It took a teacher at a Catholic university to say the unspeakable. The millionaires and billionaires who worship at the altar of commerce, wealth and power can not possibly understand the motivation to become a teacher. They’re constitutionally unable to hear what those who are nearest to our young people are telling them about educating all of the human family. In their arrogance and in their distance they are blindly ramming massive high stakes testing down the throats of other people’s children. Bashing teachers and breaking unions is their hamfisted modus operandi.
This Darwinian business model actually believes you can test yourself to improved education. There is absolutely no respect for those who daily hear the silent cries of the young, who see the staggering impact of poverty on children, who know how to evaluate their charges. Instead of taking money from the obscene bloated military budget and poring money into education to attract the best and brightest they are content to whack the teaching profession, pay it peanuts and reward the selfish who gravitate to Wall Street and Solomon Brothers.
As reformer Diane Ravitch says, “How many times have we heard “reformers” like Duncan, Rhee, Klein, Gates, etc. say that the way to “fix poverty” is to fix schools. By that, they mean that “no excuses” schools and Teach for America will solve the poverty problem. That’s a lot less costly than using government programs to change the tax code or create good jobs or do anything that directly reduces poverty. Better to open charter schools, give vouchers, fire teachers who can’t raise test scores, take away tenure, destroy unions.
Finland always ranks highest in global education’s literacy and numeracy tests, Its national budget reflects the common good and the health and welfare of its citizens. It has no high stakes testing. What it does have is a teaching cadre second to none in the world and a country which not only honours educators but pays them well. The Finnish model is ignored by the wealthy ideologues who correlate wealth with educational smarts. Without sitting and listening to kids, these blowhards arrogantly presume Solomon-like wisdom because they are millionaires.
Thankfully many great educators and concerned and patronized parents are fighting back given the growing cracks in the high stakes testing models (rampant cheating, exclusion of poor students,,nervous breakdowns, skewing of curriculum, demonization of teachers and teacher unions etc.)
Bravo to Mark Naison of Fordham University for the following brief essay.
To The Nation’s Elites, Teachers are “Losers!”
There is a reason that people like Bill Gates, Chris Christie, Rahm Emmanuel, Jeb Bush, Andrew Cuomo, Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and yes Barack Obama will never really listen to teachers voices. And that is because, in the competition for money, power, and position, which is what is all the that really counts to them, they see themselves as winners and teachers as losers. Regarding themselves as examples of what talent and ambition can achieve, they look at someone who spends their life in the classroom as lacking in drive and imagination, and therefore undeserving in having a voice in shaping the way we train the next generation of citizens and workers. Whether or not they will say this in their speeches, they certainly say it to one another, in their private meetings, and high powered policy seminars. It is why the only teacher training organization they really trust is Teach for America, because that organization shares their view that really talented people would only remain a teacher as a passage to a more rewarding career. Unless you understand this– you will never understand why editorial writers, television personalities, corporate leaders, and elected officials systematically exclude teachers voices, and why the policies they ultimately support prove disastrous on the ground. Every section of the American Elite is poisoned with a fatal arrogance, and getting through to them with sound arguments is well nigh impossible. They only understand and respect power.
Mark D Naison is the Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University in New York City.