5/22/11

Bill and Melinda train Pretend-Teacher Lobbyist to do their bidding...

Today's teacher can no longer afford just to be in the classroom and trust that all will be well in 'teacher world'. Teachers are not politicians I know, and had they liked policy they probably would have never been a teacher, yet the times call for them to become political, period. In fact, while we teachers have been busy teaching the nation's children, Bill and Melida Gates have been busy training pretend teacher lobbyists to help change education policy to suit their 'mission'. In this week's NYT's article by Sam Dillon entitled, Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates I read the following:

"To that end, the foundation is financing educators to pose alternatives to union orthodoxies on issues like the seniority system and the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers....In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations."

How appalling. Not only are non-educators who in some cases have never been in the classroom now running schools, but now we are also getting non-educators posing as educators!! With all that has been going on in education since that horribly distorted movie, Waiting for Superman, came out and even further back since since the introduction of NCLB, I can't help but to become more and more impatient when I meet both teachers and parents who are not even vaguely aware of the issues and policies that affect their children. It's time this changed.

Two instances to prove my point. The other day at a meeting I talk to a young teacher who loudly and proudly claims to me that she "deeply hates the teacher union." I vaguely understand people who have no experience with unions to not like the unions. I am fully prepared to meet Republicans, for example, who swallow the rhetoric about unions protecting bad teachers to say that they hate the union. But I was not prepared to hear that a teacher 'hates' the union. When I hear this I know the person has no historical knowledge of unions and whose fault this is? I have no idea. Perhaps the unions need to educate their constituents about their own powerful and important history. Perhaps people need to begin to scratch the surface of all the rhetoric they hear and begin to ask more questions, make more connections and follow the money.

Second instance. I was talking to a teacher friend of mine and she tells me she has no conflicts with standardized tests that she did not see any issues with them being done yearly for days on end; no problems whatsoever. Being a true pluralist, I am very respectful of people's differing decisions. I have seen a lot of younger teachers come into education in the last few years while all these tests have already been at fully swing all over the country, so it's understandable that they not know any different. I came into education 13 years ago, that was before all the craziness began and I am so very thankful to have experienced what teaching was like before teachers began to be treated as if we needed to be 'policed', before we began to be treated as if we were made to do our jobs 'right'. Teaching with freedom, trust and respect is what makes teaching most effective for those three factors are what feeds and creates passionate, inspiring teachers. Once the freedoms are dampened, and the trust is replaced and the respect is lost, teachers lose their passion and inspiration to teach. This is what we have today. Essentially, the magic is gone.

My conflicts with standardized tests are too many to spell out here. In short, their results help create this reward-punish system in which teachers must work under, which in turn create a whole generation of timorous teachers, teachers who are afraid or unable to take risks, and teachers who are unable to trust themselves without the almightly 'data'. The most damaging result befall on our children, who in turn experience disconnected teaching, units lacking in true and rich life-changing inspiration and total boredom. Also due to a national focus, wrongly placed on attainment of often irrelevant and always externally-based knowledge in order to 'beat a test', stupefies a whole generation of children. That is hard to swallow as a parent and I demand more.

Yet, unless you've taught with freedom, respect and trust at your wings, one would not know that these ways of teaching ever even existed. Young teachers, often who have no children of their own yet, are coming into education today simply accepting the status quo and never realizing that teaching use to be much more inspiring and that teaching use to have the ability to change lives than the work they do now under all these restrictions. I urge all parents, teachers and especially veteran teachers, who have been fortunate enough to have taught under better conditions to speak up for what they know to be better practices.

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