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

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Policy Based on FICTIONAL Movies

This is so ridiculous, I had to post from the road. Frank Bruni of the NY Times apparently thinks we should make education policy based on fictional movies:
“Our very best teachers ought to be treated much, much better than they are today,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “But in order to get there, we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others.”

That’s precisely what “Won’t Back Down” says. Although the movie is bound, in this politically charged climate, to be analyzed solely in terms of the position it seems to take on parent trigger or its qualms with union behavior, it’s ultimately about the impact of superior teaching, the need to foster more of it and the importance of school accountability. Who could quibble with any of that?
Frank, it doesn't matter what "Won't Back Down" says, because the story never happened. It is fiction. There hasn't been a successful use of the "parent trigger," so there's no way that this movie can be based on reality. You can't make a judgment about union behavior or the importance of teaching based on this movie any more than you can make a judgment about current law enforcement policies based on "The Dark Knight Rises."

I wish I could tell you that I'm amazed that pundits think they can wade into writing about education on the basis of merely seeing a movie - but I've lived through "Waiting For Superman." Davis Guggenheim, however, at least went through the trouble of pretending his movie was a documentary, based in fact. "Won't Back Down" is making the case for a specific education policy on the basis of pure fantasy.

What does it say about our nation's discussions on important issues when we substitute facts and data analysis with movie reviews?

One more thing: Joe Williams, like all reformyists, loves to tell us how he wants to treat "our very best teachers" better. But he never says how he would do that in specific terms. Does he want to pay those teachers more? How much more? Where will he get the money - by paying other teachers less? How will he decide which students get the "very best" teachers? How will he determine who these teachers are - test scores? What about all the teacher who teach subjects that don't have standardized tests? What happens when a "very best" teacher has a change in their test-based ranking, as will inevitably happen with the error-prone methods used to determine those rankings?

Enough of the platitudes, Joe. Show us the plan. I suspect those of us who actually work in schools may find a flaw or two.

ADDING: Larry Ferlazzo has more.


Deb said...

Dear Duke,
I am so sorry that he had to interfere with your much deserved vacation but thank you for calling him on this. It goes back to the fact that these people seem to believe that if they tell the same lie long enough it might just become true. Not with you around.

I am always particularly offended by parent trigger for a multitude of reasons but perhaps most because it attempts to dupe parents into thinking that they can easily be empowered and solve problems. We have to educate parents about why this is like an 'infomercial' on tv (a 'mis-infomercial' really) - it just does not really work they way the reformies want to sell it. But look how much garbage people buy off of tv ads. We have a bit of an uphill battle....



czarejs said...

I was at the movies this weekend and saw the trailer for "Won't Back Down". First I wanted throw something at the screen but then it was over and another trailer came on for "Here Comes the Boom". In this one Kevin James is a teacher at a school with budget problems. To raise money he becomes a mixed martial arts fighter. So....now we make policy based on fictional movies and to inspire students we have to get our brains beat in. Makes total sense.