Monday, November 12, 2012

A Dilemma of Our Own

In the old b/w 1930's Frankenstein movie with Boris Karloff as Frankenstein there is a scene in which Frank, already activated, is wandering the countryside.  At one point in his travels he comes upon an old blind man who plays the violin in his quiet little cottage.  When Frank is attracted by the music wafting through the window, the blind man, who is terribly alone, hears a rustling outdoors.  He calls out, "friend, friend?"   This somehow seems to resonant with me as I look at the post-election landscape.
Okay, so Barack is elected and really, it is so much better than waking up to find R/R and the WMZG heading to the Whiter House.  But now we need to be a little more clear-headed and put the real issues surrounding public education  into the forefront of discussion.  The assault on public schools in the name of the Rhee-form movement has by no means diminished.  Oh, if R/R had won then the issues of unionization, evaluation, merit pay, charter schools and the on-going teacher demonizing would have been clearly on the table.  But with Barack in charge we need to step back and really examine the policies being promoted.  We want to believe that the Democratic Party and the UFT/AFT share the commitment to the ideas and principles that support the teachers in their day-to-day engagement with the country's most valuable resource.  I think most of the teachers were in agreement with the union endorsement; most; but not all.  I mean on the surface, it looks like support and perhaps, for most members, that appearance is sufficient.  However, if you have reason to call upon your trusted union for a policy issue  like the status of ATR members, then you would begin to see that "all is not what it appears to be" at home. Is the same true for the White House, even with a Democratic president? Well, with Arne Duncan we are getting the same wrong-headed policies and it is not easy convincing non-teachers what is wrong with the RTTT.
 If the issues at hand were as clear as you would find in some other unions, I imagine productivity on an assembly line or the evaluation of the end product would all be pretty much clear-cut.  A widget is a widget is a widget. But teachers and the teacher's union are totally different.  I can't think of another endeavor where the dictum "the means is the end" is more appropriate.  Complicate this a little further: consider that the developmental trajectory of twelve-year old kids is somewhat universal though the expression of that development is individually moderated by the influencing culture. This is the teacher's "assembly line" and these are the "widgets".  The anti-union sentiment is loud once you step out of the teachers' blogosphere.   And this is no big surprise.  How many people outside of the teachers union would really understand the implications of such as simple a poster as seen during the Chicago Strike --" your child's school environment is our working environment".   Does Arne Duncan even understand this simple message?  If you deprive a struggling school of funds as some form of punishment, and design a system that self-destructs it kind of becomes apparent that an agenda is at work.  When the people who are most directly involved in the education of children are left out of the policy and direction of PUBLIC education then again, an agenda is at work.  When the terms and source of systemic failure is made into a political issue, the vilification of the weaker is on page two of the agenda.  Friend, friend?

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