Sunday, May 17, 2020

Can We Pull Something Positive from the Crisis?

 Maybe there's a silver lining in the Covid crises somewhere. The question is whether or not we'll be able to sufficiently organize ourselves to exploit it. Of course, we have to find a way to do that before Bill Gates gets his slimy little hands on us and our children. I'll come back to that a little later. (But remember, if you're touched by Bill Gates, go home and wash your whole body with Brillo pad.)

There's a reason why someone like me, after having spent years teaching in miserable hot-in-the-summer, cold-in-the-winter trailers, keeps requesting them. That reason is I've frequently gottenstuck teaching in substandard classrooms. My least favorite are the ones in which students end up almost in one another's laps. You give a test and you hope no one's looking at someone else's paper, but you can't imagine how they could not be looking at someone else's paper.

Then the administrators come and scream at you because the kids are sitting on the windowsill. They scream at you when you move the teacher desk into some far corner to create space when you sit on the windowsill. And they know you only do that so as to create space.

Still, the worst classroom I've ever had is the one in my dining room, where I teach now. Sure, it's good that our dining room finally serves a purpose more than once or twice a year, but this notwithstanding, it would be much better to have dinner parties Of course we can't do that either, or I wouldn't be teaching from the dining room.

Now we have woefully ignorant wealthy doofuses like Andrew Cuomo licking his lips over getting rid of school buildings altogether and making us teach from home permanently. Of course he's enlisted the help of uber-wealthy doofus Bill Gates. Gates, as you well know, has extensive experience imposing his stupid ideas upon American education. Every working teacher in the country feels his influence, and absolutely none of it is positive.

This is Shock Doctrine 101. When Katrina flooded and ruined NOLA, a whole bunch of geniuses got together and decided this was a great time to privatize the education system. After all, it was a crisis, and as Chancellor Carranza recently said, "Never let a good crisis go to waste." Now I can't speculate what the chancellor was envisioning, but in New Orleans, it pretty much meant the end of union and the end of public school.

This was much praised by reformies nationwide, up to and including the then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who famously declared that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing ever to happen to  education in New Orleans. And why not? His BFFs were making money hand over fist establishing charter schools. There was no more of that nasty union and teachers weren't able to organize. And yet, it turned out not to be the magic bullet they'd promised.

By empowering people like Bill Gates, we've set ourselves up to be yet another site for one of his spectacular failures. I mean, sure Common Core didn't work, but we're still stuck with English instruction designed to make students hate reading and writing. And sure, the junk science observation process hasn't fired enough teachers for Andrew Cuomo's druthers, but it's still the bane of every teacher's existence. No matter how many times we're told this intrusive system is there to help us, we all remember what it was designed for--to make it easier to fire us.

I wonder, though, why is it that only anti-teacher, anti-union demagogues like Gates and Duncan are able to not let a good crisis go to waste? Could this crisis possibly work to our advantage?

Can we push Cuomo to lower class sizes, now that we know large ones are not only detrimental to education, but also to public health? Can shock doctrine work in favor of real people? Is there an opportunity here to make sometime good happen?

I'm not sure, but I'd love to see it.
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