Tag Archives: privitization

Celebrity “Experts”

This post from Diane Ravitch on celebrity policymakers is disturbing, but not surprising.

A response from a reader in Michigan caught my eye:

This is part of a trend I’ve seen here in Michigan – celebrity policy-making. .. Jalen Rose, a former University of Michigan basketball star, talked to them [the Michigan legislature] about education and the need for more charter schools. He was an expert, I guess, being about to open a charter school in Detrot. His qualifications, other than as a basketball star, we’re that he had attended Detroit Public Schools and he had lots of money.

Much of the positive press on charter schools is coming from celebrities or companies who have the money to fund charter schools and push their own agendas. Much of the rhetoric expounding the potential drawbacks of charter schools and various degrees of privitization come from non-celebrities (like me). Of course, what are people more likely to hear? Who’s more likely to get an audience with the state legislature? The celebrity, of course. Never mind the many years of experience of real educational experts in our nation’s classrooms and universities.

Again, disturbing, but not surprising.

Chicago Teachers Vote to Strike

Back in Chicago this past weekend for a familial gathering and a White Sox game (a-hem, go Cubs), I heard on the radio that the Chicago Teachers’ Union was voting this week to authorize a strike. The radio announcers didn’t seem too convinced that the vote would actually pass, because new rules require a 75% vote (which is ridiculously high).

But they did it.

According to this post by Diane Ravitch, union members not only voted in favor of the strike, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. Ravitch writes:

Nearly 90% of the members of CTU voted to authorize a strike to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policies of more work for no more pay, privatization of public education, and increased class sizes. To be exact, 89,73% of the CTU voted to authorize a strike, 1.82% voted “no,” and 91.55% of members cast a vote.

After all the fights teachers’ unions have lost lately, this is a big win.

I have confused and mixed feelings about teachers’ unions. On the one hand, I lost a job I absolutely loved because of the seniority rules held in place by most teachers’ unions. That was really painful and really frustrating. However, unions protect teachers from the very things that are being upheld as positive — but aren’t — in today’s standardization age. Unions protect teachers, for example, from being laid off because their students’ test scores go down one year. They require due process for a teacher, and protection against wrongful termination. Unions bargain for fair pay and fair benefits. Things professionals deserve. Things that aren’t denied to auto workers or construction workers. Why would we deny teachers, who go through years of schooling (and many of them have graduate degrees), these same professional privileges?

As teachers’ professional judgment and knowledge continue to be undervalued, as textbook companies churn out scripted curricula and technologies that make the teacher irrelevant, I become more concerned about the lost battles of teachers’ unions. I admire those Chicago teachers who refused to sit  idly by. Good for you, sweet home Chicago teachers’ union.

Louisiana Voucher Plan and Reaction

A few links for you this morning, discovered over coffee as I settle into a day of reading Homi Bhabha’s Location of Culture (okay, fine, I admit it — I was stalling).

Louisiana’s voucher plan described here, linked to through Diane Ravitch’s Response Post, concerns me quite a bit. The amount of money initiatives like this take away from already-struggling public schools, as the Reuters piece notes, is cash public schools can’t afford to give up.

One particular aspect of this initiative concerns me more than others, though. The state commissioner of education for Louisiana said, “To me, it’s a moral outrage that the government would say, ‘We know what’s best for your child,’” White said. “Who are we to tell parents we know better?”

As Ravitch’s response piece points out, this is particularly concerning. YES, the government should know what education is best for the future citizens of this country, though I would argue that right now they probably don’t, as evidenced by their gross misjudgments of what’s best for US education of late.

There’s a reason why I will never home school my children. Even though my husband and I, between us, have degrees in education, English, mathematics, biology, and physics, I do not feel qualified to educate my children as thoroughly and as comprehensively as they need to be educated. Furthermore, as a teacher educator and ed scholar, I find it a little insulting that the state commissioner thinks parents know better than those of us who have been studying education for our entire careers, have been specially trained to work with their children and develop their young minds, or (like him) have dedicated their political careers to educational policy. I sure as hell hope he knows better! It’s literally his job to know better!

I rely on a contractor to remodel my house. I rely on a dentist to tell me when I need a filling and a doctor to tell me when I have strep. These people are professionals, as are teachers — they are experts, and they do know better when it comes to education.