Enjoy reading a couple sections from The MACE Manifesto (Chapter One and the PREFACE).
The MACE Manifesto: Part One – Expounding Theories
Let us just tell you how things really work in public education.
On Learning & MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning.
By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD
At MACE, we are concerned about students actually learning information, not just having good bullshit feelings about themselves. We believe that if students actually learn information and therefore have knowledge, then they will indeed have good feelings about themselves, if this is really paramount. We are talking about actually teaching the students information, not engaging in all of the John Dewey hackneyed social engineering, viz., trying to change the students’ beliefs, feelings, values, dispositions, or attitudes about the world or their environment. The current Outcomes Based Education (OBE) and Common Core Curriculum which are being pushed nationally by the very flawed Race to the Top (RTTT) federal program and other groups like the National Governor’s Conference, the Belmont Forum, and UNESCO might have some merit but the overriding agenda seems to be a reengineering about how students think and how they interact in group dynamics and what kind of value that they attach to situational-type ethics and morality. It is ironic that our “learned” men and women of the ivory towers and of the corporate elite are now intent on tearing down the bright line standards of right and wrong and even exchanging the possibility of teaching our students veritable truths for the mental mush of deconstructionism. We have heard of junk bonds on Wall Street. Well, we are entering the age of junk learning in our public schools.
When our educational wackos (usually Ivy League graduates who are non-educators but assume educational advisory roles in policy-oriented foundations) could not get the History Standards blessed but instead were condemned 99 to 1 in the U. S. Senate in January of 1995 (the only dissenting vote was cast by Democrat Bennett Johnson of Louisiana who thought that they were not condemned enough!), these same social engineers went back to the drawing boards to change the language to make their agenda more palatable, but the same mental mush is on the educational dinner plate. With groups like the Pearson Education (the largest educational company in the world which profits big time from the publication of textbooks, workbooks, study guides, teachers’ guides, tests, evaluation materials relative to these standards, etc.) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (whose “cousin,” Microsoft, which waits with baited breath to sell uniform apps relative to these so-called standards) pumping millions of dollars into the operating costs of the National Governors’ Association (NGA), the tail was seen clearly wagging the dog. With the billionaires’ not-so-subtle push and shove for the Common Core Initiative, our students are now at the mercy of being manipulated by the likes of the Bilderbergers. Get ready, folks. Public education is now goose-stepping to the rickety cadence of globalism and has adopted the one-world-curriculum quicker than Halliburton can grab a government contract.
It is this type of junk learning that these programs and these groups are pushing on our public education children, but not on the children who go to private schools where learning information is a premium, where scoring high on the SAT or the ACT is pertinent, and where getting accepted to one of the Ivies is very important. No, the schools where Bill Gates or President Barack Obama send their children actually learn information from respected teachers who are authorities in their fields. The water-downed junk learning that is being pushed in our public schools today would not be tolerated in the plush private schools where many of these educational junk pushers actually send their own children. This is the height of hypocrisy. At best, it is the public schools being used for social agenda; at worse, it is a deep-seated and condescending gnostic philosophy that drives these self-perceived elitists to try to do what they perceive is best for the “craftsmen” class of people. It stinks like the shit from a disemboweled hog, and if you ever confront these “knowing ones” about their elitist mindset, they become nervous like dogs shitting peach seeds. Remember that it was H. L. Mencken who stated, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.”
We want students to be able to read and to understand what they have read; to be able to recite the multiplication tables right off the top of their heads; to be able to write cogent, logical, and understandable paragraphs in the King’s English; to be able to locate states, countries, major rivers, and mountain ranges on a map or globe; and to be able to demonstrate a coherent knowledge of United States and World History. It is these types of information that make the student a literate person and enables him or her to be considered culturally literate. Most of what is being pushed by the federal government and educational “think tanks” today is not content learning; it is bullshit learning or mind-altering attempts to change how students see the world around them.
The educrats and social-engineers wrap the Common Core Curriculum (which has been adopted in some form by most of our States) in good sounding phrases like “college or career readiness,” but they apparently have a social agendum instead of a true educational agendum. Trying to change or propagandize the “whole person” is no better than exclusively foisting “whole language” upon non-readers instead of drilling them in the phonics approach which has effectively helped children to learn to read for generations. All of these flawed and misguided attempts to skirt, avoid, and chunk good, hard memorization of information is destined to sink just like the Titanic. These so-called “educational leaders” decry learning “fixed facts” but it is “fixed facts” which are tested on the SAT, the ACT, the LSAT and other entrance exams. (Now these academic gnostics are trying to change even these tests.) Are these educational gnostics trying to keep the masses from entering into world of leadership, hoping rather that they will just be content being “workers” in the new global economy?
Public school education should be about learning information and learning how to think critically based upon the information that has been learned, not some jived-up hocus-pocus Captain Kangaroo I-feel-good-about-myself bullshit. This is not how students are taught in private school education or in law school education or in medical school education. Our public school students have a severe information deficit. They are just ignorant. Not stupid (well, some are), but just ignorant. We have high school students who can’t tell you in which century the American Civil War occurred, if George Washington or Abraham Lincoln was the President during this war, or who the United States fought during World War II. They can’t tell you if eight times eight is 64 or 32. They can’t tell you what the difference is between a noun and a verb, much less properly string them along in a verbally correct sentence or a cogent paragraph.
The information deficit is horrendous and our airhead education professors and educational policy wonks think that it matters more what these students feel about globalization or so-called global warming. I fear for a mental meltdown in our public schools because of a lack of learned information. The acquisition of learning is rather boring and has to be committed to memory. You learn from a qualified teacher, a repository of knowledge, or an authority on the subject, if you will. Or, as a friend often says, the students need the sage on the stage and not a guide on the side. All of this “student-centered” learning is bullshit. The students don’t know enough to teach each other hardly a thing. It is the pooling of ignorance at best, and at worst it is the sacrificing of the advanced students to use them as tutors for the struggling students.
Teachers should be allowed to study in detail the subject areas that they teach. Teachers should usually teach only one subject area but some teachers prefer more than one subject area to break up the mental monotony and to keep themselves fresh. But, requiring a teacher to teach three or four or even five different subject areas a day is certainly a punishment on the teacher (and this is usually why a dumbass administrator would think of assigning these many lesson preparations to a teacher) but it is also a travesty on the students because the teacher cannot become the expert that he or she needs to be to command the authority in the classroom. Students can sense when a teacher is just trying to stay one chapter ahead of the students. Such dumbass subject assignments are unconscionable. In the old days, this hardly ever happened, but with the new genre of dumbass administrators, they do such multiple-subject assignments just for the joy of watching fellow human beings suffer…like a sadistic kid burning ants.
Not only should teaching assignments be limited to one subject (and to two subjects in emergencies or if the teacher requests another subject), but nearly all of the bullshit education courses (be they in the colleges of education which ostensibly prepare people to teach or in the inane “staff development” courses) should be ditched. Yes, ditched. Colleges of education probably should be limited to a class in the teaching of reading (for the primary grades), methods, educational psychology, research, and statistics and that’s about it. All of the made-up-courses-for-education-professors-to-have-jobs should be jettisoned. Teachers in Grades Four through 12 need to be saturated in their subject areas, be they in Math, Science, History, English, vocational areas, etc. When the teacher walks into the classroom, the students should be able to sense immediately that this teacher in an expert in this field of study. The ability to command respect is important.
So, this chapter is about learning, and MACE’s theory of how a student learns. If a student actually learns something and gets accepted into a college or a university and later to a medical school or an engineering school or a dental school or a law school based upon the performance of his or her acquired knowledge, then this student will automatically feel good about his or her learning. Positive feelings come after real learning, not before. Our numb-skulled educational emotion-pushers have it all backward. If you learn, you will feel better about yourself, but giving someone false feelings based on some ill-advised educational pep squad will leave a young person emotionally-jaded and mentally-disjointed. The young people need to be told the truth, viz., that they need to get their asses in gear, burn the midnight oil, and actually learn something. With this backdrop, let us lay out MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning.
We have all heard of the chemical formula for water, viz., H20. Two elements of hydrogen combined with one element of oxygen results in water. Probably most have some notion about Albert Einstein’s E = MC2. Energy equals mass plus the speed of light squared. I am not capable of elucidating upon Einstein’s revolutionary Theory of Relativity and how mass can be converted into energy, etc. I am just an old school man who has observed through the years what equals Learning, and I can assure you that it is not what today’s educrats keep foisting upon unreceptive teachers in particular and upon the public in general.
Actually, in the United States we have no official Theory of Learning or Philosophy of Education. None whatsoever. Hence, we fall prey to the latest fads which usually emanate from the colleges of education. Most of these fads do not work, and the teachers know this instinctively and experientially. So, what does work?
MACE believes that DAM or D+A+M = Learning. What is MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning? MACE believes that you have to have three essential elements in place or learning will not take place. But, it is not so binary as it may sound. Obviously, with varying degrees of these elements in place, you have varying degrees of learning taking place. But, the principals, superintendents, school board members, educrats, and politicians don’t have a clue about these three essential elements which constitute learning.
The D stands for Discipline. Discipline is a key to learning. A very important key. In fact, a field of study was formerly called a “Discipline.” You have to have self-discipline to study. Without discipline, there can be no study. But, we never hear the politicians and policymakers say one thing about “discipline” when they announce their grandiose schemes for school “reform” (which never, never work, by the way). It is never discussed as even something desirable, much less something essential. They simply think that they can come up with more things for teachers to do and more standardized exams to be administered to the students and then learning will take place. That’s like trying to put Kool-Aid into the gas tank instead of gasoline and putting oatmeal in the engine instead of motor oil and expecting the car to run. It won’t run no matter how mad you get at the mechanics and drivers. It won’t run…because you have substituted Kool-Aid for gasoline and oatmeal for motor oil. More teacher perspiration and stress, more detailed and minute lesson plans, and more inane, ridiculous, and innocuous reports to be filled out will not result in learning.
The first essential element in the Learning Equation is Discipline. The teachers have to be supported when establishing and maintaining discipline in the classroom, the students have to know this, and the students have to engage in self-discipline. A student who insists on being defiant and disruptive has to be swiftly removed from the regular school environment so that the rest of the students who are engaging in self-discipline might learn. If the incorrigible students are allowed to remain in the regular classroom, then limited learning will take place. It is just that simple.
Order has to be in the classroom. Learning cannot survive in chaos. Order is the anti-oxidant for the classroom, and chaos is the cancerous condition. Chaos cannot survive where order is maintained. Order cannot be maintained without the teachers having the full and unqualified support from the school administrators. In order for a healthy classroom (Learning) to exist, then Discipline (the anti-oxidant) has to reign in the classroom corpus. Not intending to speak lightly of a very serious malady, I can only compare today’s conditions in the classrooms of many schools as cancerous, and our educrats and superintendents want to ignore this condition or to offer Band-Aids for a ravenous and raging cancer.
The U. S. Army and the U. S. Navy understand the need for discipline. Football coaches understand the need for discipline. The F. B. I. understands the the need for discipline. The Prison System even understands the need for discipline. Why don’t the politicians, policymakers, principals, superintendents, and educrats understand the need for discipline? Perhaps they really do, but it’s not in their best interests (financial or otherwise) to call for discipline and to support discipline. There is a blind-spot with the so-called educational leaders when it comes to this essential element of the Learning Equation. Without Disciplne, Learning will not take place.
Ability is the second essential element in the MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning. In Brazil on the nightly news last night, I saw a 14 year old being admitted to one of the prestigious universities. He obviously has more academic ability than most students. On my Facebook the other day, I posted a photo of a young African American, Cameron Clarke, who recently made a perfect score on the SAT. He too has more talent for academics. My colleague and co-author, Norreese Haynes, has a young son who is seven years old. He tests off the charts. Some of the most prestigious private schools in Atlanta have offered substantial scholarships for Zyair to attend their schools. He is simply blessed with superb academic skills. Not all students are so blessed. Some are actually slow. Most, by definition, are average in their abilities. But, we don’t hear policymakers in educational circles talk too much about different levels of abilities. We hear them talk about differentiated learning styles. We hear them issue hollow statements like “All children can learn.” Who doubts this? But, can all students learn at the same pace and at the same depth and level? Do all students actually want to learn? We get ahead of ourselves discussing motivation at this juncture. Motivation is the last of the essential elements of Learning.
Our youngest son Matthew did a piano “recital” as a five year old in front of the entire student body and parents. His teacher told us that Matthew was “a natural” when it came to music. Our older son Robert is like me. He wasn’t blessed musically but was blessed athletically and eventually earned a football scholarship to college. Although Matthew was not blessed athletically in general, he shocked everyone with his ability to run the 400 meters in track – although he initially just called it “the one time around.” The first time that I saw him run, as a freshman, he won a varsity invitational meet. He even shocked his brother. But, he is not motivated by music or track, but has a strong motivation to excel in drama and photography – but, again, we get ahead of ourselves talking about motivation.
Why is it that we can easily recognize and admit that some people are blessed as computer whizzes or great in music and art or great in basketball or track but we don’t want to admit that some students are just more talented in Math, English and Literature, Foreign Languages, Science, History, and Government? What about great at working on automobiles? Great at wood-working? Great at electrical work? Not all students are the same. Not all have the same abilities. Not all have the same talents. Shouldn’t it be incumbent upon educators to be talent scouts? In what areas are certain students highly talented and therefore highly motivated? Certainly not all have the same levels of motivation. Our teachers today are told that all students have to learn from the same pattern and that different classes even have to be on the same subjects on the same days at the same time. How boring! How unrealistic! How cruel! No wonder the motivation of so many students is stifled! No wonder so many 16 year olds just drop out of the school process as soon as they can!
If a student is not motivated to learn, then a student will not learn, and there is little that a teacher can do to make this student learn. If a kid goes to see the dentist, a dentist can prescribe the best dental hygiene for the kid, but if the kid (or adult) is determined to eat a bunch of junk food and refuses to brush or floss his or her teeth, then the kid will have rotten teeth, and there is not much that the dentist can do to prevent this. The same goes for a student who attends school (really against his or her will) and simply refuses to learn. Our educational policymakers and superintendents and educrats want to put the blame for this lack of learning on the teachers, but the teachers can only do so much. A lawyer can defend a client, but the lawyer cannot acquit a client. A physician can treat a patient, but he or she cannot heal the patient, especially if the patient persists on eating an unhealthy diet, smoking, doing drugs, and drinking excessively. A teacher can teach a student, but the teacher cannot learn the student. This is even bad English. You cannot learn anyone. The learning is incumbent upon the student.
The motivation to learn is a social process, a cultural phenomenon. I had a professor at the University of Georgia, Dr. Eugene Boyce. He had served as an educational expert/advisor all over the world. He developed the theory that the motivation to learn is a social process from his many years of observation in Ethiopia, Kenya, China, and the Soviet Union as well as at the Lab School at Florida State University. (Ironically, Dr. Boyce had served as my mother’s principal at Columbus High School back in the early 1940s and taught me at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s.) He observed that it was the social fabric from whence a student came that provided the motivation to learn. If a student in Africa attended what he called a “village-tribal” school, then they did not bring a great deal motivation to learn to school. If, however, a student had a great desire to join the diplomatic services and attended what he called a “colonial-missionary” school, then the student was highly motivated to learn. In the totalitarian schools in China and in the U. S. S. R., there was not much diversity. The peer pressure was enormous when it came to learning. Therefore, the motivation to learn was there. The teachers in China and the U. S. S. R. did not use fancy and esoteric pedagogical methods or differentiated teaching styles to accommodate differentiated learning styles. They taught English by simply holding up an object like an apple, saying, “This is an apple.” The entire class in unison repeated, “This is an apple.” Guess what? The students learned English…or brought much consternation to their parents and to themselves. Misbehavior was simply not tolerated. The same holds true for such monolithic societies like Japan, Sweden, and the holy land of learning, Finland.
Let’s talk about Finland. I was reading an article last night where a so-called educational expert in the United States recently visited Finland. You would think from the way we adulate Finland that Finland puts its students through a battery of annual exams. This is far from the truth. I think that they are given a test at the end of their high school years, and this is it! Yes, Finland doesn’t spend a lot of time examining the students (or, as we say, “weighing the pigs”). They actually teach the students. They grant enormous freedom and creativity to the teachers who are highly respected by the public just as lawyers and physicians are. The teachers pretty much decide what they are going to teach…just like we advocated at the very beginning of this book. This was the way it was in this country forty or more years ago…until the horrendous “accountability” movement out of California spread like a cancerous tumor all over this country and metastasized 30 years ago with the promulgation of A Nation at Risk. Panic set in all over this country, and words like “achievement,” “performance,” and “accountability” took hold like ticks on a Tennessee blood hound. It might be hard for some of our readers to grasp but the concept of “accountability” is a foreign concept to Finnish teachers. The teachers just act like and are treated like professionals. They have fun in the classroom, and often they digress from what might seem to be the subject. The kids have fun, and the kids learn. There is indeed a difference between robots and professionals. Oh, yes, for the record: The Finnish students who don’t seem very adept or interested in an academic curriculum are funneled into vocational education around the age of 15. Perhaps this too makes for “better performance” of the Finnish students. Comparing American public schools to Finnish public schools is like comparing the Compton’s Encyclopedia to the internet or comparing Lake Lanier brim to Cape Cod snow crabs. It’s just not a fair comparison.
A professional doesn’t need a snoopervisor telling him or her what to do. They don’t need to be told how and when to do it either. Today’s teachers are so overwhelmed with inane, stupid, counter-productive, and insipid rules that they can hardly make a decision on their own, including what color wall paper to use. All of the fun, all of the creativity, and all of the professionalism have been taken out of the job. It would be the same for physicians if they are told whom and when and how they can treat. Furthermore, consider that the physicians were told that they had to write down specific plans that they were going to use when seeing their patients – and then these written plans were reviewed by some faceless snoopervising government physician who was intent on climbing the corporate government ladder. Or, apply this same set of ridiculous rules to attorneys. What if the State provided a snoopervising attorney telling each lawyer which legal strategy to employ with his or her client? Again, each time a lawyer interacted with a client or a potential client, he or she had to write down specific plans to be submitted to Big Snoopervising Lawyer who would red-ink them with nasty notes, telling the frightened lawyer to re-submit the plans for further review. This, dear reader, is what is going on in the public schools of the United States.
The teachers are treated like tall children in the United States, like hired hands who have to be told what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The educrats today are actually demanding that elementary teachers jump and clap at certain times, in such reading curricula as Reading First. Or, the Seventh Grade Social Studies teacher in one middle school in the large school system has to be teaching about the Battle of Antietam on the same day as the other Seventh Grade Social Studies teachers throughout the system. As my grandfather would say, I’d rather have an enema…while eating an onion sandwich. How disgusting that the treatment of teachers has become! They are now treated like Russian serfs but we expect them to get the same results as Finnish professionals!
For the students to learn, they have to be motivated to learn. Right now, they are bored to death, and I don’t blame them. The pabulum served up to them each day is boring as whale poot, to quote one of our deceased lawyers. Or, to quote my colorful grandfather again, this delicious curriculum of tasteless cardboard is enough to bore the pee-wadden out of the students – and don’t ask me what “pee-wadden” is. Many of our students are simply disengaged. Their heads are now in texting, tweeting, Skyping, and sleeping – and we’re talking about during class. Some deal with the boredom by playing cops and robbers with the teachers and administrators, and some simply use the school scene as a place to grab a couple of free meals and a place to sell drugs and make some money. For many students, school is simply a place to “hang out.”
Georgia’s true drop-out rate for students entering the 9th Grade and dropping out of school before graduating hovers close to 40%. Has anyone ever asked why the drop-out rate is so high? Isn’t it obvious that many of our students are disengaged and just bored? Ever since the promulgation of A Nation at Risk in 1983, our country has been on a futile path trying to make academic scholars of all of our students. We have been trying to catch the much-heralded Finland or Sweden on standardized test scores. Why? To make the politicians feel good? I don’t know. We have eliminated very useful vocational training for those many students who choose to drop out of school rather than to feel stupid in the Calculus and Chemistry classes. They know that they will never use Calculus or Chemistry. I know it too. Heck, I have earned two doctorates from prestigious universities, and I never use Calculus or Chemistry.
Why not allow these students to take courses in subjects and areas in which they have a great interest and something that will really prepare them for life? If a student is simply not that academically inclined but prefers to work with his or her hands, then what in the hell is wrong with this? There are still seamstresses out there in the world today. There are still mechanics. I know because they constantly work on my cars and vans. In fact, the place where I have been taking my son’s older model Mercedes lately is owned by a husband and wife. It is called Ma and Pa Kettle’s. This husband and wife team can both work on cars, but in recent years, Tammie mainly works on the books, deals with customers, and orders parts. The couple’s daughter and son also work at the business. This is a thriving business. What is wrong with Auto Mechanics and/or Auto Body Shops being put back into the schools?
I remember the young men at the older Archer High School in Atlanta who grew up in Perry Homes, then one of Atlanta’s notorious housing projects. Mr. James Whitehead taught them to repair the bodies of wrecked vehicles. They were good at it too. They won several State competitions, and when they graduated from high school, they could easily get jobs in the auto repairs shops in the Atlanta area. But, when the Atlanta School System under the dubious leadership of Superintendent Beverly Hall went on this farcical mission of raising standardized test scores, the different vocational shops and magnet programs bit the dust. They were simply closed down. I remember seeing Mr. Whitehead, a proud teacher, wiping off lunchroom tables at Campbell Elementary School. They took away his ability to prepare these young kids with a future.
I graduated from Jordan Vocational High School, the first municipally-supported vocational high school in the country. It started in 1905. When my sister, brother, and I all attended Jordan High, we never took any vocational classes, but they were available. Some students took welding shop, wood shop, auto shop, electrical shop, and electronics (and electronics was very advanced for the 1960s and 1970s). Why not have these shops and more at all of our high schools? Brick masonry, construction, painting, sheetrock, plumbing, truck driving, secretarial, and janitorial? Why not? I have known many a person who has made a good living with their own janitorial service. Businesses hire these services every day. Secretaries are still hired. Truck drivers are still needed. When my father was in the U. S. Navy during World War II, he was sent to Baltimore to be trained as an electrician before being sent to the South Pacific. When he returned to his alma mater, this same Jordan High, to teach and coach, for a while he taught electrical shop. He often talked about his former electrical students who came back to visit him, and they were making much more money than he was, even after he became a principal.
We have to find out what may interest a student. What are his or her talents and likes? We should serve as talent scouts. We need to find out what the students are motivated to do. If they are not motivated to excel in the academic subjects and have no desire to attend college, then we have to provide some programs that will motivate them. Otherwise, they are indeed just a drop-out waiting to happen. As drop-outs, their chances of being a drain on society and actually being prone to criminal activities significantly increase. The monies that are spent on these additional programs can be realized in the less monies spent on prisons and the incarceration of our youth. It takes about $40,000 per year to house one prisoner. Maybe there’s just too much money in the school-to-prison pipeline for the powers-who-are to get interested in keeping these young people out of prison. They are privatizing the prisons just as quickly – perhaps more so – than they are trying to privatize the schools. You know that we always say that it is always about the cheddar. Just like it makes no sense for some people to try to improve the blight of urban schools because these schools contribute to abysmal standardized test schools and therefore justify the new endeavors to let the corporatists get their filthy hands on the school money, by the same measure, some corporatists make loads of money by having young people incarcerated for many years. Where do most of these young convicts come from? The urban schools. The same “failing” schools are sending their former students to the State Penitentiaries as fast as you can say “convict lease system.”
This does indeed remind me of the old convict lease system in Georgia. It was in the interests of the Bourbon Democratic leaders to get judges appointed or elected who understood the “labor problems” in Georgia after the Civil War. Slavery was no longer an option, but labor was needed. Judges understood that long sentences were expected for often trumped-up or petty crimes. The convicts were leased out to very prominent families (some of the richest families in Atlanta today) and to politicians (like Bourbon leaders Alfred Colquitt, Joseph E. Brown and General John B. Gordon who swapped around the Gubernatorial and U. S. Senatorial seats like they were playing musical chairs). My great, great grandfather, Robert A. Alston, was DeKalb’s sole State Representative back in the late 1870s, and he chaired the House’s Penitentiary Committee. He did a major investigation of the private Penitentiary Companies which leased convicts (most of whom were ex-slaves) from the State and offered up a scathing report which was carried in most of the major newspapers of the country. In the process of trying to outlaw this heinous system (where there were upwards of 20% attrition rates in the convict camps), Alston was murdered in the Georgia Capitol on March 11, 1879. The news of his murder was published all over the country, including The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
So, what does all of this have to do with the schooling process? Our children are being sacrificed on the altar of standardized testing. The standardized tests have become the false gods of public education. Note that I said “public education.” If standardized tests are so good, then why aren’t private schools bowing down to them too? The standardized tests are necessary for the powers-who-are to be able to point out how schools are “failing.” If the schools are “failing,” then politicians can find ways for the corporatists to get their hands on the school money. It’s really not about improving our schools. I can assure you that our schools – black and white – have gotten much worse since A Nation at Risk whipped up so much frenzy, resulting in statewide testing, national standards, accountability, performance-based-this-or-that, “achievement” awareness, and benchmarks. All of the hullabaloo about “performance” has resulted in less learning. As we have said often, focusing on weighing a pig and constantly measuring the pig’s weight will not result in the pig getting fatter. The pig needs to be fed and allowed to eat.
I read somewhere that Albert Einstein once said the following: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” At my old high school, Jordan Vocational High School, we knew instinctively that our standardized test scores (it would have had to have been the SAT or ACT scores back then) would probably have fallen significantly lower than our counterparts at Columbus High School (where my mother and her sister and my father’s brother and sister attended). Most of the wealthy folk, business leaders, and highly educated sent their children to Columbus High (and later to Hardaway High also). The military personnel associated with Ft. Benning sent their children (among whom was Speaker Newt Gingrich) to Baker High School. Heck, our school was composed of a solid middle class as well as the working poor, the “mill kids” from Bibb City and North Highland. I am talking about the white school, prior to integration. If the test scores of all of the schools had been publicized like they are today, then we would have been slightly embarrassed and perturbed. We already had a chip on our shoulder. We didn’t need the school system or the State to tell us that our school was “failing.” Our school was not “failing.” Many of the Jordan graduates went on to be Generals in the military, captains in industry (in fact, the largest company in Columbus today was until recently headed up by a Jordan graduate who now serves as the Chairman of the Board for this company), and mayors of the city (including the current mayor of Columbus). But, when my father was the only assistant principal of Jordan (and it was the largest high school in the State around this time), Mr. Taliaferro (aka “Mr. T.”) was a very erudite, rotund, and jolly man, and he didn’t fret over the fact that not as many Jordan students were National Merit Scholars (it had its share of them, though) as the other schools or that not as many of its graduates went on to college as the other schools. Each school in Columbus had derisive nicknames, and ours were “Lint Heads” and “Rednecks.” Mr. T. understood the population base that Jordan was serving. Some from the other schools referred to Mr. T. as “Big Red” (in reference to his girth and his ever-present red blazer supporting the “Red Jackets”). He told my father and the teaching staff: “We’re just going to the best that we can with what the parents send to us.” Lots of wisdom in this statement. If the parents send us students with just so much discipline, ability, and motivation, we’ll just do the best we can with what they send to us.
MACE’s DAM Theory of Learning is rather simple, although I tried livening it up with some examples. You have to have discipline in place, both externally in the classroom and internally within the student. Without discipline, there is no hope for learning. Learning will be aborted from the very beginning if discipline is not in place. This is so basic but so many numb-skulled educrats, superintendents, and politicians ignore this. It’s like trying to travel to the moon without oxygen on board the space craft. Second, a student has to have the ability or aptitude to learn. Students have different requisite skills and proclivities to learn. I don’t think that I could ever learn to be a computer programmer. I hardly even have an idea how computers work…or how automobiles work for that matter. (As as aside: My father took auto shop in high school before later attending undergraduate school at Auburn and graduate school at Peabody-Vanderbilt on the G. I. Bill after World War II. He always knew how to work on cars. But, my brother and I did not inherit any of these tendencies. None whatsoever. Daddy often said that Dan and I were “mechanical nitwits.” LOL!) A student has certain abilities and talents. What are they? Can we expect each student to perform at the same rate and depth as any other student? I don’t think so. Next, we have to focus on motivation. If a student is not motivated to learn, then he or she will NOT learn, regardless of who is the teacher in the classroom. Hence, it is incumbent upon classroom educators to be able to find out what the student’s interests are and to be freed up enough from the bureaucratic manacles and curricula constraints to tap into these interests. Discipline + Ability + Motivation = Learning. DAM=L. © Big Daddy Publishers, 2014.
Jump on Board for the Fecal Exam:
American Public Education is Full of Shit!
By Dr. John R. Alston Trotter and Norreese L. Haynes
The Metro Association of Classroom Educators (MACE), once described by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “that radical teachers union,” was founded in 1995 in Georgia and continues to drive the petty, small-minded, insecure, angry, and abusive administrators crazy in its attempt to protect and empower the classroom educators of Georgia…one member at a time. There were many predictions in the early years of the swift and abortive demise of MACE, but what we have witnessed is many school administrators (if we may use this phrase loosely) who have whimpered away via early retirements or forced transfers rather than the premature death of MACE.
It was never easy starting and keeping up a for-profit (yes, not a mamsey-pamsey “non-profit” which ostensibly exists only for its members’ benefits but whose staff is as lazy as a bunch of buzzards) teachers union which responds with all due alacrity to its members’ needs because of the good ole profit motive (not unlike Chick-Fil-A or Avis Rent-a-Car or Publix Grocery Stores). The profits were not always there, and financial survival was always in the forefront of our collective mind. So, we had to constantly worry about having sufficient money to operate and at the same time to offer the absolute first class and undisputed best service that any organization could offer to teachers in Georgia.
Norreese Haynes (L) and John Trotter (R)
We wanted to get this “for profit” thing out of the way at the outset. It has been addressed from time to time in the media about MACE being “a for profit union” as if this was anathema, and we simply state from the outset that we like “for profit” companies and don’t apologize for building a union on the same concept that Bill Gates built Microsoft or Steve Jobs built Apple. Would you really want to purchase some “non-profit software” for your computer or purchase a “non-profit cell phone”? Ha! We are working from Windows 8 now and both of us use iPhones. Our country was built by “for profit” companies, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. At MACE, we have never received a nickel from any government or governmental agency. We don’t go after grants and have never received a grant or any tax-favored status. We have earned and continue to earn our dollars by pleasing our members, one teacher at a time. We pay taxes to the State of Georgia and to the United States of America.
We remember one teacher reading in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about MACE being different…that it was a “for profit teachers union,” and this teacher called the MACE Office and stated: “I don’t care how you are organized. I just want to stay a member!” We had assisted this teacher in getting an administrator off his back. That’s really all the teachers want these days. They just want to be left alone to teach. All the harassment and all of the bullshit evaluations which are so skewed, biased, and laughable are driving them crazy, and they really have no one to turn to except MACE. I jokingly say that the dispossessed and disemboweled and disenchanted and dispirited and dejected teachers in Georgia (and in other states as well) have only three True Friends…the Good Lord Himself, Wal-Mart, and the MACE teachers union.
At MACE, we know that you cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions. This is has been the mantra at MACE from the jump street. This is an undisputed fact. This phrase was used in the opening article that we wrote in the first issue in The Teachers Advocate! magazine in the Fall of 1995. Our message has not changed one scintilla. While other groups may be tossed to and fro with each fad coming down the educational pike or each knee jerk reaction that the Georgia Governor or the Georgia General Assembly may come up with about how to “improve” public education in Georgia, MACE has remained constant, steadfast, unshakeable, and unmovable. Immotus, baby! We have agitated, irritated, and fulminated against the shabby, unprofessional, and sorry-ass treatment of teachers in Georgia, but we have never vacillated. We have protected and empowered many a classroom educator in Georgia…while scaring the shit out of the sorry-ass administrators. (Note: Not all administrators are “sorry-ass” but we think that this characteristic is reaching majority status today, if it hasn’t already done so.) Some of these administrators don’t have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot and many have such sour dispositions that it looks like they were baptized in lemon juice. Or, as Hap Frazier used to say, “They’re mean as cat shit and twice nasty!”
Some may ask, “Why does MACE have to be so mean in dealing with the administrators?” Well, we have to provide the proper antidote to the administrative action already taking place. Today, unlike the years when we grew up, the teachers are essentially treated like dog shit. Forty-five to fifty years ago and earlier, teachers were the kings and queens of their classrooms, and the administrators for the most part backed them to the hilt. The students knew this. Their parents knew this. This was how it was. Even the parents usually tore into their children when they got into trouble at school. Most of these parents just took the word of the teachers about Johnny’s conduct and didn’t even think of trying to indict the teacher when the teacher disciplined Johnny. Now, however, the teacher immediately goes on trial when he or she writes up Johnny and asks the administration for help. The administrators know that Johnny’s irate and irresponsible and crazy-as-hell mother or perhaps both parents will be storming the school and calling for the teacher’s scalp for singling out Johnny for his defiant and disruptive behavior. Heck, it’s like war…the Hatfields & the McCoys or Auburn vs. Alabama. There is so much bad blood between the crazy-ass parents and the already beleaguered, beat-up, and badgered teachers that these weaseling, booger-eating, scared administrators would rather stay angry and abusive toward the teachers to get the teachers to cower down to the parents and not report Johnny so that he or she would not have to face these nutty-as-a-fruitcake parents.
Folks, this is what is going on in these dysfunctional schools these days. You may think that we are just using fanciful language to try to cause hysteria about what is taking place in our public schools, especially in the urban areas, but we are not. We actually may even be toning down what the egregious and unconscionable conduct of the disruptive and defiant students and their irate and irresponsible parents as well as the angry and abusive administrator. What is taking place in the war zone schools is so outrageous and incredulous that the educrats in Atlanta, Georgia (and other state capitals) and in Washington, D. C. can’t even fathom what to do about these schools and if they knew what to do, these gnostic, elite, and effete educrats wouldn’t have the ball to even try it. They have, as one keen educator observed, parakeet balls. They come up with bullshit programs like No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, programs which neither address the abysmal and abject condition of zero discipline (no, not zero tolerance; we said, “zero discipline”) and the year-around open season for students, teachers, and administrators to beat up on teachers at will with impunity. Teachers are actually the most abused professional people in the country. Do you think that medical doctors or attorney would permit their patients or clients to come to their office and shout obscenities at them? Would they tolerate some faceless and feckless state bureaucrat to come and randomly observe them while they treat their patients or counsel with their clients? Would they countenance the notion of allowing some state snoopervisor to demand that they submit they daily and weekly plans for meeting with their patients or clients? Ad infinitum.
We’re not talking about all of the schools. Not all the administrators shit in their pants when these nuts-for-parents show up at school; some administrators actually have a backbone and are not afraid of them. But, these administrators don’t last long. The superintendents find them to be “inflexible” and are really concerned that they will not be company men and women, that they might have too much integrity and not be pliable enough so that the superintendent can be assured that they will jump though circus rings like trained animals. So, eventually these administrators with integrity and backbone are slowly bled to zap them of their moral vim and vigor, and they are often simply corporately executed. All of the other administrators get the message and realize that they need to eat the shit given to them, not question the demigod of the school system (viz., the superintendent), and be a good little boy or girl until he or she can draw his or her full retirement. Having integrity in American Public Education (APE) is a liability to your career and health. This is no lie. No exaggeration. Just cold and depressing facts of the bullshit that is part and parcel of APE. APE is currently screwed up beyond comprehension, and those who risk pointing out how fucked up public education is in the United States will be ridiculed and derisively dismissed. We purposely used the phrase “fucked up” to shock you. Are you shocked? What if you were in a classroom where this phrase and its derivatives were bandied about each hour by the so-called students, without any fear of reprisal? What if a kid blurted out to you in front of the entire class, “Hey, bitch, turn the fucking lights on!”? What if a student looked at you and stated, “Bitch, I’ll shit in your mouth.”? This happens. Teachers have told us of being talked to exactly like the quotes above – and we have heard many, many more anecdotal stories of such disgusting behavior from these so-called students.
One teacher told us, “I have been called ‘bitch’ so many times that I thought it was my middle name.” The discipline in our public schools is waning rapidly, and in our urban schools, it essentially does not exist at all. The school without discipline is nothing but a warehouse trying to herd young people like herding cats. Can’t you imagine trying to herd 1,500 cats at one time? Do you think that the cats would follow directions? Ha! Just like all health begins in the colon, all healthy schools begin with sound discipline. One famous scientist stated that there is but one great disease of the body, and that this disease is a lack of drainage. Another famous medical doctor, Max Gerson, developed the Gerson Therapy to reverse degenerative diseases. One of the salient features of this Gerson Therapy, from my understanding, is a constant elimination of filth and toxins in the body by regular enemas. Our collective educational corpus in the United States is full of hardened, toxic, stinky, loathsome, and deadly shit.
American Public Education (APE) needs many good enemas to clean out (1) the small-minded, ignorant, petty, bitchy, angry, and abusive administrators, (2) the naïve, useless, in-your-way educrats, (3) the money-making, opportunistic, and recently-retired-superintendent consultants/insultants, (4) the whoring , sluttish, and narcissistic superintendents, (5) and the I-don’t-give-a-damn-and-you-can’t-do-shit-about-it, thuggish, and hell-raising students. Yes, the first thing that APE needs if we are serious about cleaning up the mess and healing our public schools is a series of educational enemas. Stay with us in this book, and we will show you in smelly, irreverent, and politically incorrect details about the bullshit which has a stranglehold on today’s public education in America. It will be a scatological examination of the fecal control of public education. It will be wild, perhaps a little unorganized (reality itself is messy and unorganized and hardly ever homogenized), entertaining, but it will be the truth. We won’t spare a thing. Not one scintilla. We intend to offend. We write so as not to be misunderstood. In your guts, you may think that we’re nuts, but in your heart, you will know that we are right…and that we are just crazy enough to tell the truth. Ha! Put on your helmet, folks. It’s going to be a ride!
For the record: If you are from up North and think in any way that the teacher union situation in Chicago or New York City is anything like what is happening in Atlanta, Georgia or Birmingham, Alabama or Charleston, South Carolina or Jackson, Mississippi or Memphis Tennessee, you are sorely mistaken. Comparing what is going on in places like New York City to what is going on in Columbia, South Carolina is like comparing a watermelon to a raisin. The teachers in the Southern states where there is no collective bargaining are treated like dog shit. Really. Real dog shit. We can’t really speak for the Northern, Midwestern, and Western states. The State of Florida is a unusual place. It is located near Cuba, but everything south of the Orlando area is considered “the fifth borough of New York City.”
Quite frankly, we don’t see teachers being treated much better — if at all — in Miami, Florida than in, say, Atlanta or Birmingham. So, we don’t think that collective bargaining is the answer to how teachers should be treated. And, believe it or not, we have never and are not now calling for collective bargaining in these states. We are not calling for a wholesale adoption of the radical tactics of Saul Alinsky. We will exercise our First Amendment rights and picket to expose the most egregious and unconscionable actions of some of the more depraved administrative souls who seem to delight in inflicting pain on their fellow humans. This book is a call for radical action, but not a call for more tired, worn-out, divisive, and ineffective collective bargaining. We are simply calling for decent human beings to be placed in administrative roles who know how to treat teachers professionally and with courtesy, trusting their decisions, discretion, judgment, and wisdom when it comes to curriculum and student discipline. Treating teachers as tall children, threatening their jobs on a constant basis, and talking down to them as a matter of pro forma administrative conduct will only exacerbate the current problems in American Public Education (APE). Respecting and empowering the Classroom Educators will breathe life back into an institution that is essentially on life support right now — with the business moguls and opportunistic politicians doing their best to pull the plugs. © Big Daddy Publishers, December 12, 2012.