Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Susan Ohanian Comments on Hillary Gaff and Ed Notes Hillary/Shanker Ed Deform History

Hillary didn't misspeak. Going off-script, she returned to her ed deform roots, mouthing her superiority to teachers and the schools in which they teach....
Looking, watching, and thinking is the hallmark of teaching.
Susan Ohanian
Susan has been on the case of deformers for decades. Here is her
commentary on my recent blog post about Hillary, Bill and Al Shanker going back to the mid-80s and the early days of Democrats/UFT-AFT and ed deform. In her commentary she goes deep into the nature of teaching and why Hillary - and Randi - don't get what it's all about and find it so easy to fall into the ed deform worm hole.
Hillary's Long History in Ed Deform and Why It Matters
Susan Ohanian

Hillary's Long History in Ed Deform and Why It Matters by Susan Ohanian
Now Hillary supporters are on the defensive, explaining to dissenters what she really meant when she declared, "I wouldn't keep any school open that wasn't doing a better-than-average job" at an Iowa campaign stop, Dec. 22, 2015. They say we must look for "context."


Just what would the context be for such a remark?

What could it be? No matter how you slice it, this kind of remark positions school closings as a reform measure for school improvement.

As a commentor noted to the Washington Post Answer Sheet, "I feel you, and the Washington Post are quibbling. The amount of schools she wants to close is irrelevant. What matters is the cavalier, nonchalant way she talks about closing schools, which is one of the most destructive, disruptive options to vulnerable kids and vulnerable communities. Regardless of 'how many', this was a shout out to people who believe school closings is a feature of reform."

In Nothing New in Hillary's School Closing Comments -- Bill and Hillary Clinton: Over 30 Years of Ed Deform, longtime New York City teacher and activist Norm Scott gets to the heart of the matter by reminding us of the history of the current ed deform agenda which began with Democrats in the 198oies. Here, Norm quotes from a book about AFT leader Al Shanker.

Leading up to the 1984 presidential election, [AFT/UFT President Albert] Shanker expressed a willingness to consider another highly controversial measure to rid the schools of bad teachers: a movement in Arkansas and Texas, to test all teachers, including veterans (p. 288) .....At an AFT conference, Shanker invited Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton, who was the point person on education reform, to debate Rand researcher Linda Darling-Hammond about the testing of veteran teachers..... Politically, Clinton said, the weeding out of incompetent teachers helped create the political environment in which the public would support new taxes and further investments in education. Clinton praised Shanker for his willingness to discuss the issue. "Under Albert Shanker's leadership, questions once considered forbidden have been given the right to see the light of day," she said..... Richard Kahlenberg, Albert Shanker: Tough Liberal, chapter 14, p. 290.
[emphasis added]
A couple of years later, Governor Bill Clinton was holding hands with IBM CEO Lou Gerstner to deliver the Business Roundtable education agenda for President George Bush the Elder. Without saying "I told you so," I'll point out that I covered this in One Size Fits Few: The Folly of Educational Standards.

Norm continues:
Kahlenberg is describing ed reform movements by Democratic governors of Texas and Arkansas, at the earliest stage of the deform movement that tied the AFT/UFT to the Democratic party nascent ed deform wing, with the Clintons and the president of the AFT and UFT at the time playing a key role. For those Randi bashers who consider her a sellout and wish for the old days of Shanker, she hadn't even put her foot in the union door yet. . . .
Let's fully understand what our union leader and the Clintons were advocating. EVERY teacher should be retested. Imagine asking every driver to be retested. Or have every lawyer retake the Bar. Or for that matter, ANY profession. No, only teachers - the bad teacher rap was going strong --- in 1984 - a very pertinent year.

Now Hillary in her debate with pointed out that the tests were easy while Shanker claimed that a number of veteran teachers were illiterate

There's lots more in the Kahlenberg Shanker hagiography linking the Clintons and our unions, including their support for charter schools even after Shanker was beginning to look on in horror at what his idea had wrought.

The Clintons and our union leaders were the parents of ed deform, Democratic Party style.

Hillary didn't misspeak. Going off-script, she returned to her ed deform roots, mouthing her superiority to teachers and the schools in which they teach.

In contrast, I just finished reading The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks.I admit to being enormously moved by the book, and I wondered how reviewers felt. Writing in the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani rightly declares this is "A book about continuity and roots and a sense of belonging in an age that's increasingly about mobility and self-invention."

She adds that it is "Hugely compelling."

The author, who writes about what it means to be a third-generation sheep farmer, graduated from Oxford University after quitting school as soon as he could at age 15. Then, he swore that he'd never let himself be trapped by such a place again. His love of reading drew him to Oxford, but in the meat of the book he talks about what it means to be a sheep farmer, drawing on the expertise of his father and grandfather who were also sheep farmers, as well as the expertise of colleagues in the field.

I agree with Michiko Kakutani's observation that "Expertise -- and explanations of the craft and clockwork behind the ticktock of a profession -- is hugely compelling when described with ardor and élan." But I feel a certain bitterness that Times staffers can so easily acknowledge the expertise of sheep farmers while remaining blind to that of teachers. Kakutani admires the author's love of his work, which he describes in both lyric and gritty detail.

This is the kind of book I tried to write when I described teaching 7th and 8th graders, Caught in the Middle: Nonstandard Kids and a Killing Curriculum.[Apologies for the Amazon link but it's the one place that still lets you get a look inside the book.]

This is understandable: the book reviewer is so drawn in to the tale because the tending of sheep is so exotic. Anybody can teach.

When the Times writes about teachers, more often than not, it's to describe one more political scheme to figure out how to rank and defile them.

An Oxford professor asked Rebanks what he made of the other students. I liked his reply:
They were okay, but they were all very similar; they struggled to have different opinions because they'd never failed at anything or been nobodies, and they thought they would always win. But this isn't most people's experience of life. He asked me what could be done about it. I told him the answer was to send them all out for a year to do some dead-end job like working in a chicken processing plant or spreading muck with a tractor. It would do more good than a gap year in Peru. He laughed and thought this tremendously witty. It wasn't meant to be funny.
I'd commend this plan to Hillary, to all the op ed savants at the New York Times, and to all the corporate politicos who pass laws in the name of education reform, who pass laws protecting corporate wealth. Let them all work in a chicken processing plant for a year.

And this:
There's always someone who knows more than you about sheep, usually someone older.
Wisdom from a third-generation sheep farmer who has won a ton of prizes.

And there's more:
Good stockmen spend a lot of time looking, watching, and thinking. That's what they are doing when they seem to be standing doing nothing looking over a gate as you pass them on the road.
Where's the lot of time looking, watching, and thinking in the Danielson framework? Or the teacher exams?

Or New York Times op eds on teacher quality.

Looking, watching, and thinking is the hallmark of teaching.

Rebanks notes

The egg timers in my head are always trickling away reminding me of things I need to return to. Knowing when it is best to interfere and when it is not takes years of experience.

Sometimes a stressed-out wee is best left alone--"so that you don't make things worse."
My grandfather had incredible patience with the lambing ewes, would leave them, and leave them and leave them....
I'd declare this as a needed mantra for teaching: Leave them, and leave them and leave them....
I wonder how many teachers these days would have the nerve to agree.

— Susan Ohanian
December 26, 2015

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more on the quality of the Rebanks book, which I also read this month.
    It should be a primer for ed courses 101, especially TFA's 5-week summer institutes (https://www.teachforamerica.org/teach-with-tfa/your-training-and-support/attending-summer-training/summer-institute-schedule).


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