Monday, April 21, 2008

Civil Disobedience

Thoreau writes that the mass of men serve the state, and therefore deserve as much respect as a lump of dirt. So when, Carl Chew of Seattle Public Schools refused to give the WASL, he was acting in the way Thoreau would want from us, right?
The Daily Grind is all for speaking one's mind. But I'm also for critical thinking and an understanding of reality.
Chew calls the test, "morally and ethically corrupt." Wait, morally and ethically? How can a test of basic knowledge be fundamentally wrong? Is Mr. Chew saying that requiring our students to be reasonably knowlegeable is on par with with, say, child abuse?
The Daily Grind believes that child abuse is morally and ethically wrong. But, I have hard time believing that giving a test is of the same level of wrongness.


At 6:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoah there--note that he doesn't actually call the test morally and ethically corrupt. He said that he was acting, "against something I felt was ... morally and ethically corrupt." I'm inclined to read that as "the system" of which the WASL is an integral part.

Also, your straw man argument, "Is Mr. Chew saying that requiring our students to be reasonably knowlegeable [sic] is on par with with, say, child abuse?" doesn't hold water. Simply because two things are comparable (that is, simply because we can assign a moral or ethical dimension to two acts) does not mean they are equivalent. Your objection would stand just as well against someone's statement that _any act_ was morally or ethically wrong.

Despite all this, I think it's worth giving a bit more thought to the possibility that despite our educational system's good intentions and ubiquity, it could be doing serious harm to our students.

Consider the first paragraph of Illich's Deschooling Society:
"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question."

Frankly, it seems that Carl Chew has given more thought than the average teacher to the broken system around him. And even if one disagrees with his decision, there might be something to encouraging that kind of critical thought.

At 1:38 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

thanks for the comment. Here are my thoughts:
1. I assume he's acting against the WASL because the article reads, "The WASL, he says, needs to be scrapped and replaced 'with a gentler, kinder way of finding out what our students know, and helping teachers educate them better.'"
2. You are correct that I used a logical fallacy; however, it was done with purpose. I wanted to point out that Mr. Chew's use of the words "morally and ethically" connotate a more serious problem than what an academic test like the WASL, something I've administered, poses.
3. Another fine point by you when noting the topic is worth a discussion on a deeper level. Although, I'd hesitate at buying the "doing serious harm to our students" statement. I'd be more apt to investigate the way that the system uses the information gathered.
4. I'm sorry, but my ADD kicked in while reading the excerpt from Illich--his writing style obfuscates his greater point.

But again, thanks for the comment, and keep reading and commenting.


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