“Because It Is My Name!”

by P. L. Thomas, @ The Chalk Face, February 1, 2013

John Proctor, in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, nearly bends to signing a false confession, but then has a moment of clarity and proclaims: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”

Names matter.

Labels matter.

Words matter.

For me, my guiding label as an educator, scholar, and writer is “radical,” drawn from the work of Howard Zinn:

“When I became a teacher I could not possibly keep out of the classroom my own experiences. . . .Does not the very fact of that concealment teach something terrible—that you can separate the study of literature, history, philosophy, politics, the arts, from your own life, your deepest convictions about right and wrong?. . .In my teaching I never concealed my political views. . . .I made clear my abhorrence of any kind of bullying, whether by powerful nations over weaker ones, governments over their citizens, employers over employees, or by anyone, on the Right or the Left, who thinks they have a monopoly on the truth. . . .From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country—not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.” (You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Howard Zinn, 1994, pp. 7, 173)

And so it is there that I start these blog posts with the great lies of education reform, lies built on manipulating language to hide intent.

The education reform movement driven by Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, and the TFA/KIPP advocates seeks to demonize their critics as the “status quo.” However, the corporate reform initiatives are themselves the status quo on steroids—national, not state, standards; national and more high-stakes testing; more segregation and inequity for high-poverty students.

But possibly the worst affront to language and education reform is Michelle Rhee and her newest book (read: self-promotion), Radical: Fighting to Put Students First.

Rhee is not a radical, and she is fighting to put herself first (note the cover of this book).

There is nothing radical coming from Gates, Duncan, and Rhee.

Let’s, then, do a brief vocabulary exploration. …

continue reading at @ The Chalk Face

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Filed under Education and schools links, Progressive movement

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