Thursday, July 11, 2019

Crossing the Line

We all have lines. We make lines and we respect them. Some lines you just don't cross. Now if you're Daffy Duck, or Donald Trump, you just draw arbitrary lines and tell people not to cross them This is the line of death, you say. Cross this line and you die. Then, when they cross it, you draw a new one and say this is the line of death. Cross this line and you die.

Most of us have different lines, and we don't rewrite them over and over. If we did, we'd have no character, and we'd be Daffy Duck, or worse. Some lines are necessary. Some are stupid. Judging which are which is a challenge.

I crossed a lot of lines this year. When MORE unceremoniously booted my friends from the caucus, they crossed a line. I was never going back there again, and I'm sure if I'd only been attending their meetings they'd have kicked me out too. I crossed another when people from Unity invited us to run with them. I'd never envisioned doing anything like that, but it seemed like the best decision. I want to be active beyond writing things on a blog.

Of course there are consequences for crossing lines. For me, I suffered a few nasty comments online. Some people are funny with me now, and not in that ha-ha sense. For MORE, there went 80% of their vote. But they're happy with that, because winning was never the goal for them. They considered it a disaster. Fortunately for them, having redefined themselves as losers, they will remain exactly where they wish to be. I'm in DC right now at AFT Teach, and I'm spending time with people a lot more interesting than most I encountered in MORE.

I crossed another line when I trashed the geniuses in Albany last week. I'm getting a little blowback from that. Oh, they may double down on bad policy because they're offended. What does it say of ostensible educators that they'd double down on bad policy that hurts thousands of children because they don't like what someone says about them?

Regardless, I hope they're offended, because it was my express intention to offend. Their actions, depriving children of vital basic English instruction, makes life harder for kids whose lives are hard enough already.

Yesterday I got to hear an Albany rationale for the changes to Part 154. You see, by giving students classes with other ELLs, we were segregating them. They weren't getting the chance to meet other people. Therefore, dumping them into general classes with less English instruction was a bold step, a definite improvement.

Okay. Let's take that a step further. Why are we dumping only the kids who want to learn French in French classes? Isn't that segregation? Why don't we just dump everyone in French classes? That's absurd, isn't it? Would you want to be the French teacher after that happened?

Actually, I'm all for having ELLs attend classes with speakers of English, as well as other languages. I just want to give them the opportunity to prepare for it. Not only that, but the only people who need explicit language instruction in English are ELLs. So no, I'm not placing them in a linguistic ghetto. I'm placing them in a group with people who share their needs, people who empathize with them and can mutually support one another.

I wrote that NY State, by depriving learners of the instruction they desperately need, but pulling away the only safe place they had to practice English, was practicing an awful kind of discrimination. Someone told me that was not their intent, and that they were rather trying to make up for something. I believe that. But why, I asked, did they place such an awful, stupid program in its place? I anticipated every single negative consequence that would occur. Why didn't they?

"Because they aren't teachers," the person answered.

Now here's the thing--the very first time I read about Part 154, I knew what the consequences would be. Of course, I don't attend the meetings of the geniuses in Albany, and being geniuses, they don't need teacher input.

So they had good intentions. But most if not all of the students they hurt are students of color. So they're practicing discrimination. Is discrimination any better if the intentions are good?

For my students, the results are exactly the same. So no, it isn't any better. Not even a little. I'd like to see a whole lot of people stand up and tell the geniuses in Albany this is outrageous. You must fix it.

But a whole lot of them won't. They don't want to cross that line. You have to be nice to the geniuses in Albany, they say, because they have good intentions.

I don't care. I'm over the line. If they fix Part 154, I'll sincerely apologize and tell them how much I appreciate it. If not, I couldn't care less just how many good intentions they've used to pave their shiny new road to hell.
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