I’ve been terrified to write about anything within a hundred miles of politics since I became a teacher. I don’t want to be known by my students, fellow teachers, parents, or readers as anything but me. I’m not “Mr. Moore, <insert political adjective> Teacher,” I’m just Mr. Moore and I care a whole lot about the kids in my community and everywhere else in this country for that matter.
That being said, I have a hard time dealing with some of the political rhetoric in President Obama’s recent State of the Union address.
My layman’s opinion of Obama is that he’s more hungry for a bi-partisan issue than for a superlative solution; in education, he’s found his golden calf. Oh, and is he ever worshiping it.
I’m sick and tired of politicians and people who’ve never set foot in a K-12 classroom outside their own record as a student mandating what should happen in mine. Race to the Top isn’t quite as bad as No Child Left Behind; I suppose I choose it as the lesser of two evils, but I’m not entirely convinced. At least there’s the promise of a little carrot with
RTTT unlike the threat of a big stick with NCLB. Then again, that’s exactly the issue; my generation of educators will be defined by our ability to respond to the false choice of carrots and sticks.
What motivates me to teach isn’t merit pay, a stable teaching job market, tenure, the promise of retirement, or the hope I’ll cultivate a crop of Ivy-Leaguers who will drop in to pay me laudatory visits. What motivates me is intrinsic and personal. I crave the benefit for my students that I had with two loving parents. I want them to graduate and go to college and graduate again, but I want both of those pieces of paper to mean something more than “I followed the rules, I did the tests.”
I think our inability to learn from the kind of “A” students who brought us mortgage-backed securities will mean a lot more than the mirage of Sputnik flying faintly overhead. C’mon Obama, where’s your hope? Why the switch to fear?
I’m not providing an in-depth analysis of his agenda in education, but the continual focus on words like “race” and “win” pit student against student, school against school, and community against community. Do we value citizens who collaborate or disparate tribes who deviate?
I’m upset with the kind of conversation that Obama’s rhetoric is leaving us with, but I hope there are a few diamonds in the rough. For instance, I was very skeptical at first about The Common Core Standards Initiative, but once I actually read through it in detail, I found it was much more broad than I expected. Rather than a blueprint on how and when to do X, Y, and Z, I found a narrative guideline about broad subjects. It wasn’t the prescriptive, rigid national curriculum I feared.
I’m also encouraged about the changing practices in higher education loans subsidized by federal funds and the push for more access to higher education in America for all. We just need to change how we prepare students to get to higher ed institutions. Right now, we can’t seem to get past the idea that standardized testing is the best and only way to motivate schools, teachers, and students.
As a new teacher, an urban core teacher, and a formerly burnt-out overachiving suburban student during the NCLB era, I hope we can change the conversations about K-12 education and RTTT to make them about learning and not winning.