Re: (LONG) Re: grades & school reform (Not quite so long)

Jeffrey R Galin (
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 21:35:36 -0400

On Wed, 4 Sep 1996, Steve Finley wrote:

> Unless I misread you,
> it seems that your point is that if change is needed, as many or
> even most in this discussion seem to think, then surely it ought
> to be both real and significant rather than merely perceptual
> or even imaginary. Not everything we do to make ourselves feel that
> we've fought the good fight is really very effective; sometimes it
> just makes us feel good, and that's it. Is that about right?
No, you did not misread me. You and Fred both have named
succinctly what I took three pages to write (I gotta stop doing that, but
it really helped me get out of a jam in my writing). I think Fred is
right to say that understanding the power relations within the classroom
is fundamental to good teaching. When people use the word empowerment for
the most part they have good intentions, but don't realize that they are
actually helping to seduce students to play the game and inviting others
to spar rhetoric. This is what happened wtih the community control
projects. Once the goverment got involved, it did the majority of the
controling by establishing the criteria for obtaining money, defining the
rhetorical paths that organizations had to follow, and not coordinating
efforts through its various levels of burocracy. One set of rules and
practices canceled out the gains of the other.

We can all talk a good game and feel good about it to boot, but
since we don't have control over the relations of power outside of our
classrooms (way too many levels to ever make that claim), it makes sense
to do all we can to work at what we can in our classes and on the few
committee's we inhabit. But, as soon as we pretend to empower by
decentering, or booting grades, or doing whatever else we might decide,
we have offered false hope to our students and to ourselves. I'm saying,
lets be realistic about what we can accomplish and not set ourselves or
students up for failure elsewhere. Calling attention to these relations
and how to massage them seems like an awfully good place to start. If
that means experimenting with no grades had having students study the
implications of that gesture, then the act has meaning. If we are the
ones deciding that grades are limiting, and we take it upon ourseles to
dispense with them wihtout inviting students to explore the implications,
then we are playing the same old game again. We know what is best for our
students and we feel good about it. It is a matter of control.


PS Fred, are you mellowing? Did you really say you don't expect CMC ever
to replace F2F?

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