26 September 2010

Education Nation, Reform and some Tweets

Education Nation Reforms
        I watched the MSNBC program today and listened to Meet the Press and tried to catch as many tweets as I could.  I realize it is hard to say something substantive in 144 characters; however, as I look at some of the tweets, it seems like this issue is becoming a real “us” v “them.”  One participant summed up the discussion, tweeting, “For some of these teachers who are personally attacking their colleagues on #edcuationnation, it's going to awkward mon morning”.  There are a variety of opinions out there about this “conference”. In all honesty, I do have to say I was a bit overwhelmed - the 15 second soundbites contributed little to the discussion and the repeated breaks for commercials seemed to keep the anchor more focused on the time than on the substance.
        Many of the writers are not very positive about the outcome citing the lack of teacher involvement – yet I heard numerous teachers speak during the program today. Some bemoan the fact that “wealthy businesses” are involved – but can we just ignore the Bill Gates’ of the world?  Maybe they have an ulterior motive – but do not many of us also have an ulterior motive in how we approach this issue?
        Gary Stager writes that “Randi Weingarten is a lawyer who has less real teaching experience than the average veteran substitute teacher. Arne Duncan is an educational administrator who has as much teaching experience as Randi Weingarten.” Herein, I think is the crux of the issue – we have abdicated our role in education and left it to others.  Those of us in education tend to be too involved in the blame game; I know it is not popular to hear that, but I truly believe that to be the case.  Where were we when the research came out indicating that schools were in trouble?  I remember having discussions with colleagues who debunked the research and focused on isolated facts to counter the research. 
        It is not uncommon to walk into a faculty room and hear all kinds of issues being discussed – I was encouraged to stay out of the faculty lounge as a student teacher, discouraged my new teachers to stay out of them, and now suggest to my education students that they think twice before entering the room.  It is not that I have anything again the faculty room – my concern is that we are so ready to complain about things – the kids, the parents, the administration and so on – it has become acceptable to be negative but seems to be unacceptable to be positive.  How many times do we hear conversation about how successful the class was?  Or how the parent that has been non-supportive has swung around?
        As I read some of the tweets, I kept thinking about how some of us seem to be shifting blame – which, if I may humbly suggest, is part of the reason why we are in the situation in which we find ourselves today.
        For example, “My question for Brian Williams: Do your children go to public schools? #EducationNation.Fair question, I guess but could we turn that around and ask why a teacher sends his/her children to a private school rather than a public school, even in a district in which s/he teaches. When I asked that question once, I was told it was the parents’ choice – true, but is it not also Brian Williams’ choice? (I have no idea where his children go to school – not even sure it is germane to the issue.
        Or, "Listening to non-educators opining on schools is like listening to sports talk radio. 100% certainty, 0% knowledge." OK, I get as frustrated as the next person with all of the experts out there who know all about education – but that is our system, like it or not.  Do we then advocate the elimination of boards? Remember that in some jurisdictions, state superintendents are an elected position with no educational requirement.
        Or, “If you're no longer effective, you can no longer be in the classoom... but you can be an administrator!” So all administrators are ineffective? Or all ineffective teachers become administrators?
        Or, “How many passionate teachers have you seen run from the classroom?” How about asking it the other way – how many boring, un-impassioned teachers stay in the classroom because they see it as an easy way to earn a living?
        Finally “Being held accountable is different from being under attack” Granted,  it may seem like that sometimes, but that is life in this age.  The media – TV, radio, internet, etc has made it much easier for people to get information – and misinformation.  Unfortunately, some people see being asked to explain or rationalize anything as being under “attack”.  It is uncomfortable, yes – but statements like these do not, in my humble opinion, help the cause.  They only create more divisiveness and leave the decisions and conversations in the hands of others and result in statements such as “1 in 57 doctors lose their medical licenses, 1 in 97 attorneys lose law licenses, 1 in 2500 lose their teaching licenses" #educationnation
          chrislehmann put it best, I think, today when he wrote, “Sad: #educationnation chose to make fixing schools a labor question, not a pedagogical question. When do we focus on "how" not "who?" As long we keep the focus on the “who” be it teachers, parents, administrators, businesses, wealthy, or Oprah, the focus is not where it should be!

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