Saturday, June 04, 2011

Education's Circular Firing Squad - What's the Plan, Diane?

These days as union teaching jobs become ever more threatened on a daily basis, teachers unions and teachers are raising their voices, rattling their pencil cases, and running with scissors. What they aren't doing is demanding more efficiently run schools, right-sizing of staff, better curriculum, diversity of learning rather than centralised conformity, nor a host of other things that might actually transform public schools.

No, mostly they practice the mean politics of industrial revolution unionism. This consists of rabid attacks on the messengers and agents of inevitable and obvious change. It's a shill game that's predictable and disheartening.

On one hand are public school teachers - most of whom are truly hard-working, well-paid professionals who for far too long have allowed the union politics of "workplace rules", insatiable greed, and out-of-control legislated educational malfeasance to trump common sense.

Most recently, Jonathan Alter wrote an opinion piece that criticized Diane Ravitch's assertions about public education alternatives.

Alter's criticism's are spot on;

She uses selective data to punch holes in the work of good schools and turn reformers into cartoonish right-wingers. Her view is that we should throw up our hands and admit that nothing will change until we end poverty in our time.

That is defeatist, wrong on the facts and the mother of all cop-outs.

On twitter, Ravitch and her sympathizers respond by attacking the credibility and integrity of Alter as if he were a villan rather than yet another educated and informed stakeholder in the conversation about education.

Ravitch raises the disingenuous question of whether Alter has a conflict of interest;

Conflict of interest? http://www.salon.com/news/michael_bloomberg/?story=/politics/war_room/2011/06/03/bloomberg_alter_school_reform

Yet, Alter's criticism is not about Michael Bloomberg nor is it political in nature. On the other hand, as I've questioned before, where was Ravitch when the damage could have been averted? She offers endless platitudes that are as empty as hoping for world peace:
Families are children’s most important educators. Our society must invest in parental education, prenatal care and preschool. Of course, schools must improve; every one should have a stable, experienced staff, adequate resources and a balanced curriculum including the arts, foreign languages, history and science.

If every child arrived in school well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn, from a family with a stable home and a steady income, many of our educational problems would be solved. And that would be a miracle.
One has to wonder if she reads what she says. There's not a word about improving the public schools in any of that. It is as if she is saying, "it is what it is, keep paying teacher raises and benefits, look the other way when none of that makes a difference and keep buying into the status quo until some utopian event takes place to straighten it all out."

I am an ardent supporter of public schools.  But they must transform themselves into  effective and responsible institutions willing to fire ineffective teachers, right-size and adjust their curriculum to ever-changing circumstances,  and serve the kids first and foremost.

Charter schools and alternatives aren't responsible for the hubris of the public schools - educators who profited for decades as the schools became ever more ineffective own that shame.

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