Getting the Frame Right in Education

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President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Education has heightened the fears and anxieties on the educators’ listserv I read as a silent member. The fear is that the nation’s public schools will be subjected to another wave of the test-and-blame pretense to accountability.

But the situation has been falsely framed by the people seeking to dismantle public education, and the press has accepted the false frame uncritically, thereby setting up the wrong national conversation. The false frame, put forward for example by David Brooks in the New York Times, is set up by labeling the conservatives as “reformers” and the progressives as “reactionaries.” The second step has been to misconstrue the situation as a matter of “the union.”

The teachers and administrators on the listserv almost never mention the union. Their desire is for sound educational practices. They want to be liberated from the fetters of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which is leaving so many children behind, and they want schooling to be about the education of children. Reading First and NCLB have stifled teaching and learning, recasting teachers as drones and children as mere data points. The underlying desire of those forcing fake accountability upon the schools is to dismantle public education and privatize it into a for-profit enterprise. It’s about money and power, not children.

I wish the press would wake up and stop accepting the frames and labels spoon fed to them. The issue is between scripted instruction and real teaching, being on the prescribed page of the manual for that calendar day or engaging children in learning. It’s not about the union. The business-first forces are not reformers, and the teachers who long to teach are not reactionaries protecting their supposedly cushy positions. Press corps, please wake up. Our children are being dehumanized and left out.

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