Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Sound of Silence

by Dave Greene

I’ve been sitting relatively silently for a few weeks for a couple of reasons. I was out of the country for three weeks. Upon return I began new job. I was growing frustrated with the barking and lack of movement. I have been completing a book soon to be published. Other voices were more important to be heard.

Over the past few days however a number of events stirred the silence within me. First, I read Joe Nocera’s October 14th NY Times column, “A World Without Privacy”. That was followed by a one-two punch of articles in The Local Gannett paper, The Journal News. The first, on October 16th validated what I am currently reading in Diane Ravitch’s brilliant new book, Reign of Error. The second article that moved me entitled “Study faults N.Y.’s teacher evaluations, was written by Gary Stern, a reporter who seems to be figuring out what is really happening in the privatization process of public schools. The third followed a day later also in The Journal News by Gary Stern was entitled, “Local parents seek ouster of N.Y. education commissioner”. Finally, the one that moved me to this keyboard was in the October 20th edition of The NY Times Magazine entitled,“No diagnosis left behind”.

The fact that these articles came out within a week shows me the turn around in mainstream media we have been searching for may be coming sooner than I had thought. It inspired me to speak out again, to end my “sound of silence”.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence”. It is haunting and timeless. It speaks to the horrors in societies that are perpetuated when,

“ And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never share. And no one dared disturb the sound of silence.”

Nocera’s column tells us how close to Orwell’s 1984 we have become as he compares Dave Egger’s new novel, The Circle to Orwell’s prophecies. Orwell’s, Big Brother government’s Ministry of Truth uses the big lie, repetitious slogans (ominously similar to chapters in Mein Kampf): WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. Egger’s private technology corporate world power (ALA Google, Facebook and Twitter) uses similar phrases: SHARING IS CARING. SECRETS ARE LIES. PRIVACY IS THEFT.

My God…. Is that not the strategy used by corporate education reformers and their governmental allies in stealing public education form the public and it’s employees?

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know. Silence like a cancer grows. Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you.” But my words, like silent raindrops fell; and echoed in the wells of silence.”

Have the “Emperor With New Clothes” actions of NY Commissioner John King awakened us from our sounds of Silence? Has Gary Stern and Lo-Hud inadvertently become a leader in this new voice calling for his resignation by finally voicing the concerns of thousands of parents, students, and teachers in this article that finally doesn’t attack those voices as King does. Has their expose regarding the improper use of invalid testing to evaluate teachers finally allowed other mass media publications and networks to come out of their sounds of silence and become:

“The sign [that] flashed out its warning in the words that it was forming. And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, and tenement halls?”

Finally, the NY TIMES reports, in “No diagnosis left behind” that:

“High-stakes standardized testing, increased competition for slots in top colleges, a less-and-less accommodating economy for those who don’t get into colleges but can no longer depend on the existence of blue-collar jobs — all of these are expressed through policy changes and cultural expectations, but they may also manifest themselves in more troubling ways — in the rising number of kids whose behavior has become pathologized.”

And,

“The No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, was the first federal effort to link school financing to standardized-test performance. But various states had been slowly rolling out similar policies for the last three decades. North Carolina was one of the first to adopt such a program; California was one of the last. The correlations between the implementation of these laws and the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis matched on a regional scale as well. When Hinshaw compared the rollout of these school policies with incidences of A.D.H.D., he found that when a state passed laws punishing or rewarding schools for their standardized-test scores, A.D.H.D. diagnoses in that state would increase not long afterward. Nationwide, the rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis increased by 22 percent in the first four years after No Child Left Behind was implemented.”

“To be clear: Those are correlations, not causal links. But A.D.H.D., education policies, disability protections and advertising freedoms all appear to wink suggestively at one another. From parents’ and teachers’ perspectives, the diagnosis is considered a success if the medication improves kids’ ability to perform on tests and calms them down enough so that they’re not a distraction to others. (In some school districts, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also results in that child’s test score being removed from the school’s official average.) Writ large, Hinshaw says, these incentives conspire to boost the diagnosis of the disorder, regardless of its biological prevalence.”

Times have changed. The words are now on Facebook and Twitter and the Blogosphere. They are increasingly in the streets, in the “public forums”, and in legislative, not tenement, halls.

So
“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping, and the vision that was planted in my brain still remains within the sound of silence.”

And needed to get out! Let’s all of us, let out our sound of silence and change what is happening to us and to our children.


Dave Greene taught high school Social Studies for 38 years, coached football, and presently works for a non-profit, WISE Services (www.wiseservices.org), helping high schools establish and sustain experiential learning programs for credit. He is coordinator of school partnerships for Pace University School of Education, Pleasantville. NY. His book Doing the Right Things: A Teacher Speaks is due out soon. WISE Services www.wiseservices.org

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