Naison, Mark

"Other People's Children": The Corollary of Bad Policy

By Mark Naison

For some time, I have argued that School Reform is the most destructive bi-partisan initiative we have suffered in the United States since the Vietnam War, a policy which has, and will continue to inspire mass movements to limit the damage it inflicts through universal testing of the nation's children, and the humiliation and micro-management of the nation's teachers.

Some have argued, correctly, that people have not lost their lives as a result of School Reform even when schools are closed, teachers are fired, communities destabilized, instruction has been reduced to test prep, and young people's minds have been reduced to mush by relentless testing. That is certainly true. But one thing does seem similar. Both produced PTSD.

Why School Test Resistance May Be About to Sweep the Nation

By Mark Naison

When people decide to resist unjust policies that have overwhelming support and for which there are few antecedents in their lifetime, mass movements do not erupt overnight. They are often inspired by the accumulation of individual acts of protest, taken at great risk.

One of the best examples of this is the lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights movement, which began when four black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, decided to challenge segregation in their downtown business district, sparking a movement in scores of cities that eventually encompassed more than 35,000 protesters and led to the creation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee(SNCC).

The Atrophied Conscience of Apartheid America

By Mark Naison

Little by little, we have created an apartheid nation, a place where a profound spatial and moral divisions separate the lives of the privileged and the unfortunate. The boundaries are not strictly racial - though those on the lower side of the divide are overwhelmingly people of color - nor are they marked by gates and walls and fences. Rather, they are enforced by a complex set of codes followed by law enforcement authorities who have acquired immense power to assure public safety since the imposition of the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, powers that have effectively prevented the poor from doing anything to prevent their marginalization, and which have given wealthy elites virtually immunity from threats to their well being coming either from political action, mass protest or street crime.

How Trying to Get Rid of Bad Teachers Has Demoralized Our Best

By Mark Naison

Every time I have a discussion with someone who claims to be passionately committed to improving schools, they bring up the subject of the "bad teacher." They see public schools as zones of cultural and economic stagnation in an otherwise dynamic society, saddled with a smug and incompetent teaching force that prevents schools from playing their assigned roles of creating a competitive global workforce and elevating people out of poverty.

Diane Ravitch's Warnings Ignored: Our Next National Shame?

By Mark Naison

Is Diane Ravitch the George Ball of our generation and education reform our Vietnam?

In the spring and summer of 1965, as US policy makers debated whether to send large numbers of US ground troops to Vietnam to insure that the South Vietnamese government not collapse, a longtime Washington insider named George Ball issued a fierce warning that the policy being recommended would be disastrous. Declaring that the conflict in Vietnam was a “civil war among Asians” not a front of a global struggle against Communism, Ball warned that sending US ground troops would lead to national humiliation no matter how large the force sent or the technological advantage it possessed, because it would cement the character of the war, from the Vietnamese side, as a struggle against a foreign invader.

Ball’s advice needless to say, was disregarded, and the result was exactly as he predicted - a humiliating defeat for the US which extracted a terrifying toll in deaths and ecological damage on the Vietnamese people.

Defending Teachers and Teaching: Standardized Testing Cons

By Mark Naison

This is a daunting time to be a teacher in the United States of America. At work, almost every day brings word of a new test, a new assessment, a new rubric for accountability that makes teachers and students jump through another hoop.

Media and elected officials add to the stress and anxiety. It is rare that there isn't another public declaration of devotion to the cause of "Education Reform," which teachers have learned to interpret to mean another attack on their professional integrity and another chance to blame teachers for the nation's failure to be competitive on international tests, or reduce poverty and inequality.

Defending Teachers and Teaching

By Mark Naison

Every day, for the past year, I have posted something on Facebook, or on With A Brooklyn Accent, to uplift the morale of teachers I am in touch with, in every part of this nation, who feel demoralized by the relentless pressure they feel to solve problems not of their making. Sometimes I tell stories about great teachers; sometimes I make fun of teachers' enemies; sometimes I tell stories which reveal that that racism and poverty are so deeply rooted in our history and institutions that "school reform" will do little to uproot them.

Time For "Testing As Child Abuse Suits" to Fill the Nation's Courts

By Mark Naison

A tragedy is quietly taking place in America's public schools that represent an important opportunity for America's lawyers to advance the cause of equity and justice. All over the nation, with the support of both major parties, schools systems are now requiring that teachers and administrators be evaluated on the basis of student test scores, with their jobs placed in jeopardy if the scores do not reach a certain level.

Assessing Charter Schools: Follow the Money

By Mark Naison

Unlike some of my friends and political comrades, I am not against charter schools as a matter of principle. However, I am acutely aware that the charter school movement has been used by the nation’s financial elite as a strategy to weaken public schools, undermine teachers unions, divide parents in working class communities against one another, and in all to many cases, build careers or make profits.

The following are some common sense categories I have developed to judge whether charter schools, or charter school organizations, represent well intentioned experiments in diversifying public education, or cynical efforts to undermine public schools and degrade the teaching profession.