Through the Education Lens

Jon Stewart: Time to have some new voices in education on your show

CJ Westerberg, February 7, 2013 4:51 PM


Gardening, Tools and Too Much Fertilizer Can Burn
Sir Ken Robinson Video Below: Teachers are like Gardeners

by C.J. Westerberg  

While Michelle Rhee is making the rounds with talking heads this week promoting her new book, a most revealing quote was during the Jon Stewart interview this week on The Daily Show.  Excerpt is as follows (also can be viewed in video below post -Part 1 at the 5:40 mark):    

          Michelle Rhee:
"I remember talking to a teacher when I was in DC once when she said,
'You know, I'm a good soldier, I'm not a rabble-rouser. I just want to do the right thing for you, for the kids, for the district.  Can you just tell me what you want me to do? . . .  Because I have this huge state curriculum, and I have learning standards, and the standardized tests that we have to take, and these benchmark assessments, and the Teachers Guide and the Everyday Math - there's all these things - just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll do it, but right now there's just so much stuff.'

And that absolutely is a frustration so part of what we have to do is to be very CLEAR with our educators about what great teaching and learning looks like, what we expect to see when we walk into their classroom, what we are prioritizing and what is most important.(note: unofficial transcript)

Okay.  Let's get this straight.  Teachers have curriculum, guides, standards, assessments,
high stakes standardized tests to administer and the like required by the "Ministers of Education". So all these things aren't CLEAR (Rhee's word above) enough so teachers are throwing up their arms and saying, "tell me what to do" requesting even more guidelines or shiny new ones (aka better)?
This sounds nothing like how the uber-successful Finnish school system operates - whose students continue to lead in international standardized test scores which are 
not the goal but an outcome of their practices. 

The Stewart-Rhee discussion rarely mentioned the word "student" or "kids" other than in the context "they deserve better."  How this tell-me-what-to-do mode of teaching will be beneficial to our students seems to always be left out of the conversation. 

Stewart attempted to counter Rhee's call for better schools through higher teacher accountability with a metaphor relating teachers as only one "tool" in the education "garden"
questioning why they seem to be the only focus in the education debate.  He may have been channeling Sir Ken Robinson in the video below, Teachers are like Gardeners. 
Or, maybe all the gardening metaphors got twisted in their own cleverness.

Michelle Rhee consistently mentions in interviews how parents don't have "time to wait" for good schools and that is why schools must be accountable and the best way to assess this is through standardized test scores.  Some Seattle parents are refusing standardized testing because they have decided that they don't have time to wait until bureaucrats come up with better assessments for accountability than subjecting their kids to more high stakes standardized testing. Touche' or . . . not so fast with sanctions against teachers for refusal.

And, Jon, instead of hammering (your word) this subject with the same cast of characters,
why don't we start mixing it up with guests like Finland's Pasi Sahlberg,
Yong Zhao, Howard Gardner, Sir Ken Robinson, Dennis Littky  and Larry Rosenstock?
Maybe then the conversation will get more interesting.
Your mom would be proud. 

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