Do you remember that part of the Bible that says “render unto Caesar all of your children”?
Neither do I.
Yet, my theological understanding might be challenged by a group of clergy calling themselves Pastors for Texas Children Who argue that God calls us to support public school teachers and the schools that hire them – to the exclusion of all other educational arrangements.
My Bible is obviously a different version that PFTC’s. Mine says we are to to train our children into the Kingdom, and not into this world. the “pastors” arouse suspicion for me.
I looked into their website and found their mission:
“To provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities.”
What’s remarkably absent? For starters, Jesus. After that, the Holy Spirit and God. You know, just minor omissions.
In a brief paragraph titled “What Makes Us Different” they say:
“Pastors for Texas Children is not just another education organization. What makes us different is that we are an independent ministry and outreach group comprised of pastors and church leaders from across the state, organizing to support quality public education opportunities for all Texas children. PTC stands with and for our children, families and communities throughout Texas, and offers solutions that will guard the values of all Texans.”
Again, what’s annoyingly missing?
I couldn’t find a Biblical basis for their advocacy. No scriptural lens for why they believe fighting for traditional public schools (and against offering access to religious education) is in accord with what G-d expects of them as His representatives.
I’m open to that discussion. No shade. Open heart and all that. In the spirit of fellowship and Christian accountability. But, sadly, and suspiciously, their collateral material appears to be uninterested in having a faith-informed conversation.
The fact that these “pastors” mimic the secular policy debates about education governance and funding without bringing new light or a spirit of true inclusion to the strife reveals their effort to be another cynical ploy of clever campaign strategists rather than a truly faith-based movement.
I expect this form of politicizing from the partisan actors in these debates – unions, politicians, bureaucrats, professional associations, and individual public employees and their families – but not from people supposedly learned of theology.
Looking to the Bible you won’t find explicit mentions of education, public or otherwise, but there are many mandates of the training we should provide for children (and adults). Ephesians 6:4 tells us to “…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
“You shall teach [the words of the Lord] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us. Nothing here tells us to place the intellectual and spiritual development fully in the hands of state bureaucrats, their employees, or their institutions.
Through out the Bible we are told repeatedly that teaching, learning, knowledge, and wisdom are key to life. “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life,” Proverbs 4:13 says.
The PFTC have firm standing when they talk about our collective responsibility for providing adequate resources and highly-qualified teachers for all children to have an opportunity to learn what the need to be successful in life.
No argument from me on that.
Yet, they fall into troublesome territory when the say there should be only one “public” way of achieving our universal educational goals: through bureaucratized, industrialized, standardized, unionized government schools.
To that point – if it really is about what is best for kids – I find this passage from Merripedia about the pro social benefits of religious education to be instructive here:
Because education is important for all citizens and the government invests heavily in public schooling, any factor that significantly promotes academic achievement is important to the common good. A growing body of research has consistently indicated that the frequency of religious practice is significantly and directly related to academic outcomes and educational attainment. Religiously involved students spend more time on their homework, work harder in school, and achieve more as a result.
Education, like religion, is such a foundational part of being human that it is difficult to see what we gain by separating them. Not everyone is an adherent to a specific faith, but for those who are the constant refrain of separating church and state is like calling for the separation of thinking and breathing. A tolerant society must understand that no system of education can be complete or truly “public” if it isn’t representative of the people it serves. In a culturally, ideologically, and theologically pluralistic nation, it just isn’t possible to humanely teach all children without teaching to the lowest common denominator.
That form of one-size-fits-few rebuts one of the most delicious educational candies of the moment; that bumper sticker canard about teaching the “whole child.”
I’m pretty sure the spirit is part of the whole.
After several Tweets back and forth with PFTC I see they are not against private schools, religious education, or parochial schools. They just believe our collective kitty of tax dollars should support families without resources to access educational opportunities outside of government schools.
Because, as we know, Jesus only said “let them come to me” to rich families.
For all the others he said: the government will save you.
I don’t care if KIPP changes their slogan if they still get results
Good People, some of y’all keep asking me about the internal work the KIPP charter school network is doing to interrogate itself for racial justice concerns, which begins with them changing their well-known slogan”Work Hard, Be Nice.”
I’ve resisted commenting because I think it’s a phony problem.
But, since questions continue to come my way, here a few thoughts:
1. KIPP can change their slogan to whatever they think helps them meet their organizational objective. You don’t have to like it. Stay in you lane.
2. People from the Right love any facile news peg that allows them to belabor the case that “woke” is going too far. I’m sympathetic to their complaint, but notice they have ZERO to say about it when white supremacy goes too far…..ever. It’s way too convenient and I’m tired of that. To them I say: woke isn’t doing nearly the damage to our country and out culture that your president, your party, and you are doing. Clean your own toilet before inspecting others’.
3. So-called “Ed Reform” is full of self-important individuals with axes to grind for one reason or other. Sometimes it’s just straight up competition, sometimes it’s malignant jealousy, sometimes its egotism because they didn’t get a grant or one of their AMAZING criticisms wasn’t heard, or whatever. To them I say, focus on your own house people and shut up about what others are doing.
4. On the liberal side, there are school/reform leaders who blow with the wind and will swing to something like racial justice theology as a shrewd value-signaling move to save their position within the field. Their perfection of woke-speak is a shield meant to position them as “allies” against white supremacy even as they enjoy every privilege and benefit of it.
5. I don’t give a damn if KIPP changes their slogan from “Work Hard, Be Nice” to “Eat Healthy, Drink Water,” or “Say Nice Things To People,” or “Don’t Take Crap From People On The Internet” – just as long as they keep teaching kids to beat the odds in the classroom. As of this point I haven’t heard a single them from them that tells me they aren’t going to keep focusing intently on teaching, learning, and outcomes.
6. And, finally, no – telling kids to “Work Hard, Be Nice” is not telling them to be complicit or be a slave or be compliant to white masters. That is almost as stupid as saying changing the slogan it teaching kids that merit doesn’t matter. Both claims are so damn stupid I can’t imagine educated people aren’t embarrassed to make them.
In the end, I hope everyone can focus on education, focus on results, and focus on the opponents of our field.
Please people: pop open a can of Mind Your Damn Business and drink heavily.
Sydney Johnson: California charter schools support their families during a tough time
If you listen to critics you’ll believe charter schools are the enemy of public education. If you look at how many of them are serving their students and families during the coronavirus pandemic, you might see a different story.
Private schools and some charters have found the transition to “distance learning” relatively easy, but public school districts have struggled to ensure students have functioning technology, internet access, and teachers trained to teach online.
Even worse, less than half of school districts have written plans to address pandemics even as experts have been warning of one coming for years. (Isn’t it delicious for public school cultists that Bill Gates is one of those who sounded the alarm about a coming pandemic, and he’s now putting his considerable resources toward expediting the search for a COVID-19 vaccine?).
Sydney Johnson tells the story of how *some* charter schools in California have acted quickly to meet the needs of families (even beyond their educational needs):
For schools like Fuerza, shifting to online classrooms was a relatively quick endeavor because the TK-5 charter school already had technology in place. At home, ensuring a supportive learning environment for students is more of a challenge. Fuerza and a handful of other charter schools across the state are responding by connecting families to resources they need so students can participate in class at home, from internet discounts to legal support.
In the switch to distance learning, many California schools have struggled to purchase devices for students, get teachers up to speed with online teaching and contact parents of students who aren’t participating in distance learning. But at Rocketship and some other charter schools, students were already completing digital assignments daily and teachers were routinely reaching out to parents through texts and home visits.
During the first week of distance learning, Anguiano’s oldest son Abraham, who is in fourth grade, was unable to turn on the laptop provided by his school, and the family didn’t have an extra working computer to give him. The next day, Anguiano had a new charger for her son’s laptop and was ready to go after replying to the morning text message, notifying staff that the device wasn’t working.
Most days, Anguiano said her kids have what they need. But the transition to distance learning has been difficult for the whole family. On top of managing two kids and her own office work, which is now mostly remote, her husband, along with thousands of other workers throughout California, was recently laid off from his construction job.
To help families with similar struggles, Rocketship, a charter management organization with 13 schools in California, initiated a new program at each campus called the Care Corps, a team of staff who reach out to every family every day during the shelter-in-place order to ask if they need support.
“Some say, ‘I’m an essential worker and I’m concerned that I will bring something home to my family,” said Christina Vasquez, the business operations manager at Rocketship Fuerza. “Sometimes they just need someone outside of the home to talk to.”
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.
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