American public school educators have been insulted, mocked, punished, shamed, blamed and threatened by politicians, Bill Gates, corporations and the media for a decade. Their professionalism has been reduced by name-calling, scripted curricula, “common core” standards and the publication of standardized test scores. Their schools have become the playthings of billionaire bullies and hedge fund managers with public school treasure being surrendered to shady privatizers and charter school conglomerates. American public school teachers have watched more of their students come to school hungry and without proper medical care. They’ve watched public education be dismantled by unqualified clowns in NY, Louisiana, Chicago, Michigan and Wisconsin. American teachers have seen their benefits cut, right to organize eliminated, working conditions deteriorate, supplies dwindle and pensions disappear.The answer of course, is not very much.
And what have American educators done about this?
Look at what happened in Australia (the subject of Stager's blog post above) when the state (Victoria) PM backed out of a promised raise...25,000 teachers took to the streets.
In the US, however, what did teachers do when the entire staff of Central Falls High School (RI) were fired? What was our response when the US Secretary of Education and the President of the United States cheered that act by the local superintendent?
Silence...except for a few blogs.
What's been our response to this administration's "Race to the Top" where federal money is not provided where it's needed most, but instead is given to those places which open up more charter schools, judge teachers by their students' test scores, and VAM evaluation techniques (none of which are based on research)? What have American teachers said and done about that?
Again, not much except on the blogosphere.
Oh...here's something. The AFT and the NEA, the nation's largest teachers unions, have endorsed for reelection the man responsible for Race to the Top...
Have I missed something? Why are former minor league basketball players, retired computer gurus and former editors of the Harvard Law Review the ones making education policy for the country?
What do...Barak Obama, Arne Duncan, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Rahm Emanuel, Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Gang have in common?
Answer -- They are the ones who have made/bought or are making/buying education policy in the United States and NONE of them -- not ONE of them -- knows anything about educating children. There are NO TEACHERS among them...not one. None.
Where are the experts? Where are the teachers?
While the leaders of the NEA and AFT are busy helping the corporate interests destroy public education, the rank and file teachers have been overwhelmed with too many tests being used and misused by administrations, states and the media.
While the politicians and pundits have been blaming public education and specifically teachers unions and the "bad teachers" they protect for the collapse of the world's economy, public school teachers around the country have been struggling to keep their heads above water doing more and more for the children under their care with less and less support from the outside world.
While Bill Gates wants to use Skinner-box technology to see whether or not teachers are entertaining their students, those teachers are drowning in a data driven morass created by the greed of edupreneurs and politicians.
Democrats, led by President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan, have joined Republicans in the fight against public schools. Mayors Bloomberg (New York City) and Emanuel (Chicago) are vying for the title of least-public-education-friendly mayor in the country. Bloomberg has been shoving charter schools into public school buildings, displacing public school teachers and children without any hesitation during his never ending term as mayor.
Finally, however, the newcomer Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, not even 2 years into his term, is facing an uprising he apparently didn't expect. Mayor Emanuel figured that teachers would do as they were told, as they have done for the last 2 decades. He figured that teachers would just whine a bit, but then accept the inevitable...and increase their already overwhelming work load for no additional pay. He assumed that he could continue the nation's insulting assault on public school teachers and the weak teachers would simply fall in line.
He was wrong.
On June 11 the Chicago Teachers Union released the results of a strike vote.
Public school educators say they are fighting for smaller class sizes, art, music, world language and physical education classes for students, and fair compensation for being asked to work under more difficult guidelines as determined by CPS.23,780 teachers, 90% of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, voted to strike.
What was the reaction of the parent union, the AFT, when the CTU voted to strike if a negotiated settlement couldn't be reached? I went to the AFT website and couldn't find a thing about it. It's possible I missed it...
It's time for teachers across the country to stand up, like our colleagues in Chicago, to those who want to destroy public education. Demand support from our unions. Demand support for public schools.
Stop the Testing Insanity!