They rely on data but ignore the evidence. They have no argument based on credible evidence yet their position has the mic. It’s a philosophical war and the traditionalists are losing. And for once, the ‘revolutionary’ movement is trying to erase a hundred years of progress.
We’re not talking about second amendment advocates, creationists vs. rational scientific explanations, nor doves vs. hawks on a war and peace issue. The ‘movement’ away from sanity, accountability, responsibility, humility, and reasonable arguments is being led by a variety of MBA-type wonks who never spent a day in front of a classroom yet use everything made up at their disposal to denigrate public education.
Could it only be in public school where they teach when writing a paragraph the topic sentence is followed by support statements? You would think so since so many with the ‘Superman Syndrome’ think that if you make a bold statement, nothing that follows has to be supportive and if it is, it’s made up.
The list of topics demagogued to death include charter schools vs. public education, evaluating teachers based on student performance, the evils of the unions, and how it’s better to use inexperienced and less paid Teach For America neophytes rather than tenured professionals with advanced degrees.
Support for public education is with so many other campaign promises that President Obama has rejected, reneged, reversed himself on, or misrepresented his position in order to win the Presidency. (For example we can include closing Gitmo, supporting card check, supporting a public option, opposing consolidation of the media, opposing the excessive human and civil liberties attacks of his predecessor, etc.) Now we see in his education platform that it is based on the advice of so many illustrious educators like Arne Duncan, Bill Gates and Oprah.
It is they who have the mic spewing illogic, union/teacher bashing hysteria, and a fistful of data made up faster than could come from a slide rule. As they used to say regarding computer programming, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
Their ‘supermen’ cheered the firing of an entire staff in a high school in Rhode Island for low test scores. Missing from the narrative that made its way through main stream media is that the students were majority English Language Learners, or that it was the only high school in the poorest city in RI. Poverty’s data has no weight when dealing with test scores. So what that it was a highly dedicated and professional staff. They couldn’t work the “miracles” that the private schools often do or charter schools pretend to. The numbers said it all. Apples trump oranges all the time.
There are many voices out there, even if they’re sailing against the wind. The June issue of the ISR (International Socialist Review) devotes an entire edition to exposing the real reasons why our students are being commodified and why charter schools are winning the grants but failing to produce what they promise. In the NEA Today, January 21, 2011 edition it prints a teacher’s response to Oprah. Where else do we get to see real criticism of Oprah and her sham knowledge of pedagogy? After all, Oprah doesn’t have the mic, she owns it.
So what’s to be done? How about teachers getting off their asses and doing something. How about teachers’ unions stop groveling for crumbs from Race To The Top and organize with other unions to stand up to the bureaucrats and corporatists who do not have every students’ interest in mind, only those who fit their corporate models of success. In other words, students who can help to increase the bottom line of the testing company, the charter school, the think tank; any corporation that sees students as a commodity and not a living learner. If only teachers could strike!
We see how immigrants in 2009 were able to shut down cities (especially in California) with massive demonstrations, echoed all over the country. If only teachers could be so organized to shut down city after city demanding that this country return to its values of supporting public education!
So what will be done?
We teachers are not asleep. We’re just merely exhausted. We’re beaten down. But we’re not on our knees. We are organizing. This July 30 we’ll be marching in DC with the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action. Join its Facebook page (with the same name) and get involved.
We certainly don’t have any friends in the White House. In his State of the Union Address he heaped praises on teachers. Yet in the next breath he pushed his Race To The Top as a model for educational excellence. Right. Destroy public schools. Promote privately run, tax paid charters. Increase the profit margin for testing companies…..
But everyone knows a teacher. Maybe you’re married to one or one lives on your block. Maybe you tried to talk your kids out of being one but damn it they had the calling and just wouldn’t listen to you. Let’s remember that in the US we have a long history of struggling for what’s in the public interest: union rights, civil rights, suffrage, public education. Join this march in July and begin to take back public education from the ‘Billionaire Boys Club’. 1 Teachers need some kryptonite and here’s a beginning.
- The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Chapter 10, Diane Ravitch, 2010 [↩]