Edwonk is taking Secretary Spellings to task over an op-ed piece the Secretary authored. Edwonk makes his favorite argument--we can't improve student achievement without parental support and motivated students. In the comments Edwonk makes a nice little World War I analogy:
Spellings and her Gang of well-fed, well paid politically appointed EduCrats remind me of certain British Officers of the First World War.I really like this analogy. But, I think there is the rather large chink in the armor of Edwonk's argument.
While evading actual front-line service themselves, they would sit well behind the front lines, in relative comfort, and while toasting one another with claret order their troops to repeatedly charge machine gun emplacements.
When the front-line troops didn't achieve the expected results, those soldiers were threatened with courts martial. To the generals, the troops weren't trying hard enough.
Similarly, teachers aren't given the tools to get the job done by our rear-area dwelling EduCratic generals but are being held 100% accountable for achieving the expected results.
I would love to see how the Madame Secretary handles a child who refuses to attempt homework or a parent who refuses to discuss their child's academic needs with the school.
Let's sort out the players first.
The British Generals are Spellings and the Dept. of Ed. The Generals give sufficient supplies and orders to ...
The Hapless troops who are teachers, like Edwonk, who are supposed to use the supplies and follow the Generals' orders (complaining the entire time if they want) to beat ...
The Germans who are the students and parents.
Presumably, the Germans (students) will be beaten (educated) when the troops (teachers) defeat (educate) them.
According to Edwonk, the students and parents are in their trenches firing machine guns at the teachers (resisting schools effects to educate) who are sitting in the trenches afraid to go over the wall as the Generals are ordering them to do.
Edwonk's argument is that the Germans can't be defeated until they stop shooting at the troops. In effect, he's looking for the support of the Germans to win the war. Great if you can get it. The argument is that the opposing generals (parents) should order the enemy troops (students) to stop shooting machine guns (do homework and pay attention in class) at the troops, so the troops we can beat (educate) them. Until then we're not budging, no matter what the Generals say, until the other side stops shooting. talk about entrenchment.
In the beginning years of WWI, Edwonk's argument was valid. The machine gun was a serious problem that was a major factor leading to the trench warfare stalemate in WWI. At first there was no effective countermeasure to the submachine gun. During this time Edwonk's analogy holds up well. Sending troops over the wall during this time was suicide for the troops.
But, then the tank came along. The tank finally changed the balance of power and reduced the effectiveness of the machine gun. This is our present situation. Tanks (effective instructional programs) have been developed. It is no longer suicide to go over the trench wall. It's still going to be hard work, and we'll lose a few troops, but with the aid of the tank the war can be won.
In effect, General Spellings is ordering the troops to go over the wall and use the tanks to charge and defeat the other side. The Germans will still be shooting back, but the tank will make their shots much less effective.
Edwonk and other educators want no part of that. They want to stay in the safe confines of the trenches (teacher lounges?) which they've come to enjoy. Instead of charging the enemy, educators are still refusing to follow the Generals' orders, even though their excuse is no longer valid.
So the Generals have taken out the bayonets (NCLB) in an effort to prod the educators out of the trenches. "Use our tanks, or use your own, but the war is now winnable. It's time to get out of the trenches and start educating the other side."
Educators have responded to the bayonet in two predictable ways.
- There is no tank. Er, yes there is. At least one, and
- Even if there is a tank, we don't like it. We want to continue doing what we've always done and that means the machine guns will mow us down, so we're not budging until they stop shooting at us. Er, that's why you're not a General.
He better find it soon or else Spellings might put him in front of the firing squad.
Update: Edwonk stops by and gives us a history lesson in the comments. (Do they even teach military history in high school any more?) He also continues to dodge my Project Follow Through evidence. I'll get it out of him yet.