Monday, September 5, 2011

Reformers united-at all cost

In response to Joel Klein's high praise for Steven Brill's op-ed piece "The school reform deniers".

Mr. Kleine,
   Your gushing praise for Mr. Brill causes me to further question your own credibility (beyond the self-promotional interests you have in the “reform” industry). The teacher is on the front line, there’s no denying it. But why the absolute denial of any other factor in the “battle” to educate children? More to the point: why the unconditional support of reformers comfortable in criticizing with such a narrow scope? It would be one thing if the out front reformers were experienced teachers saying “Here are things teaching real kids, in real classrooms has shown me…” but this is not the case. It would be another if these reformers said “our teachers sacrifice a lot to meet ever increasing demands and do what they can for students- even our most challenging. Now is the time to join them in reforming education.” This is not the approach taken.
     Reformers, many with no significant experience in a classroom, are allowed credibility they haven’t earned. Their arguments have assumed weight they don’t deserve. Teachers not only work together to meet ever changing and often unfunded mandates from above, they give their hearts, souls and spend a considerable amount of their own wages to make the most needy feel cared for, safe, valued and capable. While outside of school the “free market” rages on, victimizing most families and imposing great negative influence, teachers still push students to prepare them for the future.
   The reformers do not mention the societal differences between America and the countries we supposedly compare poorly to. They don’t mention the well paid, qualified and unionized teaching forces that prepare kids to become adults in more equitable societies. It is easier to point at schools and teachers than have their backs, pitch in and join in turning eager young kids into capable citizen. Teachers have always stepped forward, volunteering to climb that hill and take the offensive. We should look at who has stepped back, looked away and weaseled out of their responsibilities.

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