Sunday, March 22, 2015

#205 March 22, 2015- Exhausting

I was exhausted at the end of this past week.  It hit me when I realized that I thought an 8:20 PM start for the Wisconsin Badgers' NCAA tournament game sounded like it was pretty late.  I joked with some colleagues that 8:20 used to be when we started thinking about what to do on a Friday night, but now I wasn't sure if I'd make it to the end of the game (I did by the way, watching them win their opening round game easily).  There are many reasons why my fellow educators and I were so tired this week.  Maybe I'm not as young as I used to be, maybe it was the conferences that went until 8 PM the night before (after teaching all morning) and the two long evening meetings early in the week, maybe it was the energy level of our students who enjoyed nicer weather and are anticipating their upcoming Spring Break. 

All of those are valid reasons for feeling mentally and physically tired, but we can't discount the reality that public educators and others working to drive a social justice agenda here in Wisconsin are facing attacks on so many levels that it can seem overwhelming at times.  After all, this isn't my first year of teaching and I've been through virtually every scenario imaginable in my nearly two decades as a public educator.  Yet, it feels different in recent years.  That enthusiasm that educators have for education and their students is still very much alive, but the undercurrent of frustration, anxiety and even despair is slowly moving towards the surface. 

This is true for public educators because our work is so interconnected with the lives of our students, the health of our community and the social, political and economic climate that our schools are embedded in.  Being a public educator is so much more than standing in front of a classroom and sharing our knowledge and wisdom with students.  We find ourselves helping families with housing and medical care.  We find ourselves counseling students through traumas.  We find ourselves torn and uncertain in the face of issues that have no easy resolution and try to find our way towards social justice as best we can.  We find ourselves becoming part of a system that, more and more, seems to be moving away from the values that we entered our profession espousing. 

To give an idea of what educators in Wisconsin are concerned about and some of the challenges we face here are some thoughts on multiple topics as we enter the last week before Spring
Break. . .

Politics matter in our lives- We've learned the hard way that the policies and legislation enacted have a significant impact on our lives and the lives of the families we work with.  The efforts to seize and maintain political power have adversely impacted our entire system of public education by significantly weakening the ability of educators to advocate for their students and families. 

There's a medium sized town in Wisconsin home to a boy named Tim. Calling Tim a "boy" might be a stretch since, at only seventeen, he moves about in what's clearly a man's body. He's six and a half feet tall; a mean, lean two hundred and thirty pounds; and fully capable of bench pressing . . . wel…

This silencing of educators and the impact that it has on education policies has been noted by those who seek to profit from our schools and students.  They are using pro-student rhetoric to gain power, but they use that power to enact anti-student policy. 

Michelle Rhee's group is sneakily trying to rebrand itself to advance its anti-union agenda.

Ideological inconsistencies are hard to combat- It is painful to watch our state's governor go around the nation touting his self-defined "successes" that are built on the backs of the citizens he was elected to represent.  While I disagree with Walker's social, political and economic ideology, I would still feel obligated to accept some of its merits if it truly worked for the citizens of Wisconsin.  Yet, the evidence seems clear, most of us are being hurt by the recent policies enacted by Walker and the Republican lead legislature. 

Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) is a conservative hero with a record of taking progressives and unions in a state that went for Obama and beating them twice....

Wisconsin gained 27,491 private-sector jobs in the 12 months from September 2013 through September 2014, a 1.16% increase, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.|By John Schmid

The inconsistencies that abound in this recent administration make us wonder why there are those who still "stand with Walker."  There is the myth of transparency and honest government. 

Scott Walker is traveling the country portraying himself as a straight shooter. "We said what we're gonna do, and we did it!" he told CPAC delegates in D.C. last...

Another example is the illusion of economic conservatism that is really just a redistribution of wealth upwards. 

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau finds that Gov. Scott Walker’s budget would...

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tours the country touting his conservative credentials while gearing up for an expected run for president, there’s a conservative question that’s nagging back home.|By Herald editorial board

In the end, it seems like we are not involved in an ideological conflict between Conservatism and Progressivism, but rather a struggle to expose an agenda that is much more self-serving and in the long run, harmful to our state.  We can engage in political discourse and heated debate, but we find it difficult to dispute a political platform that changes on a regular basis to fit specific political needs.  

Nationally syndicated conservative columnist Michelle Malkin, founder of the website Twitchy, tells Breitbart News that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a...

Economics impact every aspect of our society- Money and wealth could be a driving force for positive change in America, but instead the drive to amass huge fortunes is harming all of us.  This impact appears in education where individuals and companies are using the current climate to profit from our schools or to promote a political agenda. 

Controversy around Common Core hasn't stopped companies like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Apple from cashing in on huge education contracts.|By Lawrence Delevingne

Milwaukee Public Schools is facing a cut of at least $12 million as a result of that move, but plenty of well-to-do suburban districts are acknowledging gaping budget holes, as well.|By Patrick Leary

Who knew that being a billionaire would enable you and your family to buy an entire school district and even the state board of education? It isn't that difficult, if you have enough money. Do we l...

It is visible in our politics where we see a small number of people with a disproportionate ability to impact policies and decision making. 

Only some of the money, the amount of which is nearly double what the Kochs spent on 2012 elections, would come from the brothers themselves|By Amanda Holpuch

We see it impacting those who are most at risk and who rely on sound public policy to stay afloat.

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would totally dismantle one of the best long-term care systems in the country.|By Tom Frazier And Lynn Breedlove

Inequities of all types are destructive to democracy- Our nation is facing some of the biggest gaps we've ever experienced in virtually every possible category.  Race and gender inequities are highly visible, but at the same time we are seeing the splits between any number of different groups expand.  A small number of individuals are benefiting from the direction we are headed, but the end result will be painful for everyone.  History shows us repeatedly that inequity breeds discontent, struggle and strife.  

A new report comparing Wall Street bonuses to minimum wage earnings sums up income inequality in America.

Yet again, conservatives on the Supreme Court are poised to do significant damage to minority communities

Educators see these inequities on a daily basis as we struggle to advocate for our students in a system that seems to be designed to magnify gaps.

Principal: How Common Core testing hurts disadvantaged students
The third in a series of letters between two principals -- one who likes the Common Core and the other who doesn't.

We need accountability, but it needs to be valid and meaningful- Educators are no strangers to the word accountability, it has been used to attack educators on a regular basis.  The illusion that we haven't been accountable is one that opponents of public schools love to use, yet educators have always worked hard to meet the needs of their students.  We are facing a future where our efforts are measured in ways that are unfair, inequitable and unjust.  It is difficult to hear your efforts maligned while knowing that the "facts" being used against you are inaccurate and misleading.  

Schools with more economic, racial diversity tend to score worse on School Report Cards.

We should also be holding those who profit from our schools accountable for their actions.

Pearson, the education publishing giant, describes its practice of monitoring social media posts as a test-security measure, but some parents say the...|By Natasha Singer

A real dialog about accountability needs to happen.

The goal of K-12 education is to prepare students for their future.

Take the example of student discipline.  Data shows that a disproportionate number of minority students are disciplined severely.  The end result is a radical change in policy that may not be effective in addressing the underlying concerns that exist.  Instead of removing consequences and weakening the authority of educators we need to work to address the root causes of the behaviors that impact the learning of all students.  Fully funding and supporting policies that are aimed at educating student proactively and that are restorative in nature will have an impact, without significant supports we will be left worse off than when we started our efforts.   

New York public-school students caught stealing, doing drugs or even attacking someone can avoid suspension under new “progressive” discipline rules...

One option is to reduce the pressure of standards and assessments and let students explore the world around them in a meaningful and positive way.

New research suggests that exposure to nature makes us more cooperative.

So, what happens now?- It sure does feel bleak and appears that it might be easier to simply put our heads down and toil on.  Yet, we know that the struggle is worthwhile and that there is hope for the future.  The problem may not be our opponents and those who manipulate the system for their own ends, but rather it may be that sense of hopelessness and a feeling that we can't succeed in our efforts to resist this divisive and negative agenda.  People need to see the possibilities of what we can accomplish when working together.  We need to break down the barriers that have been erected to keep a flawed system in place and work collectively to move our society in a more united and positive direction.  It has been done before, and we certainly can do it again.  It starts by getting involved in the processes that exist, and continues as we forge new pathways and alliances that serve to promote true "liberty and justice for all."  

1 comment:

  1. Brilliantly stated , again, Andy! Way to energize us to go forward to carry on our necessary work !