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Chip Mosher: The year in education

2012: The year that, some have said, the world would end. Also the year the word “fuck” first appeared in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Perhaps Merriam-Webster simply wanted to legitimize the final word on most people’s lips at the world’s final cataclysmic collapse — on a planet where H.G. Wells once observed, “Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.”

This year marked the beginning of the second decade for the catastrophe in public education known as the national corporate-based reform movement. Based on George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind mandate, this takeover of the nation’s schools has amounted to little more than socialized education. Oddly, the federal government contributes only 10 percent of the money for public education, yet it now controls almost 100 percent of the dialogue regarding our children’s scholastic lives. When NCLB failed miserably, however, the plotting corporations and wealthy foundations (lobbyists) behind this movement increased their surreptitious funding to intensify politicians’ zeal for the devious reform agenda. This has led to President Obama’s ridiculous Race to the Top program, which has merely vilified teachers and their unions while lowering academic standards of students to make the corporate takeover of schools look good.

If you care about real education, here are some anecdotes from 2012 worthy of attention. For those who don’t care about the education of kids, well, I would like to thank Merriam-Webster for sanctioning the word I most enjoy employing in reference to them. They are part of the problem rather than of the solution.

Jan. 10: Education historian and former reformist Diane Ravitch writes on her Bridging Differences blog: “After 10 years, I have seen the wreckage caused by No Child Left Behind. It has become the ‘Death Star’ of American education. It is a law that inflicts damage on students, teachers, schools and communities.”

Feb. 17: In a negative report on the reform movement’s Common Core Standards Initiative — the new major education policy in Nevada and other states — the nonprofit Brookings Institution says, “Do not expect much from Common Core. Education leaders (and politicians) often talk about standards as if they are a system of weights and measures — the word ‘benchmarks’ is used promiscuously as a synonym for standards. But the term is misleading by inferring there is a real standard of measurement. Standards in education are best understood as aspirational, and like a strict diet or prudent plan to save money, they represent good intentions that are not often realized.”

March 8: Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America — a nefarious group that receives tens of millions of tax dollars and corporate donations to put inexperienced, undertrained teachers into the nation’s classrooms — writes in the Wall Street Journal, “A few years ago, my son had a (inexperienced, undertrained) teacher in a classroom. It made me frustrated with the school.”

April 17: Of the reformists’ poster-girl Michelle Rhee — whose policies have been copied by Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones — Diane Ravitch writes: “Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst, has raised more than $200 million to attack teachers’ unions; strip teachers of job protections; and to fund (political) candidates who want to reduce spending on public education and privatize it. Supposedly, Rhee and her allies — assorted billionaires, big corporations and right-wing governors — are the only people who can be trusted to care about our children.”

May 26: Defending the Early Years, a coalition of early-childhood education experts, releases a statement about having “growing concerns that federal Race to the Top mandates on early childhood education are undermining education practice that research tells us is in the best interest of children.”

June 2: On his blog, Living in Dialogue, about the reformists’ collective denial of the failures of NCLB and RTTT, national board-certified teacher Anthony Cody writes: “The trouble with Groupthink, as psychologist Irving Janis points out, is that it can be disastrously wrong. Once we get swept up into this momentum, and more and more of our values and livelihoods hinge on this set of beliefs, it becomes harder and harder to break away.”

July 27: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten proves that her teachers’ union is as pointless as the National Education Association, Nevada teachers’ union, by endorsing President Obama for re-election — whose Race to the Top policies consistently have been anti-teacher.

Aug 1: Scandals surrounding the failed reforms of former Florida governor Jeb Bush — reforms embraced by Nevada Gov. Bryan Sandoval — have led to the resignation of Florida’s education commissioner, Gerard Robinson, who had been recruited from out-of-state the previous year to lead Florida’s schools.

Sept 24: Though pretty much against teacher unions, the American public resoundingly supports unions for National Football League referees, after a blown call by nonunion replacement refs costs the Green Bay Packers a victory on Monday Night Football.

Oct. 1: In the education reform propaganda film Won’t Back Down, Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a slutty bartender who gets young, inexperienced Teach for America teachers drunk, has sex with them on the first date, then leaves her little daughter alone with them. This qualifies her, and them, according to reformists, to take over and run neighborhood schools — in the place of qualified teachers and administrators.

Nov. 4: Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond, an administrator with the courage of his convictions, writes in the Washington Post, “Obama’s Race to the Top’s heavy-handed, top-down mandates create division and derision within the education community at precisely a time all sides should be coming together. (It) throws education stakeholders into enemy camps.”

Dec. 14: A politically somber year for public education ends on a devastating note as 26 people, including 20 elementary students, are killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — reportedly the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.

Stay tuned to the race for civilization in 2013.

CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher