Diane Ravitch’s blog today, Is the Reform Movement Based on the Soviet Model?, mentioned a paper by Lawrence Baines called Stalinizing American Education. He points to four characteristics that both the current education reforms in the US and 1930’s Russia share. It caught my attention because I’ve had similar conversations at speaking engagements on the Common Core Standards. After my presentation, many eastern block immigrants come up to me and grab my hand and say, “this is just like it was under the Soviet Union” or “I came to America to get away from this stuff.” They are SHOCKED that Americans are so stupid and can’t see the writing on the wall.
Why are we so stupid? I think the answer lies in our own education system of the last 30 years. History, geography, western civilization, civics and most all social sciences are condensed into one class called Social Studies. It is incomplete and focuses on a few politically correct subjects, lacking any development of a child’s sense of history. Knowledge is not imparted to students to answer things like; How we got here? Why did America thrive? Why did others wilt?
It is as though history is scheduled to repeat itself. If we are educated to forget it, it will be easier to reinstate.
The similarities Baines points out should shock you.
Trend one is to nationalize standards. He compares the current administration’s Sect. of Education Arne Duncan’s initiative to set national standards and national testing in order to measure and rank states, districts, schools, students and teachers to that of Stalin and the communist party:
Trend two is to increase math, science and technology.
Trend three is to have pre-determined outcomes or outcome based education. Ever since the onset of No Child Left Behind and the creation of high-stakes testing, schools have focused their curriculum around the expected knowledge of the assessments.
Trend four is stronger teacher accountability and less teacher autonomy. Baines points to America’s trend in quick teacher training programs like Teach for America and alternative licensing programs instead of teachers with a university level teaching degree, well versed in pedagogy and theory. The Soviet styled teacher lived in fear of the communist party and therefore complied with their dictates. Go into any US classroom and ask the teacher if they teach with autonomy or feel free of threats and coercion from administrators. They would tell you no, but they’re afraid they’ll lose their job.