Linda Darling-Hammond’s Fiery Commencement Address

In her commencement address at the Teacher’s College graduation last week, published by the Nation magazine, Linda Darling-Hammond rails against “the new scientific managers” in very impassioned rhetoric. Some highlights:

As scientific managers were looking to make schools “efficient” in the early twentieth century—to manage schools with more tightly prescribed curriculum, more teacher-proof texts, more extensive testing, and more rules and regulations—they consciously sought to hire less well-educated teachers who would work for low wages and would go along with the new regime of prescribed lessons and pacing schedules without protest. In a book widely used for teacher training at that time, the need for “unquestioned obedience” was stressed as the “first rule of efficient service” for teachers.

While there is lots of talk of international test score comparisons, there is too little talk about what high-performing countries actually do: fund schools equitably; invest in high-quality preparation, mentoring and professional development for teachers and leaders, completely at government expense; organize a curriculum around problem-solving and critical-thinking skills; and test students rarely—and never with multiple-choice tests.

Meanwhile, the profession of teaching and our system of public education are under siege from another wave of scientific managers, who have forgotten that education is about opening minds to inquiry and imagination, not stuffing them like so many dead turkeys—that teaching is about enabling students to make sense of their experience, to use knowledge for their own ends, and to learn to learn, rather than to spend their childhoods bubbling in Scantron sheets to feed the voracious data banks that govern ever more decisions from the bowels of the bureaucracy.

These new scientific managers, like those of a century ago, prefer teachers with little training—who will come and go quickly, without costing much money, without vesting in the pension system and without raising many questions about an increasingly prescriptive system of testing and teaching that lines the pockets of private entrepreneurs…

The new scientific managers, like the Franklin Bobbitts before them, like to rank and sort students, teachers and schools—rewarding those at the top and punishing those at the bottom, something that the highest-achieving countries not only don’t do but often forbid. The present-day Bobbitts would create “efficiencies” by firing teachers and closing schools, while issuing multimillion-dollar contracts for testing and data systems to create more graphs, charts and report cards on which to rank and sort… well, just about everything.

The entire speech can be read here:
http://www.thenation.com/article/160850/service-democratic-education

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