The time has come to decenter book reading and essay writing as the pinnacles of English language arts education. Speaking and listening are increasingly valued as forms of expression that are vital to personal and professional success, and with the rise of digital media technologies, they now occur in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. The ability to represent one’s ideas using images and multimedia is now a valued competency in a wide variety of professional careers in the knowledge economy. It behooves our profession, as stewards of the communication arts, to confront and challenge the tacit and implicit ways in which print media is valorized above the full range of literacy competencies students should master.
This in itself would not be awful. They take the view that digital media are becoming dominant, so that English education should take this into account.
I happen to disagree. I’ve mentioned before that back in the 1990’s a local middle school received a grant to do something with technology and education. They invited parents to a meeting to offer suggestions, and mine was “Teach literacy.” “Computer literacy?” the moderator asked, hopefully. “No. literacy.” I believed then, and I believe now, that notwithstanding the way media have evolved, traditional skills in reading and writing are fundamental.
Actually, the worst of the position paper comes further down. There, it becomes filled with critical theory jargon.
Critical theory has taken over schools of education, and it has been absorbed by educrats—people with jobs that pertain to K-12 education but who are not actual teachers. This puts a small sect in positions of considerable leverage. I do not see the educracy changing any time soon. I think that the best way to reduce their role is to move away from big school districts and toward alternatives, such as small home-based schools. Less bureaucracy, more variety.
At the level of higher education, Sergiu Klainerman writes,
At Princeton, the bureaucrats—unrestrained and in some cases even abetted by the senior leadership of the university—have created an increasingly hostile environment for freedom of thought and expression. In their zeal to promote a particular ideology—today it’s “anti-racism” and “gender fluidity,” though tomorrow it could be something else entirely—they are turning universities into dangerous spaces for those who value fact-based debate and reasoned argument.
What is to be done? Take two suggestions. First—and this is hardly controversial, though few seem to be doing anything about it—it is time to recognize the toxic effect of massive administrative bloat. The incentives of most administrators are simply not aligned with the interests of students and faculty, and too many are opposed to the principles that academic life has traditionally cherished: the disinterested quest for truth based on evidence, reasons, and arguments.
Soon I will offer another post on my more radical alternative.