Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Isn't it Ironic?

Many of the most popular, hired and prolific members of the EduBlogosphere (particularly the edtech bloggers) spend a great deal of time, word count and airplane mileage talking about the importance of literacy - old literacy, new literacy, media literacy, superdooper 21st Century Web 2.0 literacy and "literacies" yet to be invented.

Literacy dominates my esteemed colleague's thoughts about education. Therefore, I find it shocking that there is so little [read: none] discussion of the news that the federal Department of Education has concluded that Reading First, the $6 billion shock and awe approach to literacy education at the core of No Child Left Behind, has FAILED to improve the reading comprehension of American students.

Why the silence among EduBloggers? Is this issue unimportant? Should we ignore the calamity created by Reading First just because it doesn't mention Twitter, Apture, Ning or other made-up words?

Or, are you waiting to be told what to think by Tom Friedman or Daniel Pink?

Too bad the self-proclaimed prophets of the information and media literacy "revolution" have nothing to offer the educators who will need to cleanup this mess created by the Bush Administration and perpetuated by those who remained silent when they knew better.

For the record, I've been writing about this issue for four years. An anthology of this work may be found here. I hope to have a more substantive piece published for a larger audience sometime this week. Stay tuned.

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  • Part of the issue is that many edubloggers aren't American. I don't follow the US education system all that closely so I wasn't even aware. It still has relevance to me but not directly.

    That said, I'll definitely consider it as another resource/research piece in my collection.

    By Anonymous Dean Shareski, At May 6, 2008 4:35 PM  

  • Dean,

    Thanks for reading and posting.

    Of course I know that not all bloggers are Yanks. Non-American bloggers are not the subject of my concern in this case.


    PS: I'm back in Canada tomorrow for the 2nd time in 2 weeks.

    By Anonymous Gary, At May 6, 2008 4:49 PM  

  • I have covered it here...
    and here...

    Not exactly my definition of 'none'.

    By Anonymous Downes, At May 6, 2008 5:46 PM  

  • Stephen,

    If you are not guilty, you should not take offense. I was attempting to NOT name names.

    It does however seem ironic that only Canadian bloggers have responded to my criticism.

    All the best,


    By Anonymous Gary, At May 6, 2008 5:52 PM  

  • Not that I consider myself one of the top-tier members of the community that you refer to, but here's my answer:

    I don't consider myself an expert or even very knowledgeable about teaching reading. Somehow I was given a teaching license without these skills (no sarcasm intended, I'm honestly puzzling about this)(except for a brief course on Doug Buehl's book) and consider myself to be an intelligent person, but I honestly have NO solutions to the Reading First issue. I DO however, consider myself a good teacher in my specific and very specialized area.

    That being said, I still want to blog and I still want to blog about education. I agree that the failure of Reading First is an extremely vital issue, but I'm strong enough to admit that I don't think my background permits me to say much on it.

    Thanks for an intriguing question that I hope many will address. I look forward to reading more on this and doing more research to educate myself. As an educator, I believe the first step to acquiring knowledge is recognizing what I need to learn.

    By Anonymous Kate Olson, At May 6, 2008 5:55 PM  

  • I've noticed that there's little to no overlap between the writers/commenters of the edtechblogosphere and the commenters on blogs of "pure" ed. policy folks such as Andy Roterham (aka eduwonk), eduwonkette, Sherman Dorn, etc. I wonder if that's mirroring the systems themselves, where tech. departments are run as separate silos from the lead politicos (and from the curriculum folks). I'm moved by your post to add a bit more of a politics/policy focus to my own blog. That would take me back to my roots, too.

    By Anonymous Jonathan, At May 6, 2008 6:04 PM  

  • Very interesting information. Until right now I was totally unaware of that bit of information (admittedly I've been pretty "unplugged" recently). Thanks for bringing it to our collective attentions. It's definitely a damning indictment of the NCLB literacy initiative (if not of NCLB as a whole). How was that money spent? Clearly I'm sadly uninformed on this topic. I look forward to reading more on the issue and hearing your more comprehensive thoughts on it.

    By Anonymous Ben W., At May 6, 2008 6:07 PM  

  • Not sure if I count as an "American" edublogger or not, since I'm in China, but I am an American and write largely for an american audience. That being said, I don't take offense at all (partly because I blog mostly about art technology and art advocacy) but also because I don't think its the "either/or" situation you describe. You seem to be pitting "tools" (web 2.0 applications) against "policy" (NCLB).

    That doesn't seem fair. I'm sure we all agree how devastatingly bad the Bush administration has been for education- and I certainly wish there was more organized reaction to their failed policies. However, for me, edublogs have been an invaluable resource for discovering and discussing tools to use in the classroom. Outrage against NCBL is a given, and discussion of it on our blogs is - to me- shouting into the echo chamber.

    In other words, our political advocacy of educational policy isn't necessarily the subject of our blogging. If you feel that the educational community as a whole has been too silent on NCLB, that I could agree with.

    Sort of a tangential point, Gary- the jab about Freidman/Pink - I have to ask why you keep bashing Pink's book, even though Howard Gardner comes to some of the very same conclusions in his recent book "Five Minds for the Future". Is it the message, or the messenger?

    By Anonymous dsgran, At May 6, 2008 6:55 PM  

  • Dsgran,

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I did not pit tools vs. policy.

    I merely pointed out that pundits, I did not name, have been silent on many of the critically important educational issues of our time while focusing on utopian notions of the future, fueled by web-based connections.

    As for my "shot" at Friedman and Pink, I have explained on countless occasions how I believe that:

    1) Both books are full of superstition, unsubstantiated claims, junk science and fear of foreigners.

    2) Neither author knows as much as a first-year teacher about the nature of learning, but they make sweeping (yet oddly empty) proclamations about school reform.

    3) Educators should be more judicious in who they read and follow. Although I have some problems with Howard Gardner, he is an accomplished learning scholar who can support his arguments with evidence - unlike Pink or Friedman.

    I have written extensively about why I believe educators would be well-served to reduce their affection for pop business books. (see

    Those looking for more relevant books might visit


    By Anonymous Gary, At May 6, 2008 7:31 PM  

  • "Why the silence among EduBloggers? Is this issue unimportant? Should we ignore the calamity created by Reading First just because it doesn't mention Twitter, Apture, Ning or other made-up words?

    Or, are you waiting to be told what to think by Tom Friedman or Daniel Pink?"

    Because nobody wants to own up to the fact that they're literally part of the problem?

    That it's a deeply ideological act to introduce the ideas of Friedman (neoliberal/freemarket) into one's pedagogy?

    That there are ethical questions involved in endorsing videogames, web tools and etc that effectively brand our classrooms (ideologically and otherwise)?

    And that, maybe, some of the folks who are doing all of the above also voted for the folks who brought us No Child Left Behind and took trillions of dollars from the American public to pay for a military industrial complex of ceaseless war?

    Where is the learner in all of this? Good question.

    Ask the republicans. They brought you to this place.

    By Anonymous Melanie, At May 6, 2008 8:10 PM  

  • What's to say? It was a corrupt process to support a bankrupt idea. You already called that.

    FYI, folks talking about media literacy, or "new media" literacy are not talking about reading books or textbooks. They're talking about "literacy" in the sense of competence with the "text" of "new media." Go hang out in Subeta for a while. Or check out the latest Pew report.

    I have an idea for Reading First though. Instead of the bogus $600 tax rebate, give every American household a $600 certificate spenable only at B&N or Borders or Amazon BOOKS. LOL. Best way to learn to read is to be read to, to read with, and to read.

    By Anonymous LindaX, At May 6, 2008 9:33 PM  

  • > If you are not guilty, you should not take offense.

    I wasn't taking offense. I was taking issue with your use of the word "none", a use which was demonstrably factually inaccurate.

    By Anonymous Downes, At May 7, 2008 8:16 AM  

  • Hi Gary,

    You are challenging as always.

    Another response here:



    By Anonymous doug0077, At May 7, 2008 8:44 AM  

  • Gary,
    Did you see this interview with Reid Lyon discussing the research itself?

    By Anonymous Karen Janowski, At May 7, 2008 7:57 PM  

  • Gary, YOU are an edublogger. Glad you brought it to my attention. I'm in the classroom all day and in a private school at that -- we've long used a phonics based program that has been basically unchanged for years and has kept us in the 95th percentile for basically that long. If it works, don't change it.

    Many of my friends in public education talk about the cronyism and poor decision making that goes into putting things into the classroom. These are things they will not say publicly on their blogs for a reason. Classroom teachers in the public school system who blog are on a "short leash" if any and do not truly experience freedom of speech, as you could well imagine.

    I'm going to look at the information you've shared and will blog it if I feel I have something to add to the conversation.

    Remember, prolific, "paid" (who gets paid?) or whatever edubloggers are not everywhere at once, that is why the edublogosphere is and should be so much more than a few people. Most people I know include a variety of people on their blogrolls for just this reason, they each add a different perspective.

    Don't expect edubloggers to "be" the New YOrk times or something they're not. For the most part, we're all just individuals working really hard at our "day job" and blog on the side.

    I look forward to taking a look at this information. Best wishes.

    By Anonymous Vicki A. Davis, At May 8, 2008 5:09 AM  

  • IF you want us to blog about it, please link to the original article you are citing. I only have links to YOUR information.

    Please link to the works you are citing!

    By Anonymous Vicki A. Davis, At May 8, 2008 5:11 AM  

  • Vicki, your comment got me thinking...I've written about it over at my space:

    I'm sure it's not a new topic, but...

    By Anonymous Jon Becker, At May 8, 2008 2:15 PM  

  • Congratulations on the huffington post deal, it must have you excited. I just returned today b/c I was going to blog about the article you cited... oh well..

    By Anonymous Vicki A. Davis, At May 9, 2008 5:49 AM  

  • While it's totally cool that Gary was published in Huffington Post it's secondary to the real celebration here: what he said in that article.

    The reason why so few of your "community" has anything to say about the import of your article is because so many of them are transparently complicit in the ideological program that you speak of.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At May 10, 2008 7:28 PM  

  • Gary, I completely agree with you. I just returned from Atlanta attending the International Reading Association conference where the talk in the sessions and the halls were a buzz with Reading First discussion. As an edublogger in both the reading and the "Tech" conversations, I, too have been amazed at how little online dialogue there has been about the issue. This is a time for landmark discussions and decisions. Educators have a chance to have their voices heard, and with the impetus of this study-Washington may actually listen. Congratulations on your recent accomplishments-I look forward to the coming conversations!

    By Anonymous Angela Maiers, At May 15, 2008 7:16 AM  

  • *shrugs*
    I think very few of the "top tier" educational bloggers are actually cross the board experts in just about anything. Personally, I owe most of my relative 'fame' to the fact that I happened to pick up on podcasting pretty early on. I hardly consider that a qualification to speak on this topic with any sort of authority.

    To be perfectly honest, I was unaware of most of the details surrounding this issue. What I know now is largely due to your post. So all I felt qualified to do was to link to it from my blog, which I did.

    While I can't speak for anybody else, I can think of several reasons why people might be relatively quiet.

    1) Ignorance. If I hadn't seen your tweet, I wouldn't have seen your article, and I wouldn't have heard about it at all. It's not exactly a hot topic in the mainstream media.

    2) Abstinence. If they don't have anything more to contribute beyond your very well written article, then why let leave it to the people who DO consider themselves to be experts?

    3) Apathy. As you said, many of the people you are referring to are not in the classroom anymore, so it does not effect them directly. Perhaps they simply don't feel the personal impact and outrage because of distance.

    You're talking about it, and obviously others (based on comments here) are. How many people need to post about the tree falling in the forest before it has made a loud enough noise?

    By Anonymous Teach42, At May 19, 2008 7:12 AM  

  • Gary,
    I am a little late to the party, but I have only just discovered you and your blog in the course of frantically googling combinations such as *Daniel Pink straw man* and *Daniel Pink simplistic guru* and *Daniel Pink commercial empty glib sophistry*. You get the idea.
    Thank you for what I gather has been a relentless effort to point out the emperor's sartorial Alzheimer's.
    Only a month ago, I had heard of Daniel Pinkwater, but I knew nothing of Daniel Pink, his prophecies, or his hemispheric just-so stories, which, to mix the metaphor with bug juice, seem to be the neurological equivalent of pre-copernican astronomy.
    I suspect I had not run into D.P. hitherto because I misspent so much time reading perversely pointless books, books without kool brain facks, or formulae for personal success, or even useful weight loss programs based on ice cream.
    So it happened that a month ago, on the very brink of summer vacation, the headmaster of the small, independent school that employs me, having returned from some conference or other, broke with long habit, and called an emergency faculty mtg for the last day of school.
    The faculty were certain that someone had died. As it turned out, the occasion was in some ways worse than death because the soul of the headmaster had been stolen at the conference, and his body appropriated by an ominous pod person--a chilling example of what can happen when metaphors, such as "a whole new mind," get literalized.
    The body formerly occupied by the headmaster showed up at the mtg, not only fitted with a whole new mind, but also supplied with a giant box of books, all of which were the same.
    The erstwhile headmaster had stocked up on Dan Pink's book as if it were so much tupperware, and in keeping with the business model of tupperware and Amway, he had called the mtg. to ponzi it down the pyramid, to a hapless faculty, and thence presumably to witless students.
    Every faculty member received a copy of *A Whole New Mind*, along with an assignment to read it over the summer and be prepared to discuss its life-changing, mind-blowing effects in the fall.
    That's where I am now, dreading the fall because the book seems to me anything but harmless, meaning that I will at least have to consider giving it the bashing it deserves, but at what cost?
    If only it didn't exemplify the very sort of corrupt reasoning, lazy thinking, self-serving mythologizing, and easy answers that I try to warn my students against (I believe it's called media literacy by them that knows).
    Thanks for taking the time to read my lament, if indeed you have. And thanks for making your responses public. I am concerned that you have not been joined by more dissenters.
    I must remain anonymous lest my unvarnished views find an audience close to home. Best, Anon.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 18, 2008 2:10 AM  

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