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Public Education For The Public Good (On Inclusion)

by Jose Vilson on March 9, 2014

in Jose

 

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

Jose Vilson, CCSS Panel, Network for Public Education

This past week has been nothing short of nuts.

I had the opportunity to attend (and present and moderate) at the first annual Network for Public Education Conference, a gathering of education activists from across the country, including Diane Ravitch (the organization’s president), Deborah Meier, Karen Lewis, John Kuhn, and a whole host of names everyone has seen in the education sphere.

My first real honor was tuning out adult voices as the moderator of the now-infamous student panel that included activists (and students) Stephanie Rivera, Hannah Ngyuyen, Chicago Student Union founder Isreal Muñoz, and Providence Student Union rebels Bryan Varela and Mayra Mostafa. As Chris Thinnes, who attended the conference live, noted, I assured that all of us stayed deferential to the students, both on the panel and in the audience. I brought out cards for the adults, and let the students in the audience do all the talking. Even with the powerful folks in the audience, Karen Lewis and Katie Osgood among them, I felt like we as adults could learn more by just listening to them and their thoughts for a change.

I still couldn’t shake the jitters, though. My calm exterior didn’t betray the internal angst of the notorious Sunday Morning Common Core panel with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, moderated by edu-blogger and organizer Anthony Cody, and featuring a few others who’ve advocated passionately against the Common Core State Standards and the privatization of public schools (Mercedes Schneider, Paul Horton, Geralyn McLaughlin). Even though others thought it was going to be a 5 on 1, I never had that impression because a) I had cut down my social media intake by 80% or so and b) I don’t see why people felt I had to go “hard” against Randi Weingarten. Without my union, I probably couldn’t advocate as hard as I do.

So, I’ve written numerous times about my ever-evolving position on the CCSS, but, more importantly, I’ve written even more about how reforms always go through people of color first before they go to “white suburban moms.”

To that end, I felt a certain anger after the question was posed about whether folks should join up with the Tea Party to oppose Common Core. To that end, my answer came from a place that wouldn’t let me sit still. I had already known a few of the liberal audience members who wanted to join up with TP to oppose policy like student privacy and CCSS. I have a hard time with this for a few reasons:

  • Public education is for the public good. When most of the students primarily affected by these deleterious reforms are of color, how do we work with people who view folks of color as sub-human and still presume we’re doing good?
  • Public education is for the public good. If the Tea Party succeeds in having student privacy and CCSS addressed, should they continue to rely on liberals who aligned with them on privatization of public schools and anti-women’s rights agenda as well?
  • Public education is for the public good. Do we consider what it means to have an education for the public in the vision of so many of all colors who strived for a truly perfect union?

There’s a big difference between having a difference of opinion, as so many do with our union representatives, for example, and a difference of vision. The difference is in how we view others in the same tent. Do we see each other as equal, capable of leading this movement, or as subordinate, a step towards a goal that eventually excludes? Inclusion along race, gender, and class lines matters. Examining the ways in which we hinder ourselves is so crucial to this work.

I thank the Network for Public Education for inviting me to this tent. I’m just hoping my sleeping bag works as well as the others’ in the night.

Jose

p.s. – Thanks to Sabrina and Xian who were in the audience because … because.

{ 1 comment }

Oh come on now! Really, Kentucky? REALLY?!

Oh come on now! Really, Kentucky? REALLY?!

Do me a favor and stop it. Just stop it, you.

Yes, you.

You’re ridiculous now. Every other word out of your mouth is “Common Core.” That’s enough out of you.

I’m all for people having a voice, a seat at the table, and entitlements to opinions and such, but you’re not going to sit there and use the words “Common Core” 58 times in a meeting and not have me either burst out laughing, walking out for a break every 20 minutes, or worse, throw you an eye roll.

I get it, too. The Common Core State Standards, by many accounts, is an internationally benchmarked set of standards developed by coalition consisting of governors, education professors, and other people interested in seeing the United States compete academically with the best and brightest from countries all over the world instead of the middling status we’ve had for decades. I get that it proffers a certain amount of authority and gravitas, in “If you think this is just another fad, but it’s not. It’s going to stay, we’re going to do this all the way, and there’s no turning back” sorta way.

Except, for the classroom teacher, none of that resonates.

For the classroom teacher, the act of planning lessons, teaching those lessons, observing and recording student behavior, grading papers, and reflecting on our practice stays consistent, no matter how often you drill the words “Common Core” into the zeitgeist.

For the classroom teacher, few of us actually know what it is. A few of us think it makes our work easier than our original individual-state standards do. Some others think it might be complete crap but that we’re just going to ride with it because we teach … for a living. Others still just want to see what the publishers do with the assessment, because the things they’ve done with the textbooks have thrown everyone for a loop including the CCSS creators themselves!

For the classroom teacher, the best bet, as has always been, is to focus on professional development in a meaningful way, with teachers actually having more natural discussions amongst each other about students and the assignments we give them without feeling like we need to listen to the Marzano-DuFour-Danielson crowd anymore.

I’m not here to delineate between who’s real and who’s not, either. I’m just saying that you look disingenuous when you see something that might look exciting / rigorous / difficult to you and say, “Oh look, Common Core.”

I get it, too. If you don’t use the word “Common Core” a lot, don’t speak for or against it, you risk irrelevance. Like, look at these people over here really engaging in “the work” (few people define it to start) and you’re not, so you’re not Common Core aligned and you belong over in this corner. Way over here. Like an imaginary dunce cap.

But if you’re willing to engage in the Common Core zealotry (on either side) that I’ve seen, maybe you ought to find another cause to feel this passionately about, like how kids learn.

Alas.

Jose, who’s finding moments of honesty more often than not …

source for image: http://bluegrasspolicy-blog.blogspot.com/2010/07/fordham-study-trashes-education.html

{ 7 comments }