A conversation with a friend who says that language teaching and learning is political. Another episode of The Wire. Thoughts while painting a ceiling.
Series 4 is about education. The kids are being trained to learn how to sit the tests. Tests are important for the stats. The Baltimore education system is $54m in debt. The cops get reduced hours and no overtime so they can’t investigate the murder of about 22 young (black) men. The kids in school work on the corners. They sell drugs. They are useful because they are minors. An ex-cop is involved in an alternative system to socialise the kids and get them thinking. But it doesn’t continue because of funding. They have to concentrate on the stats.
In the 1990s I taught on Access courses-designed to capture people who had failed the education system. Before standards testing (i.e. in New Zealand – NZQA) we’d teach them to read. We’d ask them “Can you read better than before?” and they’d’ say “Yes”. One fellow demonstrated this by reading aloud all the posters in the classroom. Then came testing. We had to measure their skills. Some of them liked that they were ‘succeeding’ in tests. They hadn’t before. But the quality of teaching and learning fell. They didn’t get to learn what they needed.
I recall three guys who collaborated: one could read but not understand, one understood but couldn’t read and the other wrote. Perfect. But after testing was introduced they had to do it individually.
Oh. Did I mention? They weren’t white.
Education IS political. We learn to understand power systems and use them. We learn to negotiate, input, advocate. We learn to escape our milieu (those of us educated in the happy 60s were able to do this). We cross boundaries. We think. We improve our lives. We understand other points of view. Sometimes we can estimate the grocery bill.
My parents did not go to secondary school. But they wanted me to. And it was the sixties. We could do that. I even went to university because it was free.
Now I just despair.
Time for the wine I can afford now. Because I have a job in education.