Teacher Union Bashing on Morning Joe-Ho-Ho

29 03 2011

I wrote this draft two days after Christmas 2010 while watching MSNBC in gaping shock. I couldn’t figure out *why* they all were reading from the same playbook, bashing the unions and the teachers they represent. But they clearly were.

Now in late March 2011, since the Scotts (Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Florida’s Rick Scott) are working that playbook and it’s nearly Game Over for all of us, I am asking myself just how much of a conspiracy this has been all along.

********************
[I think this was a “rewind” from sometime in 2010 that re-aired this morning.]

Public school is all a big hustle, a heist — did you know that? It’s all about bad public schoolteachers ruining America for money (wait, isn’t that Wall Street, bankers, insurance and oil companies, oh and politicians– teachers aren’t exactly the idle rich comparatively) and the union leaders who protect them. All they care about is “their own money” and not working for children and the good of the people.

NJ’s GOP Thug-Gov said it, and he said even the President of the United States Barack Obama agreed, that destroying the teacher union or “persuading” them to roll over for the GOP union-busting juggernaut, was the obvious forced choice and everyone in both parties and everywhere in America knows it and agrees, except of course those wicked union leaders holding the children and taxpayers of America hostage, endlessly extracting good money for bad teachers from the wise, wonderful voters represented by him (presumably union leaders don’t have the same obligation to represent their voters?)

And after he said it, even Democrats on the set including the African-American mayor of Newark Cory Booker, the Obama-appointed head of the federal Education Department Arne Duncan, and the supposedly liberal hostess daughter of a man who knows better than pretending to solve problems with brute force, Mika Brzezinski, sat right there and nodded. None would say a word to refute it, demur, or question.

Thinking Parents know from years of conversation that I’m no defender of unions, especially teacher unions. A seventh-grade science teacher walked out on me personally, literally turned on her heel and walked out on ME in the middle of a conversation, back in the 1960s before desegregation. I didn’t understand that the rhetoric about doing it for the kids was a political lie over money and power so I was begging her to stay and teach me, or at least explain how walking out on us in an illegal strike as a show of force, was good for us as her pupils. (I loved school.)

When the schools were finally reopened and our teachers came back, she held my appeal to not leave me, against me. She was stone-faced and graded me unfairly the rest of the year.

But that was then and this is now.

Now I can recognize exactly what Christie was doing on that cable news set this morning. The rhetoric doesn’t fool me now. I know what a show of brute force in a fight to get more money and power looks like while it claims to be all about the children. I know that education politics and policy don’t mix because when they do, they make dangerous, destructive explosives.

I know now that whichever factions in any version of events are mixing and misusing those explosives to extract even more money and power than they’ve extracted from the people already, it sure isn’t our children.

And I learned it all in public school. Maybe truth WILL out.

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30 03 2011
JJ

Starbucks president and CEO Howard Schultz is on live this morning in a segment headlined, “Starbucks Empowering Educators.” He is saying how much he cares about how bad the public schools are. And he’s committed to fixing it by broadcasting his sponsorship ads on Morning Joe four times a year from a school he will give money to and raise money for, while being applauded by all the “journalists” as a great corporate citizen.

Panelist Tom Brokaw for example (who I used to respect as a serious journalist and not just another shill) is thanking him quite seriously and pumping up CEO school meddling in general, as finally coming to save the next generation from all those bad schools and teachers and their unions, hallelujah.

“There’s a new corporate awareness across the country, both because of the social consciousness and also because in this modern age of technology, we need in our economy educated people. You just can’t have a strong back and a good pair of hands and a pair of workboots, and go to work out there . . .” [yeah, it’s hard for GenY to go to work out there as ANYTHING these days.]

Brokaw lists some corporations he likes who are “beginning to take a stake in American education” and evokes Warren Buffett’s name.

“. . .I think the most heartening thing that I have seen in the last four or five years, is now an awareness that somethiong has to be done. And it’s ‘everyone in.’ It’s not just charter schools or private schools or parochial schools — everybody has to get involved in it in some fashion, and it’ll get sorted out over the time. There’s a little rivalry that is going on but by and large, I think this is gonna help a lot.”

So now they are promoting something Starbucks and MSNBC are doing to help schools called “Donorschoose dot org” where people pay money they can direct to individual schools. (More fundraising instead of actual public support meeting public education needs? That’s not only not new, it has failed repeatedly in my lifetime, and hurt public schooling further in the process.)

30 03 2011
JJ

Starbucks CEO continues, basking in the bought-and-paid-for approval all around the table:

“I was in China about four or five weeks ago , , and it’s 7:30 in the morning, I get out of my hotel in Beijing, it’s freezing cold outside and there’s young kids snaked around a corner as if it was a rock concert . . . I get out of the car and say, ‘I need to understand what is going on here’ . . . we find out they are online to take a higher education test to qualify for school, and I guess the rhetorical question is, how many times have you seen anything like that in America? It doesn’t exist anymore . . .”

And he thinks it SHOULD exist apparently, that China as a government and as a people (and a business opportunity?) is just better than we are and education as driven competition is better too (he’s wrong that it doesn’t exist in America today btw — hasn’t he seen Waiting for Superman, and doesn’t he know kids so desperate for higher education that they are getting conned by for-profit college schemes, taking more billions out of public education support coffers?)

“In 2006, Forbes Magazine ranked Schultz as the 354th richest person in the United States, with a net worth of $1.1 billion.”

So according to Wikipedia, this international corporate CEO is among the top 400 wealthiest Americans, the ones who according to Politifact control as much wealth as the bottom half of America’s more than 100 million households sharing what they allow us to keep and call our own (for the time being?) Does that makes him all by himself more educationally important than the priorities and decisions of millions of us parents and taxpayers put together?

What is his professional expertise and experience in education and instruction if any, as he hefts and applies as leverage his vast wealth, earned not through distinctive higher education btw (he has a communications bachelor’s degree, the first in his poor family, better than Beck and Limbaugh at least, equivalent to Sarah Palin) — so isn’t the only lesson he can possibly teach any of us, that money talks and education must obey and endorse whatever it says?

But isn’t that what public schooling has been teaching kids all along and how we’ve come to this critical place in the first place?

30 03 2011
JJ

Tom Brokaw: “Education is the currency, the coin of the future.”

30 03 2011
JJ

Boy, it’s like listening to politicians. The same words mean completely different things depending on who is saying it and why! Union president Randy Weingarten has joined the conversation now. They’re talking about the right things and saying many of the right things about those right things. But if it really means America’s schools will now fall under unaccountable, unregulated, uneducated-in-education corporate rule, it’s all wrong.

11 04 2011
JJ

[crossposted from “Old Ideas” post discussion]

Like all battles for public opinion, the school-reform debate is in
large part a matter of what the political consultant George Lakoff has
called ‘framing.’

The New York Times
April 9, 2011
The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform
By JONATHAN MAHLER

. . .it was hard not to wonder whether the debate over school reform has reached a point where debate is no longer possible.

As is often the case with morally charged policy issues — remember welfare reform? — false dichotomies seem to have replaced fruitful conversation. If you support the teachers’ union, you don’t care about the students. If you are critical of the teachers’ union, you don’t care
about the teachers. If you are in favor of charter schools, you are opposed to public schools. If you believe in increased testing, you are
on board with the corruption of our liberal society’s most cherished educational values. If you are against increased testing, you are
against accountability. It goes on. Neither side seems capable of listening to the other.

The data can appear as divided as the rhetoric. . .
In such a polarized environment, spontaneous outbursts of candor can be ill-advised.

. . .Presumably, the deadlock will eventually be broken, and a “winner” will emerge. Either the education reformers will manage to take control of a critical mass of school districts, or they won’t. Before that happens, perhaps the various narratives and counter-narratives will decalcify and some actual debate will take place.

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