Friday, December 25, 2015

Bad Ideas about Education... But No Curmie Nominations

How far behind is Curmie on his writing? There are 91 education-related stories from 2015 he saved with the intention of blogging about them. That doesn’t count over 130 other stories that aren’t about education… and I gave up on even bothering to save the asshole cop stories, which would have added another couple hundred at least.

Needless to say, I’m not going to get all of those pieces written… ever, let alone before the end of the year. I will try, however, to highlight a few more deserving potential Curmie nominees. So I’ll be concentrating on education for the next few days. Let me start, however, by talking about some of the stories I won’t be writing about except in passing, here, but in which Curmiphiles might take some interest. I’ve posted links to all of these on the Curmudgeon Central Facebook page, but since Facebook actively restricts access to new posts (unless you specifically ask for notifications), the chances are good you missed at least a few of these. They’re education-related, but the idiot at the center of the story isn’t an educator, or, generally, even a pretend one. Sometimes, it’s someone else’s idea, but educators capitulate to silly demands or otherwise do something transcendently dumb in response: then, and only then, is a Curmie nomination a possibility.

Mark Chelgren, who may indeed
be dumber than dirt

All this gets complicated when we start talking about political figures who purport to be educators (Arne Duncan and all the state education commissioners). We’ll take those on a case by case basis.

So here’s a quick list of stories where the actual educators either did the right thing, or at least they didn’t aggravate the inanity.

First, we’ve got the stupid politicians. (Apologies for the redundancy.)
  • We have the “illegal poem” in Arizona.  Seriously... just read the article.
  • We have the ridiculous Illinois law which specifically allows school districts (as opposed to the police) to investigate alleged cyberbullying, even if it takes place off school grounds and is completely unrelated to school activities. The fact that the legislation doesn’t really require students under suspicion to surrender their social media passwords (as was widely reported) makes it only a bad idea, not a horrific one.
  •  We have the New York state legislature, with the full endorsement of the country’s worst Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, which passed legislation using the stupidest version yet of bogus test-driven assessment. We have a proposal (thankfully not enacted) by Iowa legislator Mark Chelgren that really would turn employment at the three state universities, even by tenured faculty, subject to a perverse variation on “Survivor,” with student evaluations and student votes being the only determinants. (Side note: Chelgren has now announced his intention to run for the Congressional seat now held by real-life Friend of Curmie Dave Loebsack [we used to teach at the same college]. Curmie shudders at the thought.)
  • We have the ammophilic Texas legislature, which passed a concealed carry law for the state’s public universities despite opposition from literally every Chancellor and President in the system, including retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, the Chancellor of the University of Texas.
  • We have the Republican Party of Idaho, who think the Bible is an appropriate text for such academic disciplines as U.S. history, astronomy, and geology (plus a host of other subjects for which the Bible is an only-slightly-less-ridiculous resource).
  • We have the Ohio Education Department official busted for cooking the (assessment) books about charters.

And then there are the stupid parents.
Sorry, Buffy, but this both funny and inoffensive to anyone with a brain.

And the stupider students
  • … like the one who sued her university because she failed the same course twice.
  • … or the one who was rejected by the University of Texas seven years ago because she just wasn’t as qualified as other applicants, rejected a path to acceptance, and is still appealing the decision to SCOTUS, having been told to go get a damned life on numerous previous occasions.

And the self-entitled rich folk.
  • For example, Harold Hamm, who seems to think that donating money to the University of Oklahoma gives him the right to demand the firing of scientists who are trying to determine the relationship between fracking and earthquakes. Hamm thinks the university should “care about the industry.” University officials rightly care about the truth.

And the moronic pseudo-educators.

  • How about the yahoos at the Columbus (OH) City Schools who decided that although they can’t afford textbooks for students, they can pony up $25,000 a month for a part-time administrator with no school experience?
  • No list of pseudo-educators is complete without Arne Duncan.
  • Or the idiots at the US Department of Education (read: Arne Duncan and his minions) who came up with a testing mechanism rightly described by a university president as “Orwellian”?
  • Or the unspeakable arrogance of Duncan in threatening federal intervention if students continue to boycott standardized tests which tell no one anything of actual value, and serve only to punish students, teachers, and schools.
  • Or the bureaucratic jackasses in Washington state who wouldn’t allow a school district to correct a clerical error that mis-categorized nearly 200 of the district’s best and most experienced teachers, making them (temporarily) ineligible to teach. Oh, and Arne Duncan could have fixed the problem, but –guess what?—didn’t. (Note: common sense finally prevailed… after enough negative publicity made it impossible for the pencil-pushers not to do their damned jobs.)

And the organized right-wing groups.
  • The Eagle Forum decided the widely-respected International Baccalaureate diploma advocates Communism, because some kids in New Mexico jokingly proposed “Prom-unism” as a prom theme. Of course, the absurdly doctrinaire, heavily politicized, curriculum the Texas Board of Education requires—all that “shining city on a hill” crap—that’s all good.

And even the cops

So, there they are: a score or so of stupid people who aren’t educators (or at least who aren’t really educators) who had a significant and (of course) negative effect on education in this country this year.  Ahead on the blog: actual Curmie nominees.

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