Toxic Culture of Education: Joshua Katz's TEDTalk
The issue with most of our stances is illustrated in the “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” The story goes...two blind men were able to touch one body part of the same elephant. Yet, they drew conflicting ideas about what is an elephant. Each blind man believed himself to be true and correct, despite lacking the full picture. The first blind man touched only the floppy ear of the elephant and stated that the elephant is similar to a fan. The other blind man felt the elephant’s leg and decided the elephant is similar to a tree. Then the blind men got into a silly disagreement. This story of overgeneralization signifies what happens often when discussing education and many topics for that matter.
I recently came across Josh Katz's "Toxic Culture of Education" and wanted to share his awesome description of the entire elephant in the classroom.
"Our Toxic Culture began with a classic Super Villain Archetype. Recall any Super Villain, I focus on Syndrome from The Incredibles. The villain’s plan is to unleash a doom onto the world, and the villain is the only one that can stop it. Thus gaining all the desired power.
This is exactly what began before the 1980’s and culminated in No Child Left Behind. Private companies realized they could utilize the education system (at the time a $750 billion industry) to create a nearly endless stream of taxpayer funds. They channeled millions of dollars into lobbying efforts in order to create two buzzwords that put everything in its place: 'Accountability' and 'Rigor'. State statutes were passes, district rules were put into place, and No Child Left Behind was finally passed. But don’t get me wrong about politics, these efforts were underway long before they were passed, and both parties can take full credit for their disastrous results.
We illogically attempt to compare education to business, we ignore the impact of poverty and hunger, we pay no attention the non cognitive factors that are realistic predictors and measures of student success, and that way, we can place the blame on the teachers and schools. And because we have a Toxic Culture of Education, policies, teachers, and schools have accepted accountability for students, including all THOSE students. We take the blame for a student that has no moral compass. We take the blame for a student that cannot focus because he hasn’t eaten since yesterday’s lunch. We take the blame for a student that cannot stay awake in class because she spends her nights on a different couch, depending on which friend takes her in. When those students don’t “score well”, we get blamed. And we take it. We accept it. Because we love the kids. We are the only ones protecting them from this Toxic Culture of Education."
Joshua Katz is a math teacher in Orange County Public Schools in Florida, U.S.A. Was the Assistant Director of Student Involvement at the University of Central Florida. Attended the University of Central Florida (M. A. Educational Leadership) and the University of Central Florida (B.S. Mathematics Education).
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