Those who can't, become educrats, 5/7
who are bathed in critical theory
The National Council of Teachers of English writes,
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.
‘… traditional skills in reading and writing are fundamental.‘
Yes! Yes! Yes!
Speaking and listening to what, if it has not first been composed and written down? Writing, particularly essay writing or text review, organises thoughts, allows revisions, develops comprehension, trains in use of brevity, succinctness, best phraseology, expands vocabulary and develops communication techniques.
The alternative is just a stream of undisciplined brain to mouth, er, um, you know, shapeless, boring blather.
There is also a huge volume of information from antiquity which is written and minds trained in reading and precis are needed to understand it and benefit.
The proper teaching of English Language declined decades ago with ‘modern’ educational techniques. It shows… just read a Newspaper or listen to the News or a politician. Most young people struggle to speak in whole words, never mind whole sentences.
The National Council of Teachers of English have been up to such anti-literacy shenanigans for a long time. I was reminded of a 1979 article from Richard Mitchell, aka the Underground Grammarian (https://sourcetext.com/grammarian-newslettersv03-html/, skip down to "Three Mile Island Syndrome"). Excerpt:
"The NCTE worries about the “trivializing” of competence tests by persnickety questions on punctuation and spelling, preferring that student writing skills be judged “holistically” and with no “emphasis on trivia.” (College English, March 1979, pp. 827-828.) By that, they mean that student writing should be judged subjectively by members of the teacher club (who else could provide a “holistic rating”?), and that skills like spelling and punctuation, objectively measurable by mere civilians, are to be held of little or no account.
"One NCTEer, a certain Seymour Yesner, a public school teacher in Minneapolis, questions whether spelling or capitalization “is as important as presenting ideas in logical sequence.” Sure. There must be millions of kids who haven’t been taught too much about the relatively undemanding skills of spelling and punctuation but have nevertheless mastered the rigorous discipline of “presenting ideas in logical sequence.”'