Sunday, August 21, 2011

Nailing the coffin lid shut

Our district is still in our pre-school week, and for the first time in my professional career we have received an unusual message from our superiors: Please Speak Up.  Specifically about all the good that public educators do for the community.

Historically teachers are reluctant to speak publicly about education issues, especially local issues.  We fear retribution and are also, and rightly so, requested to avoid revealing a political stance since we have a huge influence on shaping minds.

Though the suggestion is a welcome one to me, a trained journalist with a near religious adherence to the right to free speech, it is indicative of just how much of a threat we face in the public education system.

The fact is that we are in the last battle of a long war on a basic pillar of a functioning democracy: our public schooling system.  The foot soldiers are being rallied.

It may be too late.

We should have been marshaled about ten years ago.  Anyone who read the NCLB law could see it as a cleverly disguised method to discredit every school in the country. (For the uninitiated, the goal has always been a 100% pass rate by every student on every test by 2014.  This was never possible.)

Even Senator Edward Kennedy, a long time champion of the disenfranchised, was duped into supporting the law, more evidence for how clever the opposition has been at disguising their true motives.  They have known the ultimate goal from the beginning and have maintained a straight public face while chuckling to themselves in private.

Screaming headlines of "FAILED SCHOOLS" have rolled across every town and community throughout this August.  Couple that with the campaign to silence and discredit teachers that began in earnest in 2010 with the release of Waiting for Superman, that was accelerated by Oprah Winfrey and the media,  and has continued apace with loud arguments against tenure, and the field has been effectively cleared.

Teachers must begin every conversation now by justifying their work, their integrity, their adherence to excellence, an explanation of why we need to retain experienced teachers, how we use our time during the school year, why a summer off is defensible, how many hours are spent grading and receiving additional education, and on and on.

It's a pretty long conversation to have in the check out line.

If you think the fight has been fair, think again.  Using a fair measuring stick has never been the agenda. (See NCLB law for support.)

The goal of providing an excellent education is a canard.  

The real goal has been the privatization of public education.

Another goal is the re-segregation of schools, if not on racial lines then certainly on lines of privilege.

A third goal is to de-professionalize teaching.  When private agencies take over they will not want to have to pay a living wage.  It's more profitable to hire a revolving door of young "teachers" at $10.00 an hour to turn on the computer or recite the scripted lesson plans.  (I ache when young--and naive--teachers defend the loss of due-process by saying something simplistic like "If you do your job well, you should never have to worry about being fired."  Ah, so young and trusting.  You don't have to be fired if you are worked to death, or harassed to death.  You'll just leave and retreat to a job with less stress--like air-traffic controller.)

That will be "teaching" for the masses.

Those who can afford an education that develops critical thinking, creativity, lifelong learning can buy it for their progeny.

Welcome to a return of the feudal system with the new liege lords and serfs in corporate fiefdoms.

Is it too late?  Ask the Florida (Flori-DUH) teacher qutoed below who is now being evaluated by a system that garnerd Race to the Top dollars from our current administration:

50% of ALL high school teachers' ratings will be based on 9th/10th grade FCAT math/reading scores. So even if you teach science to 12th graders, 50% of your rating for "merit pay" a rating that gets published online to the public will be based on something you DON'T EVEN TEACH. And of course, basing pay on these kinds of tests is absurd to begin with.
Even a child can tell you that's not fair.

The camel is entirely inside the tent if our own Secretary of Education thinks this is a worthy way to encourage the best and the brightest to pursue a career in teaching.

But, then again, that's not the point.  And it never was.

The de-formers do not play fair and have consistently written the laws to their own advantage.

Can you hear the hammering?  There is only one nail left to go in.

Better push back, and hard.