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Peter Greene notes the emergence of a new narrative among “reformers”: Whereas schools have long been failing kids, now the kids themselves are failures because of the epidemic of “learning loss.”
As usual, the disaster experts blame teachers, but now they say the kids are failures too.
But the other part of chicken littling about education is the constant declaration that Kids These Days suck. They can’t read or write. They aren’t ready to hold down a job. And like many other negative trends in education, this has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Now it’s not just that Kids These Days can’t read and write and math–numerous companies are telling anyone who will listen about the terrible threat of learning loss, and how all of America’s children are slowly backsliding, the “days of learning” dribbling out of their ears like meltwater sluicing off a snow-covered roof. They’re getting stupider and stupider by the day. They are a lost generation...
In the rush to indict the public school system, the teachers, the unions, some people have turned students into collateral damage, forcing them to live in a world of adults who are constantly broadcasting that Kids These Days are awful failures. And right now, as always, they are directing the worst of it at the students who already get the worst of it–Black, brown, poor.
Today Chalkbeat is carrying a piece by teacher Selena Carrion that everyone should read– “Stop calling this generation ‘lost.’ It’s hurtful–and it’s wrong.” Carrion’s experience allows her to remember how to keep her eye on the ball:All this reminds me not to allow a deficit-oriented “lost generation” narrative to deny them their success. As educators, let’s think about their triumphs and how they are still finding joy and wonder amid chaos.
What would happen, I wonder, if the consultants from NWEA and McKinsey, rather than releasing white papers and “research” and talking to other folks in the education biz had to go stand in front of the actual young human beings and explain to those students that they are falling behind and getting dumber by the minute and are generally failing. What if they had to look into those students’ eyes while saying, in effect, “We do not believe in you.”
Here is where market-based philosophy clashes with actual education. You market products by creating a compelling case for a desperate need. “Terrible things are happening,” a campaign screams, “and you need to hire us and buy our product if you want to survive, because without us you are not enough.” But you teach students by first believing in them, by assuring them that they are enough. You can’t have disaster capitalism without a disaster. You can’t teach students by telling them that they are a disaster.
It’s been a hard year for everyone: kids, teachers, parents. The kids need someone who believes in them, rather than looking at them as suffering from a social construct called ”learning loss.”