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Polite Notice: Don’t demonize teachers

Sep 19, 2014 by

That’s what charter lobbyists in beast mode and their cronies do who want to “reform” education by privatizing it.

They want to establish a permanent hegemony and leave an indelible footprint.

If only it were true that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.”  We may never again have public education if they get their way.

Veteran educators, particularly in public schools and most especially members of teachers unions, are their most hated targets. That’s natural, because these instructors cling, within reasonable parameters of oversight, to the traditional rights of autonomy over their classrooms.That allowed some latitude over curriculum, materials, lesson planning, methodology and teaching styles.

It meant having some discretion over everyday matters related to one’s profession. Should that discretion be annulled, then the reality of teaching will no longer fit the definition of teaching as a profession.

“Old guard” masters tend to fight back against the total confiscation of what were customary freedoms. They were content to accept these partial liberties, even though they were limited.

These blessedly obstinate true educators have something called “institutional memory.” That’s why they refuse to go like lambs to the slaughter. They’ll sooner abandon the profession they love.

Bu who will replace them?

Products fresh from the reformers’ farm. Or the Department of Education’s Nine- Day Wonders Academy, otherwise known as the Leadership Infirmary.

Rookies with less knowledge, training and experience. Neophytes less likely to view the classroom as a long-term career and more as an interim gig or stepping stone to principal or some other billet from the thick directory of senior management titles.

Novices are not necessarily inferior. Our schools are graced by many of them. But by and large, anyone who chooses to become a teacher, knowing how they are often treated, is more likely to be naive, have fewer outside options, and be driven primarily by ambition than were the fledglings of a generation ago when entry into education management was restricted to education professionals.

In the glare of the dark age of militant “reformers” Chancellors Klein, Black, and Walcott, one could leapfrog from subordinate to superior in a year or two. A learning curve of a nanosecond. They were enticed to stay in the classroom until there was an opening to escape it and because they knew that time would come.

Many of these “new breed” teachers, especially those who didn’t get their certification the old-fashioned way but instead through the alternate route preferred by reformers, played a waiting game, licked their chops in anticipation, stuck it out in the classroom and called in their chips when their networking skills paid off and they joined the ranks of management.

Then they became the “new breed” supervisors and many of them are now culpable for the alienation of many of the best teachers in the system who are bailing out, not because they’re burned-out but because they’re not.

It’s better now under current Chancellor Farina.

But more progress must be made to sweep away the obstacles that, like exploding mines on the Normandy beaches on D-Day, are thwarting the landings not of soldiers but of inspired, original and forward-thinking new teachers.

One of these obstacles is that many new reform-oriented supervisors have an exaggerated sense of their own expertise and nobody dares tell them what they’re missing. Making things worse is that at the same time they met the downgraded qualifications to become principal, the powers of that position were severely upgraded.

The Emperor may have no clothes but he has clout.

In their zeal to “change the world” as “reformers”, many of these whiz kids misuse their authority with various degrees of intent and awareness. Even if they are not true believers in “reform” but are simply doing what the system expects of them, they have crossed the line from dupe to villain.

They have become soldiers in the war of aggression against public education and the legacy of public education has been taken captive.

So that’s the basis of my “polite warning” against fools’ faith in “reform”. It is meant for anyone who will listen and especially for those who are loath to do so.

I admonish the general public, which is the universal “special interest”:

Beware of folks who swear, with evangelical fervor, that they want to “reform” education, especially public schools. Don’t be seduced by the way they mutilate the word to confuse, not clarify the challenges we face.

Look around. Think for yourselves.

Check out who these people claim to be and what they’re really about. Vet them. Unmask them and their handlers. Investigate their funding sources, alliances and affiliations. Probe their credentials and their often tainted pasts.

You will find that their motives have more in common with demagogues and revisionists than they do with altruists who genuinely have the prosperity of our children at heart.

Don’t let them poison the well of learning. Stop them from exploiting parents,demoralizing  teachers and laying low their profession.

Turn back these hustlers. Don’t buy their snake oil.  That’s what it is, despite their sophisticated pitch and slick marketing.

Whether they’re braying about vouchers, charter schools, tenure, teacher evaluations or any other craze, it’s not the topic that they’re really concerned about. The “issues” are the bait, not the debate.

Their underlying quest is the privatization of schools, the subjugation of non-commercial education enterprise, the neutralization of parental and community influence and the dissolution of teacher unions.

The “reformers” will win some battles but they will lose the war.

Because it is a righteous struggle and an informed citizenry will not abide as collateral damage the ruination of their children’s future.

Ron Isaac

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