May 1, 2023

I have lived in an education self-cancel culture for most of my career. Now, I don't want you to feel sorry for me because I have self-canceled.

What do I mean when I say that I have lived in an education self-cancel culture?

First, what I believe about learning and education is not part of the status quo. For example, I believe that any kind of State-required end-of-year testing is cruel and abusive. Proponents of State-required tests, I believe, are simply wrong about what they claim are the benefits of this type of testing. These may be good people, but they are wrong.

(BTW...They have defined “accountability" to mean a score on a test. What if accountability meant that schools helped kids reach their dreams? Imagine schools creating support to help kids on their journey to reach their dreams. You can imagine a school constructed in this way. That is not what we have now.)

And because they are wrong, they have implemented a testing-industrial complex on students and schools that is inherently psychologically harmful to everyone (adults and students) in schools. It has led to a crisis in mental health in students, and the testing-industrial complex has dubious long-term learning benefits.

This gets me to the self-cancel culture in education.

The status quo in education is dominated by the belief that if you DO NOT believe in the value of State-required testing, then you are one of three things.

1. Your character is attacked, and you are told you don't care about kids...and these people will attack you on this ground if you try to express any opinion other than "State-required testing is great!"

2. You are not smart. If you were smart, you would believe that "data" purportedly supports the testing-industrial complex.

3. State-required testing advocates will have you believe that if you don't agree with their way of thinking, then you are prone to "wanting to go backward" to a time when schooling was not good for kids.

So, to summarize, if you don't agree with the proponents of State-required testing of students, then you are dumb, you don't care about kids, and you are a hopeless romantic that wants to go back to "the good ol' days."

If you don't believe this happens out there in the real world, just go to almost any education conference and start talking about how the "accountability" reform wave is significantly hurting kids. You will experience one of these three reactions.

So, I have spent a good chunk of my career "canceling" myself. Although I am more vocal than some people, I have had thousands of interactions, both in small and large groups, where I have censured my comments because I did not want to get attacked.

In effect, I have canceled myself.

A Promise To Myself

I am committed to not canceling myself anymore. I encourage you not to self-cancel either. If there is something that you believe to be right (and you recognize that other opinions may be as valuable as yours), then express those opinions. You can still treat people with humanity and respect if they disagree with you.

You do not want people to feel as if they have to self-cancel in front of you if they don't agree with you.

I am curious what you think about "self-canceling in education."

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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