I’m a teacher in a public high school. I will not carry a gun in my classroom.
It’s Friday morning, and I want to go into the weekend touting a worthy website that is the brainchild of a New York City teacher named Brett Gardiner Murphy. She has recently published a book called Inside Our Schools and her work is worth a look.
Elsewhere on this blog I have extolled the virtues of The American Educator, a periodical published by the The American Federation of Teachers. This is the union that represents almost 1.6 million teachers, including those of us here in New York City, under the aegis of the United Federation of Teachers. Unlike the Teamsters Newsletter I received when I was a truck driver and warehouseman (worthy enough, but mostly featuring stories like “Elmer Fudd Celebrates One Million Miles of Safe Driving at Yellow Freight Lines”), The American Educator actually exists to present professional educational research that is genuinely useful to teachers.
Ms. Murphy published an article titled “The Profession Speaks: Educator Perspectives on School Reform” in the Winter 2017-2018 issue of The American Educator. She does a very nice job of explaining the absolute necessity of teachers’ involvement in the discourse surrounding school “reform.” I commend and thank her for her efforts, because she has insight into policy issues, an area of discussion that mostly annoys me because of the overall and overweening ignorance (cf. the basic idiocy of Betsy DeVos) of school reformers; I simply haven’t the patience to try to hold discussions with the aggressively ignorant. Ms. Murphy makes the basic point that when it comes to discussions of school reform, educators have no voice.
She aims to change that, as she spells out in her article, with the website Inside Our Schools. Rather than try to characterize the site, I’ll quote Brett Gardiner Murphy from her article in The American Educator:
“Say what you will about how the Internet has shortened students’ attention spans, it has democratized whose point of view can be heard, including our own. I started a website connected to the book, InsideOurSchools.com, where anyone involved in public schools–teachers, parents, and students–can upload their stories through videos, audio recordings, or written reflections. It’s just one of the many ways we can use our voices in the years ahead.”
Enough said. I urge you to take a look at Ms. Gardiner’s site, and consider buying her book to support her efforts. I bid her Godspeed and best wishes for the future. New York City’s schools are lucky to have her.
(Here’s yet another reason why Betsy DeVos will be the worst thing that ever happened to education in this country.)
Diane Ravitch's blog
Investigative writer David Dayen, writing in “The New Republic” describes the variety of ways that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is protecting predatory for-profit “colleges” while allowing them to stiff the students they cheated.
“Imagine a car dealer sold you a lemon. You sue to get your money back. But the judge discovers that you managed to get yourself around most of the time, despite the bum vehicle. You only missed 10 percent of your appointments, so the judge orders that you are entitled to 10 percent of the price of the car.
“That’s essentially what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced last week for students defrauded by for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges. Victims of the corrupt diploma mill will not have their student loans discharged; instead, they will get a portion of relief based on their current income. The more professional ingenuity they showed despite being defrauded by Corinthian, the less…
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(In a sane world, this would be a scandal.)
Diane Ravitch's blog
Steven Singer is steamed. He read a “Commentary” by Betsy DeVos in Education Week in which she pretends to be a champion of children with disabilities. You don’t have to have a long memory to remember that she testified at her Senate hearing last year that she was unsure what IDEA is or whether the voucher schools she promotes would be bound by federal law.
Steven remembers. He can’t understand why Education Week allowed her to burnish her image, while ignoring the 72 federal regulations she eliminated that protected students with disabilities.
“Meet Betsy DeVos, Champion of Students With Special Needs.
“At least that’s who she’s pretending to be this week.
“The wealthy Republican mega-donor who bought her position as Secretary of Education published an article in the current issue of Education Week called “Commentary: Tolerating Low Expectations for Students With Disabilities Must End.”
“It was almost…
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“Now to the salaries of teachers. In a healthy society, every useful activity is compensated in a way to permit of a decent living. The exercise of any socially valuable activity gives inner satisfaction; but it cannot be considered as part of the salary. The teacher cannot use his inner satisfaction to fill the stomachs of his children.”
“Ensuring the Future of Mankind,” from a Message for Canadian Education Week, March 2-8, 1952. Published in Mein Weitbild, Zurich: Europa Verlag, 1953, excerpted from: Einstein, Albert. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1982.
“It is not enough to teach man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to individual fellow-men and to the community.
These precious things are conveyed to the younger generation through personal contact with those who teach, not—or at least not in the main—through textbooks. It is this that primarily constitutes and preserves culture. This is what I have in mind when I recommend the “humanities” as important, not just dry specialized knowledge in the fields of history and philosophy.
Overemphasis on the competitive system and premature specialization on the ground of immediate usefulness kill the spirit on which all cultural life depends, specialized knowledge included.
It is also vital to a valuable education that independent critical thinking be developed in the young human being, a development that is greatly jeopardized by overburdening him with too much and with too varied subjects (point system). Overburdening necessarily leads to superficiality. Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.”
“Education for Independent Thought,” from The New York Times, October 5, 1952, excerpted from: Einstein, Albert. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1982.
(As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I have long considered the American Federation of Teachers quarterly magazine, American Educator to be a credible and edifying periodical that includes useful research for teachers. Recently, it ran this excellent article on the problem of fake news in the United States. My school’s mindless ban on Wikipedia, I think, represents little more than an unwillingness to recognize the opportunities Wikipedia offers for students to learn how to evaluate evidence judiciously. In this short quote, the authors of the aforementioned article make the case for using Wikipedia for just that purpose.)
“You heard right: Wikipedia. Fact checkers’ first stop was often a site many educators tell students to avoid. What we should be doing instead is teaching students what fact checkers know about Wikipedia and helping them take advantage of the resources of the fifth-most trafficked site on the web.
Students should learn about Wikipedia’s standards of verifiability and how to harvest entries for links to reliable sources. They should investigate Wikipedia’s ‘Talk’ pages (the tab hiding in plain sight next to the ‘Article’ tab), which, on contentious issues like gun control, the status of Kashmir, waterboarding, or climate change are gold mines where students can see knowledge-making in action. And they should practice using Wikipedia as a resource for lateral reading. Fact checkers, short on time, often skipped the main article and headed straight to the references, clicking on a link to a more established venue. Why spend 15 minutes having students, armed with a checklist, evaluate a website on a tree octopus (www.zapatopi.net/treeoctopus) when a few seconds on Wikipedia shows it to be ‘an internet hoax created in 1998.’”
McGrew, Sarah, et al. “The Challenge That’s Bigger Than Fake News: Civic Reasoning in a Social Media Environment.” American Educator Fall 2017 (4-10). Print.