I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bambi vs Dumb-Ass Blogger

Laura Waters stopped by to comment on my earlier post. She says:
Bambi? Really?

You seem to assume, JJ, that I don't factor the effects of poverty into the equation of school performance. Of course I do. But here's the thing: Bruce and other apologists for public urban education insist that the we can't increase achievement without ameliorating poverty and that kids in Willingboro can't succeed until we do. I think that the only way to ameliorate poverty is to improve education and the kids in Willingboro can't succeed until we do.

We're all on the same side -- Bambi and Godzilla included -- but we let politics get in the way. 

BTW, I think great teachers should be paid far more than they are now.
My response:

Thanks for stopping by, Laura. As I said, I do not question for a minute your commitment to kids in tough circumstances.
First a question: Let's assume that we get to the point where every child in NJ has a great teacher. Do you think then that the total payroll of teachers should then be higher than it is right now?
As to your debate with Bruce:
Bruce is an academician - I really don't know much about his politics at all. What he says - and what we should all heed - is that the "solutions" being proposed by the reform movement:
1) Have no evidence to back them up.
2) Will probably cause more harm than good.
If someone has good, well-researched, well-reasoned arguments to the contrary, let's hear them. The sad truth is they don't exist - at least, I haven't seen them.
What IS abundantly clear, however, is that conservative politicians like Chris Christie are happy to use the "reform" arguments to push through an agenda that is nakedly political. It is quite clear to me and anyone who looks at this issue that Christie wants to break the unions so he can decrease the payroll of teachers in this state and keep the wealthy from having to pay their fair share of taxes. 
No one seriously believes he wants to INCREASE the total teacher payroll. Well, if all kids deserve a great teacher, and not all teachers now are great, how will decreasing the teacher payroll help?
The primary purpose of this blog is to document this scheme of his. If I do say so, I think I've done a pretty good job of making my case. Teachers like me have absolutely no reason to believe he has our best interests - let alone our students' - at heart given what I've reported here over the past several months.
Further, he continues to impugn our motives while he implements these unproven plans. Frankly, I'm sick of it. The impetus is on HIM to show that what he proposes will transform NJ's urban schools. But, over and over again, his assertions come up short.
So, no, I reject the idea that WE let politics get in the way. I just want to be able to do my damn job. He's the politician, not me. I didn't want this fight, but he clearly did. HE's the one who made this a political dogfight, not us.
Well, fine then - bring it. But don't ask me to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with reformers who are providing him with the cover to decimate my profession.
Again, Laura - I believe you have the best interests of your students at heart. I admire your commitment to the kids most of our ruling elite stopped caring about long ago.
But you're being used. And I'm going to call the people who are using you out on it.
P.S. Snark is part of the blogger's art. "Bambi" is a term used facetiously - I think that's self-evident. No implication should be drawn other than I'm an old guy with a bunch of silly cultural references running around my cerebral cortex. 
For those of you who still don't know what I'm talking about...


thinker said...

I think I am missing something here as I really don't see Ms. Water's point. Does no one else see that most kids in poverty areas don't see the benefit of putting forth the effort to do well in school because they don't see a future where that education will matter? Not to mention the obvious issues of where schoolwork might fall on your list of priorities when you're hungry, not all that safe or warm even in your own home (if you have one), and maybe the primary caregiver to younger siblings because your parent is either working several jobs or unable to do it due to some other life problem (alcohol, drugs, depression, etc. take your pick). And let's not forget the culture you are growing up in which tells you that it is much more important to be part of a gang than to educate yourself because education isn't "cool" and is for suckers.

Yet, according to Ms. Waters the real problem is politics and if we'd just get some good teachers or other education reforms in there, the kids would receive great educations which would thereby ameliorate poverty. I'm not buying it. First of all, I don't care if God Almighty was teaching in some of these classrooms, you aren't going to change the culture, and the problems I noted above and get the majority of these kids to care about education. Second of all, in today's economy, even the kids in "successful" suburban districts are questioning whether it is "worth it" to put forth the effort to do well when even if they go on to college and do well, there is a good chance that they will still have difficulty finding a decent job that pays a livable wage.

Poverty is trickling down to the middle class and we are still gonig to buy into the lie that if only these urban kids could get a good education, they will lead beautiful, idyllic lives. Seriously, talk about politics.

Duke said...

You make a good point (as always) thinker. We've talked about this here before: you've got plenty of people in this society who did everything they were told to do: get an education, work hard, play by the rules. And they are out of a job or looking at a career path with less security, fewer benefits, lower wages.

And, many of those people are teachers, who are supposed to be the FIRST ones selling the message that education is your ticket to a better life.

Poor people aren't stupid. They know they are being sold a crock of crap. It amazes me that urban teachers do as well with the kids as they do given the disdain our society has shown for them.

thinker said...

Yes Duke, we've discussed this before. Why is it that I feel as if I am constantly repeating myself? Oh, that's right, it's because the same tired arguments in favor of these silly reforms are trotted out again and again...and again.