Saturday, February 6, 2010

One more teacher-bash. Defended.

Joanne Jacobs blogs "Waiting for Superman, a movie bemoaning the U.S. education system, has won the audience award for best U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival." Stewart Nusbaumer on Huffington Post is quoted saying many things, few of them particularly insightful.
"The movie “demystifies” the education system. We have tried throwing a ton of money at the problem, created a litany of newfangled reforms, even passed new laws, but nothing has worked. Our schools remain dismal."
Meh. Maybe they failed because the reformers aren't teachers? That they were clueless as to what makes a good education? a good teacher? But then he has this:
"What Waiting for Superman drives home is to improve our education system requires improving our teachers. Requires demanding our teachers get deep in the trenches, be allowed to be flexible and innovative, persist, and to be held accountable. This the teacher unions and the Democratic Party will not accept, even for the sake of our children."
Darren replies. On his blog, he only links to his own comment. I think it deserves repeating. ;-)
Below the break
quote ...
"First off, unions. California is a “fair share” state with regards to unions, which means the unions are entitled to my money by law, whether I am a member or not, as a condition of employment. Accordingly, the unions should not consider education at all, but should focus solely on my pay, benefits, and working conditions. Legislatures, parents, and school boards can worry about education.
So you want to get rid of unions? You think *that* would fix education? Unions aren’t even the lion’s share of the problem.
So what is? What is the problem?
Oh, you want a silver bullet, one answer–if we could just fix that, life would be good. Dream on.
(Full disclosure here–I’m a teacher.) What is our biggest problem in education? It’s that our schools are a reflection of our society. Our litigious, immediate-gratification, comfortable, responsibility-averse, politically-correct society. If you wonder why kids act the way they do, or why schools are run the way they are, watch tv–or better yet look in the mirror.
Most readers of this site, being reform-minded, probably don’t fall into the categories I listed above–but too many others do. Every time you read about some stupid enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy, remember it’s because administrators don’t want to get sued for exercising any judgement. Every time some parent does homework for their kid so the kid can get into Stanford, remember. Every time a kid cuts and parents write an excusal note so the kid doesn’t get in trouble at school, remember. Every time a school board, as in Seattle, chooses a curriculum that dumbs down instruction in an effort to close the achievement gap, remember. Whenever a parent schedules a vacation to start 2 days before the 2-week Christmas vacation (or any other school break) because “that’s when the cheapest airfares are”, remember. Whenever a school board uses race to place students into schools (think Seattle and Louisville and the Supreme Court cases a couple years ago), remember. When you wonder why schools feed breakfast and lunch to students who otherwise would go hungry, remember. Whenever a kid who can’t read or calculate has his grades changed because he can throw or catch a ball, remember.
Teachers are not the problem with those issues.
I’m not saying there aren’t bad teachers, far from it. There might be a couple at my high school, but certainly no more than that. You could probably get rid of every bad teacher–and yet the problems would remain. The solution here isn’t Superteacher, the solution is taking education seriously–and too many don’t. Again, readers of this site are probably not the problems, but let me assure you, those problems are out there."

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