EDUCATION POLITICS-My first Earful Of Schoolboard Member involved mapping ‘three critical things’ about education (at 9:21), the middle of which was that: “…we have a sacred bond of trust that is enacted every day at the schoolhouse gate…”
And I think this is very much true. When I pass along my child, I trust that s/he will be safe physically, and I trust that his/er mandate to learn will be safely protected as well.
The whole iPad debacle has shattered this myth.
These iPads have been sold to us as a matter of “civil rights”: that youngsters of impoverished circumstances must retain the same access to technology as their privileged counterparts, otherwise their civil rights will have been violated. That these devices are a critical pedagogical tool, without access to which constitutes a violation of civil rights.
But it isn’t true. The term civil rights is being coopted as an icon to obscure the ulterior political agenda of a pack of ideologues and capitalists intent on privatizing education and siphoning public money into the private pockets of cronies. That’s it, it’s just rapaciousness: oldest trick in the book.
The civil rights our children are being denied is the right of all children to a free, public, democratic and excellent education. Not supervised time by an overworked childcare wrangler. For that is what our teachers who must teach classes of 40, 50 and beyond are reduced to. They are teaching classrooms of this size because there is no room in our school budget for teachers; they are being phased out in deference to … electronics. By choosing electronics to babysit, we are choosing not to teach. If that’s not a violation of civil rights, I just do not know what is.
So yes indeed, this is precisely and entirely, all a matter of trust. And I have lost mine in the leadership of LAUSD (if not in some teachers and administrators) because this sort of disingenuous language does not engender trust. More, it is through the actions of the district that we shall know ye:
All along we have been pumped full of this mantra that the ipad devices are a tool of civil rights and equity, a tool for learning. And yet at a recent parent-group meeting a teacher presented to us the information that these ipads are shipped with no educational software, necessitating an extra-budgetary site license insta-purchase with little to no deliberation in order to quickly salvage the whole technology buy as marginally useful at the school site.
There is a chimeric “common core curriculum” associated with the ipads. Where and what is it? A “curriculum” is like the table of contents to a textbook. It’s important, interesting reading, but brings you nowhere down the path of knowledge; it’s a sketch of intention. It is not instruction or the tools thereof. It is a teacher’s lessons roadmap.
As confirmed by LAUSD leadership at a Common Core Technology Project late last year, the devices never were intended to replace textbooks. They cannot be cost savings measures because virtually no textbooks are online and we would have no legal access to them anyway.
Online texts are expensive and require frequent license renewal in contrast with the old-school hardback version, which once bought, remain available to students until they deteriorate, storeroom clerks steal them or they are replaced. We have, however, duly paid and highly expensive, no-bid access to that “curriculum” … in theory.
As it happens, the curriculum remains as yet unwritten and even school board members are not allowed access to even what rudimentary part there might be to review.
In slow revelations, drips and drabs here and there we learn that the ipads are not in fact pedagogical tools. The issue is “… students having the equipment they need to take their state tests, Deasy said“.
In point of fact, the devices are and always have been means of testing: testing children, testing schools, testing teachers. Doing the algebra of greed, this amounts to a public monies subsidy of private testing companies.
We’ve bought a pig in a poke, with no software and only whisper of a lesson plan that does not yet exist, and requires renewal after three years starting from … last summer, nearly a full year prior to the devices being made available to our children.
And as it happens at least one of “the 47″ phase I rollout schools will have no pedagogical access to ipads this entire school year, except for the purpose of “testing” Smarter-Balanced’s tests, and periodic practicing of the test for testing the test. All of which eats up massive amounts of instructional time: time spent practicing for tests that are tests of tests, is time not spent learning.
Time spent testing a test is time not spent learning. All this omphaloskepsis amounts to neglecting our children’s educational civil rights. At the expense of our public dollars, and our children’s right to learn. The ipad initiative, and all its associated bluster, epitomizes our educational officials’ breach of stakeholder’s trust.
There are other sequelae of such disregard. Trust is broken not just in matters pedagogical (witness the district stating just months ago that arts funding for arts teachers would increase, the school board passing a resolution to require this, and then recent reports of decimating actual arts teaching), but financial as well. A local politician made it abundantly clear in stating feelings of betrayal and dishonest representation regarding construction bond funding.
While legal contortions might debatably render iPads a legitimate construction bond expenditure, the spirit of these citizens’-approved bonds, is clearly violated. As reflected in the unequivocal declaration that ‘never, ever, ever again would [s/he] vote for any other education construction bond’. This sentiment is to be found widely across the internet in comment after comment: there is no trust left among the populace for LAUSD officials.
So when a district official responds to inquiries regarding cyber security of children’s encoded information as a question of “trust”, I find the matter suddenly very clear. I do not trust the district any longer with regard to my child’s safety.
The children are relegated to decrepit physical surroundings whose protected repair funds have been diverted toward consumer, not pedagogical goods. The logistics and language of this initiative have been incompetent at best, rendering my child potentially vulnerable in the cyberworld, and her scholastic needs compromised. Where is the trustworthy action?
From the childless to the immersed, voters across Los Angeles have found their trust in LAUSD betrayed. It’s time to get back to letting schools and teachers within them teach and give back the consortium suggesting otherwise.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com)
Vol 12 Issue 18
Pub: Feb 28, 2014