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Friday, March 5, 2010

Teaching, the Ignoble Profession

First the Bad News:

There was a time we were called the noble profession. We worked hard, were paid little, had no political power but were compensated by being called the noble profession. Not any more, the times have changed. The luster has faded, we are tarnished and we are getting battered, hammered, slandered, and denigrated from every corner of society. We are to blame for the educational woes of the country. We are easy targets and when the President of the United States takes aim and fires on us we know we are in deep yogurt. This is not the change I was expecting, in fact there is no change. I witnessed a beer summit, but was not amused by the President's inappropriate comments that demanded the summit. I thought W was the only president who opened his mouth to change feet. We now have a another president who changes feet every time he opens his mouth. When the President starts bashing police departments and school teachers, I realize we are in trouble. It reminds me of a former mayor of NYC who was a bully and wanted to be president. It sets a bad precedent of federal intrusion in local matters. As a private citizen he has this right but not as President. Cooler heads prevail at the local level. And from our Department of Education I see Duncan as a bad continuation of Spelling and Paige. His education programs are chaotic, they are aimless, they are complying to the corporate demands of the publishers and test makers who continue to make money, just as the banks have made more profits this year than last. What a mess that doesn't get better.

I've been watching the returns in the Texas primaries, esp the school board elections. This school board has a great deal of power in what textbooks contain and don't contain in all schools in America. No other state, nor block of states has the power this one state has with its fifteen members over our textbooks. Too few teachers are part of the process. This affects us all. I find it ironic that Texas is one of two states not to sign the initiative for national standards.

Power in the hands of too few is becoming a problem in this plutocracy. Our bankers, our textbook/test companies, and this president compounds our problems as the teachers are getting bashed and kicked more and more often. We have public education for a reason and we have forgotten that reason. Private schools and charter schools are not going to educate everyone because they are selective. Public schools are losing resources and any kind of support because the media and the politicians are using us for their talking points.

As budgets are trying to be met, schools and teachers are taking the hits. Schools should never be subject to budget cuts, because they are so crucial to our well being. We are creating a bigger gulf between the haves and the have nots and if this continues the gulf between the classes will get wider and create even bigger problems, larger prison populations and a ravaged America.

Now the Good News:

On a positive note, Scholastic, funded by the Gates Foundation, conducted a survey asking 40,000 teachers their thoughts about improving education. I was surprised to see that 74% were in favor of national standards. I was happy to see they recommended multiple measures for students, not just the state test; wanted more innovative and differentiated instruction; a better tool for assessing teachers without monetary reward; and better home-school connections. I was hoping to see a request for more technology, which will assist in realizing the above recommendations, and will be addressed by the Office of Education Technology for the U.S. Department of Education next week. It was good to read this recently released document that was teacher centered. I hope it becomes an important document in education reform. Teachers in Maryland also did a survey that highlighted a need for mentoring. And finally it was good to hear the superintendent in Rhode Island has decided to negotiate with the teachers that she fired. Finally only sixteen states are finalists for the final round of "Race to the Top." Winners will be selected April 1, no joke.

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