Posted tagged ‘Public Education’

Rahm vs. The Chicago Teachers

August 26, 2011

It’s been nearly a year since I posted to this blog.  I frankly considered it done.  I continued to leave it up for those who found previous postings useful while I used satire to comment on education elsewhere.   Satire is something I’m good at, but it doesn’t do a great job of encapsulating all my feelings at this particular moment.

What I really want to do is teach.  I got into education after working nearly 10 years in the private sector.  I got a bachelor’s degree in history and made the rather unusual jump to broadcasting.   I got into teaching  just before programs like Teach for America hit, so I moved back home for 2 years and took classes in education while taking a huge pay cut to work at a comic book store because the hours worked around my schedule.   It also gave me the opportunity to look after my dad as he suffered through the Alzheimer’s Disease that finally took his life.  I point this out because for some reason I feel the need to justify that I know what hard work is.

The Chicago Public Schools were supposed to give their teachers a 4% raise this year.  This was an agreement that was negotiated 5 years ago.  We got a decent pay raise, but we made other concessions that made me vote against the contract at the time.  When the raises were not granted, the city didn’t even pretend that it was because of a budget shortfall.  Instead, they actually said teachers really didn’t deserve the raise that we had negotiated with in good faith.  At the very same meeting that we were denied a raise, the top brass were granted large pay raises.

Chicago now wants to expand the school day 90 minutes and the school year 2 weeks.  They want us to take their word that this time will be well spent and in exchange for working 29% more hours, we will be paid 2% more salary.  I really don’t care about the money.  Frankly, the $3.50 an hour or so I’d make comes to less than I spend in my classroom on a yearly basis.  What I care about is that I believe the city’s big idea is to use its teachers as wardens.

As I read press releases from city hall, the big push seems to be keeping these students off the street where they cause crime.  That is so wrong headed, maybe I shouldn’t be the most insulted by this plan.  My students have a right to be far angrier than I do.  Is it so much to ask that this time be used for quality and that teachers be fairly compensated.  Our day is short, but that is because in the 70s teachers agreed to not take their 45 minute lunch and instead get out 45 minutes early.  We actually have more instructional time than New York or Los Angeles, but we have no planning time.  I would be happy to stay an extra 45 minutes if it gave me more planning time.   I am less enthused about the extra two weeks when classrooms are over 90 degrees in summer and most are not air conditioned.

I urge the city to show us a plan that is for quality time.  I currently use my time after school for tutoring, planning, and two days a week I do an after school improvisational comedy class.  If this is being replaced by more drill and kill, there is no point.  I just want to teach.  I am not unreasonable, but quantity isn’t the same as quality.

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Lex Luthor is Waiting for Superman

September 20, 2010

I never really cared for comic book revisionism.  When they replaced Hal Jordan as Green Lantern I screamed bloody murder.  However, when John Byrne took bumbling mad scientist Lex Luthor and turned him into a corporate fiend, it was a brilliant move.  In the past, Luthor had build giant robots, death rays, a green and purple armored suit, but none of these posed a threat to the Man of Steel.  As a reader I knew this.   What John Byrne did in 1986 was to find a foe that Superman couldn’t face in a fair fight—a corporate executive.   Superman couldn’t just fly into a board room and haul Luthor off to prison, he had to catch Luthor in the act and to the public Luthor was corporate hero.  He hid his crimes behind a facade of good works.

For me, the new movie Waiting for Superman is very aptly titled for the movie is little more than propaganda designed to be  a happy face on those who seek to profit at our children’s expense.  To truly appreciate the movie you must accept three claims:

1. Public teacher unions are so powerful people like Bill Gates and the folks who run Walmart can’t figure out a way around them.

2. Countries like Finland and Sweden that have much more powerful teachers unions than we do and are considered the world’s top school systems have nothing we can learn from

3. Schools in the South are a utopia since they do not have teacher’s unions or have right to work laws that make them useless.

4. Public school teachers don’t care about kids, only corporations do.

5. The people pushing education reform based on standardized tests and strict discipline like KIPP seek education opportunities for their own children directly opposite the KIPP philosophy by mere coincidence

6. That a failed teacher like Michelle Rhee after 2 years of struggling to control her own classroom suddenly found the magic formula for teaching and abruptly left the classroom to recruit teachers.  She now is capable of running a big city school district despite the parents that live there seeing her as one of the main reasons to vote against the mayor that hired her.

I could go on, but really if you can look at those 6 and tell me that the movie still makes a lot of good points, there really is no reason to continue.   We want a first world education system and we should have it, but we do not have first world health care for children, we have third world levels of childhood poverty, we are no longer a country that values our lower class or most of our middle class.   Our poverty numbers exceed what they were in the 1960s when Lyndon Johnson declared his war on poverty.   Jim Horn has some wonderful information here on just why this movie is so blatantly propaganda most vile.  I would also recommend checking out Charter School Scandals before holding them  as the panacea that the movie makers want you to.

It’s sad when children don’t make the lottery to get into the school they want or when they are called into the office to be told that they are a discipline problem, have special needs, or just are too low to remain at the charter school.   Fortunately, they can always go to the public school.   They take everybody.