Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Mental Gymnastics of Some U.F.T.-Unity Positions

U.F.T. reps have variously spoken in favor of annual standardized testing (for diagnostic purposes) as well as the Common Core.  Strange how they try to sell these points to the rank and file.

The task of supporting such positions must be far easier if you, yourself, are not a parent, or your children are not school-aged.  Then, you don't have to deal with children losing their natural love for learning as you spout the company line.  You don't have to deal with the painful choices made to prop up a testing-based system like kissing art and music goodbye.  You don't have to deal with the Common-Core aligned homework that arrives each night.  You don't have to try to explain that there's a much simpler way to arrive at the correct answer, one that has been tried and true for a century or more.

If you don't have children of your own, you don't have to worry about the excessive test prep or the anxiety it engenders.  You don't have to worry about kids banging their heads on desks, giving up or trying their best and being repeatedly told that they are failures.

It must be a lot easier to smile upon the official party position if you don't actually have to teach in a classroom.  You can pretend that the Core fell from heaven into the hands of expectant teachers.  You can pretend it is manna in the wilderness.  You can pretend teachers once had nothing to "drive" their instruction.

It you do teach, you probably find these things personally insulting to the professionalism that has guided your career.  You probably find it counterproductive to a number of kids in your diverse student body who learn in different ways and have different strengths.  You probably find standardization negates your creativity as well as that of your students.  You, doubtless, worry about your students and their well being in this "brave, new world."

U.F.T. President Mulgrew and right-hand man Sterling Roberson told the Delegate Assembly that teachers want annual testing for diagnostic purposes; they said parents want it, too.  Who could they have talked to except the eight-hundred Unity faithful who are told what to think and, sometimes handsomely rewarded, for doing so?  I don't know.  I listened to a Unity member speak the other day.  She, too, is a parent.

She had to perform some extraordinary mental gymnastics to try to make the Core and all the testing seem palatable.  She said she had young kids.  They were just starting out with the Core.  She imagined if they had Core from Day 1, straight from the baby bottle, so to speak, they would do just fine with it.  She postulated that the current problem with failure rates in NY State might be that we are asking kids to pick up the Core too late in life.  We are testing a generation who has been shocked into the Core, not weaned on it.  Convenient way to view things because you could be right, until you're proven wrong.

Time will, doubtless, show that the Core effectively sorts people out and puts them in boxes earlier in life.  Working with faulty and narrow definitions, it will widen the divide between those counted as successes and those counted as failures.  Some kids will thrive on standardized tests.  Others who might exhibit a little more creativity, learn in different ways or easily become bored out of their wits will be repeatedly told they are failures until all the joy of learning is sapped out of elementary school.

Since we live in the U.S. and a premium is put upon freedom, perhaps, we should encourage experimental Common Core schools, reliant upon annual testing.  Let the eight hundred Unity reps send their children to these schools as a sign of their good faith.  Let them teach in these types of prep-based academies as well.  If necessary, let them leave their double-pensioned job to do so.  Let them put their money where the mouth is--while the rest of us, who are not paid to spout nonsense, do what we think is best.  And we can check back with them in a few years and see how it's going...
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