Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hillary's Haters

Now I may have spoken a word or two against presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. After all, she's got some rich history. But I'm surprised at the reaction I've gotten. I've been told that I hate Hillary, that I hate women, that I'm stupid, that I'm a "Bernie Bro," and that I don't understand high school civics. I've been told I support Donald Trump. I've been told that I have to vote for Hillary. I have to! I've been called a fanatic. (This writer is hearing pretty much the same.)

What is a fanatic, exactly? I think a fanatic is someone who has one point of view that supersedes all others. But that's not enough. A fanatic is someone who says, "This is the way I do this thing. Everyone else must do this thing this way too." So I'm gonna defend myself against the charge of fanaticism by saying I don't insist everyone else do as I do. I mean, it would be great if everyone voted for Bernie. It would be great if he'd won more contests. You vote for whom you like. I won't insult you. But whatever happens, I'm not planning to vote for Hillary.

I may have mentioned, somewhere or other, that I'm a teacher. I may have also mentioned that I'm a UFT Chapter Leader. In my capacity as chapter leader, I get to hear what anyone wishes to tell me about what they go through. I'm not hearing the love for Race to the Top, which imposed junk science ratings on me and everyone with whom I work. The lone exception is when I go to UFT meetings. In these meetings, people from the President on down, none of whom have ever been rated by Danielson, toss out statistics and easily proclaim that things are incontrovertibly better.

And yet, each day at work, people tell me how unhappy they are. Young, brilliant teachers tell me they can't take it any more. The most relentlessly positive people I've ever seen in my life get up and walk out. And let me add, I work in one of the best schools in the city (in my highly prejudiced opinion).

But in my school, like in every school, there are all kinds of pressures. Sometimes the pressures ease. No more letter grades. But you cut off one head, and another grows in its place. Test scores no good? Close the school. Fire everyone. Put it into receivership and give it to Moskowitz. Test scores good? First overload the school to triple capacity. Then yeah OK, the scores are good but you're not asking the right questions. What's the point of having 97% of the kids passing the math tests if they can't have profound and reflective discussions about whether or not one plus one is really two? I mean, why is it two?  You can't reserve these discussions for works of literature, and anyway we don't do those anymore. We close read pieces of them with no context, and analyze them until we're blue in the face.

And if you do get those good scores, they're not really good unless you have teams of teachers discussing the work. They have to sit every day and analyze it just like the students analyze out of context fragments of literature. If it's perfect, then they have to figure out how to make it more perfect. And for God's sake there has to be PD. Who cares if 99% of the PD you've sat through for thirty years has been useless? You never know. This might be the one. This might be the one percent. And anyway, since the support networks have been broken up, there are all these companies that charge tens of thousands of dollars for PD. How the hell are they supposed to make tens of thousands of dollars if no one pays them for PD? Have you even considered that?

I've considered it. I've considered it in great detail. Every day when another thirty-year-old teacher tells me how lucky I am that I can retire, I consider it even more. I consider that Barack Obama's children attended the Sidwell Friends School, a place that subscribes to absolutely none of the Common Core tests or junk science ratings that so torture my young colleagues. I consider that Hillary Clinton sent her kid to Sidwell too, yet thinks Common Core is good enough for the rest of us peasants and our children. I consider my beginning kids taking the NYSESLAT exam, answering ridiculous and redundant questions about Hammurabi's Code and whatever other Common-Corey Crap the geniuses over at Questar have dreamed up for them.

I'm not voting for people who enable this crap. Not anymore. I've had enough.

Hey, if you want to vote for Hillary, be my guest. But when you come at me with ad hominem nonsense, when you tell me I have no choice, I'm not the one who's fanatic.
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