Monday, February 09, 2009

Better KIPP Yourself in Line

Some people who claim to care for children amaze me. Some oppose birth control, or reproductive choice. It seems to me that if you're going to insist women bear children, you damn well owe them a hand once they're born. But not all who take that position agree. Then there are the education "reformers," like KIPP, which have made the startling discovery that keeping kids in school 200 hours a week gives them more school time.

Of course, when KIPP kids grow up, they'll have learned that working 200 hours a week is the norm. After all their mantra is "Work hard, be nice." So why would they fight for better working conditions? Why would they insist on a 40-hour week? Why would they demand time to spend with their families? I ask you, is that "nice?" Was it "nice" when a bunch of Americans dumped British tea from a boat? Was it "nice" when we demanded to have no taxation without representation? Was it "nice" when Americans fought for the right to form and be represented by unions?

Apparently, it was not nice at all. That's why the folks at KIPP have taken measures to intimidate the rabblerousers who wish to unionize:

...during the last week in January, while teachers were at a faculty meeting, the principals met with seventh- and eighth-grade students alone, a move the teachers said was unprecedented. Several students told their teachers that they had been encouraged to talk about “negative feelings and interactions” with them, those teachers said.

It certainly sounds as though these teachers have something to be nervous about. As "at-will" employees, there's not really much they can do if the administration decides to dump them based on unsubstantiated allegations elicited from kids. And what did the kids say, exactly?

“Teachers are very disrespectful. They always tell us sarcasm and mean words and expect us to have respect for them,” and “We need more reason to come to school, the classes are boring and there’s nothing to do. I miss how it used to be,”...

That's not the most direct condemnation I've ever heard. In fact, it sounds like general gripes you'd hear from middle school kids anywhere. Still, were I a KIPP teacher favoring unionization, I'd be nervous. Because honestly, they're absolutely expendable. They can be replaced, right now, with teachers more willing to be "nice." And honestly, are those the sort of role models we want for our kids?

Sure, kids are immature. They can be selfish. They can argue over meaningless things. It's our job to set them straight.

But when we're talking about the right to unionize, something Americans have struggled and sacrificed for, being "nice" is simply not the way to go. And frankly, anyone giving our kids that message is not suited to teach, let alone run a school
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