Plenty of Stupid in PS Too

4 10 2006

Florida has a state blog for resisting what standardized test mania does to kids and education (thanks to Nance’s volunteer efforts.) 🙂

I support this resistance and BECAUSE I do, I sometimes argue with my fellow resisters, that we need to be smarter and think through what we’re saying, anticipate how certain arguments might come back to bite us rather than further the cause.

Here’s an example, my response to a letter to the editor complaining about the heir apparent to succeed Gov. Jeb Bush this fall.

First the letter:
Pay attention to candidate’s words
Andrew J. Meyers
Boca Raton

September 16, 2006

. . . Crist is an ardent supporter of rewarding schools for good performance on the fill-in-the-bubble Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. As a parent of two public school children, I know most parents and teachers are hugely critical of the FCAT system. Because school budgets are affected by FCAT performance, great attention is paid to short-term memorization and retention, rather than teaching the fundamental lessons necessary to serve as building blocks for long-term academic excellence. Crist does not have children. Grading schools for FCAT performance sounds good in theory. Were Crist personally invested in the public school system, or any school system, he would understand the practical flaws.

Finally, Crist boldly states, “I want to lower your property taxes, and your homeowner’s insurance needs to go down.” Crist is not a homeowner. If he were, he’d say he wants to lower “our” taxes and insurance costs, not “your.”

The costs of home ownership and how to fix our deficient public schools are the biggest issues facing Floridians. Crist thinks Floridians are “prospering” largely because he does not have to live with these problems. That doesn’t make Crist a bad person. It does, however, make him a bad choice to lead Florida.

MY RESPONSE to the ps supporting test resisters:

Completely apart from the (letter-writer’s) conclusion, I’m not wild about it as analysis or reasoning — public school support should appear correlated with good thinking skills, don’t you think?

Charlie Crist was a recent Commissioner of Education in this state. Talk about being vested in the system! The time to make any “he’s not vested” argument against him was then, not now. At this point, he’s much TOO vested imo, in public schooling and in government generally.

Education professionals and Florida parents may love Democratic rhetoric but we need to be much more careful with it if WE are vested in education and really want to improve it, not just exploit it as a political base. We certainly can’t afford to make the argument that being a professional in the system isn’t “vested” enough. (Heck, we can’t even afford to argue that paying property taxes isn’t enough vesting to give the public a stake — our argument is the opposite, that we ALL have a critical stake and need to pay more attention, get more involved!)

Many (perhaps a majority now?) public school teachers and elected Democrats do not have children in the public schools, either because they have no school-aged children or because those children are learning in other environments.

The Clintons while in the White House did not have Chelsea in public school, and she was an only child — so, no stake for them in public education? Not only is that absurd, it’s a dangerous frame to put out into the public mind because it will come back to bite us.

My biggest complaint with the rhetoric of geography teacher Jay Bennish IN THE CLASSROOM was that he was a childless 28-year-old — but I didn’t hear Democrats making this “he’s not vested” argument then.

Come to think of it, I was childless during my entire public school career in Florida. When I DID have my own, I decided to stay home with them! Does that make me un-vested too? Seriously – this argument is a loser because it actually defines people INTO the Crist camp who didn’t think of themselves there until you explained it to them!

I have no idea whether Charlie Crist or any other candidate owns a home but he’s a Florida resident, voter and elected official whether he does or not, right? He lives here, drives here, eats and shops and participates in public affairs, and presumably cares about as much about the quality of that experience (and its costs) as any of us.

To argue otherwise in the name of supporting public schools makes public schools look short-sighted and stupid. Not the desired effect, or so I thought.

JJ Ross, Ed.D.

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