A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Archive for November, 2010

Too Many Timid Souls

With the Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, it is highly unlikely that there will be any additional federal money to prevent massive cutbacks in education and other public services in the states. As I write this, it seems more and more unlikely that Congress will extend unemployment benefits to people who have suffered extended periods of joblessness and whose employment prospects have not brightened significantly. The states, all of which have balanced budget amendments in their constitutions, will now be forced to accelerate the process of dismantling public education and other public services regardless of the impact of these cuts on the least among us. What kind of society refuses to adequately educate its young, police its streets and provide the services that a civilized society demands?

When I was young, President Lyndon Johnson called upon my generation to build a Great Society. Why have we no leaders speaking to us this way?
So, will you join in the battle to give every citizen the full equality which God enjoins and the law requires, whatever his belief, or race, or the color of his skin?
Will you join in the battle to give every citizen an escape from the crushing weight of poverty?
Will you join in the battle to make it possible for all nations to live in enduring peace — as neighbors and not as mortal enemies?
Will you join in the battle to build the” Great Society,” to prove that our material progress is only the foundation on which we will build a richer life of mind and spirit?
There are those timid souls who say this battle cannot be won; that we are condemned to a soulless wealth. I do not agree. We have the power to shape the civilization that we want. But we need your will, your labor, your hearts, if we are to build that kind of society.”

There are too many timid souls among us today!

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A Test of Mayoral Control

Whatever lingering shred of confidence we could have in New York State Education Commissioner Steiner is surely gone now that he has cooked a deal with Michael Bloomberg to allow the Cathleen Black, a person with no education credentials, to lead New York City’s schools. We should now get the real test of mayoral control of education. Supporters of that system maintain it provides accountability in that the public can hold the mayor responsible in a way that appointees are insulated from public wrath. Public outrage could still stop this outrage, deal or no deal.

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The Corporate Agenda

In case you thought people like me are crazy for thinking that there is a conspiracy to undermine the public schools of the United States so that corporate interests can profit from the education of children, challenge your sense of trust with the latest evidence of foul play. The November 24 New York Times reports that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation which recently hired departing New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein as an executive vice-president has announced the purchase of Wireless Generation, “…a national leader in a new wave of education reform, where data is a crucial tool to transform failing schools.” First they hire Klein; then they buy a company that makes software to do the data crunching crap that passes for education reform in the Bush/Obama era. In case we were wondering what Klein would be doing for News Corp, we didn’t have to wait long to find out that he will be expected to use his media created reputation as a reformer to put the reform brand on technology products that facilitate the creation of the illusion of scientific education reform.

Earlier in the week, the media’s darling reformer, Bill Gates was at it again, trying to leverage the economic downturn into pushing states to stop paying teachers for experience and additional education and stop efforts to reduce class size. Great teachers can teach classes of any size – with Microsoft products I’m sure. Gates’ voice amplified by the power of his billions, it’s hard to hear anyone challenging his proposals. They are reported as though they are hard fact. Doesn’t anyone think it possible that if studies show that additional academic course work for teachers doesn’t show any gains as measured by standardized tests, doesn’t anyone think that it is remotely possible that there is something wrong with the tests?

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