Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Arne Duncan, Education reform, and public school destruction.

     Today I was reminded about what our schools, our parents, and what public education is up against. Fringe caricatures that have somehow inserted themselves into my profession (Gates, Rhee, Murdoch...) are joined by policymakers that have helped them control the path and narrative of education reform. I receive Education Week updates, articles, etc. by email. Many I no longer even open because the subject reveals the nature of the content and Ed Week long ago revealed itself for what it is: a cheerleader for bad policy.

     I DID recently open an invitation to a "webinar".

     My schedule is full. I mean full. Full of generating data and numbers, reviewing data and numbers, battling the unreliable technology that is supposed to help me generate data and numbers, full of trying to figure out how not to think of young children as data and numbers, wondering how a third grader who threatens to kill another student, their whole family and their pets as well could possibly impact my data and numbers.


How those safely cloistered with their money, families and children away in total privilege, economic security and private schools could dare pass judgement and force policies on others is maddening. Not only are schools for them untouched by the education strangulation in the funding game and the profiteering of the testing industry: some of the players actually profit from appointments and employments within the testing (not teaching) business.

So, let's be real. This is a privileged and well connected group, communicating and plotting with each other on how to take control of and subvert the mission of schools for everyone else. Their families, THEIR children, apparently deserve enriched, flexible, well funded schools. Schools that serve the MOST needy, in their mind, need to be choked of funds and consumed with tests and test-based evaluations. It is bizarre or blatantly dishonest. With no real connection and zero accountability they undermine and demean what real teachers do.

So, back to the fabulous email message.

What I saw in the subject line of the Education Week message made me consider sacrificing some of my time. After all, it's a "webinar". If I could help fulfill one or some of the multitudinous check points (staying current on research and practice in the profession) to hopefully add up to enough of a rating/ranking score to keep my job, and do it watching after school, maybe even from the comfort of my home...don't tell anyone, but I have from time to time put in hours outside of the contract hours I'm paid for. I hear other teachers do it too. Anyway, I don't want to say I was eager-but I was interested.

Well, it was  an invitation  to virtually attend "Leaders To Learn From". It right away looked like a chance for me to stay current on things happening in my profession. When I opened it I quickly saw that it was headlined by  The United States Secretary of Education himself, Arne Duncan.

 That was a big hole in my hot air balloon of hope because I consider him and President Obama two of the biggest problems facing public education today. I had little doubt that this circus he was putting on would be not much more than a stroke fest for their test-heavy so-called reform agenda that has done little more than disrespect my profession and dismantle many community schools.

     But if I had lost my balloon of lofty ideals, I at least had my basket of reality. I'm a teacher, by golly. I want to know stuff, I want to be involved, I want to stay current...and if these are the people running the show, I should pay attention. So I registered.

Guess what?

     The date and time of this awesome self-congratulatory education festival is during the school day.

During school hours (8-12-something).

Even's day 3 of New York State ELA testing for me.

     I will be forcing third graders to sit silently and prove how awesome this reform stuff is. Forcing them to be isolated, be still, get absolutely no help from anyone, and earn themselves a defining data-point so Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch can then sell even more detailed information about them and their lives to even more people looking to somehow cash in. Who is this event REALLY for? Who is it supposed to help. Talk about aggravating.

     Is this how the top education dog in the country looks to inform and support actual educators?

Where is my union? Where are politicians willing to take my vote and use it properly? We need actual hope and change. These clowns "leading" us are actually dragging our schools and our children down a trail to destruction.

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