Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Education Deformers Ignore "The Street"

The NY Times story of a student who was everyone's favorite - teachers, parents, church - and ended up in an exclusive out of town prep school- holds some lessons for all.

Now this is one anecdotal case where the student was arrested for being connected to drug and gangs. But over the years there have been a number of them. In some cases it is an innocent kid coming back to the neighborhood and being cut down in intentional or accidental violence. For those of us who taught for a long time in one school there have always been these heartbreaking stories.

I remember one of my kids in the 1975 top class - his name was Benjamin. He had a older brother in hie late teens or early 20's named Michael who was a real role model - I think he might have gone to a prep for prep. I don't remember if it was that year or a few years later but one night he went to a party, left the party and was never seen again. Benjy's dad was naturally devastated and I think the search went on for a long time but don't remember it ever being resolved. I have visions of that dad's face as I write this.

I've often written about my former student Ernie Silva's coming of age one man play and how even bright, academically successful students have to battle the street.

So when I get hot about the ed deform agenda that pushes the idea that all we need to do is get rid of the bad teachers we will go a long way to solving the problems. One could make the case that all we need to do is get rid of the bad cops - I mean if there is street crime and drugs it must be the fault of the cop on the beat, right? Or maybe get rid of the worst social workers who don't seem to be able to stop the street from getting so many kids. And I'll venture into the health field - the bad medical people who "allow" a higher degree of sickness amongst poor people. Did you see that one third of patients in hospitals get something bad happen to them while there and how there were screams they were not allowed to adjust for risk factors of the patients?

I guess I get particularly perturbed by E4E types - led by 2 or 3 year teachers - who put their energies into the kind of activities that have minuscule if any impact on the kids while proclaiming to care about kids. But they ignore the street. But of course the people backing them are purposely ignoring the street as a factor. But that is where the buck to open an office and hire staff to do no good works lie.

I was sufficiently worked up about these activities to put together a leaflet which I can send to anyone who is facing an E4E invasion of their school.

How Educators 4 Excellence Puts Children Last and Adults First

If you were a 3rd year teacher given funding by some very rich people and organizations to leave your full-time teaching job to set up an organization to ostensibly fight for the interests of children, what issues would you put at the top of your list to fight for? Given the immense problems we face in the schools, exacerbated by a decade of control of the NYC school system in the hands of one person - a billionaire mayor who makes major decisions without consulting anyone and who makes his disdain for professionally trained educators clear - which issues would you choose to put your efforts into:

Would you make the focus of your activities ending the last in first out policy in case there are layoffs (which in the entire 110 year history of the NYC school system has occurred only 2 or 3 times)? Layoffs that look extremely unlikely no matter how much the mayor blusters given the fact that there is a budget surplus? Can your school be managed effectively if there are 6000 less teachers and enormous class sizes?

So instead of joining others in fighting against the blatant use of children for political reasons by the mayor, E4E chooses to partner with the mayor in an assault on children and teachers. But then again, E4E has been funded by billionaires who have an agenda:

·       An agenda that disparages lower class sizes.
·       An agenda that promotes merit pay schemes that every bit of research shows actually lowers achievement while distorting education into a narrow test-driven.
·       An agenda that pushes charter schools while attacking the public schools you work in.

An agenda that puts adult self interests, not children, first.

If E4E was really interested in improving the lives of children they would be out there fighting to improve social services to protect abused children and the poor medical services so many of our children receive.  Has E4E attacked the enormous wastes in the DOE: non-bid contracts, ARIS, semi-useless networks, an expanding Tweed bureaucracy, enormous costs associated with assessment, the enormous paperwork burdens being put on you as teachers that have nothing to do with children? Not a peep from E4E!

But this is not the agenda that E4E's billionaire backers are interested in.

They are also not interested Real Reforms that would actually work in the interests of children:

·       Smaller Class Sizes
·       Excellent Community Public Schools for ALL Children
·       More Teaching – Less Testing
·       Parent and Teacher Empowerment and Leadership
·       Equitable Funding for ALL Schools
·       Anti-Racist Education Policies
·       Culturally Relevant Curriculum
·       Expand Pre Kindergarten and Early Intervention Programs
·       Qualified and Experienced Educators and Educational Leaders

These are the Real Reforms that we in the Grassroots Education Movement, a group dedicated to fighting for the interests and rights of children, parents AND teachers and defending public education. Come join us as we also fight for a social justice oriented union. Email us at:

Also come see our response to the film "Waiting for Superman" also funded by billionaires. It is called "The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman" and will be premiering in May. This film has no funding and was made by educators in NYC schools working in NYC schools. We will be making DVDs available for showing in school and house parties. Check our blog for the premiere.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits. Recent posts:


Anonymous said...

Hey Norm-How difficult is it for people to see who and what "your Mayor" really is. Do people also fail to realize that the core of E4E are young kids, just out of college,with all of the answers!! Maybe if your people took out an ad on The Bachelor or Dog the Bounty Hunter, the public would finally get it. Is everyone living in a vacuum [other than you guys] ?

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Norm, when you're right-you're right!

NYC Educator said...

Kind of incredible that they have a Manhattan office. How many real teachers could afford such a thing?