Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rhee, Klein, Kopp, Feinberg in the land of the KKK...

... and by association, Al Sharpton too, in this incisive post by A Voice over at Chancellor's New Clothes over these speakers at the conservative, and possibly racist, American Enterprise Institute. Irony #1 amongst many: Sharpton's role in the attacks by the black community on the Korean grocers in Brooklyn in the 90's.


  1. Guilt by association is a very weak argument. Where has it been demonstrated that any of your 'associators' hold the views of American Enterprise Institute that you find problematic?

    Now, that would be a far more difficult post to write...requiring analysis rather than association.


  2. Tom
    I'm not trying to say they hold the problematic views of AEI but why are they speaking there in the first palce and to what audience? Why are they running around the country pushing their particular agenda when they have large school systems to run? This is all about politics, not education and to some extent TFA teachers are being used in an ideological struggle.

  3. Well, maybe it has something to do with the fact that AEI is funded largely by money from oil and that they are closely involved in Bush's policy in Iraq?
    Can you say neo-liberalism?
    Can you say privatization of schools?
    Can you say eliminating organized labor?

    These so called reformers are nothing more than pushers of capitalistic, neo-conservative interests.

  4. Ed,

    Education IS about politics, especially these days. What is the teachers union if not an organization of concentrated political power?


    You have completely lost me. Where has it been demonstrated that the "education reformers" you deride are "nothing more than pushers of capitalistic, neo-conservative interests?"


  5. Tom - you say teacher unions are about politics. Some say Teach for America functions in the same manner. Funding sources and where people go to speak tells a lot.

    Now when we talk about capitalism, the idea of using market driven forces and corporate models to push ed reform is part of what is more commonly referred to as neo-liberal - in the European model of Adam Smith- see some of the work Lois Weiner has done - check the sidebar. These "ed reformers" are running loose all over the world focusing on teachers as the problem and teacher unions are a major target.

  6. Well Tom,
    I guess I get this stuff from actually questioning the world around me and not being afraid to take a look at the social/political/educational organizations.

    See, this is what I find amazing about human nature.
    Private interests who possess their own agendas, do not even have to defend them, when they have ordinary citiezens like you to do it for them.
    It's really fascinating the way that people police each other for thoughts or questions that go against our established institutions.

  7. I won't be as harah Tom. But I do find it interesting that unions are always the first groups to be raised as examples of pressure groups - and they are - but it is if they are equal to the massive corporate and anti-union forces arrayed against working people in this country. The American government is owned lock stock and barrel.

    Today I heard on NPR that 20% of the $20 billion handed to private contractors in Iraq - that's $4 billion that could have gone to class size reduction. As you've said in comments at CNC, you are against privatiztion of schools and for public ed. But urban public ed has been attacked as a failure, yet they are running a race with both legs tied together. People like you and TFA alum are needed on the front lines rather than backbiting about poor teacher quality and how tenure is the problem. With $4 billion we could find many good teachers and find something else for the others to do.

  8. teacherlady, you write:

    "I guess I get this stuff from actually questioning the world around me and not being afraid to take a look at the social/political/educational organizations."

    That sounds well and good in vague theory, but in practice you are drawing sweeping conclusions and making unsupported generalizations about that which you apparently don't really understand (Teach For America). I keep asking you to support these generalizations of yours, and you won't do it, other than to suggest that you think outside the box (whereas I'm, I suppose, a mindless drone).

    Let me tell you a little bit more about me.

    I went through TFA first and foremost to teach the students I would encounter as best as I could. To that end, I know I made a positive contribution to their academic and social development, and by extension, to the field of education. Teach For America was the vehicle through which I was able to do this. Now exactly what is the matter with that?

    Some have suggested that TFA encourages union-busting. Well, nobody told me and many other TFA teachers I know who joined NEA. I would become active in the state and local branches and did political work in the union trenches as well.

    You and others have suggested that TFA in its innate existence is somehow harmful to education, as if things weren't already bad before. I do not believe that it's the fault of teachers that things have gotten bad, nor am I suggesting that TFA is the cure. But I do believe that TFA can make a positive contribution - afterall, it helped me, my wife, and many others I know personally make a positive contribution. And nothing raised by you or anyone else has demonstrated to me why our two years don't count, that we shouldn't have bothered.

    All I'm asking is that you be a little more conscientious before you tar this organization that has allowed many to enact positive change on behalf of their students, schools, and public education in general.


    I am in agreement with much of what you are saying. I am a big fan of unions, as I stated above, and I agree that unions are by no means an equal force against the powers that be. I also agree that the backbiting needs to stop.

    However, after witnessing what went on at my school in the two years I was there, I do believe that teacher accountability could be improved upon. And I'll bet you do too.

    Let's be plain: when there are teachers on staff who don't pull their weight, the other teachers know exactly who they are. You and I have both known teachers whose teaching deficits should have been seriously addressed, but were not, probably for a variety of factors: favoritism, school politics, and yes, sometimes tenure. (Note: I would never call for the end of tenure! I'm just saying, it's sometimes a double-edged sword.)

    I don't see this happening anytime soon, but just imagine if, for example, the teachers unions themselves somehow came up with a decent system of self-regulation and demonstrated a willingness to help "clean house" a little. I think that would go a long way toward making political progress with our demands. However, as long as half the crowd says, "it's all the teachers' fault" and the other says, "there's nothing teachers could do to improve," I'm not sure we'll get anywhere.

    Also, practically speaking, it's really hard to turn the microscope inward from a defensive posture, which comes from years of atrocities against teachers such as being a political punching bag, insufficient salaries, high class sizes, over-bearing administrators and gov't officials, not to mention this latest insult to the professionalism of all via NCLB. So I can understand the hesitance to "give an inch," so to speak.

    At any rate, thanks for this discussion. Your insight has been valuable. I wish we had taught at the same school; I did get to know several great veteran teachers, but as far as the union stuff went, things were kind of a mess.


  9. Tom
    We are not on different pages in many ways. But also coming from what was billed as a temporary program to fill teacher ranks in the 60's but loving teaching so much I never left, I am disturbed by the sense that so many of you guys who seem so dedicated and sensitive did not find enough there to keep you.

    Given that, I do not see TFA as a concept as a threat but am disturbed by the focus on teacher accountability when so many of you jump out of the classroom for numerous reasons (and I don't buy the "We are still doing ed policy stuff as lawyers and PhD's".)

    In other words, you guys focus a lot on teacher quality but when given the chance to improve on that, you walk yet continue to focus on those who are left behind who may not be top notch.

    What we vets see (and believe me, I used to pull my hair out at some of my colleagues' attitudes) is that this is not the main issue. We saw poor teachers rise out of the classroom - most of them do that and often become supervisors - and be replaced by the same percentage of poor teachers.

    That bell curve will always exist and we find that so many TFA'ers focus on this issue as opposed to the struggle for enough funding that would allow schools to have some flex. in managing resources that could be used the best way. Or giving teacher real power. Or many other issues we face.

    Ask yourself why so many vets who obviously were good teachers are more upset at TFA attitudes than they are about colleagues who are lousy teachers?

    Because we have seen them protected by principals who would rather have them than a great teacher who is willing to tell them the emperor has no clothes.

    While I do not put myself in the great category, my principal was overjoyed when my new boss told her he hired me - she said "my car was stolen today, but this makes up for it." The guy she wanted in my place was a horror story as a teacher and everyone knew it.

    That is what you guys who leave after 2 years never got to see over time.

    On a personal note, Ed is for education notes. I am Norm.

  10. Norm (I knew your name, but didn't know if you were 'incognito' over here),

    Thanks for this thoughtful response. I can't respond in kind at this moment, but you raised some important issues that I'd like to address when I get a little time later.


  11. Norm,
    I really want to honor what you're saying here: guys focus a lot on teacher quality but when given the chance to improve on that, you walk yet continue to focus on those who are left behind who may not be top notch.

    Let me be honest: you're absolutely right. I personally have done this here and elsewhere, and I've done so without having subjected myself to the same methods of improvement I might think of prescribing to others when I think about the system generally. I hear you taking issue with the presumptive nature of the organization on the whole that speaks of teacher quality without encouraging its teachers to do what might actually make the most difference in teacher quality: stay in the job and improve.

    I think it's been difficult for me to understand this point of view because I've been so focused on the possibility that the inherent worth of my two years of teaching is being devalued. However, that really has not been the case with you. I appreciate that and thank you for your continued patience.

    So now let me ask you this. Let's assume that I will not resume teaching at some later point. In your view, how can I now be most helpful on behalf of public education and its teachers, and students?


  12. Tom
    Your comments are always appreciated.

    There is no easy answer to your question. Do you mean things you can do with real kids in real schools or are you talking generally in terms of ed policy?

    Because it its the latter, really what could you do? Or what can anyone do? I have chosen to put my main efforts in organizing within my union to create a movement for change. And have basically gotten nowhere. But that doesn't stop me from trying.

    I'm not sure what someone from outside could do. You have so little contact with people once yo are out. I do work with Sally Lee in Teachers Unite who has a teacher/community plan. She is also a former teacher who left but is finding ways to have an impact.

    All this is so far away from the classroom and kids. Sometimes we need to feel we are doing something concrete even it it affects one or two children.

    I think there's a lot to learn from a one on one tutoring experience with a child struggling to learn to read. It can be a humbling experience and give some perspective on the achievement gap and what it will take to address it.

    Of course I don't have to tell you about other opportunities to work with children and maybe even their families.


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