I posted a New York Times article on Facebook yesterday that said Black people still face redlining in housing due to longstanding bank lending practices.
My friend Derrell Bradford responded by saying “Yeah….but….neighborhood schools……”
Allow me to break the first rule of comedy. I’m going to explain his joke.
In edu- world we constantly hear about the impacts of segregation and poverty on schools. Charter schools are said to worsening segregation because they often serve black and brown students in high poverty neighborhoods.
But, here’s the funny part: the same people who make that charge seem to be more significant contributors to segregation than charter schools.
First, let’s start with the fact that many of them live segregated professional lives. Some send their children to the least integrated schools in their city (Hello Myron Orfield). Others are the proud products of segregated – albeit, all-white – private schools (Hello Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig and Yohuru Williams). And, a rare bunch choose segregated – yes, black – for their children (Hello Ms. Hannah Jones).
The funniest comedy is about incongruent things, which makes these bawdy anti-school reformers successful comedians.
Second, the antidote to segregation that they prescribe is one unlikely to cure the disease. They preach about the nobility of neighborhood schools (now rebranded as “community schools“) but ignore how tying school enrollment to segregated housing patterns continues the problem.
For educated people to do that is quite funny.
How about the trope signaling a need for “democracy in education” while the push for elected school boards is far from democratic?
Almost nobody votes for the people who supposedly represent the public’s interests. Look at their political endorsements and campaign workers, and often you’ll find public workers hiring their bosses.
That’s racketeering, not democracy. Again, incongruent things make for great comedy.
But wait, there are more jokes.
The one about how we should value teachers and public education more, but we should acknowledge that teachers and public education can’t make much of a difference if students are black, poor, and have parents who are black and poor.
The one about how standardized testing doesn’t tell us anything of value, except, of course, when it tells us something we want to hear.
When education establishmentarians like Diane Ravitch and her nation of Ravitchians say “charter schools do no better than public schools, and often they do worse,” they’re basing their assessment on the same standardized, summative assessments that they criticize.
Here’s another good one: the Ravitchian paleopedagogues say those of us who commit ourselves to new schools and alternative education systems are merely profiteers and disaster capitalists who want to tap America’s $600 billion education budget.
That’s funny because nobody talks about money more than career educrats themselves.
The unions, principals, teachers, superintendents, and virtually everyone drawing a check from the half-trillion- education-trough can’t get enough of money talk.
On the other side, the supposedly petty education capitalists obsess mostly about schools, schooling, achievement, outcomes, student trajectory, college, teaching, learning, scope and sequence, content, pathways, pipelines, research, data – you get the picture.
The fact that Mr. Money Bags thinks mostly about education, while Ms. Save O. Schools thinks mostly about money, now that’s comedic genius.
Then there is the thing about school reformers being a motley crew of racists and cultural tourists. My experiences tell me that one is super hilarious. When I was on a school board we attempted to negotiate a rule that teachers taking a job in our lowest performing schools would have to give the school at least a two-year commitment so we could stem the effects of churn. The union balked. In fact, their head comedian told us it’s a rite of passage for teachers to “shop for better schools and better students as they gain seniority.”
Talk about “teach for a while.” Knee-slapping funny stuff, huh?
Adding to the same problem, guess who is against rules that require teachers to live in the city where they teach?
Yep, teachers and the comedy syndicates that coolect their dues.
When I FOIA’d the home zip codes Minneapolis Public Schools teachers I found that the majority of them were driving in from the suburbs and exurbs every day to draw a paycheck that would quickly leave the city limits with them on paydays.
But reformers are a bunch of outsiders attempting to profit from local public schools, right?
That makes me LOL.
The next joke is complicated, so stick with me.
The set up says that when a State grants a charter to a nonprofit organization to operate public schools for the benefit of students who States and cities have a hard time reaching and teaching, that is called “privatization.”
It takes money out of the hands of “the public” and puts public dollars into the hands of people who are not accountable to “the public.”
The previous jokes are of the Andrew Dice Clay model (set up + punchline). The privatization joke is closer to the Steven Wright variety (“Last night somebody broke into my apartment and replaced everything with exact duplicates… When I pointed it out to my roommate, he said, “Do I know you?”).
It’s funny because at its root it assumes something absurd to be true. Are schools governed by districts and school boards demonstrably more accountable to “the public”?
I could bury you in examples of district schools who do 90% of their work outside of public view on purpose, knowing if the public knew half of what really goes down in school districts we would have already converted to an entirely different system.
Finally, one of my favorite jokes is that public school teachers have no voice in education.
I point it out all the time that you can’t visit any Statehouse in the United States and not trip over several teacher union policy assassins who smile a smug grin as newby legislators introduce school reform policies or school accountability provisions. They smile because they know those policies and regulations will disappear in the middle of the night and a forensic scientist won’t be able to tell you where they went.
When you look at the “Nation’s Report Card” on education performance that came out last week, and you see numbers that warn us that the future of racial and social justice is dire, the only comedy that seems appropriate is that of Richard Pryor. We need his brand of searing social commentary that makes us laugh because if we don’t, we might cry ourselves into a dark, nihilistic corner.
It’s sad to say, but when it comes to the comedy of America’s massive education payroll, the joke is clearly on us.
That shit ain’t funny.
Why aren’t teachers freaking out about Biden and Bernie’s education task force?
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, put together an advisory council to help his state “reimagine” public education. Fearing Cuomo and his partner, the Gates Foundation, will produce a plan that creates accountability and expectations in their public school pension farm, the NYC teacher types pounced.
“There’s no current classroom teacher on this list of advisors” they whined.
For the record, here is Cuomo’s list of advisors:
- Kaweeda Adams, Superintendent, Albany City School District
- Jaime Alicea, Superintendent, Syracuse City School District
- Jody Gottfried Arnhold, Founder, Dance Educator Laboratory (DEL) 92Y
- Melodie Baker, Director of Education, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County
- Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director, New York State PTA
- Meg Benke, Provost, SUNY Empire State College
- Jackie Burbridge, Parent, Suffolk County
- Katie Campos, Partner, Strategic Collective
- Anthony Collins, President, Clarkson University
- Stephanie Conklin, Master Teacher, South Colonie Central School District
- George Dermody, CEO, The Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference
- Karol Mason, President, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- Austin Ostro, President, SUNY Student Assembly
- Martin Palermo, Master Teacher, William Floyd School District
- Roger Ramsammy, President, Hudson Valley Community College
- Seema Rivera, President, Guilderland Central School District School Board
- Shannon Tahoe, Interim Commissioner, New York State Education Department
- Dennis Walcott, Former Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
- Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
As you can see, teachers, parents, students, higher education, nonprofits, superintendents, and other education officials are represented.
Now, contrast that with the farcical “unity” education task force assembled by current and failed presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Per Vox Media, here’s their list:
- Heather Gautney, task force co-chair and Sanders policy adviser
- Alejandro Adler, Center for Sustainable Development, Columbia University
- Hirokazu Yoshikawa, New York University professor
- Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), task force co-chair and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
- Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association
- Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers
- Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress
- Christie Vilsack, literacy advocate
Hmmm. This feels a little paltry.
Let’s start with the fact that Sanders seems to continue his trend of giving zero effs about honest Black representation or truly addressing K-12 education’s pedagogical and social issues beyond what political neosocialist agenda setters tell him works best.
Looking at his picks tells me his post-racial disaster socialism once again proves him an unserious candidate for any post responsible for educational progress.
Now, Mr. Biden, what gives?
Together, these picks reveal why the Democrats’ education agenda is useless to America’s most marginalized students:
Their list includes:
- No school leaders who are successfully educating children deemed “hard-to-teach” by an out-of-touch education establishment;
- No classroom teachers with a track record of success;
- No parents of color desperate for improved educational options;
- No one with direct pedagogical insights into what will improve education for those who are poorly served in today’s public schools;
In short, both Biden and Bernie, when given the chance to show how genuine their interest is in educational improvement, fail the test by stacking the deck with political advisors in place of accomplished educators.
The funny thing is, none of the Badass Miseducators so abundant in social media grievance groups have come for Biden and Bernie, even as they have indignant seizures about the fact that Cuomo dare work with Bill Gates for his “reimagine” counsel in New York.
I guess that’s the surest sigh it’s all politics folks.
If you care about fixing education so it works equally well for everyone, there’s nothing to see here.
Don’t expect teachers to reimagine public education
If you listen to the ceaselessly grieving employees of public schools, education is just fine and needs few changes.
Teachers are beyond effective, the technology they use is on the vanguard, schools can divine student achievement without assessments, and that student achievement is so high there is no need for objective academic standards.
They want you, the reformers or reformsters or deformers or disrupters or political busybodies, to know it’s all good homie. Keep it moving.
They tell a single simple story about the supposedly baseless push for rethinking schooling: it’s that technocrats and facile politicians lack a heart and mind for the glorious pure purpose of education, which is clearly to accept uncritically whatever public employees and their unions tell us that purpose is.
Today, they say that purpose is to raise money, fund teachers, reduce class sizes, and hire increasing numbers of non-teaching staff to support teachers in their quest to do whatever they please behind classroom doors.
Your job as a citizen, taxpayer, parent, and capable thinker is to sit down, shut up, speak when spoken to, provide baked goods for fundraisers, and squeeze any elected official you come into contact with for greater levels of funding.
If you don’t do that you’re a bad person. You hate teachers and children, and you can’t be trusted with an opinion about education. Heretics be warned. Their mobs are deep and their torches hot.
So, when the governor of New York proclaims an attempt to “reimagine” public education it can’t be good.
Annie Abrams, a NYC teacher writing for the New Republic says it’s yet another misguided “privatization” conspiracy (which is her profession’s code for “any agenda teachers’ unions did not create”), and basically one more attempt of plutocrats to destroy public education their money and ignorance.
[New York Governor Andrew] Cuomo’s question about whether we need physical classrooms anymore indicates an impulse to redefine not only the shape but the purpose of education. Historically, for the Gates Foundation, notions like growth, agency, and connection have come second to producing data.
This is Gates Foundation that invested big time in smaller, more personalized schools that were panned after not returning immediate results, but were vindicated later by studies showing these schools boosted college enrollment and persistence, high school graduation, and English test scores.
The Gates Foundation’s role [Cuomo’s state council to “reimagine” public education], while still ambiguously defined, raised alarm among many public school teachers because of the organization’s aggressive, mechanical approach to reform, especially its history of pushing Common Core standards, developed for use in every public school classroom across the nation. The goal for these standards is purportedly college and career readiness, but it’s really test prep.
That characterization should worry us about who teaches our children. Not that its points are closed for fair debate, but because its points are too reductionist and facile to enable fair debate. A factual accounting of Gates’s support for Common Core would say it started with educators and democratically elected state officials, not in some remote philanthropic laboratory where capitalists cook up bewitching spells to kill public institutions.
Here’s how the common orginators describe their efforts to develop coherent standards and address the issue of states gaming the system by lowering standards to hide low proficiency levels:
The state-led effort to develop the Common Core State Standards was launched in 2009 by state leaders, including governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, two territories and the District of Columbia, through their membership in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). State school chiefs and governors recognized the value of consistent, real-world learning goals and launched this effort to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, are graduating high school prepared for college, career, and life.
I think any real educator would want to point your attention to original sources so that you might think critically, and they would ask you to look at the actual framework of the standards (click here).
Yet, like many “educators,” Abrams sails past thoughtful reason and plain dealing on her way to self-satisfying proselytism. There is one way to see the issue and your worth hangs on a pass/fail system of whether you agree or not.
And, she continues:
…just as implementing these standards risks turning students into mechanical recipients of knowledge, the Gates Foundation model seeks to turn teachers into much the same thing: The organization has supported linking teacher evaluation to standardized test scores, a practice since debunked as a misuse of the data. (Cuomo was an ardent supporter.)
Abrams is accurate in saying research hasn’t been kind to test-driven teacher evaluation, but what’s the counterfactual?
That classroom teaching is unrelated to student achievement?
That when students don’t meet academic goals the only explanations exist outside of schools?
Isn’t it better to study, try, fail, and repeat until workable solutions come into view?
As long as teachers like Abrams are experts on what non-teachers get wrong about teaching, but novices in explaining what teachers get wrong in the classroom every day, reform, reformers, and their funders will be essential to forward progress, even when their efforts, reputations, and motives are slimed by those in the education establishment who profit most from keeping everything as it is.
In the rush to beat Trump, we can’t let Biden cave on ed policy
In a rush to find any presidential candidate that isn’t Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, I may have been too quick to drop my commitment to important education policies and to jump on the Joe Biden express. Since it has been clear he would become the Democratic nominee I’ve assumed the role of tentative supporter as a matter of pragmatism.
But, as much as I am a voting citizen desperate for a “normal” president who Tweets less than I do and can speak in complete sentences that don’t include “tremendous,” “Fabulous,” “never seen before,” or “the previous administration,” I am also something else that puts me in conflict with Biden nearly as much as Trump.
I am an education voter determined to shut down every education desert in America.
Biden’s education platform vaguely sings some of my favorite songs and some evergreen tunes I don’t mind.
His campaign site says “[a]s president, Biden will”:
- Support our educators by giving them the pay and dignity they deserve.
- Invest in resources for our schools so students grow into physically and emotionally healthy adults, and educators can focus on teaching.
- Ensure that no child’s future is determined by their zip code, parents’ income, race, or disability.
- Provide every middle and high school student a path to a successful career.
- Start investing in our children at birth.
Yet, last December when asked by a teachers’ union activist about standardized testing he gave an unforgivably unscientific and pandering response. She asked: “Given that standardized testing is rooted in a history of racism and eugenics, if you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools?”
Biden responded simply: “yes…you’re preaching to the choir kid.”
“I’m not saying every teacher’s a great teacher. What I am saying is, you know what it takes to communicate to a child what in fact they need to know.”
He could have just as easily said: “research tells us teachers are poorly prepared, don’t know how to teach reading, hold impactful biases against nonwhite students, often overlook gifted children of color while also overcommitting them to low-tracks or discipline rooms.
He also could have said “well, if it’s important to point out the tenuous relationship between today’s educational testing and yesterday’s racism, then it’s also important to point out the same connection between today’s teachers’ unions, teachers, and school boards to yesterday’s racist versions of the same.
I doubt the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers could override the wishes of their rank-and-file members and rig their endorsement for him if he told that much truth.
I understand if you see that as short sighted and say “damnit Chris, there are more important things in the world than winning the ed wars! Don’t be so myopic!”
Educated people with good salaries, operable vehicles, and an above average number of bedrooms like to say dumb shit like that.
(full disclosure: I’m happy to say that I fit that description, so, glass houses noted).
I won’t apologize for sticking to my values. I truly believe that when large groups of the public leave K-12 without all the need to earn a living it becomes the fountainhead of expensive and cruel societal problems. So many of the big economic issues we fight downstream grow because educational injustice is real. That tells me a candidate for president who wants my vote as much as she or he wants campaign donations from public employees should have a well-considered vision for advancing education.
Unfortunately, Biden appears to have traded his years presumably supporting Clinton-Bush-Obama school reforms for a pandering and muddled retreat courtesy of national teachers unions who in recent years have done a bang up job of becoming education’s Tea Party within the DNC.
Here’s what I see he’s promising: attacks on school choice, charters, accountability, and testing; a shower of cash on public employees and their unions; and, abso-fricken-lutely ZERO focus on improving teacher preparation or induction, classroom instruction, evidence-based practice, or expectation of for better outcomes – especially for the most marginalized populations in schools.
Is there anything good in there? Sure, I admit he offers a laudable lifeline to HBCUs that I support, yet, putting caramel on a turd doesn’t make it a sundae.
Now, don’t let me make too much of this point. Maybe I’m misreading him. Perhaps he’s planning a Machiavellian reversal once in office and school choice will rain from the heavens like a justice hurricane. But, I doubt it.
Look at this chart comparing Biden’s and Sanders’ education proposals created by Brooke LePage at FutureEd, and find the lie.
I’m afraid to say that when it comes to voting for Biden I have buyers remorse already and I haven’t even paid yet. That can’t be good.
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