Arne Duncan

Honesty In The Time Of Professionalism

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan

In this economy, everyone’s scared to lose their jobs.

Leaders often say they want feedback and honesty, but only if it fits their beliefs about the reality they’ve interpreted. For instance, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently tweeted this:

 

I laughed and replied:

 

Perhaps he does. Perhaps he believes that the schools his administration created in Chicago mattered a lot for the most impoverished kids. Perhaps he thinks charter schools offer a way to circumvent obtrusive localities that want to stall innovation. Perhaps he thinks Race To The Top shakes districts into following an agenda. He could have the best intentions in mind, and could see himself as helping continue the legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education. Perhaps he read my tweet, too, and decided to rethink how he approaches this thing he calls “listening to teachers.”

I doubt it. All of it.

Sadly, I have little (read: no) faith in our current administration’s policies, irrespective of how much they say they appreciate educators, and want for the children. The reform path offers little solutions that interest me and the thousands of American educators trying to make a difference in our children’s lives.  I have a few more anti-reform pro-child things to tell you, most of them documented here.

What often separates the message, however, is the source. By source, I mean, when people come out for or against a position, do they do it from a place of love and care or hate and derision? Do they say things because they have an honest belief in making things better or do they have an ulterior motive in their positions?

We have people like Michelle Rhee who takes shots at National Education Association, The American Federation of Teachers, and  Occupy The DOE and other education activists without actually talking about what her organization, StudentsLast, does against the public good. Dr. Steve Perry, another person who sees himself as the solution and not a part of it, thinks a huge lit review is the same as a dissertation for his doctorate. The mainstream media, book publishers, celebrities, and venture capitalists treat them as darlings, but people on the ground have grown more skeptical as the days go by.

Sometimes, though, I fear that people on “my” side of things have similar ambitions. Some questions to ask:

  • Do we emphasize the word “teacher” or “leader” in teacher-leader?
  • Do we talk down to teachers and tell them how they should approach their jobs when they haven’t done it themselves?
  • Do we believe the way to have a bigger voice is to get a doctorate?

In no way do I seek purity in ideology, but I do take issue when people see their positions solely as a means for self-advancement. The honesty I often seek comes from a source of love, a source of restoration, and getting to a place where all children have equitable conditions for academic (and personal) success. College and career readiness sounds hollow in light of creating conditions for better people.

The challenge for us is, really, how do we continue to do this without feeling like we could lose our jobs for this? Or vex our colleagues with this?

About Jose Vilson

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.

Jose VilsonHonesty In The Time Of Professionalism