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Education Reform in the Father-Knows-Best World of Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett

5:07 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

“The government has ceased to function…the corporations are the government.” Theodore Dreiser



If one applies cognitive and political linguist George Lakoff’s “Strict Father” model to Governor Mitch Daniels and Indiana superintendent of public instruction Tony Bennett, it’s obvious they see themselves as the be-all and end-all authorities on how teachers and students should be whipped into shape. Since their worldview is anti-women, anti-children, and pathologically corporate, all sane people must shout out against it.

As strict father types*, Daniels and Bennett assume that men must put female teachers (which make up 70% of Indiana teachers), like women in general, in their place. According to strict fathers, women teach because they can’t do; men do real work (like gamble in the stock market, lead the Chamber of Commerce, or kickbox each other to death), while their wives are left to babysit the kids with their McGraw-Hill textbooks. If men do enter the teaching profession, the strict father deems it best they come from the corporate world and become superintendents and principals who shove slave labor onto female teachers.

If the strict fathers get women to jump on their boys’ bandwagon (as some like Tina Bennett, Gwendolyn Adell, Claire Fiddian-Green, and Jo Blacketor have sadly done in Indiana), it convinces them that all women are capable of coming around to their way of seeing the world, which is not and should not ever be the case.

Students, according to the strict-father mindset, must sweat the “tough love” discipline Bennett ran on in his campaign for superintendent. No wonder then that the only support Bennett and Daniels have given to educators is immunity from lawsuits for enforcing this “tough love” punishment. In this James Dobson-spare-not-the-rod world, kids—incapable of being inspired to learn— must have facts, dates, and statistics beaten into them.

Of course, all this is sheer nonsense and more than a little dangerous.

As an opponent of standardized tests, linguist and political scholar Noam Chomsky once noted that “about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested.” In Indiana—and America in general—this is the Sisyphus challenge. Those who pass laws for merit-pay teacher evaulations are in bed with a corporate elite which bends over backwards to distract from learning to love learning, be it through their tween marketing gimmicks or championing standardized testing to bore all creativity out of both teachers and students.

Arguably, these mandated tests aren’t meant to measure knowledge anyway, for strict father types like Daniels and Bennett don’t care much about knowledge, unless it serves their own purposes. In this case, it does perfectly. By forcing teachers to teach by the test and worry about getting fired over what is out of their control, Daniels and Bennett hope to break teachers’ wills to the point that they change careers. Then the corporate oligarchy can replace them with minimum-waged and half qualified instructors, week-trained Teach for America fake superstars, and eventually virtual teachers in another state.

Although a disaster for teachers and students, standardized tests aid Daniels, Bennett, and other strict fathers in a less obvious way. Importantly, these politicians count on an uninformed public to vote them and future strict fathers into office, and there’s no better way to assure this than by administering these tests which seal off all critical thinking and questioning of authority. In fact, nothing is more frightening to the power elite than a living, breathing, and thinking body politic.

Even as neuroscientists and psychologists see empathy as fundamental to our evolutionary future, strict fathers like Daniels and Bennett proclaim public schools as the last frontier for hedge fund managers and other oligarchs to violate and conquer. They are giddy to give the final blow to any sense of kinship we still hold with our fellow humans. By churning out future Social Darwinists in kindergartens which teach playdough economics, these psychopaths wish to destroy what is left of Indiana, American, and the planet. This is dangerously about more than just education. It’s about whether we have a country and planet left when the plutocratic weapons stop falling.

If we don’t start seriously agitating the Big Daddies of the world and force them to grow up, we are all soon doomed to a fascist corporate state.

Note

* Like many strict father types, Tony Bennett named his son after himself, and Mitch Daniels was named after his own father.

Insightfully, a while back, Biz Voices’ Tom Schuman relayed an interesting anecdote recalled by Tony Bennett. Schuman wrote:

“He [Bennett] tells the joke of how his Uncle Gene remarked that Elisabeth (Bennett’s sister, currently working in the field of educator preparation at the University of Central Florida) had never made a (grade as low as a) “B” in her life. Bennett’s father chimed in on the other end of the scale, ‘Neither has Tony’” (29).

Although I do not personally know Tony Bennett, it is safe to say that pain may lurch behind his humorous story. In the above account, Tony Bennett’s unsatisfactory school grades might not be as noteworthy as the father-son relationship the joke hints at. Of course, one incident is by no means a psychological case study, but given that the superintendent hates unions and promotes the take-no-hostage privatization of American education, one wonders if this is because he felt shafted by his father, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers member. Did his real or perceived failure with his union member father lead him to search out psychopathic father models, as many men in our deranged society are encouraged to do?

Purdue Must Investigate Indiana State Board of Education Member Gwendolyn G. Adell for Academic Dishonesty

2:24 pm in Uncategorized by Doug Martin

The following is a report of academic dishonesty I earlier emailed to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Purdue University officials, and others.

To Whom It May Concern:

An anonymous researcher recently alerted me to a disturbing finding concerning Gwendolyn G. Adell (also referred to as Gwendolyn Griffith-Adell). As you are aware, Mrs. Adell sits on the Indiana State Board of Education and highly supports the Daniels/Bennett agenda in Indiana education.

According to this source, a section of Adell’s 2004 Ph.D. dissertation from Purdue University is allegedly plagiarized from a 1999 dissertation written by Lynn Amedy in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Virginia Polytechnic University.

Having found academic professionalism severely lacking for what passes as education reform in Indiana, I purchased Adell’s dissertation from ProQuest’s Dissertation and Abstracts service, the official group which sells the writings of doctoral students. Able to locate Amedy’s work from Pennsylvania State University’s CiteSeer (X), which is overseen by Professor C. Lee Giles and stores many dissertations, I quickly spotted the passage noted by my anonymous source. This letter’s Appendix outlines my findings and shall serve as a report of academic dishonesty against Gwendolyn G. Adell.

Supposedly, my anonymous source has contacted Purdue University officials and they have promised to look into the matter. Hopefully they have begun an exhaustive study of all of Adell’s sources to compare with her work. But given that Purdue University faculty members have ties to the school reform movement in Indiana, that Purdue may possibly sponsor charter schools in the near future, and that Dr. Tony Bennett sits on the Indiana Council for Economic Education’s Director’s Circle at Purdue with the Vice Provost for Engagement, I question if Purdue officials can or will do an unbiased, exhaustive search into this complaint.

Dr. Adell is currently the principal at the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy Junior High/High School in Gary, an American Quality Schools charter, but this is not what mainly concerns me. Personally, I do not advocate for stripping Mrs. Adell of her doctorate or her job at the charter.

Yet Mrs. Adell’s membership on the Indiana State Board of Education must be seriously questioned. As public officials, members of the Indiana State Board of Education drafting the standards for our teachers, administrators, and school children must be held to even higher scrutiny and professional ethics. Additionally, those with Ph.D.’s often are taken very seriously by the media, educators, and the general public as a whole. Therefore, I call on the Governor and Purdue officials to arrange for an unbiased, outside research panel (along with, yet apart from, Purdue’s) to examine the documents, as I have.

If Mrs. Adell is found guilty of academic misconduct, Mitch Daniels must ask immediately for her resignation from the Indiana State Board of Education.

Sincerely,

Doug Martin, Ph.D.
Independent Researcher/Scholar/Author

CC: Dr. Danita M. Brown, Dean of Students, Purdue University, Dr. Jeffery Stefancic, Associate Dean, Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities at Purdue University, Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Earl Goode, Chief of Staff to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels



APPENDIX

Textual Analysis of Sample Paragraph from Both the Adell and Amedy Dissertations


Here, in italics, is the 481-word passage as it appears in Lynn Amedy’s 1999 dissertation. It begins at the very bottom of page 1 in the text, as the beginning of a new paragraph, and continues into almost half of page 3. If examining the left-hand, top column box of the PDF version (also available online), the section starts at the bottom of page 8:

Research findings from the past twenty years regarding general leadership traits that females exhibit have been divided. While some researchers reported that men and women hold mostly common leadership traits (Denmark, 1977; Estler, 1987; Haslett, Geis, & Carter, 1992), other researchers (Loden, 1985, Powell, 1988; Shakeshaft, 1989) found that men and women employ different leadership styles based on their personal leadership concept and stereotypical perceptions. Shakeshaft indicated, “women and men approach the job of school administrator differently and, consequently, respond in ways that are often dissimilar … as a group, women tend to have a different administrative style then do men and that effectiveness for a female may depend on this altered approach” ( p. 190). Some contemporary researchers working in the social sciences (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986; Gilligan, 1993; Grogan, 1996; Helgesen, 1990; Noddings, 1992; Shakeshaft, 1989) report that women display specific gender-based leadership characteristics. In describing the different managerial behaviors of women and men, Helgesen (1990) noted the following differences:

The [managerial] characteristics of the women in the diary studies strongly interrelate and reinforce one another. Their willingness to share information derived from a complex sense of their own identity, which enabled them to keep their careers in perspective. This broad sense of identity in turn encouraged a big picture focus – on the world rather than just the organization- which was strengthened by the women’ s participation in activities that had nothing to do with their jobs. (p. 28)

However, Chase (1995) described some females as being “co-opted” by the traditional systems in which they work (p. 183). These females may find traditional methods of leadership to be the most appropriate for the situation because they are expected of them. Other women are observed remaining above that fray, forging ahead inventing their own individual style of leadership. Chase (1995) further noted that leadership style appears to be an area of personal choice directed by values, beliefs, and the workplace environment. Grogan (1996) found that the women in her studies acted in a variety of ways and demonstrated differing responses to an environment of gendered identity. While Grogan indicated that a number of the women she studied utilized alternative approaches, including a collaborative connected approach to leadership within a pronounced ethic of care, she noted that conflicting and controlling discourses often left these women frustrated with their performance. The predominant discourse in educational administration is very traditional. Grogan (1996) further noted, “A discourse that effectively curtails the full participation of many women and some men, and especially women and men of color, must be disrupted …. Leadership must be released from stereotypical constraints and alternative approaches valued” (p. 192). In addition, Grogan indicated that in order to disrupt this discourse, it will take significant change in the way policy makers at all levels view the role of superintendent with “it s persistent white male image” (p. 195).
This same 481-word passage appears in Adell’s work, with only slight textual variations. In Adell’s dissertation, the section begins on page 12 (listed as page 22 in the left-hand, top column box of the PDF). It is the second full paragraph on the page, and it continues through page 13 (page 23 in PDF’s box). To illustrate the point of my complaint, I include here the alterations Adell has made in Amedy’s first paragraph listed above. All other words in Adell’s paragraph and their order are identical to Amedy’s original source:

Sentence 1: Adell has switched the places of two phrases: “from the past twenty years” and “general leadership.” Adell’s sentence reads: “Research findings on general leadership traits that females exhibit from the past twenty years have been divided.”

Sentence 2: Adell has changed “researchers” to “research.” Also, toward the end of the sentence, Amedy’s “on” becomes “upon” in Adell’s version.

Sentence 3: At the beginning of the quotation, Adell has capitalized the “w” in “women.”

Sentence 4: Amedy’s in-text sources include Gilligan, 1993; Adell gives the date as 1982. The verb “report” has been changed to “reported.”

Sentence 5: Adell has added the word “too” (plus commas: “,too,”) to surround the main noun and verb of the sentence: “Helgesen,” “noted.”

Although similar textual variations occur in Amedy’s block quotation and the last paragraph I have copied above, I see no point in listing these in this letter. The first paragraph (not noted here) of Adell’s “Literature Review” also has been pulled from Amedy’s work, but one complete sentence from the original has been deleted. I have not included it here, either. Thus, more than 481 words have been duplicated from the original, undocumented source. It is also essential to note that Adell does not cite Amedy’s original dissertation in her bibliography.

Amedy’s dissertation may be downloaded from the CiteSeer (X) link highlighted in my “References” section below under a Creative Commons License. Since Adell’s dissertation is still under copyright, I am not reproducing it here or enclosing it as an attachment. It, nonetheless, may be purchased from ProQuest at their website and several copies should be on file at Purdue University.

References

Adell, G. G. (2004). African American Female Administrators: Leadership in Context (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database. (AAI 3166587).

Amedy, M. L. (1999). A Qualitative Study of Female Superintendents: Leadership Behaviors in Context. Retrieved from CiteSeer (X) Beta Scientific Literature Digital Library and Search Engine. (ETD 042699-151803).

Update: Tom Matrka has pointed out (see second comment here) that Adell also has lifted sections from a dissertation written by Jude Isaacson. I have now skimmed over Isaacson’s work and can confirm that Matrka’s claims are correct.