Monthly Archives: January 2015
I will not be polite and civil about what is happening to our teachers and our students. I will not betray them by making excuses for those in power who are the source of their distress. I am only one person, but great movements are made by individuals who have said “enough is enough” joining forces with other like minded people. We are creating the critical mass able to wage a war of attrition against the richest and most powerful people in the country. The courage each of us finds from within encourages others to discover powers they never thought were there. We are many, our movement is growing, and out time will come. The Testing Machine will be beaten back. Count on it.
Gates, Duncan, Broad et al say they want to attract more talented people to the teaching profession but they
1. Support teacher evaluation frameworks combine humiliating observation protocols (Danielson rubric) with scripted curricula (Common Core) and use of student test scores in such a way that the most talented veteran teachers are leaving the profession in droves.
2. Give financial support for an alternative certification program, Teach for America, that recruits talented undergraduates not to become teachers for life, but to spend two years in low performing schools en route to other careers, some in education, many not, which offer much more money and much more power.
3. Refuse to speak out against states and municipalities that are looting teacher pension funds, thereby telling teachers present and future, that their retirement security can be compromised every time there is a budget short fall.
The result of these policies- many of the best teachers leave; talented new teachers don’t stay, and children across the nation are increasingly taught by people under the most severe stress– and sometimes under a doctors care– because they are scripted, micromanaged and treated with total disrespect.
There is indeed a Crisis in Public Education, but it is caused by Bad Policy, not Bad Teachers.
It is time to change course, and fast.
Because Common Core aligned tests are developmentally inappropriate for many students, and dramatically ratchet up the stress levels of student, teachers and families, they can only be imposed with top down tactics that feature threats and intimidation. The entire process must be exposed- not just the tests themselves- because it represents an abuse of power by elected officials, and a grave threat to traditions of local governance and parental rights. Right now, many parents and teachers are frightened and shell shocked which makes it especially important for those of us who know what a grave threat to Democracy this is to speak out everywhere and anywhere. Americans are a rebellious, contentious, and independent people and this attempt to whip their children into line will ultimately fail.
The attack on the nation’s veteran teachers- which has taken and continues to take an incredible toll on the mental and physical health of hundreds of thousands of people- is something which must be analyzed and exposed no matter whose “ox is gored” and that includes leaders of the nation’s teachers unions. All over the nation teachers are being evaluated, micromanaged and rated in ways that are intrusive, humiliating, and demoralizing. Almost everywhere, teachers at the high end of the salary scale are the ones most targeted. Programs billed as necessary to improve the quality of the profession have turned into cost cutting through humiliation. Administrators target teachers with the highest salaries; elected officials support such purges as an indirect way to cut pension costs. The varied measures chosen to evaluate staff and remove “bad teachers” have also contributed to the “whitening” of the teaching profession, something which has been documented in city and city which has been willing to provide researchers with the data. We now have a teaching force in this nation which is much younger, more unstable and whiter than it was fifteen years ago. And much less able to resist high powered campaigns to privatize public education and make it a profit center for corporate interests, to the detriment of the students and families public schools serve.
The Chicago School closings are part and parcel of a strategy for remaking the American metropolis as a center for spatial and economic transformations which will further cement economic inequality. One key component of this strategy is demographic inversion- moving the poor out of the center city into the periphery, where they will no longer be able to physically or politically threaten the global elites who will be working and playing in the redeveloped Center. This process is already well under way in cities like New York, Chicago, Washington and Milwaukee- with the result being that more poor people now live in suburbs than in cities- but for poor people who remain in cities, the elite’s preferred strategy is intrusive, “stop and frisk” policing and the transformation of public schools into sites of draconian discipline where compliance and obedience are the preferred behaviors, strategies taken to the highest point of perfection by some of the nation’s most celebrated charter schools.
Where do school closings fit in this elaborate strategy to scatter and neutralize the poor? Public schools in poor neighborhoods, even those whose test scores mark them as “failing,” are important centers of community life, places where different generations of people interact and mark their connection to historical space. They contain memories of families raised, community arts forms celebrated, sports victories won, powerful friendships forged. If you ignore those experiences and reduce the school to its failures, you erase a communities history and make that community easier to divide and disperse
Underlying School Closings is a world view which marks off residents of poor communities, not just the schools in them as failures, people who have to be dispersed, incarcerated, disciplined and divided for the Global Metropolis to prosper
It reveals the profound moral bankruptcy and cynicism pervading neo-liberal economic policies, whether they have a Democratic or Republican facade