Commentary and Criticism about the National Education Association
We have absolutely no affiliation with the National Education Association and do not represent its views in any way, shape or form.
News Flash for NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia: Not everyone agrees that public schools are the best/only way to educate our children.
“It is difficult to get a [wo]man to understand something, when [her] salary depends on [her] not understanding it.” Quote from Upton Sinclair
ESKELSEN DISAGREES WITH DEVOS? I’M SHOCKED!
NEA president Lily Eskelsen took the time last week to criticize Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Betsy DeVos. You can read the entire commentary at:
"And then Betsy DeVos said education should be more like “food trucks and restaurants”
I can boil down her article into two short sentences:
Public schools are the best and only fair way to educate all of the children in this great country of ours. Anyone who disagrees is an idiot.
Let me clarify why I say this. When Eskelsen says …
“I was more convinced than ever that DeVos knows little about public schools and even less about their mission.”
… she begins to reveal her obvious bias and inability to put herself in the mind of a person who has views different than her own.
And when later on in the article she says that DeVos …
“…doesn’t understand the concept of “public” schools—schools that are open to all students, no matter what language is spoken at home, what the family income is, what their religion or race is, what abilities or disabilities they have, whether they are gay, straight, or transgender.”
…Eskelsen further solidifies her lack of empathy by failing to follow the old saying …
“Before you judge a woman, walk a mile in her shoes….”
ESKELSEN VS. DEVOS – A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
Lily, do you honestly believe that Secretary DeVos doesn’t know what a public school is or are you just playing dumb?
Obviously DeVos gets the concept of a public school. She just doesn’t think that the present incarnation of public schools is properly serving the needs of the community like you do. As a result, she is proposing other possible ways to improve education. This could be vouchers, charter schools, for-profit institutions – anything else but simply continuing to rely on the tired-out present system of public schools protected by NEA teacher unions that are financially vested in keeping the system as it is.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS – EVERYTHING FOR EVERYBODY?
When Eskelsen says …
“The mission of public schools is to provide opportunities for each and every student who walks through the door, not to roll up the welcome mat, bar the door, and declare: “Sorry, but we’re not for everybody.”
… she apparently forgot the old saying that “…when you try to be everything to everyone you end up being nothing to no one…”
There is a great example from business history which backs this old saying up. In the 1960’s conglomerates were a popular form of business organization. “A conglomerate is a corporation that is made up of a number of different, seemingly unrelated businesses.”
So instead of a company only focusing on one line of business (say Starbucks serving coffee), it would branch out into many unrelated businesses (imagine Starbucks fixing your car, dry cleaning your clothes, etc. while you drank your coffee).
While at first this strategy kind of worked, the good times didn’t last. “In response to falling profits, the majority of conglomerates began divesting from companies they bought. Few companies continued on as anything more than a shell company.”
Of course, the argument could be made that public schools only have education as their single “line of business” and so are not like conglomerates at all. I would argue, however, that the “business” of education is so diverse that a public school is like a conglomerate.
EDUCATION AND “FOOD TRUCKS”
Which brings us to the silly title of the Lily’s Blackboard article which inspired this blog: And then Betsy DeVos said education should be more like “food trucks and restaurants”
I see this title as an obvious attempt by Eskelsen to belittle DeVos. Eskelson is implying that the Secretary is so far out of touch with reality that she actually thinks something as important as education can be compared to something as mundane as restaurants.
Actually, Lily, it is a pretty apropos analogy.
If a restaurant had to serve every type of cuisine all the time, how good of a restaurant would it be? After all, don’t people specifically choose to go to various ethnic restaurants (Thai, Cuban, Indian, etc.)? Does anyone think that one chef can really do all cuisines properly?
ESKELSEN’S BIAS EXPLAINED BY UPTON SINCLAIR
Eskelson wants DeVos to “stop with the comparisons and accept what public education does and what its mission is” because “Public schools play a unique and critical role in preparing students of all ages and backgrounds for work and life—period.”
Lily, open your mind just a little bit. Public schools don’t have to be the only institution that prepares “students of all ages and backgrounds for work and life.” The fact that you say “period” after your sentence is just more proof of your one-sided view about education and your unwillingness to consider that you might be wrong.
And, let’s be honest here, you have this view because you represent a teacher union with a vested interest in keeping public schools a monolithic presence in this country.
I wonder if you really believe what you say about public education or if you are just saying it because that is what you are paid to do.
There is a reason why I quoted Upton Sinclair at the top of this blog post…………
This story was too interesting to only share it with my Anti-NJEA Blog readers - I had to re-post it here.
Incidentally, if you are interested in education/union issues in NJ, check out my anti-NJEA blog at http://www.njea-info.org.
If you think that words just describe the world, you would be quite mistaken. And when you realize that words literally define, shape and frame the world, you will start to get an idea of how powerful they really are.
Unfortunately, as George Lakoff (University of California, Berkley) points out:
"Most people don't understand this. Most people think that words just refer to things in the world and that they're neutral. And that's just not true." Quote taken from Ari Shapiro’s article Loaded Words: How Language Shapes the Gun Debate, February 26, 2013
So when the Bergen County Education Association (BCEA) used the term “cisgender” to describe people who are not “transgender” in an article on the NJEA web site on October 23 (BCEA raises conversation on transgender student safety), they did so purposefully. They have chosen to define the terms of the debate in their own way for a reason.
Here is what Sue McBride said at the September 26, 2017 luncheon hosted by BCEA (yes Bergen County teachers, your dues money paid for this – although costs were partially covered by NJEA through a PRIDE Education grant)
“We knew how upsetting these stories had to be to our transgender students, and we worried about the impact such stories could have on how cisgender students learn misinformation about gender identity.”
Fortunately, the NJEA article provided a definition for cisgender because I had never heard of it before.
“Cisgender is a term to describe people who are not transgender. ‘Cis’ is a Latin prefix meaning ‘on the same side as,’ and is an antonym for ‘trans.’“
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Take the abortion debate.
Are you pro-choice when you support abortion rights and then anti-choice when you oppose them?
Or should we frame it differently and ask if you are anti-life when you support abortion rights and then pro-life when you are against them?
How about the gun debate?
Are you anti-gun violence when you support gun restrictions and then pro-gun violence when you don’t want any restrictions on guns?
Or maybe you are pro-choice when it comes to believing that citizens have a right to choose to carry a concealed weapon and then anti-choice if you believe the opposite.
I think you will agree – words do matter.
I REJECT THE TERM CISGENDER
I don’t like being referred to as a cisgender – it is offensive. I prefer being called an individual who accepts his biological gender.
If people who don’t accept their biological gender like the term transgender, good for them. They can refer to themselves as transgender.
By the way, I am not being judgmental when I use the phrase “accept their biological gender.” I am just keeping the terminology as factual as possible. If you are born with an XY chromosome you are male and if you have XX you are female. That is your biological gender.
So, if the NJEA article is correct that 95-97% of people in the world accept their biological gender, why is the conversation being framed as transgender vs. cisgender?
In other words, why is the NJEA using terms based on the terminology of the minority population?
Of course, we all know that answer to that question.
They don’t want to offend transgender people and make them feel excluded, different or marginalized.
Now, I completely accept that there is a small minority of individuals who don’t accept their biological gender. And I am not suggesting that they be demonized or treaty poorly in any sense at all. All human beings should be respected as the individuals that they are.
Just stop forcing your terminology down the throats of biologically gender accepting Americans.
The School to Prison Pipeline: Just Punishment for Disruptive Students or Unfair Attack on People of Color?
“…our schools have been ‘prisonized’. Normal adolescent behavior—like … cursing a teacher – is criminalized as assault.”
Fania E. Davis
Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline Through Restorative Justice
I found the above quote after following a link in NEA President Lily Eskelsen’s latest Blackboard post (October 24, 2017) entitled "We spend more to jail our kids than to educate them. It’s time we stop."
Well of course, cursing a teacher is "normal adolescent behavior." Wait, what???????
More on that later.....
WHAT IS THIS SCHOOL-PRISON PIPELINE?
Lily is, of course, referring to something called the school to prison pipeline.
The first time I became aware of this term was by way of an article on neaToday by Mary Ellen Flannery back in January of 2015 called The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down
The premise is that students who have disciplinary issues in school eventually end up in jail because schools follow zero-tolerance measures when addressing offensive behavior. Further reading on the subject led me to an article by Casey Quinlan which cited US Department of Education data indicating that the “Pipeline” may even start as early as preschool.
Even worse, the Center for American Progress says that this “Pipeline” most often affects people “of color” rather than people who don’t have any color. See the article Disparities in School Discipline Move Students of Color Toward Prison
Incidentally, does a Southern Italian with dark olive skin appear to be “of color” to a very fair skinned Irish person? Just wondering……
But I digress…….
EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT- FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
Now, one of the hallmarks of an effective teacher is that he never has to kick a student out of his class. Good classroom management means that behavioral issues get handled as they happen and that potentially disruptive situations get diffused before they get out of hand.
But what about those students who, despite every attempt to prevent further escalation, still continue to disrupt the classroom, fight in the hallways, bring contraband to school (weapons, drugs), or violate other school rules?
MAYBE WE SHOULD CONSIDER THE GOOD KIDS FOR A CHANGE?
James Duran is quoted in Mary Ellen Flannery’s article saying that suspension of students “was a big cop-out…it just gave kids permission not to be in school.”
I get this. Suspended students get a free vacation for a couple of days. How is that a real punishment?
But does Duran look at it from the point of view of the good kids? Maybe these suspensions gave the good students who wanted to learn a break from the disruptions that were destroying the classroom learning environment when bad kids were there.
Flannery goes on to say that the suspended kids had “an interruption in learning [which] can be life altering.”
But does she have any sympathy for the good students who actually benefited by having the disrupting student out of the classroom? Maybe these good students were actually able to learn that day.
In fact, why didn’t Ms. Flannery get some quotes from students who are actually glad that disruptive kids are suspended for a couple of days so that they can finally learn in a proper educational environment? If she did some real unbiased research, she could probably get thousands of students to tell you this. I know my son constantly complains about how the bad kids in class ruin his learning experience.
From my experience, students like to know that there are rules in the classroom. They like to walk into a room where they feel safe and know that learning will occur without the constant interruptions from kids who don’t belong in a regular classroom. Again, does Ms. Flannery have any sympathy for them?
FACE THE FACTS – THERE ACTUALLY ARE BAD KIDS
Flannery says that a suspension is “life altering.”
It should be life altering.
It should mean so much to a student that he would step back and ask himself: “What am I doing with my life here? Why am I choosing to go down this path? Do I really want to be a part of the school to prison pipeline?” In essence, the suspension should be a wake-up call to that student telling him to stop screwing around, not only with his life but with all of the other students in the classroom whose education he is destroying.
Flannery does provide a handful of anecdotal stories of kids that were almost certainly treated unfairly by school administration. Fania E. Davis (see quote at start of the blog) from the Huffington Post does the same with her story about Cameron Simmons. We can all feel for these wrongly treated students and take outrage at how they were unfairly punished.
But to say that this applies to all school offenders is a huge stretch. The kids on the “Prison Pipeline” are serious, repeat offenders who don’t want to be in school and act accordingly. They are students who deal drugs in the playground, fight in the hallways, store weapons in their lockers, regularly disrupt the learning environment in the classroom, curse out the teachers, etc.
Here is a suggestion: How about we spend less time thinking and worrying about the kids who disrupt the learning process and more time on those students who are actually there to learn.
Crazy idea, I know.
I spent a previous blog post discussing Tim Walker's NEA Today article called "Beware of Hype Over Grade Inflation, Educators and Other Experts Warn."
That blog post was dedicated to grade competitiveness among students.
I am returning back to Walker's article because grade inflation was a topic of discussion at my faculty meeting yesterday. Our principle reminded us of the district policy that no student can receive a grade lower than 50 on any assignment - even if they fail to submit or actually cheat on it.
I happen to think that this is a silly policy (that's my G-rated term for the policy by the way) but don't want to go into my argument on that point right now.
I connect this policy with Walker's comments about grade inflation:
"Without calling into question that grade inflation exists at some level in high schools, many educators and other experts doubt grade inflation has been that widespread." My emphasis added.
If students can't get less than 50 on any assignment, isn't that a form of grade inflation?
This brought me back to a faculty meeting a couple of years ago where the principle brought out a chart which showed the increase in A's & B's (and corresponding decrease in F's and D's) over a period of time at our school.
She was actually puzzled about this and asked for a possible explanation - but no one had the guts to state the obvious.
It turns out that Tim Walker dealt with this very point in an NEA Today article from August 4, 2016 entitled "Teachers Divided Over Controversial 'No-Zero' Grading Policy."
So Mr. Walker, you probably should have re-read your 2016 article before you posted your newst one on October 10, 2017.
One source of "stealth" grade inflation could be the result of the "No-Zero" policy.
The following post appeared on my Anti-NJEA blog (New Jersey Education Association). I re-post it here because it applies to the entire country, not just New Jersey.
From the New Jersey Educational Association web site on October 23, 2017:
A joyful journey to play in K
by Molly Ziegelstein
This article made me laugh.
I am sure that the author is an excellent teacher but the lingo used throughout was way too over the top - even for a veteran teacher like me.
I sit at faculty meetings and professional development seminars and hear similar words bandied about time and time again. Everyone uses these educational buzz words because they want to sound both intelligent and professional.
But I find that using these words is more confusing than helpful. It is almost as if teachers are pretending that they operate in some esoteric realm that only they can fully comprehend. The uninitiated lay folk can only stand on the sidelines and gaze with wonder.
Here is a list of modern educational terminology that I came across in Ziegelstein’s article:
By the way, Molly Ziegelstein is a Kindergarten teacher.....
All of this to teach a Kindergarten class?
Education is really not as complicated as that list would make you think. Our nation did pretty well back when going to school meant just learning the three R’s.
So my advice is to simply cut out the silly lingo and just teach.
It’s really not that difficult.