Monday, September 27, 2010

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Teachers at the Heart of Everything Wrong with America!

I'm so fucking tired of this. I've been fucking tired of this for years. Little did I know that the money-grubbing fuckers had spent the last decade just winding up for their first real pitch.

It's no news to those of us who teach that teachers are considered the heart of every single problem in the U.S. of A. It's the teachers and their damned unions, dammit, that have spoiled the formerly perfect education system of the U.S. of A. If we could only get those failed teachers out of the classroom, we'd return to a perfect education system in the U.S. of A.

Waiting for Superman opens this week, a "documentary" that touts charter schools over public in the U.S. of A. while "proving" that teachers' unions are the culprit behind all that ails us.

The corporate machine that already has its grubby little hooks in every aspect of public education (thank you, George W. Bush) has now made a movie that panders to the Tea Partiers and the low-income urban dwellers alike. Waiting for Superman gives everyone a hall pass except for teachers and their unions.

A decade or more of blaming teachers capped by a glossy charter school/corporate machine PR piece is bad enough; having the President of the U.S. of A., the guy the teachers' unions endorsed in the last election, calling us out on The Today Show, is badder.

I heard it on NPR, our good President talking about sending what NPR called a "tough love message" to educators in the U.S. of A. NPR's paraphrase of President Obama's message on Today: "Their year in the classroom should be longer, and poorly performing teachers should get out."

Because, of course, the only variable that matters, the only contributing factor to the Downfall of Civilization as We Know It in the U.S. of A. is teachers.

Forget student motivation. Just mention student responsibility in the education equation, and prepare for massive backlash.

Forget poverty. No one wants to talk about the link between poverty and student success in this country. Hell, no one wants to talk about poverty at all in this country.

Forget parental involvement. Forget the fact that parental involvement is a major factor in student achievement. (Because it isn't the parents in the U.S. of A., by golly, who have protested against longer school years in the past.)

And absolutely forget the teachers--that is, forget asking those who actually teach what needs to be done about, you know, education. In his interview on The Today Show, Obama said nothing about talking to teachers about what's going on in education in the U.S. of A. today.

Obama did talk a lot about managing teachers--and how else can one categorize the continuing rhetoric about getting rid of "bad" teachers?--and about a lot of other things:

• Pitting individual states against each other to compete for federal education bonus money. (What could possibly go wrong with that?)

• Blaming unions for being "resistant to change when things aren't working." (Things not charter schools, which have been shown to increase segregation while showing little difference from public school performances?)

• So-called "dropout factories" with abysmal retention and graduation rates. (Where there's a chicken in every pot, an involved parent in every household, and a pony given for every birthday?)

Obama did talk about raising teacher pay, talked about valuing teachers, talked about wanting to provide teachers with what they need to succeed...but never once did he suggest talking to or with teachers about what's going on in public schools.

No one ever suggests talking to teachers about what's going on in public schools. Everyone does have a knack, however, for talking about teachers.

Think this has nothing to do with you, O Mighty R1 Researcher/Educator? Think again. Not only does all this bullshit about education reform affect you because you get many students who represent the end result of the public K-12 process (driving you to this very blog), but you are not at all immune to what dwells behind this talk.

If those among us who teach at four-year colleges and graduate degree-granting institutions think for one moment that the people behind education reform don't want to get their hooks into you--to dictate your curriculum, weed out the "bad" teachers from your department, make even more money off of your back--then you are not nearly as smart as your advanced degrees would indicate.

It's already happening at the CC level. Melinda Gates is just one of many corporatist-cum-philanthropists who's never taught but who knows just how to reform secondary education. The corporate machine wants a piece of the education pie, and that includes higher education. If the corporations--the ones who write the standardized tests, administer the standardized tests, dictate assessment, design curricula, and profit from all of that--have their way, they'll soon get their hooks into CCs, influencing legislation governing CCs to line their own pockets, in the name of reform.

And if there's money to be made from that--and we know there is boatloads of money to be made from that--you'd better pray that your faculty union is strong enough, my four-year-and-beyond friends, because the education industry will be coming after you next.

They'll do this, apparently, with the blessing of the President of the U.S. of A. He's endorsing charter schools, perhaps widespread use of charter schools, further diverting funds from real public institutions into the pockets of people who profit, personally, from education. You won't be able to count on Obama at all. (And, yes, I voted for him, too.)

And you already know what legislators in the other party think of education, especially higher education. It's all long as it's all right.

Politicians and bureaucrats, philanthropists and corporatists.

It's a hell of a conversation. What a shame we weren't invited.


  1. It's about time that we have a tag for the Today Show.

  2. God, Ben, she goes all out here, with links to articles and studies and everything, and you focus on: her tags. HILARIOUS!!

    Greta, I would like to say I fear for the state of education, but it's already a shambles and I don't like the fear business. Shit will happen; shit has been happening.

    One day, corporations will sponsor each and everyone of us. People speak as though governments still have any real power. They don't. This is just a brief transition period between the absolutism of 18th c monarchs and the future absolutism of multi-national corps. The time for creating programs that help each other is far gone.

    So just focus on making sure you and your own are okay. Ideally I'd create a nice utopia or live on a commune. But instead I have a stack of 125 papers to grade.

  3. I don't have a lot of faith in ed departments these days, based on the level of student that they are throwing out. This goes back 25 years, to when I was in grad school. High proportion of doofuses.

  4. I've always thought Heinlein's book "Friday" - a world run by multinational corporations that cheerfully nuke cities in nations that try to rein them in - was creepily prescient. Only Heinlein was an eternal optimist and thought that we would have FTL travel and colonies on other planets, so a few of us could get out as this planet tore itself apart. Oops, sorry about that.

  5. sounds more like Neal Stephenson, Snowcrash, 1992. All the nation is replaced with corporations and their agreements, all run by 3-ring binders of procedures. (I want the spiffy librarian-daemon of exposition from that world, though.)

  6. The corporations are already here in CC Universe. Large Urban Community College is a Gateway to College (Bill and Melinda Gates) school. The program gets bigger every year. We've had to spend money to remodel classrooms to meet their specifications. We've hired new administrators and staff. Gateway is about the only thing on campus that gets any money these days because it's corporate money. My state couldn't give a tinker's damn about meeting its obligations for funding for our "regular" students.

    While as a somewhat liberal person, I agree with the idea of second chances and helping those in dire need (some of our Gateway students are homeless or in foster care), I have to say it bothers me that everything is given to the Gateway students. And I do mean everything. They get free tuition, free books, free meals, and a stipend they can use to take the bus or buy gas. While we are laying off tutors for our regular student population, they have plenty of tutors and their own counselors. While we have students with honors grades who drop out because they can't qualify for enough aid or already have too many loans, Gateway students are guaranteed (assuming they do the work) they will come out of the program with both a high school diploma and an associate's degree with no debt whatsoever. Their attrition rate is very high, but when one of their students walks our stage, it's the feel-good story of the year.

  7. As someone who made his way to college teaching via the high school classroom, I share the sense of frustration and impending doom.

    While in Ed School, I signed up for the assessment class truly enthusiastic. I was finally going to learn the magic trick of how to craft a reliable and valid assessment, yay!

    The instructor, after exhorting us to NEVER impose anything on students which was not DIRECTLY relevant to their "experience," then told us we would spend the term learning about portfolio assessment. You mean we'd spend some time exploring them along with other forms? Nope, a whole term.

    "'cuse me, but I can't use portfolio assessment in my school," I informed her.
    "Well, that is what we're focusing on here," she cheerfully repeated.
    "Uh, didn't you just say an instructor should never impose on a student something not relevant to his/her experience?" I countered.
    Fighting back tears (literally), "I can't handle all this negativity," she blubbered.

    There was also the nugget that it was important to have a grading rubric as students and parents cannot argue with numbers. I had a parent/teacher conference at one of those vaunted parochial schools.

    "How did our son get a 70 in science class? He had an 80 exam average," Mom and Dad ask.
    "Yes, he did," I began, "which was worth 50% of his grade. The OTHER 50% was made up of participation, homework, and lab reports for which (showing the gradebook) he only earned 60%. 80 + 60/2 = 70. I even bumped him up to a 72."
    "So how did our son get a 70 with an exam average of 80?"
    "I'll discuss the matter with Mr. A&S," adds the previous silent assistant principal.

    I have had to stop reading the community discussion boards of my local paper because they are overflowing with the very sentiments summarized by GL Greta.

    Teachers are indeed the last profession where they are expected to martyr themselves "for their craft."

  8. I always thought the charter schools were a load because, like the private schools I went to, they could throw out any of the underperforming students. Also, this teaching to a national test BS has made things far worse; students don't learn anything, they just learn how to take tests. The damage done by the anti-school forces, along with the damage done by American corporations towards their own workforces are dooming the US toward a third-world existence.

  9. Streinikov: If only they did learn to take tests.

    A & S: "Teachers are indeed the last profession where they are expected to martyr themselves 'for their craft.'"
    Unintentionally, teachers have brought that upon themselves. Every time they ask for more money from taxpayers, it's always "for the children." When you ask a teacher why they teach, it's because "they love children." OK, then we expect you to bust your ass making my snot-nosed kid learn because it's for the children that you love to teach.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.