EDPS 360 (A2) Fall 2013

Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Of High Handed Tactics, Education Reform, and the Ghost of Jim Keegstra

In ATA, Commentary, Current Events on July 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

Another (perhaps) unintentionally inflammatory piece by Paul Simons in today’s Edmonton Journal.

Without going into her argument line by line, I think Paula is barking up the right analytical tree when she takes aim (mixed metaphor…yuck!) at a structural problem. Her structural analysis, however, is far too simple and, worse, is entirely non-empirical.*

Screenshot 2014-07-03 09.56.46

Paula’s column and the Twitter furore began like this last night. Will we ever be free of the Keegstra case? I assume not, and perhaps rightly so.

The point I want to make is this: any purely theoretical argument (here, the ATA has a conflict of interest = system is bad/a “mess”) must stand up to an empirical test. Put simply, does the supposed structural problem compromise real-world teacher review/discipline? ATA voices and others have provided plenty of information demonstrating that the process works quite well. Should we trust this claim out of hand? Of course not, but compare the ATA’s approach to Mr. Lemire’s as presented in Paula’s piece. The call to improve process may have some merit Read the rest of this entry »


End the Era of the C.E.O. College President – NYTimes.com

In Commentary, Current Events on June 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

When a colleague posted the job ad for the president of the University of Alberta, I joked that we could split the job four ways and she’d still triple her salary. So we applied – with over 50 other academics – in groups of four.We wanted to highlight the gap between the rhetoric of austerity at universities such as the University of Alberta, and the increasing costs of university administrations across North America.

via End the Era of the C.E.O. College President – NYTimes.com.

“Rural” China School Courtyard

In Commentary on May 26, 2014 at 12:44 pm

From A Vocation of the Heart, my blog that focuses on Chinese education and society.

“Rural” China School Courtyard.

via “Rural” China School Courtyard.

Lean and Mean: How obsessive cost-cutting destroyed job security | Discover Society

In Commentary on May 21, 2014 at 7:00 am

Lean and Mean: How obsessive cost-cutting destroyed job security | Discover Society.

Jay Cowsill: There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Cracking the Whip at the University of Saskatchewan

In Commentary on May 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Jay Cowsill: There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Cracking the Whip at the University of Saskatchewan.

“We Are All Crap Artists Now”

In Choice, Commentary on May 18, 2014 at 7:16 am

I’m not sure what brought on this post, but I like it; clearly Aaron reached a point of frustration and/or clarity this week. Whatever the cause, in terms of the links between education and society, his musings demonstrate the power of educational processes better described as diffuse* relative to those of formal education (or schooling). In a less pessimistic moment, Aaron might illustrate more positive outcomes of social learning than those that focus this post.

Folk wisdom and common sense are often good things indeed, although the mistake is made when these are elevated to the level of supreme principle of all knowledge. Mistake becomes crime, however, when those who know better deploy populist tactics in which folk prejudice and common nonsense are allowed free reign, at present very much evident in the Canadian debate over the temporary foreign worker program (TFW). If you have a moment, have a close look at a recently created Facebook page, Canadians Against the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, a strange amalgam of diverse political orientations as ever there was. Garden variety xenophobia rests uncomfortably (for me, at least) alongside genuine expressions of support for those abused by employers. Such events lead the reflective Isidore’s of Aaron’s post scratching their heads or blogging in frustration at the ignorance, malice, and/or social conditions that conspire to lead us to such manifestly unjust territory.

* in Bourdieu and Passeron’s Reproduction.


The last line of Philip K. Dick’s underappreciated novel Confessions of a Crap Artist is probably one the best warnings to all of us who think we know something:

And on the basis of past choices, it seems pretty evident that my judgment is not of the best.

The reports, this past week, that the melt of Antarctica’s ice sheet is irreversible and that it will lead to significant rise in sea levels make it clear—once more—that, collectively, our judgment is not of the best. Individually, I don’t think we are much different.

Individually, in face of all evidence to the contrary, we each flatter ourselves that we, personally, are not crap artists. I know I do—and I am sure you do, as well. But we are.

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Jaime Beck -Why More Frequent Does Not Mean More Meaningful When It Comes to Teacher Evaluation

In Commentary on May 16, 2014 at 7:00 am

Some thoughts from the thoughtful and excellent Jamie Beck (Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta) on the recently released and controversial report from Alberta’s Task Force for Teaching Excellence. The report has been both praised and condemned by the Alberta Teacher’s Association, and has drawn all kinds of commentary, such as that of my co-Educational Policy Studier Laura Servage (reposted recently here and here). Jaimie’s perspective is interesting as it offers a defence of both constructivism and direct instruction, the former for its pedagogical soundness, the latter through a connection to teacher autonomy and, perhaps, the importance of internal variegation to the health of  any system. I might be reading this last point into Jaime’s post. If she sees me in the cafeteria, I hope she will confirm or correct me.


Why More Frequent Does Not Mean More Meaningful When It Comes to Teacher Evaluations – somanyjaimes.

What is Brown’s legacy for Education in the UK? — “Gordon Brown proposes a comprehensive initiative to protect schoolchildren around the world.

In Commentary on May 14, 2014 at 11:57 am

This post by form British PM Gordon Brown caught my eye, not because I find it compelling on its own terms. After all, to say that one is against the kidnapping of children and/or depriving them of education is not exactly a difficult position to take. Of course saying and doing (as I’ve said before) are two different things, and Brown is to be commended for his work on this file…assuming the proper cause of the problem has been identified (a dubious assumption, to be sure) and good results flow from that work (things are getting dubiouser and dubiouser). Rather, what drew my attention was the word “war.” If you’ve been around for the past few decades you know that all kinds of wars have been declared on this, that, and the other social problem. Some of these wars have been declared on social programs themselves, especially those seen to be wasteful, overly generous (heaven forbid), and/or ineffective by some criteria. At any rate, this particular claim about a “war on education” got me to wondering about Brown’s legacy for education in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fetishism of Educational Credentials (and the secret thereof)

In Commentary on October 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

(by Liz, Adam, Shaylene, & Alannah)

Karl Marx was born in 1818 to middle-class parents in Trier. He was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He is the founder of the theory known as Marxism, which holds that societies advance through class struggle. He is the author of Capital Volume 1, which for our purpose discusses fetishism, which is the power an object is believed to hold over other objects. In particular, it discusses how society’s values determine the importance of commodities.

Looking at Fetishism in terms of the value or derived pleasure of an object, one may become entirely removed from the actual value or reality of that object.  There may be great social status placed on a very expensive wedding dress, and it can be said that wearing a beautiful dress would bring undeniable pleasure to the bride. But does a fancy wedding dress add value to the outcome of a marriage? (See David Harvey’s discussion of this topic on YouTube…Marx’s concept of fetishism…not wedding dresses)

Now let’s take this same fetishism and place it on education.  The value of a good education is held quite highly in most societies and is often attached to a higher title or status.  People work hard to get into University thinking that once they graduate they will have a fantastic job and make a lot of money.  This idealistic outcome is not the same as placing value on education for the purpose of expanding knowledge.  Educational institutions seem to perpetuate this ideal of school equalling success in society in order to stimulate enrollment.  The reality is that merely obtaining an education does not guarantee a career or success and, although it does open doors, most people do not realize that education is just a tool.  Here the true value of knowledge is replaced with the idealistic dreams of prestige and money.

Objects and services take on inherent values above and beyond their objective value. Education is one of, if not the single most important feature in social mobility, and due to this it arises as a positional good as people clamor to distinguish themselves from the pack. A cruel reality in our society is that once everyone has an education, the important distinguishing-factor that confers so many advantages becomes the standard. We can see this today in our societies, youth unemployment in Europe reaching 26 million(1 in 4 eligible workers under 25), many graduated with postsecondary degrees, despite there being 8 million less youth in Europe than there was in 1989 (Dorling, 2013). A degree itself no longer guarantees a job , so people are going above and beyond. The article about the kindergarten test prep shows this concept; when education is available for all, then students must be  exceptional or from private ,elite institutions (think Harvard, Princeton, etc) to maintain  education as a political good by differentiating themselves relative to the pack.

What power or value do humans attribute to objects in society? What forms does this ‘object’ take? Consider a person without an ‘education’. What is their demand in society? Are they valued, in terms of wage, at a similar status as those who have a formal education? Would they be able to find a ‘desirable’ job? If society did not place such high value on education, would you be here right now?


Dorling, D(August 2013). Generation Jobless: The worst youth employment crisis in European history should be blamed on its millionaires. Retrieved from http://www.newstatesman.com/economics/2013/08/generation-jobless-worst-youth-unemployment-crisis-european-history-should-be-blam

Opinion: Keep tackling the sex trade’s dirty little secrets

In Commentary on October 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

What do you think about this enticing bit of public pedagogy? Is discomfort — even severe discomfort — essential to learning? Should it be? Are there occasions when discomfort is totally out of bounds?

Opinion: Keep tackling the sex trade’s dirty little secrets.

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