You Say You Want A Revolution?

Maybe it’s my age or the variety of good music I heard growing up, but some lyrics seem to live well beyond their years. The song Revolution, penned by the Beatles in 1968, lamented the Vietnam War and rang true for so many anti-war protesters. In the midst of a very unpopular and long quagmire where thousands of lives were lost, no real victory was realized as embattled troops returned to a seemingly unappreciative and event hostile homecoming. It was a challenging time for sure.

We all want to change the world right?

Anytime we find ourselves in a situation that seems inescapable we might consider how we ended up there and what we can do moving forward. War is evil yet sometimes inevitable. It wreaks havoc on all those involved (countries, soldiers, and innocent civilians) and leaves indelible damage long after victory is proclaimed. Just ask any veteran who is willing to honestly share their thoughts.

Notice to my young children 1974-1999

no guns allowed (4)

As a young mother, I forbid my children to have toy guns, not even a water pistol. Crazy some may say, but I could not in good conscience allow something in my home that I abhorred. I don’t think my children were damaged by my rigid adherence to this particular rule. In fact, one of my sons served three tours in Afghanistan and came back alive, no doubt due to his keen skill using a high powered rifle. Apparently not owning a toy gun for 18 years did not handicap his ability to defend himself, protect his troops, and to ward off the enemy.

The sad truth is, that in war, there will be casualties.

Why do I write about war and revolutions? Simply put, I believe there is a war for the minds of young people in a world of schooling that does not emphasize authentic learning. I believe that we accept this status quo because of compulsory school laws. We are told that public school ensures educational equity while training young people to become productive citizens. We believe that young people need to be formally trained and taught so they can take their rightful place in society. Cookie cutter classes producing the same kind of cookie is the goal.

You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead

Free thinking for students is not on most K-12 public school agendas. The institution honors conformity, compliance and coercion.  It is designed to keep order among the masses entering the school house doors on a daily basis. While it may recognize brilliant children, it is often too busy classifying them into the right box. There is little veering from the set grade level curriculum because it is too costly and time consuming to do other wise.

Creativity, innovation and grit are taught in metered doses through various checklists that good teachers try, all while ensuring that their students are ready to take the high stakes state tests every spring. Rigid time constraints, a plethora of testing, and cumbersome standards ensure that little time is left for authentic and meaningful learning.

We continue the practice of forcing all the square pegs into our round holes. The casualties are inevitable.

“Our students are products of what we model. Teach them dependence and submission and they comply. Teach them that certain behaviors trigger rewards and they catch on to the cues. Teach them to sit and raise hands and speak only when spoken to and they acquiesce over time. Teach them that passing the test and getting good grades is the sum of their existence in school and they work toward that end having no comprehension of what real, deep and lasting learning is. Teach them to find the correct answer, and they never strive, struggle, or persist at something difficult.” (Learning Unleashed pg. 63.)

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re all doing what we can

In my book, Learning Unleashed, I provided a list of doable and practical action plans. There are several ways to begin the revolution. For the sake of your time, I won’t list them all here, but you can check them out in my book on pages 115-116.

One prerequisite: Each parent, educator, and informed citizen must be willing to relinquish old school paradigms and firmly held political arguments to see real educational change. We must sift through years of ingrained school propaganda as well as current school sound bites that tend to brand everything according to politics. We must care more about how young people learn best and less about their grades and test scores.

Most importantly, we must want an educational revolution, driven by courage, conviction and commitment on behalf of our young learners.

Until we put this war to an end, there will be casualties. I’m hoping the war ends soon.

Peace! --peace-sign-hand-peace-signs


Unpacking the Learning – Part 10

Teacher Unions and Teacher Tenure

teacher strikes

Why do Teacher Unions exist and what do they do? If we take a look at the two prominent national teachers association mission statements below we find clues which I have highlighted for emphasis.

NEA -National Teachers Association Our mission is to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

AFT – American Federation of Teachers  The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, health care, and public services for our students, their families, and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining, and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

Apparently this is really hard work that requires quite a hefty salary in order to achieve its stated outcomes. This chart represents The AFT President’s salary/benefits and total compensation of $497,118. It’s no wonder she left the classroom in favor of becoming a union boss. The perks are well out of range for a normal classroom teacher.

RHONDA WEINGARTEN PRESIDENT $382,677 Salary $114,441 Bens $497,118 Total

Forty three of her staff earn over six digit salaries and the list identifies a total staff of 216 paid employees with ten non-paid employees listed as Vice Presidents.  Since there was no total salaries listed, I decided to pull out the calculator and begin the arduous task. I gave up adding at the $60,000,000 mark. You can check the details on the link below.

Sticker Shock AFT

I wondered if state and local teacher unions who are affiliated with AFT got a decent bang for their deducted bucks, or have they been duped into believing that union dues are worth it. I couldn’t help but think that part of the $60,000,000 might be better spent closer to each teacher’s school.

The NEA is even more staggering at well over 500 salary/benefit positions and far more than $60,000,000.  Again, what is it that they do? You can check their websites for a list of accomplishments. I did and wasn’t entirely impressed.

LILY ESKELSEN PRESIDENT $303,934 $112,699 $416,633
JOHN STOCKS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR $304,709 $102,555 $407,264
BECKY PRINGLE VICE PRESIDENT $268,594 $102,684 $371,278


More Sticker Shock NEA

The Golden Age of Unions

I get why labor unions were important in the industrial age. Working conditions, fair wages, child labor laws and a seat at the table make sense to me.  I get why teacher unions began and what they hoped to accomplish. Teachers were laborers in the industrial model of schooling.  I even belonged and paid into a union in my early teaching career. I actually had no choice.

However, I am not convinced that teacher unions are worth the dues paid to keep them functioning. I am more inclined to believe that unions have outlived their purpose. They have become a political advocacy group whose sole focus is to ensure the status quo and to proclaim their relevancy and importance.

I couldn’t help but notice a rather obvious “omission” in their mission statements.  They forgot to describe quality teaching and learning and how they make it happen for every student in our public schools. Instead, they focus on generic mission statement jargon that sounds lofty but falls short of the actual mark – helping students learn.

It is hard to imagine that the mighty union bosses will relinquish their grip on public school teachers any time soon. It it too ingrained and pervasive in the institutional schooling world.  Teachers are duped to believe that there is value added, so they continue to pay exorbitant union dues.

Unfortunately, the school system itself is a culprit in this status quo game of “who’s really in charge.” Management and rank and file mentality continues to plague modern day schooling. It can be so much better than what we have made it.  We just can’t seem to kick old, unproductive habits.

Union Bargaining MD

“Schools created by like-minded individuals with autonomy to focus on authentic and meaningful student learning rarely need negotiations to accomplish their goals. When schools are built on strong student centered practices, they will accomplish far more than a negotiation session ever will.” (Learning Unleashed pg. 111)

John Taylor Gatto, a New York Teacher of the Year, explained it well in his letter to the NYT editor entitled, I Quit, I Think.

“School has become too vital a jobs project, contract-giver and protector of the social order to allow itself to be “re-formed.” It has political allies to guard its marches. That’s why reforms come and go-without changing much. Even reformers can’t imagine school much different. David learns to read at age four; Rachel, at age nine: In normal development, when both are 13, you can’t tell which one learned first – the five year spread means nothing at all. But in school, We label Rachel “learning disabled” and slow David down a bit too.”

Sadly, for many, this is where public schooling has taken us. It is a mega-jobs project churning out millions of “workers” ready to takeover and maintain the status quo. Unions exists to make sure that happens.

Teacher Tenure – A Relic of a Bygone Era

Teacher tenure is a remnant of an older negotiation time in history. It just doesn’t make sense that in every other profession, you remained employed only if you are effectively doing your job. IN schools this is not the case. “In the movie, Waiting for Superman, this phenomenon is described as the “dance of the lemons,” where ineffective teachers are just danced out of one school into another one without any real consequences.” (Learning Unleashed pg. 110.)

There are many hardworking, ethical, and passionate teachers who would never think of damaging their students. No sincere teacher does. However, situations arise from time to time…and something must be done. (LU pg. 110)

No one’s job is guaranteed – nor should it be.

We need a major education revolution!  You can learn about it in my next blog. Stay tuned…