process, how about actually revolutionizing the schools by using methods proven to actually educate children in the manner expected by the public that funds those schools. Like those traditional methods used in private schools. Fortunately, the private school my grandchildren attend does not buy into that foolishness. They use Orton-Gillingham for Phonics/Reading and Saxon Math. But through our taxes, we are all forced to support the “current wisdom” and sad individual and societal consequences of Progressive Education. 

Be prepared--the demand for more money to use another gimmick to “fix” education will be coming soon. 

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