Dueling Manifestos: We Have A Winner

Rhee, Klein and other people for whom teaching and children seem to be a mystery put together an embarrassing document they are calling their Manifesto (which has been thoroughly trashed for its stupidity and lameness as well as its misinformed content).  Well, 20 years ago some folks thought a manifesto for education was necessary, and they wrote one.

From Teacher Ken:

Saturday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Westboro Baptist Church Edition

Saturday Cartoon Fun: Don Wright Edition

The Myth Of The Bad Teacher

This myth is also seductive in its simplicity. It’s much easier to have a concrete – though vague – villain to blame for problems the school system faces. The fix seems easy, as well: all we need to do is fire the “Bad Teachers”, like controversial Washington DC school chancellor superstar Michelle Rhee has, and hire good ones, and students will learn. In this light, Gates’ effort to “fix” the bug riddled Public School Operating System by focusing on teacher development makes perfect sense. The logic feels hard to argue with: who would argue against making teachers better? And if as a teacher, if you do dare to, you must be “anti-student,” a “Bad Teacher” who is resistant to “reforms”, who is resistant to improvements, and thus must be out for himself, rather than the students.

The only problem with the “Bad Teacher” myth, as anyone involved with education is intimately aware of, is that problems in education are anything but simple. “The discourse of these so-called educational reformers is simplistic and polarizing,” as Henry A. Giroux claims in a recent, comprehensive essay on the subject in truthout. “It lacks any understanding of the real problems and strengths of public education, and it trades in authoritarian tactics and a discourse of demonization and humiliation.” The debate has been reduced to a superhero comic, a simplistic battle between good and evil, a cartoon version of a complex reality. The debate has been reduced to a minor plot point in this election cycle’s “anti-establishment” political narrative.
Adam Bessie at Daily Censored


A Desire To Do Moral Work In An Immoral World

Education is like love. You can give it all away and still have plenty. You can share all the knowledge you have and not lose anything - except if you're in a system where one school is being judged against another school, one classroom against another classroom, one state against another state. Well, then - I'm not giving you my shit. You go ahead and struggle on your own, because you and I are in a vicious fight for the Race to the Top money, for teacher jobs, for everything. That's a catastrophe for the reality of how teaching is done at its best.

I speak to young teacher groups all the time, and I often start by asking, "Are any of you going into teaching because you think you'll get rich?" And they laugh. And then I say, "Are any of you thinking you'll have the overwhelming respect of your community?" They laugh again. And then they tell me, "My parents, my brother, my sister, my partner all told me not to teach." So I say, "Why are you gonna do it? What's wrong with you?" And what's "wrong" with them is a desire to do moral work in an immoral world. Yet, we're putting a stake in their hearts.
Bill Ayers via truthout via FK

Friday Cartoon Fun: Here, Little Piggy Edition

Happy Birthday, John Lennon

John would have been 70 years old today. Google has a cool graphic today, too.

About Last Hired, First Fired

For you union busters out there who think last hired, first fired causes good teachers to be let go in favor retaining old, burnt out teachers, I give you the following:
We conduct an interrupted time-series analysis of data from 1998-2005 and find that the shift from a seniority-based hiring system to a “mutual consent” hiring system leads to an initial increase in both teacher turnover and share of inexperienced teachers, especially in the district’s most disadvantaged schools. For the most part, however, these initial shocks are corrected within four years leaving little change in the distribution of inexperienced teachers or levels of turnover across schools of different advantage.


What Happens After Everyone Goes To College?

...If it is done right, education provides an opportunity to better navigate the world and one’s own life in a more thoughtful, effective, and fulfilling way. Good education provides the empowered, democratic, entrepreneurial skills of creativity, critical thinking, and adaptation, along with rigorous understanding of academic subjects.

The Reality Problem

So all you need as a ticket to the good life is a four-year college degree? Tell this rosy myth to all the current, rightfully skeptical twenty-something graduates, saddled with tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars of college debt. They are dealing with the so-called “new normal,” waiting for diploma-relevant careers to materialize behind a wall of unemployed or retirement-delaying baby-boomers. This oversupply has caused wages to fall, not increase, compounded by a generational flood of women entering the market as well as an increasing number of minorities.

In the global economy, even fairly high skill jobs like computer programming, x-ray interpretation, graphic design, web design, and accounting, have been outsourced by the millions to countries like India that pay their workers much less. Productivity among American workers has skyrocketed as corporations “downsize” workforces, dumping the extra work on the remaining employees. However, this money has not been shared with workers but rather funneled toward profits. Average wages have remained flat or fallen adjusted for inflation over the last decade. Separation of wealth has skyrocketed. For decades American “growth” and family survival has been fueled not by jobs or education, but by debt. That option is ending.

This is a set-up waiting to happen. As with promises that the housing market will always go up and homeownership is a ticket to riches and a comfortable American Dream (a dream now crashed and turned into a nightmare for many), so too can promising minorities their dream job once they pay their educational dues. Education is not a guarantee or a ticket, especially if you are a first-generation college grad minority without connections. If it is done right, education provides an opportunity to better navigate the world and one’s own life in a more thoughtful, effective, and fulfilling way. Good education provides the empowered, democratic, entrepreneurial skills of creativity, critical thinking, and adaptation, along with rigorous understanding of academic subjects....
Zeus Yiamouyiannis via Katy Murphy (more at the link)

Thursday Bonus Cartoon Fun: "God Help Me, I Do Love It So" Edition*

* That's what George C. Scott says in the movie Patton as he gazes at the battlefield.

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Arabic Numerals Edition


On The Public Humiliation Of Teachers

...The discourse of these so-called educational reformers is simplistic and polarizing. It lacks any understanding of the real problems and strengths of public education, and it trades in authoritarian tactics and a discourse of demonization and humiliation.

For example, rather than educate the public, "Waiting for Superman" carpet bombs them with misrepresentations fueled by dubious assertions and denigrating images of public schools and teachers. Beneath its discourse of urgency, altruism and political purity parading in a messianic language of educational reform and a politics of generosity are the same old and discredited neoliberal policies that cheerfully serve corporate interests: privatization, union busting, competition as the only mode of motivation, an obsession with measurement, a relentless attack on teacher autonomy, the weakening of tenure, stripping educational goals of public values, defining teacher quality in purely instrumental terms, an emphasis on authoritative modes of management and a mindless obsession with notions of pedagogy that celebrate memorization and teach to the test.

High stakes accountability and punishing modes of leadership, regardless of the damage they wreak on students and teachers, are now the only game in town when it comes to educational reform - so much so that it is called revolutionary. At the same time, Gates and his billionaire friends gain huge tax write-offs from the money they invest in schools, while at the same time reaping the rewards of controlling institutions funded by public tax revenues. Gates and his cronies use these tax deductions to control public schools and the tax paying public, in this case, loses valuable tax revenue, and cedes control of publicly funded schools to the rich and powerful corporate moguls. This isn't philanthropic, it is morally and politically irresponsible because it represents a form of hostile generosity that serves to expand the power of the corporate rich over public schools, while offering the illusion of enriching public life.(10)

It gets worse. Many hedge fund operatives and banks invest in charter schools because they get windfall profits by "using a little-know federal tax break" called the New Markets Tax Credit "to finance new charter-school construction."(11) Once the buildings are finished, they are rented out to public school districts at exorbitant prices. For instance, one Albany "school's rent jumped from $170,000 in 2008 to $560,000 in" 2010....

Wednesday Cartoon Fun: Shape Up Edition


Public Option Was Taken Off The Table in 2009

In his book, Daschle reveals that after the Senate Finance Committee and the White House convinced hospitals to to accept $155 billion in payment reductions over ten years on July 8, the hospitals and Democrats operated under two “working assumptions.” “One was that the Senate would aim for health coverage of at least 94 percent of Americans,” Daschle writes. “The other was that it would contain no public health plan,” which would have reimbursed hospitals at a lower rate than private insurers.


We're Nation Wide

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 5th I will be on The Bronx Teacher's radio program, The Mind Of A Bronx Teacher, at 9pm eastern time (that's 6pm west coast time).  We will discuss education reform, NBC's Education Nation, TFT's Miseducation Nation, and take questions from listeners.  Join us. We're bad. We're nation wide!

Listen to internet radio with Bronx Teacher on Blog Talk Radio

And now, ZZ Top:

Deborah Meier: Progressive Education's "Genius"

From Gary Stager:

Deborah Meier shares this very special documentary from 1993 detailing the process by which Central Park East Secondary School students earned their high school diploma through project-based inquiry and personal portfolios demonstrating habits of mind.

Deborah Meier has generously shared this 1980 documentary about Central Park Elementary School and the innovative practices that gave birth to the small school movement and countless progressive education reforms.

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