Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rally for NJ Public Education Part 2: Stop Bashing Teachers!

Is it just me, or is everything marketed as ‘sexy’ these days? Almost every bride on every bridal reality show (Ok, I admit it, I watch them all!) wants to look sexy. (Whatever happened to classy?) Cell phones, computers, paint colors, guns, food, tools, toothpaste and a zillion more products are all marketed in some way, shape or form as sexy. I’ll bet somebody somewhere thinks it’s a good idea to market shower caulk as sexy!

Along with “risqué” one of the definitions of sexy is “excitingly appealing; glamorous, as in: a sexy new car.” So although a commercial may not use the word ‘sexy’ in it, the subliminal messaging is there nonetheless. Marketing experts know that the key to opening consumer wallets is to offer the chance of an appealing, glamorous (sexy) life along with their product.

So, what does all this have to do with education? In their efforts to privatize public education and turn it into a multi-billion-dollar, for-profit enterprise, education ‘reformers’ have to market and sell it in slick, messaging that’s ‘excitingly appealing’, aka sexy! Public education advocate, Leonie Haimson, one of the founders of Parents Across America, and head of Class Size Matters in NYC, has assembled a compendium of reformy-speak buzzwords including:

“transformational”, “catalytic”, “innovative”, “bold”, “game changer”, “effective”, “entrepreneurial, “economies of scale”, “instructional efficiency"

“Wow!” you say, “They sound so excitingly appealing and glamorous! Damn it, why isn’t my local public school doing this?? I WANT THIS FOR MY KIDS!!"

Now hold on a second. Before you go opening your mental wallets to the education ‘reformies’, consider this from public school teacher/blogger, Jersey Jazzman, who also happens to be a doctoral student in educational theory, organization and policy at Rutgers University (you know, an expert):

“[Education reformers] do not care that all of the research points exactly AWAY from the solutions they propose. They do not care that it is inherently contradictory to say ‘we don’t have the money’ and then fund programs like vouchers that will further drain the state’s coffers. Nor do they care that it’s illogical to say how much they value teachers while simultaneously pushing to cut their pay.”

So, while ed ‘reformers’ are busy selling you that shiny new car, many veteran teachers have had it with the abuse, the bullying and the blame. Far too many are retiring earlier than they had originally planned. And with every experienced educator we lose, our students lose years of experience. But that’s okay because waiting in the wings is a “catalytic”, “innovative”, “bold”, “game changer” with absolutely no experience to take their place! 

You see, reformers don’t care if their plans work or not because this is what really motivates them:

Yes, this is an actual slide from an actual education ‘reform’ presentation. The You Tube link is no longer available. Hmmm… wonder why? Could it be that that video was so cringe-inducing (especially the part where the presenter tells the audience he’s an education expert because he saw the movie ‘Dangerous Minds’) that the blowback from the education community shredded it to pieces?

Bashing teachers is a marketing tool, folks! It’s been packaged and sold to the general public by politicians, billionaires and those who do their bidding as part of a slick and sexy marketing campaign that diverts attention away from the real problems facing New Jersey and the rest of the US: poverty, staggering income inequality and the decline of the middle class. Public education is a $600 billion industry, and corporations, certain ‘non-profits’ and Wall Street investors are hijacking it and making some beaucoup bucks at the expense of hard-working education professionals—and your kids! Oh sure, they love to tell you it's all about the kids, but how many of them sat back and did absolutely nothing while Congress cut SNAP benefits?

New Jersey does not have an education problem of epidemic proportions. We consistently rank at or near the top in student achievement in the US. But we do have about 200 apartheid schools in our inner cities, with high concentrations of poor and/or minority students. They are not, as Gov. Christie calls them, ‘failure factories’. The teachers in those schools are working with a higher concentration of students with special needs than those of schools in our wealthiest suburbs, and like the dedicated staff in that hospital in my previous post, they are being blamed.

Do we have some bad teachers in our profession? Of course we do—just like any other profession. And thankfully it’s now easier to remove them from the classroom. But we also have bad elected officials, business people and ‘edupreneures’ who have little to no education experience, but who have boatloads of influence, money and power, and have sold the general public on the hokum that teachers are responsible for all the ills of society. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to remove them from power.

Think about it: who is a bigger threat to the welfare and prosperity of New Jersey: a school teacher with a median income of $62K who is going to work every day, providing for her family, trying to make a difference, or a billionaire with a lot of political connections and a nose for venture capitalism who wants to privatize public education without a shred of evidence it will benefit children?

It’s time to stop blaming teachers! It’s time to stand up! Speak out! Fight back! Come to Trenton on March 27th at noon and make your voice heard!