Sunday, August 2, 2015

RiShawn Biddle: Evangelizing School Reform

RiShawn Biddle, an attention hungry ed reformer, has no actual teaching experience but frequently touts his communications and marketing experience on his self-serving website Biddle is a self-proclaimed tiresome tireless advocate of ed reform (his Twitter profile notes he's chronicling America's dropout crisis, though the dropout rate has fallen 3% since 1990) and his advocating is that of the door-knocking proselytizer seeking anyone who will listen.

His recent Dropout Nation podcast takes an evangelical tone with a rambling 18 minute entry on the 5 Commandments of School Reform (if Biddle is such a believer, he would do well to note God's brevity in issuing forth the 10 Commandments).

Biddle, an example of your typical ed reformer, shows the high opinion they have of themselves and the crusades they undertake with the pretense of $aving $ouls. The entire podcast is linked above and the "commandment$" require embracing every en vogue reform orthodoxy from the tired proclamation that students only have one chance at learning to demonizing police.

Here is a handy boiled-down version:

1. Stand for all children no matter who they are or where they live. We must be good to all of God's children...because Our creator favors doing good and healing, not just following the law. Reminder: We must start from the "cold-blooded premise" all students are geniuses.

2. Fight for better futures for all students. Put families at the head of education decision making. Reminder: laws and institutions cannot love, only people can.

3. We must never stay silent. We must engage in conflict. Reminder: conflicts create cultures of genius.

4. Approach reform with mind and heart. We must be creative radicals who help our students become literate and numerate. Reminder: be aware that accountability matters.

5. Constantly remember why we are school reformers. Reminder: we need a revolution, not an evolution.

WCT notes Biddle is reaching way back to education in colonial times with the overt religious nature of his reformy call to arms. Beyond that, a few other sticking points we have with these "commandment$":

1. All students are not geniuses. Even given the varying definitions of what genius means, we encounter students who, for a variety of reasons, don't possess the intellect, energy, or self-determination necessary to be thinkers and learners of such an elevated level. Labeling everyone as a genius seems disingenuous at best, and also is directly at odds with the idea that students have individual needs.

2. The loving people who run many urban districts believe parents are idiots. CPS has such a low opinion of parents they don't believe they can procure needed school supplies for their children. Instead, teachers have been asked to donate supplies, or better yet, cash directly to schools.

3. Constant conflict does not create a genius factory. The last 5 years in CPS have seen the following ongoing conflicts: teachers vs. administrators, Chicago Public Schools vs. Chicago Teachers Union, Rahm Emanuel vs. the 99%, profiteers vs. families/students/teachers. None of this has created a culture of genius, and has instead brought the school system to a screeching halt.

4. Teachers are already held accountable. State tests, federal tests, local tests, evaluations, endless day-ta analysis. Teachers are well-versed in accountability and must answer for such confounding variables as a student's life outside the classroom, too. Yet, charters continue to open unabated despite the crippling debt cities like Chicago face.

5. Yes, let's have a revolution. Let's be like Jesus and be radically inclusive and fund all public schools equitably, admit there are issues teachers can't control, and see what happens.

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