Greatest Hits from my Masters’ in Ed. Studies

The doctoral program application continues.  And as I dive back into the writing I did for my MEd. degree nearly five years ago now, I’ll be posting some of the writing I am most proud of from those heady pre- and immediately post-fatherhood days.

I am happy to find that, rereading these pieces, though I stand by their learning value to me personally, my thinking has continue to evolve.  And I am able to see much more clearly now some of the mistakes in thinking that I was making then.  For instance, in this introduction to my capstone MEd project, which I conducted mostly remotely (from Japan) after my son was born in October 2013, I identify the current U.S. political regime as a “neo-conservative” one.  Nowadays I’m pretty certain I would use “neoliberal” to describe the Obama Administration and Anarcho-Capitalist to describe the majority Republican Congress of those years.  I think this is largely due to a certain residual confusion I had then about the philosophies and projects underlying the American political parties.  And certainly, trying to see all of these categories through a Progressive, early 20th century lens adds to the confusion.  But I think now I’ve got a better grip on some of the things I was writing about then.

EDST 580: Course Blog Introduction

Next to Last Issue Topic on the List

Issue Topic 39

ESSAY PROMPT

 

The following appeared as part of an article in a Dillton newspaper.

“In an effort to bring new jobs to Dillton and stimulate the city’s flagging economy, Dillton’s city council voted last year to lower the city’s corporate tax rate by 15 percent; at the same time, the city began offering generous relocation grants to any company that would move to Dillton. Since these changes went into effect, two new factories have opened in Dillton. Although the two factories employ more than 1,000 people, the unemployment rate in Dillton remains unchanged. The only clear explanation for this is that the new factories are staffed with out-of-town workers rather than Dillton residents.”

Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.

ESSAY

Apart from the possibility that the factories are employing workers from out of town, there are several other plausible explanations for the unchanging employment rate in Dillton despite the relocation of two new factories there. This issue illustrates that in tackling public policy problems communities must necessarily take the broadest possible view of possible effects and outcomes both positive and negative. For instance, lowering the corporate tax rate by a sweeping 15% is a broad-brush measure that likely has many unintended effects on the economy of the region. This paired with new expenditures on relocation grants while for companies, ignores the important role that labor plays in this delicate public policy equation. Clearly Dillton has not done enough to ensure that their community is a desirable place for workers to live. And future economic policy initiatives would serve the community well to do so.

It is common for a community’s most successful entrepreneurs to become involved in local government. These individuals are the most well-connected, most powerful members of that community and they arguably have the greatest stake in the long-term health of the community. However, these individuals are by no means the perfect geniuses of economics that their biographers would make them out to be. When such individuals are empowered to steer the governance of a community, they bring their particular biases and political connections and prior commitments with them. It would seem that the leaders of Dillton are no exception to this all-too-common common scenario. Their decision to offer companies a tax boost likely reflect their professional experience as executives and the prior ideological and social commitments therein. Dillton’s City Council in seeking to solve the unemployment problem in their town have ironically failed to take into account the perspectives of the common workers.

A more thorough explanation of the failure of Dillton’s new policy to provide work for the people, would need take into account the living conditions in that community. If reasonably priced housing, schools, access to healthcare and recreational facilities are absent, or the people the community are otherwise disincentivised from staying or moving there for work, then the overall employment situation will suffer. Indeed, any gains made from the tax and grants policies may even be offset by the flight of workers who, despite new employment opportunities, have only meager desire to stay in town.

The quality of jobs available to workers as a result of these policies is also another potential roadblock to the improvement of the unemployment situation there. In other words, if the workers skill sets don’t match the jobs available, then the town’s economy is back to square-one in terms of the unemployment puzzle. The Dillton city council owes its citizens and resident workers to be more attentive to their living conditions, their educations and training levels, and to the factors which will satisfy their needs.

REFLECTION

Started going off the rails a bit in the second paragraph.  Is it necessary for me to be making a sort of overarching argument about the failings of the bourgeois city council in general?  Is it worth trying to organize my essay in this way, or am I just creating a pitfall for myself…  I dunno.  In this case, since I was able to kind of pull things back together in the final paragraph, I think it works.  My second essay this morning was not so successful that way.

 

Teachers donating sick days is a symptom of a wretched system

On July 24, Florida high school teacher Robert Goodman posted a picture of himself during chemo treatment. Having run short on sick days, Goodman appealed to fellow school employees, who donated enough days for him to take a semester off and complete treatment.
Goodman’s is one in a slew of stories about teachers and workers donating sick time or parental leave, a trend lauded earlier this summer by Good Morning America. But while it’s heartwarming to see the extent to which teachers support each other, part of the reason that’s true is that teachers have become so acutely economically vulnerable. As his students start school this week without him, lack of paid leave — for personal sickness like Goodman’s, the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a loved one — shows just how vulnerable teachers are, and how inhumane the system has become.

AP World History Is Worth Saving

Teachers are pushing back against proposed changes they say would reframe AP World History as Eurocentric. Teaching Tolerance stands with them.

Source: AP World History Is Worth Saving

The College Board, which makes these tests, should be coming out with a response to all of the teachers who have told them what a terrible, dishonest switcheroo this would be.

Also, one argument that I didn’t hear Teaching Tolerance making has to do with other existing AP history courses– namely AP European and US History (and to some extent AP Art History) which between them seem to duplicate most of the material that would be covered in an AP world history course from 1400 to the present.

Follow-Up

One promising thread that I was able to pick out from the intro to DeCorker and Bjork’s collection, Japanese Education in an Era of Globalization: Culture, Politics and Equity, was their aim to critique views of Japanese education which elide complexity in favor of a treatment of the Ministry of Education policy as THE driving force in the education system here.  They don’t mention specific authors they wish to critique, who come at Japanese education from this standpoint, but a review I read in the History of Education Quarterly (a journal which is a little light on Japanese Ed. history) takes this view.  Of course, MEXT is undeniably a powerful entity in the creation and implementation of education policy and curriculum here.  Furthermore, it is an organization with a more than 130-year history, which is to say, it is not undeserving of study.  However, I think it will be more useful to look at present-day education in Japan through a historical lens that de-centers what has been the central education authority in Japan.

Why do I think it is important to decenter the center in this case?  Well, apart from having a contrarian streak a mile wide, it has been my experience that teachers have the greatest influence on what education amounts to.  While they are beholden to the dictates of organizations like the Ministry of Education on paper, the realities (for better or for worse) off classrooms are always deviating from these norms.  I realize that it’s not nearly so easy to get a picture of what actually happens in classrooms as it is to follow the paper trail left by a government ministry dedicated to dictating what ought to be happening in classrooms.  But the counter-examples that are available will be instructive for teachers who may see their social-reconstructivist aims as being at odds with the curriculum from above.

The example of Hiroshima Jogakuin, the Protestant missionary school for girls, which was very much subject to the Ministry’s war-time dictates, and came under increasing scrutiny due in larg part to its employment of American staff (including head teacher, Nanny Gaines).  The activities of these foreign teachers in Japan and the support they received from their Japanese counterparts is I think a great model for present-day curriculum involving the cooperation of Japanese Nationals and non-Japanese native English speaker teachers (NESTs).

But that will have to wait.  And I will have to pick this thread up again a little later on.

Opinion | The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students

Our tax burden could increase by tens of thousands of dollars, based on money we don’t even make.

Source: Opinion | The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students

 

This is so messed up.  So short-sighted.  Who could possibly be advocating for this other than the super-rich?

The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country | Boston Review

Source: The Mythical Whiteness of Trump Country | Boston Review

This is a fantastic critique from the Boston Review of J.D. Vance’s bestselling HIllbilly Elegy.  I ordered copy of this book about a year ago after Trump’s victory, but it ended up being out of stock, and I never re-ordered it.  Now I’m kind of glad I didn’t bother.  It would appear that Vance is a little light on progressive populism, and his ethnography is weighed down by a racist mythology of the Scotch-Irish settlers of Appalachia.  Elizabeth Catte rightly points to the diversity of this region, which Vance apparently erases in puffing up his “‘hillbillies’ as a unique specimen of white woe.”