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LWolf's Journal
LWolf's Journal
January 21, 2013

Some of that is very good:

"...a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play."

Will he embrace fair trade based on strong environmental and labor standards?

"For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class."

Will he abandon the neoliberal economic policies that have widened the economic gap and embrace economic policies that will shrink it?

"We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war."

I believe that, anyway. If that's what he believed, he might have taken more decisive action to end the perpetual war on terror sooner.

"We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great. "

I assume this means that he will embrace fighting for single-payer, not-for-profit health care, which is what is required to make that care actually affordable; that he will never allow SS or medicare or medicaid on the table for cuts or for changes that reduce benefits in anyway, and that he will champion beefing up the protections they offer.

"We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

How will we respond? Will we revamp our tax structure to include carbon taxes, and deductions for those that reduce the carbon footprint they leave?

"For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall. "

How does this work in practice? Does it mean that DUers, listening to his urging, will stop calling each other and every non-Democrat names? That he will stand up for, and fight for, principles and ideas that may take many years to become part of policy? Or does it mean that standing on principle is "absolutism," and that we continue to allow our principles to be eroded in the name of "compromise?"

What makes it good, though, is the action he takes. Will he walk the talk, or continue to speak eloquently while walking a neoliberal path?

Some of it is, frankly, the reason why I have never been a fan:

"We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American."

To me, "outworn programs" is a phrase engineered to continue eroding public education, social security, and other important PUBLIC programs. "Reform our schools" is not even code; after 4 years, his neoliberal policies for privatization and public education destruction are blatant, and the effects have been harmful. "Work harder?" Really? Like we aren't already working harder and harder for less and less? That has the unpleasant taste of conservative bigotry, that those on the bottom rungs of society are there because they chose to be there, because they are too lazy to work hard enough. As a teacher, I've learned that I'm to blame for every social ill, that I "suck," as does the public system I work in, that I'm lazy, and that I need to work more than the 10-12 hours I already put in on a paid 8 hour contract, and that I need to do it for less money. "Means will change" means, to me, more privatization.

"We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom."

This smacks of empire to me. "Our interests" = corporate interests.

All in all a mixed bag. Time will tell how much is sincere, and how much propaganda.

January 19, 2013

Public education reflects the public.

When the public supports the kinds of deforms currently destroying the system, then it's going to suck.

Unfortunately, the public keeps electing education deformers to office, so the public is getting exactly what it has asked for.

There are still plenty of good things happening in public education. The vast majority of those good things happen in spite of education policy and reform, not because of it. They happen because teachers work to find ways around, over, under, and through the obstacles that the public, through their votes, have thrown in the way of a vibrant, healthy system.

Just this last week, I reminded one of my classes that THEY are the reason I show up, that everything we do is supposed to be about them, and that, when I see them smile, see their faces light up, it makes me glad to be in the classroom. That was the morning after another demoralizing, depressing, divisive staff meeting about teacher evaluations, test scores, and VAM. Demoralizing, depressing, and divisive, even though our fucking test scores were the best in our district.

It being a term deadline, another class wished me a good 3-day weekend as they left yesterday. I pointed to the 600 papers stacked to take home, that must be done so that I can get their report cards done, and said, "that's my weekend." One student responded: "That's why I'll never be a teacher."

I haven't procrastinated. That over-large stack of work all came in this week; our "proficiency-based" system says that they keep trying until they meet benchmarks. Right before the reporting period, a bunch of procrastinators decided that they wanted to produce work that would meet benchmarks. Fancy that.

Another student asked me, as we were on our way to lunch, "Do you like being a teacher?" My answer? I love students. I love teaching students. I love sharing my love of literacy, of thinking, of learning, with students. If I'd known how much of what we do to foster that love would be limited, if I'd known that I'd be forced to narrow learning down to teaching to standardized tests, if I'd known that I would be forced to worship at the testing altar, if I'd known that I would be forced to treat my students like products on an assembly line in a factory, I would have run far, far away from the profession.

I am so grateful for students who, in spite of everything, show up with those smiles, with eagerness to learn. They keep me finding ways to sneak some fun, some variety, some interest into the day. I am grateful to parents and students who return from high school to thank me for helping them be ready, and who return to ask me to attend their graduations when it's time.

Does public education suck? The bipartisan authoritarian system evolving right now does, indeed, suck. Educators who resist, who know better, are holding the line. When we retire, leaving the field to those younger teachers who've never known any different, the final nail will be hammered into the coffin.

Unless the public decides to step up to the plate and SUPPORT public education, instead of attacking it by word and deed. As this article points out, it can be done.

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