Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dear Mr. Duncan:

Please, let's cut to the chase here, shall we?

First and foremost, the deliberately informed among us are well aware of the economics of this assault on teachers and unions, and who stands to benefit. Furthermore, Mr. Duncan, we know exactly who considers the economics of this assault a 'verboten' topic. To whit: advocates for teachers--and for TRUE reform of public education--are quickly directed away from this topic of 'who benefits' with the adjuration, "don't come across as a nutty conspiracy theorist!" Thus, we teachers continue to struggle with helping others understand that the current assault on teachers and unions is conflated with exactly who profits from privatization.

Second, most of the REAL problems in public education stem from federal legislation (NCLB, now RTTT) which mandates stultifying and pedantic standardized testing; AND from the severe and worsening decrease in funding for our schools, libraries, head start programs, free meals, field trips, and ALL the measurable, tangible resources required to provide a quality education for our children. Of course, you and your sycophants don't want the hoi polloi to get a clue about this, so the well-paid media propagandists have identified and vilified the 'common enemy': mean, selfish, lazy, narcissistic, BAD TEACHERS and EVIL UNIONS!

Third, almost half (42%) of all children in the United States live in low-income households, where their parent(s) earn just enough to cover basic expenses (current data from NCCP). Personally, I think this is an under-representation of the number of children who live in households defined as 'low-income,' given that less than one thousand people in the US own and control better than 95% of our nation's wealth. Nevertheless, 'low-income household' is synonymous with precarious employment, frequent moves, poor nutrition, and a multitude of other threats to our children’s well-being, not to mention their ability to LEARN.

In short, children of low-income households must contend with a host of social, behavioral and psychological issues, all of which impede a child's ability to learn. And, for children in poverty level households (about 21%), mere survival trumps education every time. These seldom mentioned facts are clearly antithetical to your agency’s current assault on teachers and unions, so we activists are shouted down or diminished whenever we bring up poverty and its measurable impact on our children AND on public education.

Here are a few of the benefits you and your supporters might expect to reap:

1) Privatization will mean profits for newly minted private education groups, as well as some of the Bush clan (and any other wealthy investors who plan to snarf crumbs from the privatization platter).

2) Those members of the wealthy elite who still need to convince themselves they are acting out of compassion—and giving charitably—can allude to their commitment to our children and to education.

3) Everyone KNOWS that only the uber wealthy possess an intellectual prowess that elevates them above the poor, pathetic hoi polloi, both materially and intellectually! Why, if we didn't have the wonderful, paternalistic corporatists around to tell us how to vote, what to wear, what to watch, and what to believe--why, where, oh, where would we BE?!?!

Now that I’ve gotten all that off my chest, let me assure you, Mr. Duncan, that your indefensible machinations will not prevent me from teaching. My students routinely tell me that I help them understand math, and that I make learning math fun. My STUDENTS’ assessments of my ability to teach are what really toasts my bread.

When I teach, I am solely invested in finding whatever methods work for ALL of my students, in order to give them multiple opportunities to have "AHA!" moments as they learn to play math, the oldest game we humans have created. Those "AHA!" moments are the big brass ring for me, Mr. Duncan—and for countless other EXCELLENT teachers across this nation. And you can NEVER take that away from us.

As ever, I remain,

Silence B. Damned


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