Never Forget

The report I reviewed  [“Do Our Public Schools Threaten National Security?‘] was written by a task force chaired by Joel Klein and Condaleeza Rice. I believe the report is part of a campaign to undermine public education. Public education needs constant improvement, of that there can be no doubt. But it does not need to be disparaged and demeaned as a national security threat.

As I say in the review, the real threat to our future is growing poverty and income inequality and intensifying racial isolation. The report mentions these issues but fails to offer any suggestions to reduce their negative impact on our society.

Stop the Campaign Against Public Schools!” Diane Ravitch

It’s time to demand a new model: classrooms that eschew rote memorization and test prep; teachers with the power to implement effective and flexible teaching strategies; students who are connected to their teachers and love to learn. Policymakers will find it hard to argue with that.

Is this really what education is about?’ Valerie Strauss

It’s Memorial Day, and I suppose I ought to be writing something about my father, who drove a tank in WWII, and died of a heart attack in 1982. He’s buried in the National Cemetery in Houston, Texas.  It’s a very moving place and it’s exactly where he ought to be buried. He was proud of his service. I have to say, though, that even a  few days of memorializing soldiers is very depressing. It doesn’t make me feel in any way patriotic, or grateful; it makes me feel that I live in world whose history is long chain of brutal collective violence.

It also reminds me that my Dad , and many of his generation, felt that social development and education, not violence, was the only long-term solution to authoritarianism and fascism. Ironically, but perhaps not surprisingly, the ideology of the standardized test, deeply rooted in eugenics, has ties to the same racist nationalism that has fed so many conflicts.  Then, as now, some sought an objective proof of superiority; the shift from defining race to determining merit is mercurial at best, a supremacist slight of hand at worst.

We don’t need the standardized test or its attendant distortions of classroom practice– and wars against collective bargaining– to pursue the long-term goal that was so important to men like my father.  There are lots of alternatives, all of them related in some fashion to a projects approach of the sort outlined in “A Step-by-Step Guide to the Best Projects.”  (A petition to end the over use of standardized testing is here, too.)  A revitalized system of public education would be the best memorial to collective sacrifices.



About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

One Thought on “Never Forget

  1. A very moving post, Ray, and I couldn’t agree with you more on the importance of supporting public education. Keep writing and getting your voice out there: we need to hear what you have to say.

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