Monday, December 31, 2007
My 10 New Year's Wishes
In Asian cultures with their twelve continuously cycling animal years, the coming year will be the Year of the Rat. According to the Chinese zodiac, Rat Years are considered years of renewal, where hard work yields the best opportunities for new ventures and fresh starts. This coming year 2008 is also an "8" year, an equally positive sign capitalizing on that culture's luckiest number (it is not simply a coincidence that the Beijing Olympics will conduct its opening ceremonies on 8/8/08). With these doubly auspicious portents in mind, herewith are my ten New Year's wishes for the NYC public school system: its principals, teachers, support staff, and most of all, its students and their families.
1. That folks at the DOE will remember that the true purposes of education – to learn the lessons of history, to inspire a sense of curiosity and wonder, to teach respect for and tolerance of others, to develop sound minds in sound bodies, to create lifelong learners and readers, to develop good citizens and intelligent consumers – have little or nothing to do with standardized test scores.
2. That parents will be treated with the respect they deserve, that their concerns will be not just listened to but acted upon, that they are consulted with before decisions are made and actions taken, not after.
3. That DOE higher-ups learn that the phrase ”consulted with” does not mean “lectured at,” “remained in a room with,” or “put up with listening to for form’s sake.”
4. That schools and their principals are given the resources they need for effective education – proper educational facilities and technology, adequate space and staff to place students in classrooms of 20-25 rather than 30-35, and adequately paid teaching staff given time for collaborative lesson planning, appropriate mentoring, and professional development support.
5. That good teachers are recognized (and yes, rewarded) for being educators in the broadest sense, not simply for being the most effective proxies for Kaplan and Princeton Review.
6. That the DOE throttles back its persistent campaign to politicize education through massive public relations efforts, selective reporting, misinformation, and misleading or inappropriate comparisons.
7. That the DOE ceases its corporatist, condescending, and philosophically degrading view of learning as something that only occurs through such financial incentives as bonuses, direct payments to students, and free cell phones. This worldview embeds the worst aspects of American commercialism and materialism into what should be our most idealistic national enterprise – the education of our children – and promotes the distinctly uncharitable lesson of “What’s in it for me?”
8. That the DOE finally submits itself to the same notions of accountability it espouses for its schools through open access to and independent review of school-related data. Self-congratulatory press releases and PowerPoint presentations generated from selectively chosen data of its own creation and control do not constitute public accountability.
9. That some people who matter – the Governor, U.S. Senators, State legislators, Congressional representatives, City Council members, Borough Presidents – will display the political will to declare the DOE’s present course and its safe harbor under “Mayoral control” as currently constituted no longer acceptable for New York City’s public school children.
10. That all our children have a wonderful 2008 in which, despite the DOE’s best efforts to the contrary, they not just perform well in standardized math and reading exams but revel in the rich multiculturalism of their surroundings, take as much pride in their City’s role as immigrant sanctuary and the one genuine example of the American melting pot as they take in their own heritages, and progress toward becoming open-minded and other-centered world citizens.