Monday, February 7, 2011

News and Notes

Reading the weekend and Monday newspapers I found some interesting perspectives which is clearly and obviously twisted by the some in the media - which isn't to say it's all the right wing, religious or conservative media outlets and network, although they're the bulk of it, to their own political agenda and perspective. Ok, just another rant. So be it. I'm entitled and it's my blog, and I'll rant if I want to.

Ok, first, Tunisia and Egypt. It's not about democracy and freedom. It's about jobs and food. The protests in these countries, and others like Jordan, Syria, etc., are couched in politics, but only because the people want the leadership to help the people. These countries have been ruled by near if not absolute authoritarian rule where the elite are wealthy beyond reality. And the mass of the people aren't.

Most of the people in these countries spend the bulk of their income on food, and that's only if they have a job. Tunisia, for example, put considerable countries resources in education, but the majority of those with degrees, even advanced degrees, don't have jobs. All the education and no jobs for it.

Most of these people simply want the opportunity to do what everyone wants everywhere, work, raise their family, and provide for the future of their children. That's not hard to understand. So what can't we see that and why do we keep focusing on the politics of the protests? Yeah, it's the obvious, but let's get past the obvious and work on the real solutions.

In Egypt, replacing Mubarak won't create jobs. It will, maybe, help win freedoms for the people by curtailing the police and intelligence services against the people. But that still won't create jobs, control the price of food and help the people toward a better life. That's the goal, so let's keep our eye there.

Ok, second, teachers and all the recent Republican effort, mostly governors and state legislatures, to dissolve the right of teachers to have tenure and form unions. The number of bad teachers is very small, really negligible. We can't continue to blame teachers for the failure of students when it's the system, the students, and the family who has to share the blame.

The vast majority of teachers are excellent or better teachers. Often the education system short-changes them with support, supplies, facilities (to lower classroom sizes), and excessive workloads (too many classes or extra classroom work). That's not their fault, but the system, the public (and voters), and the school boards.

All the teachers have to deal with the diversity of students, each of whom learn differently, from a diversity of economic and family backgrounds. The teachers can't be blamed for students who won't or can't perform when presented with all the material and information to learn. That has to really fall on the students and their family.

The same applies to test results. We evaluate teachers based on standardized tests when maybe it's not their fault, but the tests, the students and the families. How can a student learn when the environment outside the classroom doesn't help and more often hinders if not hurts them to want let alone have opportunties to learn?

We can't hold teachers accountable and responsible for the whole of the education system and then decide tenure and unions are the problem. If you remove tenure from teachers, schools will continually hire the cheapest teachers available and then refuse to promote them, raise their salary, or fire them to hire new cheap teachers.

If you remove teachers' unions, you will remove their voice. Without unions they have no voice to remind us of their importance and their value, and to hold us accountable and responsible for our part of the education system. They deserve the right to represent teachers against all the forces determined to undermine them.

It's right and fair for them and for us, and it's fair and right for the education of our children. We owe them that.

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