All Eyez On Me ... Please - The Jose Vilson

All Eyez On Me … Please

October 21, 2008

I have to invoke 2Pac now. In a way, I’m mad, annoyed, and many ways, disappointed in the direction that education’s taking these days. There seem to be a few schools of thought that I’d like to address in one fell swoop.

  1. I love trade (and hence, teacher) unions.
  2. Our current unions aren’t representing us well right now.
  3. We need principals and administrators.
  4. School systems need less charters and economists, and more money.
  5. Teachers, flaws and all, are not the problem, and anyone who can’t see that really needs to do a realistic check on their own point of view. Possible read-up on the history of labor, even on a minimal level, required.

I know, loaded statements. What do I care, though? Frankly, I don’t think I have anything to lose. For one, anyone who’s ever read The People’s History of the United States (or any other book on labor, or any residents of Detroit for that matter) know that unions came about as a means of representing the interests not just of employees but also customers, improving services which we take for granted. If not for unions, people in corporations who have no unions know what decent wages and benefits look like. And frankly, I wouldn’t want to model schools after corporations: Lord knows right now that corporations are now modeling schools. (Did I just say that?)

Speaking of which, I’m not feeling the idea of KIPP schools or any of that charter school members not just because of their anti-union message. I’m just not happy with kids getting treated like consumers rather than innovators, and that seems to be the general theme I hear when I hear about charter schools. Pay students for getting answers right? Sure. Pay students for wearing their uniform? Sure. Pay students and parents for what they’re SUPPOSED to do?! Absolutely. But giving more intuitive and intrinsic rewards, some that might develop character and good community building? While I have some really great classes this year, I can also see that some of them are simply snotty-nosed brats who get everything they want even when they haven’t necessarily earned it. Now, I can only imagine that what happens if that’s state-sponsored.

Then there’s this whole thing about protection of teachers which I only somewhat get. On the one hand, I agree with lots of people out there: many teachers either need to leave the profession in its entirety or need to improve their teaching drastically. But that’s why we’re supposed to have principals and assistant principals: their role essentially is a teacher of teachers, not their deans and judges. Administrators should have 5-7 years in the classroom before they go telling suggesting to other teachers.

And really, this education business is really a microcosm of the constant flux of this laissez-faire market, because with deregulation, we can make it seem like consumers really have a choice when they’re just contributing money to the same corporation, make it seem like scores for inner-city children are moving up because of whatever new trendy educational movement has taken place when it’s really that the test was made easier, or even simple things like putting up more parking meters in places that were free just to fund corporate welfare bailouts for the very people who rob us over and again.

But when conversations about ed / ed-tech / future of ed come up, I’m mostly mum, strictly because I’m one of the young guys that believe simple things like more stringent tenure, smaller class sizes, better school support and administrators, less (and more cogent) standardized testing, a little better training in pedagogy and child psychology, and less paperwork can really go a long way in clearing things up for teachers and helping them handle the profession.

jose, who can’t deny it, he’s a rider …

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

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