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Reading and Writing and Dancing as Long as the Music Plays

The Bleating of the Sheeple

Not so long ago in the land of Acirema, there was a Chief Shepherd of Education who was sure that he had all the answers to the education needs of his country. With some very wealthy friends, he made an elaborate plan to assure that every kid in his land would be ready for college after high school, whether the kid wanted to go or not. All kids must be “college ready” when they finished high school, he thought, because the economic future of the country absolutely depended on it. He knew that because of the horrible scores of Acirema’s kids when compared to those of other countries. All of Acirema’s kids should be studying the same thing at the same time so he could test them to make sure they were on track and so he could know which sheeple teachers were not doing their jobs.

The plan was for the wealthy friends to hire a few folks who knew how to write tests and ask them to write a new set of rigorous educational standards for the kids, of whom, clearly not enough was being expected or demanded. Once the standards were written, new more rigorous tests could be developed by those same testing folks to match the standards. And the tests could be used to find out which kids refused to learn and which teacher sheeple refused to teach and which schools were failing. Once that was determined, the failing schools could be closed, and the Chief’s wealthy friends would be more than willing to come in and set up charter schools–for a price, of course, and staff them with wonderful idealistic young teacher sheeple with 5-weeks of training who would certainly be able to “teach” with the teacher-proof, scripted curricula that the publishing arms of the testing companies mentioned above were happy to provide–for a hefty price, of course.

But there was a problem with this plan. Acirema had laws in place that said the Chief Shepherd of Education was not allowed to promote a national curriculum. The Constitution of Acirema left the management of education up to the states. And other laws strictly forbade the Chief Shepherd of Education from interfering with that.

And then something terrible happened–a bad recession. Many sheeple were out of work. Schools were running out of money. The Chief Shepherd of Education saw this as a fortuitous opportunity to get approval for his plan. If he could offer the states a chance for money for their schools and a reprieve from the harsh testing of kids that was already in place, they might all be willing to adopt his wonderful new “rigorous” standards–and the tests that went along with them. In fact, he would tell them if they didn’t adopt the standards and the tests, the money would dry up. He was counting on the sheeple to be sheeple and just do as they were told. After all, it was best for Acirema!

And sure enough, almost all of the sheeple leaders in most of the states, desperate for money for their schools, agreed to the standards. Unfortunately, though, very few of the states got the money they hoped for, but they still had the standards that had to be implemented and the new “more rigorous” tests that would require many more computers and a bigger investment in technological infrastructure that would have to be bought and paid for and “new standards-aligned” curriculum materials that would have to be bought and paid for and professional development for teacher sheeple who had to learn how to teach with the wonderful new standards that would have to be paid for. Now the sheeple leaders knew that they would have to march forward with the new standards just to get whatever crumbs the Chief Shepherd of Education might be willing to throw their way. They felt duped, but they didn’t see a way out.

The Chief had set a deadline when all the pieces of the new educational system had to be in place. As the deadline grew closer, some of the parent sheeple became concerned. They didn’t like some of the things they saw in the new curricula designed around the new standards. They didn’t like all the tests their kids would have to take, and they learned that there would be even more tests when the new standards were completely implemented. They didn’t like the fact that the new standards were put in place without their knowing about them or without anyone from their state having a say in how the new standards came to be. They especially didn’t like the plans for all kid data to be sent to one large database and that their kid’s personal information could be released to the companies writing the tests and the curricula and other things they might want to sell to kids and their parents–or goodness knows what other use that data might be put to!

So the sheeple began to bleat, at first just a few. And the Chief Shepherd of Education said they were just a fringe element who didn’t really know or want what was best for their kids. After all, didn’t he know best?

But the sheeple continued to bleat and soon others joined in. The bleating grew louder. The Chief Shepherd of Education got angry. He said these were just well-to-do ewe sheeple who were disappointed that their kids weren’t as smart as they thought they were. This made even more sheeple grumble and the bleating grew louder and louder. Some began to say that perhaps the same standards for all states enforced by the actions of the Chief Shepherd of Education might even be against the law…or perhaps even the Constitution…but no sheeple stood up to challenge the Chief…

I wish I knew how this allegory ends, but I don’t. I do know that the federal education officials are counting on us to be sheep, and they are surprised at the growing level of pushback against their plan. Blogger Mercedes Schneider has documented serious resistance movements in 17 of the 45 sheep states here. Where are the other 28?

Knowledge is power. The pen (or a word processor) really is mightier than the sword. Add to these concepts the effectiveness of social media and you can see that we have a full toolbox with which to stop this usurpation of our right to local control of education in its tracks. But that won’t happen unless the sheeple step up and bleat and email and text and Facebook and twitter as loudly and as often as they can. And maybe some lawyer sheeple will get the ball rolling.

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