Posted on April 20, 2013 by debmeier
A good read about democracy: Born to Rise.
I’m amazed at how successful the so-called “reformers” and their allies have managed to implant a lie in the minds of otherwise quite interesting and kind people! In my travels to colleges (mostly fairly selective) students buy into the anti-union talk about schools, claiming that it’s wrong for them to have a guaranteed lifetime income just because they got through two years of teaching. I have no trouble disabusing them of this lie, but… It reminds me how widespread this view may be if you don’t come from a union family yourself.
So I forgive Deborah Kenny for writing an interesting book, Born to Rise, for her misinformed – even slanderous – claims about the impact of unions. She assumes, for example, that everything in the contract is there because the unions want it to be there! Many of the practices she ad I abhor existed before teachers unions had collective bargaining rights and in many states that do not bargain with unions, and in many many fields of endeavor that are not unionized. My problems almost always came from management, not the union. That’s why Sy Fliegel’s ”creative compliance” strategy, which she refers to, works. If tried. I fear the current reforms will bring us more, not less, docile teachers.
I forgive her because it’s a very good book to read—useful, informative and inspiring. Also–Deborah Kenny has nice words to say about me and our East Harlem schools, and her educational values are close to mine. She’s turned off by rote learning of mathematics–which matter a lot to her, and loves the life of school for many of the reasons I do. And her name is Deborah.
She tells us about her work creating the Harlem Village Academies with passion and useful detail. She should have come to Boston with me and started it as a fully public school instead! Her only mistake–stemming from ignorance I suspect–is that as a result she concludes that freedom and accountability are the only two keys needed. What shines through, however is a ore important key: her respect for and trust of her peers as well as the students–and her understanding that her first task as principal was to create a communal culture that represented the values she cherished for adults: including the time and space for collegiality. And her readiness to put up with the inevitable–we’ll never get it perfectly.
Since the crisis we face is about democracy, not schooling Kenny’s contribution to creating a description os what democratic staff culture might be like is critical.
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Posted on March 29, 2013 by debmeier
I get sent books, I buy them and I borrow them. I’m a sucker for a good title. But if they are in “my field” I think they deserve passing along. So here are some comments about ones I found I was glad to have read this past month or two.
1. Letters of Recommendation, by Maxine McClintock is a surprisingly engaging fictional dialogue between a high school teacher and a very sensitive student about the value of what they’ve has been engaged in. I kept turning down page corners (tsk tsk) and over time I shall be quoting from the author.
2. Citizenship Now, edited by Jon and Marjorie Ford consists of short essays by almost everyone I admire (including some I disagree with), and, NOTE, including a piece by me on “Educating a Democracy.” I think it’s meant to be used in courses focused on civic education.
3. Ditto for Defending Childhood edited by Beverly Falk. The chapters are on important issues, such as George Madaus and Terrence Lee-St. John’s on “Standardized Testing: Unheeded Issues That Impact Children’s Learning.” A good collection for our times.
4, Real Teachers, True Stories of Renegade Educators by Stuart Grauer about unorthodox teachers in unusual settings that are bound to intrigue you. Restorative.
5. Leaving to Learn, by Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski — whose work I’ve followed for decades. With a foreword by Ken Robinson. It’s a book of advice, but not preachy and chock full of accounts that I’ve not heard from Elliot before. The title alone should intrigue you.
These five are enough for now — a long weekend perhaps! Also good to keep by your bedside and share with others.
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Posted on March 26, 2013 by debmeier
Posted on March 25, 2013 by debmeier
Did you know that: only Russia , the Ukraine and Lebanon have as much inequality of income and wealth as the USA? If you even want to give democracy a chance, this should suggest how hard the road will be to recover even a modicum of greater equality! Between CEOs and minimum wage workers the difference is 5,000 per hour vs $7.25 per hour, and every day it’s getting worse.
Why do I find myself going through these exercises over ad over–to keep me angry? And maybe it’s just that I find statistics fascinating–and wish that my education had included more of that and less of the caculus-driven stuff I managed to do well at but never understood and never use.
It’s what made me love the book called, “the signal and the noise, why so many predictions fail–but some don’t.” Author, Nate Silver who is famous for his election polling–FIVEHIRTYEIGHT.COM and a system for forecasting baseball performance called PECOTA, He is amazed at the number of important people who regularly make false predictions but who are completely unfazed by it. He goes from one field to another–like the financial forecasting leading up to 2008, election polls, and more. But he also describes some successes–like, believe it or not, weather forecasting has gotten more and more accurate. That is, the data collected by the Feds. Local TV and radio newscasters, he notes, have a regular pattern of predicting rain more often than the actual data suggests. He conjectures that people get mad when you predict good weather and it rains, but forgive you when it’s reversed.
It fits my general predilection not to believe th data–but also reminds me that the reason for being skeptical is first and foremost because I DO NOT understand it. He is not an enemy of Big Data, but he reminds us, to beware.
And above all to beware of some people’s USE of data to defend their partisan agendas. And educaztion friends–it’ll help us in our education wars too.
Don’t miss reading this book and it’s no even expensive!
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Posted on March 20, 2013 by debmeier
A friend, principal of a NYC school, just sent me this:
> Giving a test for which there is no established curriculum is absurd. Giving a test that all at Tweed are warning us many more children will fail is unconscionable, and abusive towards children. >
> If we can get large percentages of parents to opt out, from a variety of schools, the people who take the stand will have protection. I know that many of my colleagues feel that if we just wait out Bloomberg’s term, we’ll get some breathing room. But we are like the proverbial frogs in the pot of warming water, unable to see clearly just how outrageous this has become.
Maybe this is the time for organizing parents and schools t “just say no.” Meanwhile I’ll try to find out who you should contact.
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Posted on March 16, 2013 by debmeier
When I first came to NYC with three school-age children I was confronted by a near consensus view from old friends…”but no one sends their children to public school in NYC.” Followed by other suggestions. But, I stammered, there are more than a million children in NYC’s public schools…. Silence, embarrassed expressions. I felt naughty saying this.
But it wasn’t unanimous. Among the standouts was my friend Rochelle (Ricky) Flanders whose three children were attending NYC public schools!! I thought all three of her children were terrific, although they all had their share of complaints about schools, but also their share of good stories about teachers and friends. My children and I took their advice.
Both the naysayers and “sayers were right in their way,of course. Our public schools were not nearly as good as they needed to be. But it was that “no one” that was the clincher. I wanted my children never to think about “those others” as invisible, nonexistent. That was perhaps my priority in making the decision I did.
Ricky Flanders died yesterday after a long and painful struggle. She became one of my dearest friends and her younger daughter and mine became dear friends too. (And they continued the family tradition of sending their children to public schools in NYC) She was strong-minded (as opinionated as I was/am), outspoken, loving, loyal, smart as a whip, and extraordinarily well-read. She was an ally for me whenever I needed one–even about trifles. Her family suggests that friends and co-allies send money to the Association for Union Democracy in her name. Naturally, I agree. In this wish she reminds me of what kept our political lives joined at the hip (though we often disagreed!)–her tenacity on behalf of democracy and against hypocrisy. Thanks, Ricky and family.
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Posted on March 12, 2013 by debmeier
Network for Public Education. Check it out, and then if you agree, JOIN..
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