Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Teacher Quality: Damn That Fiorillo Fellow

Will I ever get to write something in depth for this blog ? Every time I sit down to write something brilliant - which 99% of the time doesn't get from my mind to my fingertips - someone like Michael Fiorillo goes ahead and breaks into my brain and steals it. I've often touched on the issue of why teacher quality is so stressed as the key factor in our profession while other jobs like medical, legal, political, police, corporate, etc. are ignored. Now along comes Michael Fiorillo who puts it all into such a neat package in this comment at Gotham Schools, which I would categorize as, "I wish I had written it."

There is a new comment on:

More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year

Author: Michael Fiorillo

As a teacher, I'd be the last one to minimize our (potential) importance in the lives of students, but as others have pointed out, "Why the obsessive focus on incompetent teachers, to the complete exclusion of other professions and fields?"

The US has a shamefully high infant and maternal death rate: why aren't OB-GYNs being targeted with the same passion?

The US has lower life expectancy than other developed nations: where are the witchhunts against primary care doctors and other health care professionals (let alone the real "death panels," the insurers)?

The US incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth, most of them minority, and many of them warehoused in private, for-profit prisons, providing a structural incentive for continuing incarceration: where are the corporate think tanks, foundations and PR firms making noise about this "Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?"

The reason those debates have so little "juice" is because these fields have already been privatized, with free reign given to those who would count, measure, control and commodify and market everything. Public education, along with Social Security, is the last major universal, public good left to be taken over by the hedge funds, private equity parasites and venture capitalists. Thus, this unending campaign against teachers and their unions, and this absurd debate about teacher quality.

I'm not proposing witchhunts. My point is that this very discussion proves the success of corporate ed deform in framing the issue of education solely as one of teacher quality. Even the unions have allowed themselves to be suckered into this twisted, unfair discourse, which they can only lose.

Do you want to improve the lives of poor and minority students? Then improve the lives of poor and minority students: provide their parents with living-wage jobs, adequate housing, medical, dental and mental health care and, yes, adequately funded schools with committed (sorry, TFA) and qualified teachers.

Until we open up that debate, teachers will be shouted into a corner by arrogant know-nothings with thick wallets, pursuing their own interests in the name of "The Underprivileged."

As for edu-scientist (now that's a hot one), I'd like to quote Norbert Wiener, a mathematician and early computer scientist, and coiner of the term "cyber:"

"The success of mathematical physics led the social scientist to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power. The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences and became the mode in the social sciences... so the economists (MF: and "psychometricians" as well the
overwhelming majority of ideologically-subsidized "education researchers") have developed the habit of dressing up their rather imprecise ideas in the language of the infinitesimal calculus."

Norbert Wiener, "God and Golem, Inc."

I know this dates me, but every time I hear a DOE/Ed Deform mouthpiece say "Research shows that...", while pulling some self-serving nonsense out of their butt, I think of the old Trident gum ad: "Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum."

Yeah, that's the ticket.

See all comments at Gotham on this post:


  1. I decided to count the photos of Mulgrew in the latest issue of the NY Teacher:
    Total: 27. + 4 (all on one page) in the state edition.
    One page had 5 of him!
    3 pages had 3
    2 pages had 3.
    In the competition of ego-mania, I think Mulgrew wins. and he's just started his reign.

  2. Hi Norm,
    regarding your post about how Mulgrew didn't interrupt James.. Did you watch what Mulgrew did while James was speaking??Oh, wait, were you even inside the room?? He made annoyed-looking faces, cleaned his glasses on his jacket,, looked around the room and generally tried very hard to look bored and uninspired. Obviously rude, I think using the NY Teacher for toilet paper would be more useful.

  3. Jennifer Medina has a crush on him, from the opening paragraph:

    "This is not the kind of man who walks into a room unnoticed. Michael Mulgrew’s stature — six feet tall, 230 pounds, size 48 — demands attention. His voice, trained in years of childhood theater, booms from his chest. He is just what central casting might expect when searching for the part of union president."

    Even if one does not ask or pretends not to see the rope and the flashing red flag draped around the philosophical question standing solemnly at attention in the middle of the room, it remains apparent that the mere presence of a private “for profit” driven prison business in our country undermines the U.S Constitution and subsequently the credibility of the American criminal justice system. In fact, until all private prisons in America have been abolished and outlawed, “the promise” of fairness and justice at every level of this country’s judicial system will remain unattainable. We must restore the principles and the vacant promise of our judicial system. Our government cannot continue to "job-out" its obligation and neglect its duty to the individuals confined in the correctional and rehabilitation facilities throughout this nation, nor can it ignore the will of the people that it was designed to serve and protect. There is urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of indifference, apathy, cynicism, fear, and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
    My hope is that you will support the National Public Service Council to Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) with a show of solidarity by signing "The Single Voice Petition"

    Please visit our website for further information: http://www.npsctapp.blogspot.com

    –Ahma Daeus
    "Practicing Humanity Without A License"…

  5. I posted a long comment a few minutes ago, but it seemed to vanish. Could be a technical glitch.

  6. Try again. Usually it works. I have no blocks on it. It looks like you deleted it.


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