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How I Might Have Intro’d The Bammy Awards

by Jose Vilson on September 24, 2013

in Jose

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I'll stick to teaching anyways

Secretary Arne Duncan and comedian Stephen Colbert, both of whose job I would do so much better at, but I’ll stick to teaching anyways

There’s been lots of talk about this past Saturday’s Bammy Awards. I’ve written a bunch on diversity at the Bammys and even the executive producer left a comment here after our feisty discussion. However, I’ve kept mute during and after the Bammy Awards, letting others report out. As with any awards show, there were lots of bright spots and dim spots, almost all of them from people who actually attended. A discussion has erupted around the idea of humor and appropriateness in the education circle. Rather than speak on something I didn’t witness myself, I’d like a turn at introducing the Bammys. We’ll call it a do-over.

[Starts with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan welcoming everyone from his office. Insert platitudes about respect for teachers here. Zooms out where you see a black pair of pants on the left side of him. Duncan keeps talking, but as camera zooms out, audience notices Jose Vilson with "not impressed" face. Duncan keeps talking. Camera keeps zooming in to Vilson's face. Camera stops at his mouth. Vilson yells, "Welcome to the Bammyyyyyyyyssss!" with Chuck D impersonation.]

[Female voice says, "Welcome To The Bammys, with:". Reads list of every person there with a Klout score higher than 50 and other special guests, which is like everybody. She says, "Here's your host, Joseeeee Vilson!!!]

*cues up instrumental to “N-Words In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West*

[Vilson runs on stage with a suit and Yankee brimmed hat]

Everybody scream!

So I teach so hard, Mayor Bloomberg wanna fire me, but first he gotta find me
What’s 50 grand to a teacher like me? That’s a lot, don’t you remind me!
(Teach so hard) I teach crazy, my teacher rating don’t even faze me
My kids could go 0 for 82 on their tests and I look at you like this job’s gravy
(Teach so hard) Teach so hard, this thing rare
We ain’t even supposed to be here!
(Teach so hard) Since we here, we might as well treat kids fair …

HA!

[Stop music]

OK, OK, OK, that was fun. Welcome everyone to the Second Annual Bammy Awards! We have a live audience today of some of the coolest kids in the sandbox gathered here today, and who better to MC this event than the guy whose faculty always pegs for the guy who’s gonna rap for karaoke? I mean, just because I know Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” by heart doesn’t mean …

Seriously, I’m OK with being one of [Vilson counts audience members] five Cocoa Puffs in a big bowl of milk. Really. I just made Errol Smith really uncomfortable. My bad, dawg.

By the way, Melinda Anderson didn’t write this one for me. I does it all by himself!

Also, I had to cut down my speech by 40% due to austerity measures. I’m doing most of this on comp time, so I’ll take a nap shortly after this.

So welcome to this set of awards. I flew in from New York City, and my arms are in fact tired. It’s been a lot of indecision over the last month. Indecision about who New York City wants for Democratic mayor, indecision over whether Obama’s gonna bomb Syria, indecision over whether I was wearing the long blue tie or the black bowtie. This is why smart men need smarter partners in their lives. And so do I. Thanks, Luz.

One thing I have decided is that, yes, Senator Ted Cruz is crazy! He’s at least worth five Buzzfeed articles and 20 GIFs. Is that like a currency now? If so, does Kenzo Shibata and the rest of the Chicago Teachers Union get to judge which ones make it from this audience? Aren’t you happy they won? Here’s a group of teachers who said, “We’re mad at hell! We want normal stuff like toilet paper for kids and open schools! Yes! We’re not gonna take it anymore!” This is where I’d make a GIF of Jonah Edelman followed by a tuba, preferably playing the “Price Is Wrong” theme song.

[Plays theme song for audience. Vilson makes fake sad face.]

You also probably noticed the inconspicuously dressed bodyguard at the door checking bags. Yes, that was Alfie Kohn scanning your bags and tossing out homework. Yes, it was. Doubt me if you must.

My friend and SLA principal Chris Lehmann’s here. You ever wonder why he smiles so much? I got the secret: he chews on his sons. I mean, Jakob and Theo never quit being adorable on Instagram. Actually, I get to judge your smiles based on how many chewable kids you have. Brand new parents tend to have the whitest teeth. It’s true.

Michael Doyle’s here. I heard him call me the greatest education blogger of all time. I know he didn’t say that, but I’ll take my award and leave anyways. Deuces! Errol’s looking at me right now like, “If this guy doesn’t stay right there …”

Mary Beth Hertz couldn’t be here, sadly. She’s a great Edutopia blogger out of Philly and she sends her regard. You’ll notice a slight change in her avatar if you’re following her on Twitter. Instead of hugging her tech tools and smiling at the camera, she’s flinging them at Mayor Nutter and every Philly school official in sight. She’s kinda angry. Right, Randi Weingarten?

John Spencer said he couldn’t be here. He says he doesn’t really wear suit and ties. Justin Timberlake does not approve.

That wasn’t funny? Scott McLeod thinks I deserve a better audience.

Audrey Watters isn’t in the audience yet. She’s at the bar drinking the Edmodo folks under the table. She deserves a badge for that.

A couple of big education books have come out recently. Invent to Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager came out, which explains the increase of pterodactyls all up in your timelines. No, I’m not calling Gary Stager old. Nor a flying reptile. Just when you search for “pterodactyl” on Ye Old Encyclopedia Brittanica … goodness, don’t you dare blog about this!

Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch came out this year. It was wild. Her marketing strategy was genius! Have a ton of popular bloggers and news outlets write about her and her upcoming book on their blogs and she’d link back to them to increase the dialogue. Shortly thereafter, she introduced the book to the people who actually like her!

The hate came in droves! It’s like those people who leave flyers on your door from all the restaurants you already tried and didn’t like. Except, because she’s an education historian, she goes to her computer and writes a book about it. The rest of us aren’t always as prodigious, I assure you.

Michelle Rhee came out with a book, too, entitled Radical. Now, now, DC, no need to boo. She says she’s a radical, but really, I think she’s a square. Chuckle, chuckle, math jokes, hardy. It’s about TIME!

Is Finland in the house? Oh. Cool. Finland is the one word everyone in education agrees on. Not sure what we’re agreeing upon, but Finland seems to be synonymous with the word “good.” In my next teacher conference, I’ll just tell my students’ parents, “Oh, your child’s doing Finland, yeeaah!” “Him? He’s not doing as Finland as he could, but he’s like the US. Yes, it means he ain’t that bad, either.”

Of course, The United States has to worry about our highest needs students. Our students in poverty need wrap-around services, support, and caring environments, instead of throwing bubble sheets at them while they’re ready to pop. Sometimes, it’s like we’re Dora and Boots telling politicians “Swiper no swiping,” and every time our country races somewhere or leaves a bunch of kids behind, Swiper turns around and says, “It’s tooooo late!” [Vilson inserts Swiper voice]

But there’s hope, and I know there’s hope because we got all you beautiful people in the audience here. Applaud for yourself. Parents, thank you for chasing kids down when they’re not doing their work. Teachers, thank you for waking parents up with your morning phone calls and progress reports. Students, thank you for annoying all of us with your “Can I go to the bathroom why are we learning math aw man I don’t wanna do homework?” questions because you make us better. Thank you, all! Thank you as well to the librarians, social workers, counselors, art teachers, phys. ed. teachers, and all the other staff that people wanna keep cutting out.

Dora says, “Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping! Swiper no swiping!” It’s their turn to say, “Aww man!”

Lastly, we have Nancy Carlsson-Paige, education speaker, activist, teacher … and Matt Damon’s mom. You know me, I love Matt Damon. Me and him go way back to the Save Our Schools March. He offered to write a blurb for my book and it would have read, “Oh, that guy. Yes, I remember now. Cool.” We roll deep, even after we once met once.

But I have some news for him. As much as he’s lauded by some of us for his education points of view, as an actor, he missed a few subjects, so now, I have a secret for everyone:

[Cues up "I'm F*ckin Matt Damon" by Sarah Silverman]

I’m teaching Matt Damon!
[Matt Damon appears on screen to sing along] He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m sorry, but it’s true! I’m teaching Matt Damon!
He’s teaching Matt Damon!
I’m not imagining it’s Bill Gates, I’m teaching Matt Damon!

Teaching English, teaching math, in my classroom’s where it’s at
Got Ben Affleck on the phone and he’s playing a bat

So I’m teaching Matt Damon! He’s teaching Matt Damon!

[Ends music]

Value-add THAT! Yes, I got away with the wildest joke in edu-history!

Thank you and welcome to the Bammy Awards!

Wild applause. Standing ovations. Likes, retweets, +1s, and hollers heard round the world. A few people wonder what a Buzzfeed is. They don’t have a Klout score, as far as Vilson can tell.

Jose

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Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Pardon my flippancy, but didn’t NYU professor Diane Ravitch already tell you what to do in The Death and Life of the Great American School System?

When I was asked to do a review of this book a month ago, I had just started reading a few chapters of her last page turner, soaking up every word while getting mentally ready for the new school year. Bulletin boards needed posting, school cabinets needed stocking, and this book needed reading. I know, I was supposed to read it back when it came out, but … well, no excuses, right?

I was so late to the last party that I almost missed this one. Then again, like pre-emptive strikes on foreign territory, her detractors came out of the woodwork, droning her blog, her tone on Twitter, her allies, and her person before she even got a chance to announce the book to the general public.

If you read the last two Ravitch books back-to-back, you get the sense that, yes, she’s tired of telling pseudo-reformers where to take their nonsense. Reign of Error, a progressive educator’s playbook for debunking the current set of myths tattooed on the well-toned arms of everyone from StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee to U.S. Secretary of Education’s Arne Duncan, was written for the haters as well as her choir and congregation.

Her last chapter in TDALOTGASS,Lessons Learned,” was a culmination of looking at the landscape of education policy from the mid-20th century to present-day and presenting her recommendations from an education historian’s perspective. In it, she deftly conveys solutions amenable to any education researcher and the public at large about the things we need to do to get our education system in shape, using wisdom from contemporaries and adversaries (at least the ones she respects) alike and parsing through what works and doesn’t.

Reign of Error is what happened because people weren’t reading and she got annoyed at people trying to pee on her leg. She takes the approach that someone on a debate team would. She writes out all the arguments extensively and gets to the core of those arguments before tearing them apart. The animated tone is notably different in urgency and activism. Rather than trying to engage even the doubters in a factual conversation about the lay of the land, she’s telling us in no uncertain terms where her priorities lie and why she can’t stand it anymore.

For instance, she seems to be writing to those who believe American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and Ravitch are somehow racist for pointing out poverty in Chapter 10, where she says:

It is easy for people who enjoy lives of economic ease to say that poverty doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter to them. It is an abstraction. For them, it is a hurdle to be overcome, like having a bad day or a headache or an ill-fitting jacket.

But for those who live in a violent neighborhood, in dingy surroundings, it is a way of life, not an inconvenience. Children who have seen a friend or relative murdered cope with emotional burdens that are unimaginable to the corporate leaders who want to reform their schools or close them.

From there, she dedicates paragraph after blazing paragraph excoriating via statistics the claim the poverty is somehow an excuse.

Anyone with a sharp eye for societal dynamics understands that our current wave of education reform is code for “getting the Black and Latino kids educated,” and Diane Ravitch spends an appropriate amount of time speaking about the dynamics of race, speaking on the effects of segregation and immigration in a way that makes her sound, yes, reasonable and hip to the way the education landscape currently operates. In fact, she makes the case that all children can succeed and have raised their success rate across the board, but the gaps exist due to poverty and not race.

To accuse Ravitch of racism is a far stretch.

I’m asking you to read this book and keep it somewhere within arms length for the next decade or so. She sets the record straight, rolls up her sleeves, and pulls up research from Richard Rothstein, Paul Krugman, and Linda Darling-Hammond to boot. Asking for rich, full curriculum, a path to eliminating child poverty, and decreasing the impact of standardized testing aren’t radical concepts in the vein of the socialist redistribution of wealth, universal health care, and the dissolving of the military industrial complex (I advocate for the latter trio, if you must know).

But if you hear her detractors tell it, she’s asking for too much too quickly while they have no problem throwing in a catalog of initiatives at a school district in a summer’s time, before we get acclimated to our students, our communities, our ever-changing world. In fact, that did happen. In that state of mind, I’d probably ask people to take their time doing education right, not with ephemeral patch-ups and sloppy stitches.

Diane Ravitch apparently sees this the way many classroom educators do, and based on some of the conversations I’ve had with others, we’re all getting a little tired of this … crap we call education reform.

Jose

p.s. – I didn’t read the other reviewers because a) there’s a lot of ‘em, b) they’re probably good, and c) they didn’t swear. At least I hope not. Cuz mine did.

p.p.s. – I know she doesn’t curse publicly. So? Buy the book.

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Short Notes: I’m Not Burning My A-Rod Jersey

by Jose Vilson on August 4, 2013

in Jose

Muhammad Ali, Convincing

A few notes:

Quotable:

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Short Notes: What Exactly Is Emancipation?

June 23, 2013 Short Notes

A few notes: My latest post at The Collaborateurs talks about my own journey as an alternative certification teacher to where I am now. [CTQ] Phillippe Copeland questions the meaning of Juneteenth, especially when there are more black men incarcerated than were enslaved back then. Just saying. [GOOD] Diane Ravitch’s latest target is Michael Bloomberg, […]

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Open Letter To Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Others on The Idea of Assessment

November 28, 2012 Jose

To Chancellor Dennis Walcott, David Coleman, Merryl Tisch, and McGraw-Hill Publishers: First, I’ll mention that, since the discussions of the Common Core Learning Standards came to the fore, I’ve had a plethora of chances to immerse myself in the new vision for a quasi-nationalized education paradigm. In NYC, as usual, education policy makers feel the […]

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The New York Times and Why Adding More Educators To Your Panel Matters

August 21, 2012 Jose
New-York-Times-Headquarters1

Last year around this time, I criticized the New York Times for not having many K-12 educators on their panel. Excuse me, for having maybe three current teachers and another handful of former teachers out of a possible 70 panelists. I laughed at the prospect of a public education system without any educators, and my […]

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