My Bully Pulpit
It’s not easy being a thought leader of the free world, especially when operating out of the bustling metrop. of Bloomington, USA. See, this burgh still has a lot of small town qualities, one of which being everybody who’s anybody knows everybody else who’s anybody.
So, unlike my early days as a scribe in my beloved hometown of Chicago, I can’t get away with insulting, degrading, abasing, and otherwise verbally terrorizing people and dismiss them all, once the feedback starts rolling in, with a blase Ah, screw ’em; they’re all strangers to me anyway.
That’s why Friday was a tough one. My post that day had to do with the state of Indiana considering allowing non-professional teachers to teach here, as long as they qualify under a new category called Career Workplace Specialist. Under this proposed guideline, for instance, a working chemist could teach chemistry classes in an Indiana high school. The state teachers ass’n is aghast at the whole notion.
Those Who Do Can Teach
My take was the professional teachers should quit considering themselves divine emissaries, sent here to elevate our precious snowflake kids from slug-like ignorance to an enlightened swami state. Teaching, I pontificated, is something many, many, many more of us can do than only those who’ve been anointed by this holy land’s schools of education.
I predicted this stance would ruffle a lot of teachers’ feathers, and I was right.
In fact, the most heartfelt reaction came from one of the most beloved and respected teachers at Bloomington North High School. Elizabeth Sweeney told me in no uncertain terms that I was flat out wrong.
As I read her response to my screed, I could sense the undertone of pain of someone who’s devoted herself to the instruction of our town’s youth, who’s spent tens of thousands of dollars learning her craft in college, who is really on the job 24 hours a day, and who is justifiably proud of what she’s chosen to do with her limited time on this planet.
And you know what? I feel really bad about that.
I’ve met E. Sweeney on several occasions. I’ve done business with her. I like her. I respect her. Her reputation around town is sparkling. And now this person feels slighted by me.
I’ve grappled with my feelings about that this whole weekend. My conclusion? That’s the crappy part of running this communications colossus. But, as Linda Ellerbee once observed about the role of a journalist, if you haven’t made someone mad, or at least uncomfortable, you haven’t done your job that day.
So I’m going to continue to take the chance that someone on any given day will be incensed by my barkings and bleatings. I only hope the next such person is more deserving of a kick in the pants than Elizabeth Sweeney.
A Spade Is A Spade
On the other hand, one person, whom I don’t know, told me in the comments section of Friday’s post that I am a lib-tard [sic].
Whoever you are, thanks!
The McDonald’s Gap
Some 2000 fast food workers protested at McDonald’s world headquarters in west suburban Chicago Wednesday. Their main gripe? Pay.
McDonald’s may be one of the two or three most recognized American institutions in the world but its burger flippers make minimum wage ⎯ $8.25 an hour in Illinois. A McDonald’s employee who works, say, 37 hours in a week can expect to bring home, therefore, the princely sum of $213.67 after taxes.
MCDonald’s CEO Don Thompson makes more than $13 million a year.
A Bloomberg article published in December 2012 calculated that a starting worker at McD’s would have to work one million hours to make what the then-CEO of the outfit made in a year. Working 37 hours a week, a person totals some 1924 hours in a year. The article also pointed out that McDonald’s pays for lobbyists to fight against minimum wage increases.
My suggestion for the protesters? Forget the company’s world headquarters; just dig up Don Thompson’s address and pay him a visit.
Here’s a fun piece from Louis Armstrong:
h/t to Jan Takehara who, BTW, is such a Cubs fan that as a young adult she lived in an unheated, rundown apartment just because it was across the street from Wrigley Field. She lived there with a cat named Jose Cardenal.
Remember about 15 years ago when the hot trend in education was to bribe/bully seasoned teachers into retirement by upping the education/continuing education requirements to maintain one’s teaching creds? They were gonna save boatloads of money by bringing new teachers in and even more by getting teachers to retire early (shifting the costs to the pension system) Then they looted/underfunded the pensions so they could say teachers were being greedy… More mandates, less funding. Shift, Switch and SHAFT!
Well those new teachers are now 15 year veterans with salaries to match. Where did all that savings go? It was spent on consultants and technology and copying the “best practices” of “successful schools”, new tests every year and PR shills to interpret the test results in a better light. There have been no new breakthroughs in education, only expensive salves and one-size-fits-all panaceas. Why?
The whole time, teachers and their unions have been under constant attack. Charters, privatization and corporate schools have dumped millions into undermining public education. Much of that money siphoned off under the guise of education. The logical end point of privatization? WalMart Schools. Yipee!
Now they’re gonna hand out credentials to non-teachers because they worked in the private sector? Because JOBS in the private sector are scarce and there’s tons of money in public education? Isn’t that why Willie Sutton was attributed the “Because that’s where the money is!” quote?
Why are teachers and teachers’ unions barred from running their own charter schools? How is it that people with zero classroom time, by dint of winning a rigged popularity contest, have become the go-to experts on what our schools need? Why do so many of those “winners” fit the textbook definition of a sociopath?
It’s a money trick Big Mike. Monkey see; monkey do.
Please, if you’d be so kind, define “a quality education”. Identify and quantify what EVERY child needs to learn and the definitive one-size-fits-all curriculum that can make it happen.
Tell me what jobs we are educating our children to fill? If a college degree is the minimum education for employment, why isn’t public education extended to grade 16? How is the current bullshit anything short of class warfare/ economic apartheid?
Why you’re carrying water for the vulture capitalists and sociopaths is the question to ask yourself.
Oh, Bill. Just because I think it’s okay for a professional chemist to teach chemistry doesn’t mean I’m now an honorary Koch Bro. Let me clear something up for you: I am four-square opposed to charter schools and other privatizations in education. We seem to be disagreeing on a very fine point, that’s all. And, BTW, what’s a quality education? I have no idea; I’ve never seen or heard of any such thing in this country.
Define “professional chemist”, as opposed to someone with a BS in chemistry who worked testing water samples for BP in Whiting. What translates that into an ability to teach students? I’m not saying it can’t be done, just saying that there’s a lot more to teaching in a classroom than having passed the chemistry final.
Never seen or heard? You need to read/get out more. Next time you see one of those “My kids is an honor student at Morescience High” bumper stickers, ask the driver to help you out. Or maybe take a philosophy of education course at University of Phoenix. Or just ask ALEC.
Or keep talkin’ outcher ass.
And why wouldn’t a BP employee with a BS in chemistry be qualified to teach elementary chemistry? Do you suppose that all people employed by BP are corrupted? Would they all lie about things to make their primary employer look better? You and I both have met too many people who work for “villain” corporations but who realize that their employers are less than pure. In fact, many people who work for a company like BP or JP Morgan Chase are more cognizant of their employers’ sins than the rest of us could ever be.
Dang Mikey! You’re getting kicked around like a Republican.
As much as I’d love to hash this out to an amicable conclusion, I’ve no real quarrel with you. You’re simply wrong in this case. Hey, it happens.
Teachers, good, bad or indifferent, are not calling the shots in education. Parents and teachers and children are merely footballs to be kicked around by pols, well-funded think-tanks, pundits and wonks. Teachers, parents and kids are learning this, but have no standing in the case.
By laying siege to a system that is a system only in nomenclature, traditional opponents of public education have found a foothold and traction at the state and national level they could never sell locally. Creating an us versus them battle, Infusing the general public with uncertainty. Undermining local control. Spreading the belief that public education is the problem and that solutions are only available from outside the “system”. The long con.
For its part, since there is really no “system”, there hasn’t been a countervailing force to push back against the tide. Each separate district is fighting its own battle. It shouldn’t have to deal with externalizations, but the Jumbotron scoreboard looms large.
I forgot to include the media in the kicking machine. A steady stream of press releases, special reports and “straight” reporting about how truly bad education is ALL OVER, cannot be short-changed in the campaign.
Mikey my love, you are free to hold an opinion, but you’re not going to win this one.
As usual, what matters is in the nuance of human details.
Why wouldn’t a guy with a chemistry degree and professional experience as a chemist be an appropriate schoolteacher? Think of the professional chemists you know. How many of them have the dash of showbiz gusto it takes to stand up in front of people and deliver a speech? Or improv reactions to the heckling or inattention of the audience — in a way that gets attention and makes the information stick? The chemists I know are introverts – that’s why the intensity of the microscope and the quiet regularity of the lab are a haven.
Besides the classroom shtick, there’s *evaluation* — how does someone with real-world experience in a subject but no training as a teacher suss whether a student is learning – and what they really need to crack the critical thinking code?
I work for a non-profit that has the oh-so-sexy mission of preserving and reviving an endangered Native American language: Lakota Sioux. Our particular org is approaching this mission through the classroom — by developing and publishing effective textbooks for K-12 instruction, and most importantly by training Lakota language teachers in second-language education methods.
Now, the Lakota language teachers that have been out there in the tribal schools over the past two decades or so were asked to take these teaching jobs because they have at least some proficiency in this fading language. Nary a one has any training or skill in teaching, nor any big desire to be a teacher. This is a job, and they have understanding of the subject. Some are ‘natural teachers’ but are better at one-on-one interaction than managing a classroom.
Did any new fluent speakers come from these classrooms, without materials built to a high professional standard, and without teachers with professional skills?
Our org has introduced Total Physical Response second-language education methods to these teachers, have been putting them through trainings every year since 2006, and they have been galvanized by how their students are now actually learning and progressing in speaking and understanding a very difficult language.
With professional teacher trainings and professionally-developed textbooks, the language is being both preserved and revived among the people who value it most.
So from where I sit, “Teacher” does and should infer a high level of professionalism in a very difficult field: education. I believe these professionals deserve a union that can back them up and in return demand that they maintain their skill levels.