A Declaration of Independence from Corporatist/Behaviorist Education

Pogo Declaration

When, in the course of a teaching career, it becomes essential to break from excessively rational beliefs and schemes and to begin thinking openly and freely, disregarding the dictatorial influences of political hacks, the insidious prodding of education gurus and the bleating of complacent peers, it is necessary that the thinking educator admonish the world with the whys and wherefores of their intended independence from those scourges of productive learning, Corporations and their Behaviorist lackeys.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that education is best described as a journey, not a destination; that education is not a medicine or treatment to be inflicted upon learners; that a partnership between willing learner, skilled teacher, and supportive guardian forms the foundation of productive education; and that a democratic society sustains itself by practice of its ideals within the educational environment. Numerous corporations and anti-public education fronts—including, but not limited to, the Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, ALEC, State Policy Network, Teach for America, Stand for Children, and Teach Plus— plot and contrive to dictate educational policy, conduct and beliefs. When unelected billionaires use their financial clout to promulgate a destructive vision for American education, it is the right—nay, the obligation—of every educator to break all the Windows® they can, chop down every Solution Tree that stands, consign their Common Core lesson plans to the reformatorium, and renew their commitment to student-centered instruction in order to preserve their claim to professional status, ensure their future happiness, and maintain their present sanity.

A glance at the attempts by corporatist forces to deform public education provides ample evidence that ideas and opinions formed in the business world are all too tempting to politicians who rely on corporate funds for re-election. Behold: political narrow-mindedness, focus on data rather than humanity, the tendency to blame those who teach for the ills of society, and an unwillingness to consider humane methods of instruction as acceptable alternatives to techniques of indoctrination serve as warnings to the nation’s teachers and learners that they, too, are doomed to a future of boredom and inner turmoil if they do not act against the domination of Corporations and their Behaviorist toadies in public education today.

When narrow-mindedness reaches that point where afflicted educators are shamed for considering alternatives to the shallow reasoning and attitudes taught them by the nefarious Dufour Duo, their uprising is most justified. So have I and my fellow educators suffered. We rise above this morass of ridiculous ideals today to present several of the offenses of the Corporatist/Behaviorist Cabal for consideration:

They assert a corporation’s right to legal status as individuals in order to exert unrestricted financial influence over public policy, while also enjoying exemptions from the obligations which citizens affected by those policies must endure.

They degrade democracy by excluding teaching professionals from the process of creating standards and imposing those standards without public debate.

They devalue the professionalism of teachers by demanding the surrender of all autonomy in favor of scripted lessons and prescriptive standards.

They claim without evidence that setting “standards” will transform education for the better.

They threaten the privacy of students and seek to transform public schools into another source of profit.

They demand unswerving loyalty and obedience from educators, rather than encouraging professional discourse and promoting respectful dialogue.

They vilify the professional associations of educators and encourage citizens to view teachers and other public servants as parasites on society.

They use non-profit fronts to conceal profit-seeking enterprises.

They alienate youth from their educations by placing undue emphasis on outcomes as opposed to personal investment in the process of learning.

They reduce the beauty and complexity of academic endeavor to atomistic standards as part of their crusade to deprive educators of professional discretion.

They strip seasoned professionals of dignity and destroy their morale.

We, therefore, educators of America, straightforwardly and without dissembling, appealing to the Master Instructor for the iGeneration, do, in the name—and assuming the authority— of public school teachers throughout this Land, brazenly publish and declare that we are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent of Corporate Influence; that we are absolved of allegiance to Arne Duncan and his ilk, and that all connection between educators and Bill Gates’ connivances is hereby dissolved, and that as Free and Independent Tutors, we have full power to offer learners a democratic environment, disregard the CCSS, ignore John Hattie’s latest work of fiction, and do all things that free-thinkers of the world might do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the dearly-departed Socrates, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives (such as they are after semester grading), our meager salaries and 403(b)s, and what little honor we have left after attending PLC conferences.

WE SIGN OUR NAMES…

David Sudmeier

© Copyright 2014 by David Sudmeier

9 thoughts on “A Declaration of Independence from Corporatist/Behaviorist Education

  1. Pingback: A Declaration of Independence | Looking At Things Thru My Eyes

  2. I agree with the premise but not the solution. If teacher unions masquerading as professional organizations had insisted on having the teaching profession develop its own standards of professionalism rather than working exclusively for salary, benefits, retirement, and the protection of mediocre and substandard teachers, these abominations could have been averted. I am retired educator and union member who has personally benefited from my retirement and health benefits. There must be a return to professionalism and having educators insist on the best teaching techniques and accountability. Excellence not mediocrity must be rewarded.

    Dick Forliano

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    • Yikes, Dick.

      From what you say, you seem unhappy that your union focused on negotiating for benefits, but you’re happy to have the health and retirement assistance they fought for. You also seem to believe that teachers have earned the “abominations” currently imposed on them because unions have spent all their time protecting a few lousy teachers. I reject all of this.

      Accountability is a code word for anti-unionism, and accountability schemes are nothing new in American education. This is the same blame-game we hear from discredited education deformers like Michelle Rhee. If you want to trace the history of this line of thought, try “Accountability in American education: A critique,” by Don T. Martin, Princeton Book Co (January 1, 1976). I’d love it if teachers were afforded the power to be self-governing, however. Until then, I will continue to criticize state legislatures for inadequately funding education, and corporatist anti-public education organizations for corrupting our schools with profit-driven motives.

      David Sudmeier

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    • Hah! I’d have loved to have included a feature that permitted viewers to put their names on the dotted line–but this blog format doesn’t lend itself to that. I hope that you’ll “sign” by sharing this via Facebook or other social media! More posts coming soon, so I hope you’ll “follow” the blog and offer your thoughts. Best wishes. David Sudmeier

      Okay, I’ve figured out how to include a “poll” so people can join the Revolution! Put your name on the dotted line today!

      Dave Sudmeier

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  3. I am in awe of people like you, who can pontificate on the current state of affairs in public education. And after spending a lifetime working in public education, I feel I should try to articulate my own thoughts on all of this…so I will try.

    As for the essay…I thought it was a clever “declaration”…I’m thinking you were probably a social studies or history teacher in a previous life. I understood your argument against corporations…I just did not get what he meant about “behaviorist lackeys.” Anyway, here is my view on the various reforms/issues…from my view in CT:

    Common Core: Most of my teachers and administrators whom I respect seem to have embraced the new common core state standards as good enhancements. It always made sense to me to have a more national curriculum and national testing comparisons. In CT I predict that the more affluent districts will do well, that poorer districts will do worse, and ironically, the state’s achievement gap will look worse than ever.

    New Student Testing: CT is piloting the new, on-line, state testing (Smarter Balanced) in March. Many educators are nervous, but what I have seen so far seems reasonable. The on-line tests will have a lot of accommodations built in for special needs students…as well as all students. We are lucky enough to have good technology. I don’t know what schools without good technology will do, but the future of testing seems to be computer based testing.

    New Educator Evaluation System: We are doing the new state educator evaluation system this year, and about half way through it. The teaching rubric is very rigorous and I have seen some of the best lessons ever…with teachers following the new rubrics. And, I can “reward” them by giving them “exemplary” ratings. And while some things need to be adjusted, several parts of it seem better than our previous system. Teacher goals are more specific and measurable. The mid-year conferences have been the most interesting and productive of my career. Everyone will get evaluated each year, a better system than our previous system. I don’t know how this will all work out into the final, end-of-year numbering system. However, the governor and SED has recently backed off of some of the mandates, allowing greater flexibility for school districts. This was the result of political pressure mostly by teacher unions.

    Unions: I was grateful that teacher unions actually helped point out and change some of the problems with our state’s new evaluation system. And, personally, while I have had some problems with teachers unions, I have been less bothered in recent years by them. Since I want to be able to hire the best teachers possible, I benefit from good salary and benefit agreements. Also, unions are not in charge of hiring…administrators are. I really never had trouble with a teacher who came in through an excellent selection process. My problem has been trying to improve those who were hired without a good hiring process.

    While the changes have been too fast, I actually think we are heading in the right direction. So, I will not be signing the declaration of independence.

    Rich Dellinger
    Principal
    Amity Middle School
    Bethany, CT

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    • Thanks for your comments, Rich. I did get worried when I saw the word “awe” in your first sentence, but I’ll take it as the “some” rather than the “ful” sort.

      I am a real, live (badass) teacher currently practicing my craft at a middle school here in the great Northwest. You’ve correctly identified me as a social studies teacher.

      “Behaviorist lackeys/toadies” is a reference to those persons in education who demand that learning can only be “real” if it is observable. This viewpoint is usually accompanied by the unwarranted belief that behaviorism is the only valid approach to education. Humanists (that’s my comfort zone) and cognitive psychologists—as well as others– maintain that there are other, equally valid approaches. The intolerance of behaviorists fits well with corporatist values—it’s their way or the highway. Behaviorist educators often support the Common Core, Standards-Based Education, Outcome-Based Education, etc. They currently enjoy almost unlimited funding from the likes of Bill Gates and the Koch Bros., which in my opinion makes them both lackeys and toadies.

      My opposition to the Common Core is less a matter of the selected standards (and I detest them) than it is a reaction to the anti-democratic process for their creation and implementation. I’m puzzled by your support for them, since you acknowledge that socioeconomic status is the best predictor of their effects. Surely that ought to give us pause.

      I certainly agree that the future of testing is computer-based. This is a primary source of the corruption of education, since the big testing services view public education as the feeding trough of their dreams. I’ll bet one of those same testing services is also supplying your district software for teacher evaluation. You mention that goals must be “specific and measurable,” which is behaviorist language. I see public dollars flowing into the pockets of ETS and other corporations that would be better spent on lowering class sizes and providing time for teachers to do for pay what many must now do off the clock.

      For now, I’ll tag you as a “loyalist” with a small “l.” I’m assuming that many of the people Tom Jefferson approached were wary of abandoning what had been a very successful imperial system, and that his prose put off many. I’ll bet mine does, too. Still, your positions seem pragmatic in nature rather than ideological, so I think tar and feathers is unnecessary for now. Your willingness to engage in productive dialogue is laudable in an atmosphere of intolerance, and I’m going to bet that the teachers who work with you count themselves lucky.

      Best wishes to you. I hope you’ll drop in frequently to poke holes in my pontifications. Maybe you’ll even reconsider your decision?

      David Sudmeier

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  4. Pingback: 2014 Medley #4 | Live Long and Prosper

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