"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 12, 2016

Learning is Earning...and our Bond Hearing

Tomorrow, Sept. 13, is a very busy day for education in our state and county: Competency-based Ed conference, Prosperity 2020, and Bond Hearing.

The Public Bond Hearing is @ 6pm @ the District Office in AF. Generic public comments are first, standard business stuff, and then the official Bond Hearing.  The bond will be on the ballot in November, for $387 Million, no tax increase, new buildings due to growth, rebuilding due to age.  I voted to put the bond on the ballot.  Our area will get 1% of the total amount of the bond.  Here's the agenda: http://board.alpineschools.org/2016/09/09/september-13-2016-board-meeting/  And here is information on the bond. http://alpineschools.org/bond2016/

On to the 'new visions' for education.  Lots of it has been in the works for a while, and some things are just rebrands of what has gone on before.  Full-disclosure, I'm not a fan of most everything that we are seeing proposed for 'ed reform': Competency-based ed, Workforce alignment, Digital Badges, GRIT, 21st Century Skills/Learning, etc.  I believe most everyone involved in these projects are well-intended and are proposing these visions and ideas with the goal to help our children.  But many who are involved in these reforms do focus primarily on workforce training, not education. 

Education is a much broader vision than simple workforce training.  Don't get me wrong, I want my kids to be gainfully employed, but I believe the well-educated individual will never be an anachronism in the workplace; they will be capable of seeing the consequences of actions due to a vast general knowledge and understanding.  The specific skills related to a job, with a few exceptions, can be learned 'on the job.'  And there's evidence that these supposed 'skill sets': collaboration, critical thinking, communication are directly related to the specific subject-matter at hand.  I may be good at thinking critically about a mathematical problem, but fail miserably when it comes to architecture, mostly because I lack the foundational knowledge allowing me to think accurately about a particular issue.  And collaboration works very well with experts from various fields; not so much with amateurs with similar backgrounds.  And sometimes, like in the case of Steve Wozniak inventing the Apple computer, collaboration is completely unneeded, unnecessary, and probably wouldn't have worked.  (Einstein: Theory of Relativity; Newton, Kepler, how much collaboration did they do?)

So, without further adieu....

At 8am, there will be a Joint Legislative Conference talking about Competency-based ed at UVU--essentially, kids with computers designed to streamline credentials for workforce.  The discussion is not and never has been: Should we do Competency-based (or mastery learning or whatever)?  The focus tomorrow is how to implement it and how to overcome the obstacles (including, I'm sure whe'll hear about those 'people who just don't like change.')  Some of the focus is very appealing: don't make kids who already understand something sit through a semester or a year to get credit for it.  The question comes down to WHO decides what the criteria are for determining competency?  Is it a national organization dedicated to global citizenship?  Is it the local community college or the local school district?  Is it American Institutes for Research, SAGE test designer and behavioral research organization extraordinaire?  A newly-established and funded comptency-based ed board?And therein lies the rub.  Who is in charge?  I can guarantee it won't be parents.  Granted, my kids are taking online learning courses--specifically for the mostly brain-dead courses the legislature requires in order to 'check a box' to say they've done it.  While I would love for them to be able to test out of a lot of this garbage, I think the real answer is for the legislature to not impose arbitrary courses on to the locals.  I know that requires a lot of faith in your local school board, teachers and administrators and, most importantly, parents and taxpayers.  But, WE are obligated to chart the course to determine what our kids need.  If Park City thinks their kids need something different, so be it.  Why should we care?  Unfortunately, we live in an age where 'the experts know best', and parents are seen as obstacles in providing a child with 'real' education.

Back to the conference, many of you remember Marc Tucker, famous for his School to Work ideas during the Clinton Administration and the Dear Hillary letter (cradle-to-grave workforce development system.)  Mr. Tucker was the keynote speaker at last year's joint legislative conference.  This is Part Deux (part two).  This is Mr. Tucker's vision, and all the focus on Workforce as the end goal of education was enhanced by Mr. Tucker and his National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).  It's always fun to think of my children in terms of their 'economic potential', as 'human capital'.  And dare are I ask, what happens to those humans who can't be turned into capital? 
Here is a link to a video that ACT and others have put together to show what competency-based ed is projected to grow into.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zssd6eBVfwc
Play the game, make the future. 9am March 8 - 9pm March 9 CST www.LearningIsEarning2026.org

And commentary from my favorite, liberal education blogger, Peter Greene (language warning).   http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2016/08/the-ledger-lab-rat-america.html

For those who don't want to read through Mr. Greene's blog, here are some excerpts:

Learning is earning.

Your Ledger account tracks everything you've ever learned in units called edublocks.
An edublock represents, supposedly, one hour of learning in any subject-- which brings us to our first mystery, which is exactly how one breaks down learning into hours.


Your profile displays all the blocks you've earned. Employers can use this information to offer you a job or a gig that matches your skills.

The Ledger will track the money you make from those gigs and use it to evaluate the edublock sources; ultimately every edublock source will carry a rating that shows which sources led to people earning the most money. Because in the world of the Ledger, money is the ultimate yardstick by which all value is measured. You can even market yourself as a commodity, bartering for free edublocks by offering a share of your future earnings in return. The video does not say anything about what happens if you do not provide a sufficient return on the investment, and I'd rather not imagine how that particular "collection" goes. [My note: See?  I'm not the only one who wonders.]

Does ACT have a plan for getting not one, but several governments to sign off and join up on the Ledger, so that the program can have access to everything, every last bit of data? Because this whole plan would seem to require that a corporation and governments join together to provide a more user-friendly computer-based surveillance state.

Who is going to create all the tasks that will measure and certify certain skills? It doesn't actually matter that much, because the bottom line is that all jobs and skill sets will be broken down to the simplest possible set of tasks, a simplification that guarantees that all nuance, complexity, and higher-order thinking will be kicked right out of the system.

Exactly what task will certify that you have acquired one hour's worth of critical thinking?


This is not education. This is training. This is operant conditioning for the servant class that also provides the upper class with tools that let them trickle even fewer benefits down to the working class.

In fact, I would say that this is just training rats to run a maze, but it's even worse than that, because ultimately even if we were to accept the premise that simply giving some job-ish training for the underclass is good enough, and even if I were to accept the racist, classist [b***sh**] that somehow ignores the immoral and unethical foundations of such a system, the fact remains that this would be a lousy training system. To reduce any job of any level of complexity to this kind of checklist-of-tasks training provides the worst possible type of training.


Do I think folks like ACT Foundation or Pearson (who also like a version of this model) can actually pull this off? It doesn't matter-- what matters is that this is their North Star, and even though you never get to the North Star, it still shapes the course you set. Worse, while I hope we never arrive in the world of the Ledger, these folks can do a huge amount of damage trying to navigate in that direction.

So, our legislators are being asked to start legislating competency-based ed stuff, so we can get on the Learning is Earning track without a public discussion as to why we're doing this and who will determine what is competency?  (And BTW, did you call your legislator to ask for this change?  I'm guessing you didn't.  Another 'brilliant idea' that comes down from some Think Tank somewhere that will be foisted on the public without any sort of pilot project, public demand, or scientific evaluation.  And then in 5 years, they'll say it wasn't properly implemented and come up with something else that's similar but somehow better that was presented with a nice PowerPoint at some conference somewhere.) 

At 4pm at the District Office, Prosperity 2020 will be giving us a 15 minute presentation.  I'm not sure what they will be presenting, but they have a similar focus on the economic outcomes of education. 

Here is a quote from the Utah.gov website about Prosperity 2020.
"Great businesses are built with human capital—well-trained and educated workers."

Again, I think those involved are motivated by a desire to have well-educated kids, and they are seeing some deficits, I assume.  They want to 'bridge that gap.'  But I would argue, it's doing things the wrong way.  If there is a market for certain skills, the market, using supply and demand, will pay more for those skills.  People will jump through whatever hoops are necessary to gain those skills, in order to get a job that pays really well for those skills.  Public education should not be seen as a publicly-funded job-training program.  And your kids and mine should NOT be seen as human capital that can be used to promote the economic bottom-line of a corporation or the State of Utah. Central planning to match job skills with workers and 'training' (education) sounds so 1980's USSR to me.  So, I will try to keep an open mind (it will be hard) for the presentation.  But at the end of the day, my question will still come back to: Who decides?  In public education, it's supposed to be the parents and the taxpayers, not Marc Tucker or the Chamber of Commerce.