Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wisconsin is telling us what?

Photo from CNN.

I don’t know if you are following the happenings in Wisconsin, but I do on blogs and in the news. One that came out last week is from Diane Ravitch in a special to CNN. Ravitch authored the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Undermine Education (2010). She was originally a supporter of NCLB and the testing movement, but has grown disillusioned with the movement and done an about face as demonstrated in the book. In this CNN article she shares her thoughts on the happenings in Wisconsin. I agree with much of what she shares and once again want to highlight what is becoming more and more apparent not only in Wisconsin.

The real story in Madison is not just about unions trying to protect their members' hard-won rights. It is about teachers who are fed up with attacks on their profession.

In this piece she links to an interesting article by Sam Chaltain, “Reinvent Unions: don’t gut them.” Once again, we see the need to stop the blame and focus on how to move forward by working collaboratively. We should not have to totally dismantle the existing system to do this.

The solutions will come when we stop demonizing the teaching profession as a monolith of self-interested adults who don't care about children. And they will come when we remember that, at our core, we are a nation founded on the revolutionary notion that the power rests in the hands of the governed and not the government.

In a follow-up piece, Ravitch shares the response to her opinion piece that received 8000 comments and over 38,000 Facebook shares. Most were comments from teachers who appreciated her stance and support, but about one in ten were from dissenters such as this one.

But about one of every 10 that I received came from dissenters complaining that teachers have an easy life, that their benefits are too generous, and that unions are selfish and greedy. A few were venomous and suggested anatomically impossible feats. One writer insulted teachers with this: "The majority of them have degrees in education, which are basically paths to baccalaureate degrees for people too stupid to get through degree programs in math, science, engineering, or even business."

I find it interesting that much of what we see written comes from the business sections of major newspapers such as this piece in the Washington Times and this one in the Washington Post. It has become a fight over power that began as a focus on a budget deficit and it resonated in the room for me this morning when our principals met with a group of TEA representatives to hear from Scott Poirier on SB 6696, the revamping of teacher and principal evaluation in our state. I’ll take up this topic in a later post.  For now, I think it is time to focus on what we can do to create and sustain cultures that support every teacher in providing quality learning, every day, in every classroom, for every child.  I don't think this process will be successful with a process built on a foundation of teacher bashing, or merit pay, or competitive grants, or . . .

1 comment:

John said...

Thank you for posting this Mike. Diane Ravitch is an inspiring leader in education. I saw her speak at NEA-RA last July, and immediately got her latest book, "The Death and Life of the Great American School System". I highly recommend this read. In an age where we are so driven by research, Ravitch incorporates a tidal wave of it within her book. It was a page-turner that offers much food for thought.