Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teach your children well

I haven't been following this closely, so I don't know any of the particulars. But one thing I know for certain is, Paul Ryan is lying when he pretends to be concerned with "the children."
“We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that’s a bipartisan issue,” Ryan continued. “This does not have to divide the two parties. And so, we were going to ask, where does President Obama stand? Does he stand with his former Chief of Staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union? On issues like this, we need to speak out and be really clear.”
This much is certainly clear. Even though Rahm is on the wrong side in this fight, education policy is not really bi-partisan. Granted both parties have some ideas about school reform that suck, but when it comes to supporting equal opportunity for higher education, the chasm between the two parties is so wide it can probably never be breached.

In any event, this much is clear. This is about money and not at all about "the children." Thankfully, since I'm less than focused today, Freddie deBoer at Balloon Juice explains the stakes in education policy so perfectly, I'm outsourcing my outrage to him:
The reality is that you can’t be pro-education and anti-educator. Not just in the sense that you shouldn’t be, ethically, although I certainly believe that. I mean the notion that you can say that you care about education while working relentlessly to attack our actual teachers is nonsensical. If you want to attack our teachers as “overpaid,” OK. Go ahead. But you don’t get to pretend that you give a shit about education. If you don’t have a problem with celebrity dog trainers who make 7 figures or personal stylists who make $5,000 a consultation or people who sell artisanal moonshine for $400 a bottle, but you have a problem with teachers working in one of the most difficult teaching environments in the country making $75K a year, hey, alright. But save me the platitudes. Save me your chest-beating and your weeping for the children, the children. Quality health insurance, pensions, job security, a strong union to represent your self-interest: these are the only tools we have to attract people into this profession, when so many other educated professions make so much more. Advocate the end of those benefits and you declare yourself an enemy of education. You make it plain that you don’t actually value it with the only currency we care about in this culture, hard cash. You are saying that you don’t really value what you say you value. Period.

In this capitalist system of ours, what people make is a statement about how much society values what they do. Honey Boo Boo Child will make more this year than most Chicago teachers, and our friends in the media think they make too much. That’s all you need to know. If you think that people should be willing to teach for less, than shut your mouth and go apply to teach in Chicago yourself.
Anyone who doesn't stand with the teachers in the Chicago strike has never taught in a classroom setting. Public school teachers are woefully undervalued in our country. They're so overloaded with mandated testing and unrealistic productivity metrics, their ability to innovate has been completely stifled. The student populations they're left with after private and charter schools have poached the easiest to teach students are difficult to teach in small groups and nearly impossible to even control in too large classrooms.

Surely, our public education system presents a complicated problem, and is in need of some reform, but the solution is most assuredly not less teachers at lower pay.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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