Archive | May, 2014

Carmel Martin Foolish to Fight Unions

20 May

Since the Great Depression Adolph Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, and assorted right wing South American despots have been the loudest voices fueling a backlash against the labor unions. Last week, the right-wing gained an unlikely new ally: Carmel Martin. Ms. Martin wrote an opinion piece for the Chicago Sun-Times calling the teachers unions foolish for opposing Common Core.

Ms. Martin’s attack on labor unions is shortsighted. The unions represent an opportunity to set a higher bar, and replace America’s flawed economic system that lavishes huge rewards on capital, while often exploiting workers. Only by supporting unions can we hope to better equip our students for future jobs in the global economy.

While Ms. Martin’s decision is troubling, we’re lucky to have seen some recent push back against the supposed education reform that has infected the nation. Both the mayoral election in New York City and Newark are clear repudiations of top down mandates and test don’t teach education policies. Parents are clearly asking for a new era of leadership in education.

But Ms. Martin has gone against the wishes of these parents and called for abandoning best practices in order to adopt these hackneyed education standards devised by David Coleman, a man who has never taught a day in his life. It is irresponsible to ignore the voices of the Chicago teachers who everyday teach on the city’s front lines.

In shutting up student voice, too often we get dictatorial mind-numbing professional development. Our students deserve far better and so do our teachers.

At the end of the day, Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, Pinochet’s coup in Chile, and Carmel Martin’s opposition to the Chicago Teachers Union are not going to be what ensure our teachers can prepare their students for success. Hyperbolic alarm bells, anti-teacher slogans, and scare tactics will get us nowhere. High expectations are great, but without adequate funding, stable school environments free from threat of closing and turn around, and safe neighborhoods all the professional development in the world will not make much of a difference with most children. Higher expectations to compete for American jobs in a 21st century economy are great, but we can’t get there with a 19th century top down model that ignores teacher voice. We know that in the end standards don’t prepare kids for success, teachers do, so maybe it’s time to listen to the teachers instead of attempting to silence them. Isn’t that just what Hitler did?

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CPS Issues Non-Apology for Xenophobic Questions

16 May

ImageI just love non-apologies.   I have always wanted a politician caught in an incredibly embarrassing scandal to do a press conference where he begins his speech, “I want to apologize to anybody who was too stupid to understand what I was trying to say or who with their limited intelligence somehow thought I was lying.”

CPS issued just that kind of apology to the racist test questions mentioned last week on this very blog.  In an email, CPS spokesman Joel Hood said, “We apologize for any misunderstanding and have provided librarians an alternative test to administer to students,”

Let’s get one thing straight, the problem wasn’t a misunderstanding.  A misunderstand happens when somebody means something and you interpret it differently.  Nobody misunderstood those test questions.  The problem was with the test questions themselves.

Hood’s explanation of course is that these views were not held by CPS, but “was designed for students to evaluate the credibility of arguments.”   However, the test asked you to determine, which opinion was credible.  Meaning, you had to pick one of them as authoritative.  The only way to get the question correct was to say that the person saying that immigrants (including documented ones) can’t live in law abiding ways.  There is nothing in the “authoritative” viewpoint that isn’t opinion and hyperbole.  There is no way for an intelligent student to say, “They’re both wrong.  My family is an immigrant family and we aren’t criminals.”

Spin it anyway you want it.  There was no misunderstanding.  What there was, is called racism.

Chicago’s Racist Test Questions

9 May

ImageI have seen a lot in the news today about Los Angeles.   There, a test question asking 8th grade students to determine whether the Holocaust actually happened or was created for political gain drew well deserved outrage.

Lesser know is that Chicago has its own racist and xenophobic test this year.  This test was removed from the knowledge center today, but as far as I know has not been pulled from unsuspecting elementary school classrooms where teachers will be giving the test to many immigrant children.  The assessment asks students to identify the best argument between two on opposing the path to citizenship.

Argument one is from Arie Payo who used to work for the Bush administration and now writes for the Conservative Journal.  His argument is “I think it is best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly.  Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law abiding ways.”

Argument two is from a small business owner named Stella Luna who worries that “giving citizenship to undocumented immigrants would increase the number of poor people living in our town.”

Students not only have to decide who is the authority, but explain the author’s viewpoint and what in their background brings them to this conclusion.  In a nutshell, many immigrant children are being asked to explain why they are ruining America with their law breaking ways.

It gets worse, though.  I decided to Google “Stella Luna”, “Arie Payo”, and “Conservative Journal”.   None of them actually exist.  They were totally created by the test creators who could created any topic, but chose one that would be insulting and damaging to many CPS students.  The offensive and xenophobic questions were actually written by the test creators and not some right wing journal.

Actually, if I was a Republican I might be upset too.  At a time, when they are trying to reach out to voters, these vile statements are being attributed to a member of the Bush administration.    CPS has taken steps to cover this up, but what they haven’t done is to recall the tests.  Students across the city are in the process of taking it.

Surely, even very sensitive topics can be addressed by a teacher who provides context.  However, an examination is not the place to provide context, especially one where the teacher must read from a script.  Do the right thing CPS and pull this test.