September 18, 2012

"I didn't think it was a game..."

Welcome back from summer vacation.

Right away it seems that this school year has stepped off, or perhaps into, a heap of controversy.  While good things are happening on the personal front for me academically, the blessings afforded me are not being spread through out the educational landscape.  With this said let me re-initiate my blog with a review of a previous blog post and a continuation of the discussion.

My post entitled "We Love that Basketball" (June 4, 2012) was my attempt to link sports analogies with the educational discourse.

In a "conversation" on twitter a woman engaged me in a heated discussion about educational policy which resulted in her using the line which is the title of this post.  I made the argument that the education policy landscape is a game.  I'd also argue that politics as a whole is a game - some would argue, more often than not, a zero-sum game. A zero-sum game is briefly defined as one making gains and the other side making equally similar gains and therefore the total gains are zero.  As a political science major, and policy wonk in both Washington DC and Chicago, I understand the hand to hand combat of politics - for better or worse.  I am also seeped in a deep, philosophical understanding that there are those in education who believe this divisiveness does not exist.  When speaking of education and education policy, they are the ones who generally speak in platitudes such as "all children can learn" or that "everyone deserves a fair shake."  The reality, for many of us, in particular persons of color, is that we know that the world is skewed towards "winners" and "losers."  To deny that this is, for better or worse, the current landscape, is to deny, and I believe disrespect, both the process and its participants, namely children.

We have to acknowledge that there are winners and losers in everything that takes place in the public arena. The goal shouldn't be to deny that the large chess board exists, but rather we should aim towards teaching everyone how to play the game.  The goal shouldn't be trying to espouse false platitudes or unrealistic goals or expectations, but rather fight to close gap between those who are "winning" and those who are "losing."  The most ideal situation would be one in which we are able to not only close the "achievement gap" of the nation's public school students, but also close the "political gap" which exists among many of their teachers.

I have thought long and hard about why what I call the "political gap" among teachers exists.  More to the point, I've often wondered why.  Here's a thought.  Let's look at the numbers in regards to who is teaching our children.  Between 1986 and 2011, the number of male teachers dropped from 31% to 16%.  Further, the race of those who teach our children has continuously been predominantly white 84% (down from 91% in 1986) (  Consequentially in an increasingly "Browning" country our teaching population is predominantly white females.  For example, in Chicago, the current student population is only 9% white (which is similar to other large school districts such as LA or New York).

Let me be clear, I am not disparaging the work of these teachers, but rather I highlight this to raise a few questions.  One, what role does the teacher's gender and race play in the expectations of their students?  Two, what role does the teacher's gender and race play in their interest or engagement with the oftentimes confrontational and heated arena of politics?  It is noted by folks far more intelligent than I, that women tend to be less confrontational and less interested in politics at the school site for a multitude of reasons, not the least of them being the many other hats they wear as a teacher (mentor, role-model, advisor, counselor, etc...).  As such many teachers tend to do or listen exclusively to the leadership of their union which brings me to the next point.

As I have raised on twitter and elsewhere, this seems to be a huge case of irony. While these same teachers teach students to "challenge authority" and they themselves challenge authority, namely the School Board, the Administration and the like, they seldom seem willing or wanting to challenge their union en masse.  With the exception of large scale turnover of union leadership, which occurs rarely, teachers (regardless of gender) seem content to believe and follow their union.

While I am in favor of both teachers and unions, I do not think that teachers unions, over the past few decades, have served the needs of their rank and file as positively as they could have.  No one can argue that there is an extreme need for infrastructure repairs in many of our crumbling urban schools.  No one can argue that class size should be lower, and that teachers need more autonomy.  The questions are how do we achieve these goals while at the same time, 1) continuing to teach our students to love learning and ask critical questions 2) balancing the budgets and 3) increasing graduation rates and reducing drop out rates?

I do not have the answer, but I do know that more teachers need to examine the leadership of their unions as closely as they scrutinize the schooling choices of their Mayor's children or any of the other multitude of distractionary arguments which have been advanced since Chicago teachers went on strike Monday (9/10).  As this strike thankfully comes to a close, examining the residual effects will be something which will be under the microscope in the next few weeks and months.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of the current leadership of the Chicago Teacher's Union and how the teachers will repair their relationships at the school site.  Trust is key, but also extremely hard to build.

1 comment:

  1. Kuhio_Kane • 25 days ago −

    Okay, let's get into Stu's head for a second. His definition of zero sum game is, well, not defined. But, here's what I think is going on. One side, say Democrats, drive policy as much as possible; the other side, say Republicans, drive equal and opposite policy. In this case, each want their version to become law. When they become obstructed by either side, or are denied by a blockingvote in, say, the Senate, even the House, then both sides, seeking a positive for their own side, collide, as it were, and nothing comes of any attempts at partisan gain as the vote cancels each sides' attempt for gain. Therefore, the zero sum could be considered "voided" and therefore equal to zero.

    Therefore, I think Stu, in this display, is supplying an example of zero sum game; while not demonstrating a clear understanding of the fundamental meaning of it. This is due clearly to underdeveloped cognition. We could argue ad nauseum. The larger point is that Stu is claiming that the "education landscape is a game." And that politics is " on the whole," a zero sum game. How sophomoric. The mention of the complexities built into education and education policies, and politics "on the whole" (whatever the hell that means) as, "more often than not," a zero sum game displays little knowledge beyond the cursory.

    Similarly, any idiot can yell out to a crowd, "Hey, man, everything's a game." Ok. What do you mean by that statement? We hear the hypothesis without the clarity of quantitative nor even qualitative support of the hypothesis. Clearly, all this is an example of how easily ignorant people can obtain a Masters degree. How they can become a teacher and know little or nothing beyond the surface of meaning. A PhD built on bullshit is still bullshit.

    No matter what graduate degrees one seeks to compensate for an inferior intellect, or at best, a delusional ego, when you ain't got it, nothing will change the way the brain works. In Stu's case, it is seemingly a desperate attempt, on a daily basis, to deal with his deep sense of inferiority. This is a human conditions. Most all have evidence of various levels of similar feeling. I know I often do. Therefore, I do not disparage Stu. Rather, the thing is, just be yourself and don't try to be someone your not. Stu comes on strong as he trolls the Internet. His choice. Unfortunately he aspires to the third standard deviation on the intelligence curve, but seemingly hasn't the ability to be more than just a bit above the mean. Not necessarily based in fact, but an opinion based upon Stu's statements and responses to others.

    Wow. I'll bet Stu is really digging all this attention. Go have a steam at Marina Del Ray, Stu. Keep on keeping on.