The NEA Loves Hillary
Hillary Clinton addressed the National Education Association union convention in Washington, D.C. on July 5, 2016. Security was tight that day, with airport-screening type magnetrons set up for all delegates and attendees to pass through. Legal proof of identity was required, the sort that Democrats scorn when it’s requested before a person is allowed to vote. But requiring a photo ID before entering Hillary’s presence is apparently necessary.
Teachers unions are an integral part of the establishment Democratic machine that has a lock on education and on most inner city governments. Clinton’s speech to delegates decried “hostile state legislators and union busting governors,” saying that if she is elected, “help is on the way.” Translated, this means more federal intrusion in state and local education issues.
Hillary said, “When schools get it right, whether they’re traditional public schools or public charter schools, let’s figure out what’s working and share it with schools across America. Rather than starting from ideology, let’s start from what’s best for our kids.” Notice that Hillary did not include private schools, parochial schools, or homeschool in what might be best for “our kids.” In Hillary’s world, she knows what’s right for children and it always involves the government, or as she euphemistically calls it in one of her books, “the village.” Parents? Not so much.
Always the consummate professional politician, Hillary threw in one line that the complicit media could use to distance her from the union “establishment.” Although the NEA seeks to enroll charter school teachers in their union and to get their dues money, the union is also anti-charter schools. Sort of. But not exactly. So, when Hillary spoke in a somewhat positive manner about charter schools, there was a slight buzz in the room, a hum. Yet the complicit media reported hearing boos. The Washington Post and others ran headlines about booing and reported that there were “audible boos from the audience.” There were not. It was almost as if the media might have gotten marching orders from the Clinton campaign before the event even took place. Reporters got it wrong because delegates didn’t boo Hillary.
On the Same Page
The truth is that Hilary and the NEA union align on policy and on philosophy. Hillary is pro-abortion, and even supports partial-birth abortion. All attempts by (a handful of) pro-life delegates to clarify the NEA position on abortion in order to eliminate partial-birth abortion or to add wording that would limit support of abortion to within a certain number of weeks or months of conception have been thwarted by the union.
Hillary and the union are dividers. They like people divided up into ethnicities, races, sexes, and “sexual identities,” including the 27 or so terms that they have been instrumental in popularizing, such as transgender, bisexual, and cisgender.
Hillary and the NEA are fellow travelers in the aim to destroy the family unit. In her speech to the union, Clinton echoed the union call for “universal preschool for all,” an effort to get even the youngest children out of their homes and into institutional care. The union and Clinton are big government types who want all power and responsibility to remain with government, not with individuals or families.
Hillary is no fan of law enforcement, and neither is the NEA leadership. In a speech at the convention, NEA president Lily Eskelsen García condemned police officers and claimed racism to be the cause of shootings, before anyone had a chance to investigate what actually happened. Hillary doesn’t even want the endorsement of the largest law enforcement union in the nation. The “leader of the National Fraternal Order of Police told The Hill that the Democrat sent a signal through her staff that she wouldn’t be seeking the union’s endorsement.” (TheHill.com, 8-6-16) Both Eskelsen García and Clinton have voiced support for the anti-police, race-based agenda of Black Lives Matter. At the first presidential debate the moderator asked Clinton, “Do you believe that police are implicitly biased against black people?” Clinton not only condemned all police as racists but she went further and said, “Lester, I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” just got even bigger.
Hillary supports open borders, loose immigration policy, and not enforcing laws on the books, just like President Obama. The NEA wants anyone that shows up at schools to be taught in whatever language they prefer. Assimilation is for them a dirty word. The teachers union and it’s politically correct friend Hillary, don’t want anyone to use the term “illegal alien,” preferring to call them “undocumented” students. The union supports in-state and other tuition breaks for illegal alien students.
Pushed to do so to get votes from Bernie Sanders supporters, Clinton is moving toward free college tuition. In her NEA speech, she promised that college graduates would be able to refinance their student loans to a payment they can “afford.” Clinton also said that if graduates go into “public service,” which includes teaching, all higher-education debt would be forgiven after ten years.
Common Core Began With Hillary
The roots of Common Core are spelled out in the letter Marc Tucker sent to Hillary shortly after her husband was elected president. A pre-Common Core structure, Goals 2000, was enacted in 1994 during the first Clinton administration. It was gobbedly-gook standards-based education reform that included outcome-based education goals. It was Common Core Lite. If Hillary is elected, Common Core will never go away.
Hillary’s election would mean a continuation of social experimentation instead of actual education and the continued effort to funnel children into job slots as needed by global employers, as laid out in the Tucker letter. Another Clinton administration would lead to continual Howard Zinn revisionist history that tries to prove America is and has always been pretty evil.
Hush, Bernie Supporters!
There were no Donald Trump supporters at the NEA convention. To admit to being such would be impossible because at best ridicule would result, and physical harm wouldn’t be out of the question. President Eskelsen García’s opening remarks included a vicious, name-calling attack on the Republican presidential candidate. Days later Hillary Clinton was no kinder, rousing the crowd into loud booing of Donald Trump at least three times.
For those NEA delegates who find Hillary not quite radical enough, or who are disturbed by her ties to big banks and Wall Street, there was little hope for recognition at the convention. It was rumored that some Sanders supporters planned to boo Hillary, to wear their Bernie shirts, or even turn their backs on her. But NEA honchos squelched that. “Educators for Hillary” shirts, worn by hundreds of delegates, were the same shade of blue as the Bernie shirts, meaning there was no hope of the “Berners” standing out. Large club-like instruments called “thunder sticks” that could be clapped together made such loud sounds that any booing could have been instantly drowned out. But no protest was evident before, during, or after Hillary’s speech.
Bernie Sanders supporters were vociferous at the 2015 Representational Assembly and angry when the NEA leadership came out in support of Hillary much earlier than is usual for the union in a presidential campaign year. There was also no polling of NEA membership, which has been the norm in other election cycles. The fix was always in for Hillary.
Hopeful Teacher of the Year Speaks at Hopeless Convention
National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes spoke at the 95th NEA Representational Assembly on July 7, 2016. This teacher’s message to delegates gathered at the annual union convention was encouraging. In fact, it was about the only uplifting or positive part of the entire four-day meeting.
Hayes explained that she is the product of a school district where 100% of students receive free- or reduced-price lunches, the official measurement indicating an impoverished area. She said her childhood was lived where those “in poverty succumb to addiction and are surrounded by persistent violence.” She said that in her home there was “no discussion of college or higher education.”
Instead, she was surrounded by the “cycle of teenage pregnancy where a grandmother, mother, and a daughter were all parents before the age of 18.” Yet, Jahana Hayes rose out of that situation and became a successful teacher and role model.
For her success, Hayes credits her own teachers. She said:
“My teachers made me believe that I was college material and planted a seed of hope. After becoming a teenage mother in high school I almost gave up on my dreams completely, but teachers showed me the many options that were still available if I continued my education.”
About her own philosophy and manner of teaching, Hayes says, “I strive to meet students where they are, and not dwell on where they should be.” She continued, “Because of this, I celebrate every milestone, no matter how big or small and support students through the learning process because I know that where they begin does not determine where their journey will end.” She said that her teachers never gave up on her, even when she must have seemed “hopeless.”
What Hayes is describing is the American Dream. Her personal story shows that with hard work and support from a few others, even the most dismal beginnings can end up well for those with faith and hope. Millions of Americans started from nothing and have gone on to achieve successful and productive lives, despite initial hardships and a deck that seemed stacked against them. This can happen when there are hands willing to help, not handouts.
Hayes is a member of the NEA and she gave kudos to her union. She said, “They ensure that I am treated like the professional that I am and my creativity is not stifled by mandates.” Many may argue that the union doesn’t protect teachers in important ways and instead urges them to indulge in social experimentation rather than educating students. The union got one thing right at this convention full of politics and social justice rhetoric; that was inviting Hayes to speak.
This Teacher of the Year offered advice to other classroom teachers. She said, “I am what happens when a teacher chooses to ignore the obstacles and focus on the dream.” She continued,
“I don’t know what drew you to this profession, but for me it was the knowledge that teachers have the transformative power to save lives. We are instruments of inspiration. Teachers are that stone of hope for so many students. A profound trust exists between us and our students. We have an enduring presence and make a lasting impact. Teachers are not visitors in the lives of students. You are somebody’s hero, and you don’t even know it. Don’t take that responsibility lightly.”
Jahana Hayes is a social studies teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut.
Ice Cream, Students, & Cops
There’s a new law enforcement tool at work in St. Louis. An officer-manned ice cream truck will visit schools, parks, and churches to give ice cream to children. The truck cost $16,000 and was given to the city by the St. Louis Police Foundation, which purchased it with donated money. The ice cream is donated by Schnucks, a local supermarket chain, and by Prairie Farms Dairy.
Operation Polar Cops hopes to help children get to know those who protect and serve, in a time of increased tensions between law enforcement and citizens. This is a positive step for community relations between officers, children, and their parents.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson says officers serving ice cream will “be in the neighborhoods, making friendships, talking to people, [and] leaving a lasting impression.” He hopes the ice cream truck will help kids see police officers as positive role models. (CNN, 7-27-16)
A similar program, Operation Hoodsie Cup, has been working in Boston since 2010. In August of 2016, Boston children and law enforcement received a new replacement ice cream truck courtesy of the Boston Police Foundation, funded through donations. Law enforcement officers in Boston have handed out over 120,000 free ice cream treats over the past six years.
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans says:
“If you had told me 30 years ago that the Boston Police Department would have an ice cream truck as part of its patrol force and my officers would be handing out Hoodsie Cups . . . I would’ve said you were crazy. But, I absolutely love the new truck and everything this program represents. The goodwill it generates between my officers and our city’s young people is undeniable and nothing short of remarkable and my only regret is that I wish we had started doing this 30 years ago.” (BPDnews.com, 8-1-16)
One BPD officer said, “It’s about way more than ice cream. It’s about relationships and keeping kids safe. We want kids to like and look up to us. Operation Hoodsie Cup gives us the platform to share that message and make that connection.”
Phyllis Schlafly: Right On All Issues
The Education Reporter, Eagle Forum, her family, friends, and associates mourn the passing of Phyllis Schlafly. Multiple volumes could be written about everything Phyllis got right. She understood the issues and correctly predicted outcomes in the areas of international relations, military predominance, politics and policy, and education. Education was especially important to Phyllis because it involves parents and children, and if not properly accomplished the entire nation suffers.
Decades before anyone else voiced concerns, Phyllis Schlafly predicted all the ills that currently plague society, our schools, our families, and our government. Many of these problems begin with poor education and the unintended consequences of bad education policy.
More than thirty years ago, Phyllis Schlafly decided the issues surrounding education had become so complex and serious that a unique publication was necessary to explain to parents and concerned citizens all the experimentation that was happening in schools. In February of 1986, Phyllis began the Education Reporter, a publication of Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund that details parents’ rights in education, as well as reports what’s happening at schools across the U.S.
The same concerns that Schlafly voiced are the reason socialist Bernie Sanders was recently supported by the preponderance of college students. Those who never learn about the value of our representational republic don’t know enough to try to save it. If students are taught that the U.S. is an evil nation that harms the rest of the world, they will turn against it. Phyllis rightly predicted that a lack of civics education could cause a crisis.
In August of 1995, the Education Reporter covered the National Education Association’s annual convention, at which delegates passed at least five resolutions “indicating the NEA’s antagonism toward parents who make private school or homeschool choices.” The Education Reporter stated, “One resolution attacks homeschooling directly, claiming that it is tolerable only if parents are licensed by the state and use a curriculum approved by the state education department.”
As an ardent supporter of parent-directed homeschooling, Phyllis recognized the importance of mothers and fathers educating their own children. Homeschooling is a bright spot in today’s education landscape. Homeschooling cooperatives, both formal and informal, have sprung up around the nation to support parents and to provide interaction among students.
Phyllis was always ahead of her time. The Education Reporter warned parents in 1995 to be aware that “the NEA wants teaching about homosexuality always to be part of sex education.” Today even kindergarten students are forced to learn about sex, homosexuality, and transgenderism.
The August 1995 Education Reporter says: “The NEA passed a strong resolution against what it calls ‘deleterious programs.’ Those words do not mean violence on television or in the movies. The ‘deleterious programs’ are ‘privatization, performance contracting, tax credits, vouchers, and evaluations of public schools by private groups.’” These are all things that parents still want for their children, and that the NEA has opposed for over twenty years.
When competition becomes a bad thing, the result is a “snowflake generation,” forever fleeing to safe spaces lest someone say something with which they disagree or that might hurt their feelings. Phyllis was never in favor of the “trophies for everyone!” fad. She supported free speech and the First Amendment, even when someone’s feelings might get hurt.
Above all else, Phyllis Schlafly was pro-family. When she alone spoke up against the Equal Rights Amendment as it was being passed in state after state, it was in an effort to protect the American family. Many homemakers who ended up helping her defeat the amendment weren’t aware before Phyllis informed them that passage meant they’d lose protections, like the right to stay home and care for their own children and have a husband support them, or alimony in the event of a divorce.
Phyllis wasn’t anti-gay. She was fearful that the gay rights movement would result in gay marriage, and diminish traditional marriage between one man and one woman. She was against no-fault divorce laws, which allow families to tear themselves apart far too easily, too quickly, and with no good reason. She also worried that special rights for some would result in decreased rights for others. Few would argue that these changes have had a positive effect on families.
The NEA and other progressive, leftist organizations are anti-family. They don’t want parents to have the final say about their children’s education. Or health care. They want children to decide to have sex early, often, and to provide free contraceptives and abortions when careless, mindless sex results in a child. The one choice the NEA approves of is the choice to have an abortion.
At the 1995 NEA convention, that which seemed radical is now mainstream. The following was reported in the Education Reporter:
• “Global education” was given a new name, “multicultural education,” which it defines as teaching children the “cultural diversity of U.S. citizenry” and “interdependency in sharing the world’s resources.”
• “Global” and “interdependent” are code words for teaching children not to be patriotic, “multicultural” means Western Civilization is bad, and “sharing the world’s resources” means U.S. taxpayers should finance the rest of the world.
Promoting gay relationships, leftist ideas, revisionist American history, anti-white sentiment, and anti-law and order has given way to activities on college campuses and in communities that are destructive and not conducive to learning. In fact, it’s become downright dangerous.
Phyllis pointed out that subsidized college education programs, the federal government’s involvement in loan and grant programs, would lead to high tuition because colleges would take advantage of government support. Tuition is now sky high and students who never learned about economics, markets, or capitalism in school are currently demanding free college and student-loan forgiveness. As reported in Reason, “Government subsidies have hidden the price of college and broken the market forces that would naturally keep tuition costs down, allowing universities to charge pretty much whatever they want.” (7-29-16) Progressive elected leaders are giving in to student demands, which is just one of the reasons the nation now finds itself a debtor nation, over $20 trillion in debt.
Free elementary, secondary school and college campus health clinics for students and other moves toward universal health care were decried as bad ideas by Phyllis. Today Obamacare is on the brink of collapse, and citizens have seen their health care premiums skyrocket.
Phyllis saw the faults in Common Core early on. She wanted each issue of the Education Reporter to tell the stories about how Common Core was dumbing down students, forcing them to give up great literature and to use silly math techniques, and forcing teachers to teach to tests while states over-tested children. All this is happening just when young minds should be enthusiastic to learn. She saw profiteers, whether individuals, think tanks, or corporations, trying to make money off of education, in a way that harms children.
Phyllis believed in the importance of fathers and of their vital role in the family. The welfare states’ replacement of fathers with government assistance has lead to the destruction of families, lack of discipline in homes and schools, and generations of children missing out on male parental guidance.
What would the nation look like today if more people had paid greater heed to Mrs. Schlafly’s warnings and suggestions? America would certainly be a brighter and more encouraging place.
Phyllis loved to rile feminists with her good humor by saying when she debated them, “I’d like to thank my husband for allowing me to be here.” In that same spirit, Education Reporter thanks Phyllis for her wonderful work and for remaining cheerful and “ladylike,” even in the toughest times.
A Hindu law student who is the former president of the University of California at Los Angeles Graduate Student Association (GSA) has transferred to New York University to complete his law degree because of “bullying and harassment from anti-Israel students.” In order to maintain political neutrality, Milan Chatterjee intended to rescind GSA funding for a townhall event if it included pro-Palestinian groups associated with the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In a letter to UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Chatterjee calls the UCLA campus “a hostile and unsafe environment for students, Jewish and non-Jewish, who choose not to support the BDS movement, let alone [those who] support the state of Israel.” (Times of Israel, 9-2-16)
Connie Sack wants to see the school records kept on her 16-year-old son by the Weld County School District in Keenesburg, Colorado. She has that right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). What this family didn’t expect was to be charged $438 for “research” and an additional $129 for “retrieval.” The district claims the charges are in line with the Colorado Open Records Act. But Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center, advocates for students’ First Amendment rights, says, “Neither the FERPA statute nor regulation contemplates any fee for search, retrieval, or redaction, and charging for those ‘services’ goes against the intent of FERPA to make those records freely available.” (WND.com, 7-2-16)
Turkey’s President Erdogan hopes the U.S. will send the Muslim cleric associated with many American charter schools back to Turkey because he believes Imam Fethullah Gülen was involved in the failed coup attempt against him. Gülen’s followers run at least 120 charter schools in America, which are funded by U.S. tax dollars and are run by independent boards often made up solely of Turkish expatriates. (Voice of America, 7-22-16)
Book of the Month
Now I’m a Big Girl and Now I’m a Big Boy, Judy Bruns, CoCo Publications,
Very young children enjoy books focused on themselves and these two are winners, with cute illustrations and an engaging topic. The rhyming words introduce young children to a baby in the womb, while the illustrations show them the month-by-month growth of the child.
“My brain started working while my fingers were stubby; I looked kind of funny, curled up and chubby!” explains author Judy Bruns. Then ultrasounds are introduced: “Incredible pictures from before I was born, found me pleasantly posing, abounding in charm.” In just a dozen pages, children learn that they are precious and loved from the very beginning. There are girl and boy versions of the story that differ only slightly.
The National Education Association teachers union is unabashedly pro-abortion. The union’s Family Planning Resolution I-17 promotes “reproductive freedom.” The union supports abortion at any time during pregnancy and for any reason. Union delegates in 2013 defeated an Amendment that would have prohibited dues money from supporting Planned Parenthood.
But some delegates and former teachers oppose abortion. One of them is the author of these two books that aim to help young children understand their own time in the womb. Author and activist Judy Bruns is a board member of Teachers Saving Children, an organization with the mission to educate teachers and others about the sanctity of human life.
The fight against abortion is won by changing hearts. The Teachers Saving Children exhibit at the NEA convention presents models of the baby at each month of gestation, from conception to birth. Volunteers also get as many life-like baby dolls into the arms of NEA delegates as possible, to remind them that abortion is the killing of a child.
Young people are naturally against abortion until someone can manipulate them into thinking it is acceptable. The more educated they are about the issue, the more likely they are to resist reeducation. Millennial voters, those under 30, are mostly pro-life according to several recent polls. They are a generation that has seen babies in ultrasound images and understands that neonatal medicine has enhanced the viability of those born prematurely.
As conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote in the Boston Globe in June of 2015: “In a sense, every American born since 1973 is a survivor of Roe vs. Wade. Perhaps that explains why, however young people might label themselves, abortion is a choice so few of them are prepared to take.”
FOCUS: The Stupid List: Education Edition
First appeared at the website take-charge.org and is one part of a bipartisan campaign to fix broken government. Reprinted with permission.
America is in a tough spot. The truth is, it’s not that hard to make education work. “The Stupid List” is our call to stop the madness and make things work.
America’s public schools are mired in a bureaucratic jungle. Basic daily choices — how to teach, maintain order, let kids play, plan field trips, serve food, deal with other educators, you name it — are controlled by mind- numbing rules and procedures. The predictable result is to suffocate the most important resource needed to educate America’s youth: the energy and spirit of teachers and principals.
Find any successful school, in America or in any other country, and you will see educators making decisions all day long based on their instincts of right and wrong. Good teachers know how to engage their students, each in their own unique way. And students learn because teachers inspire them. That’s why America needs to bulldoze school bureaucracy — and that means doing away with senseless rules, useless forms, excessive union requirements, and the outlandish threat of frivolous lawsuits.
So, what’s the right thing to do here? Instead of shackling teachers and principals in thousands of pages of red tape, they need to be empowered to use their best judgment, and then be accountable for how they do it. Daily choices are much more complex than can be prescribed in rigid rules. Let teachers maintain order, and draw on their unique personality to inspire students. Let principals distinguish between a tiny toy gun and real threats, and decide which teachers are doing their jobs and which are not. Monitor educators from a distance, and don’t judge school performance by one metric — say, test scores — but by the overall judgment of how well educators are training children to be productive members of our society.
What if educators make bad decisions? Hold them accountable, and have checks and balances on important decisions. In matters of student discipline, for example, we don’t need a legal process for every decision. In most cases, a fairness committee consisting of parents, students, and teachers can instead serve as a check against arbitrary injustice. Courts are needed mainly to draw sensible legal boundaries about risk and liability — so that educators no longer are fearful to put an arm around a crying child or to let students run at recess.
There’s one essential reform needed to fix America’s schools, and prepare new generations to succeed in global markets: Put humans in charge again — and show students by skill and example what it means to take responsibility.
It’s not that hard to maintain order in a classroom. If a student acts up, the teacher just sends him to a classroom set up to handle students having a bad day — overseen by a monitor or two who helps the students find online educational material or work on an alternative assignment.
However, in today’s schools, it’s not that simple. Removing an unruly student requires layers of bureaucratic compliance. A teacher must allow the student to present his version of relevant events, fill out student removal forms, and ask a school resource officer to escort the student. Suspensions require multiple meetings and hearings with parents and administrators. In NYC, suspending a student can take over 60 steps.
These due process and documentation requirements — originally designed to protect students protesting the Vietnam War — leave teachers and principals at a daily crossroads: whether to spend precious energy and time to remove a disruptive student, or to simply accept the constant interruptions. Most teachers pick the latter, dooming many classrooms to chaos as students quickly “read” that the teacher’s hands are tied.
Absurd zero tolerance policies underscore the absence of authority to do what’s fair: an 8-year-old is suspended for pointing a chicken finger at a teacher and saying “pow, pow, pow,” and an elementary school student is placed in detention for picking dandelions from the ground. The principal’s explanation for the ban on flowers? Some kids had been throwing rocks during recess — so the school banned picking up anything from the ground. Rather than allow teachers to physically restrain a 5-year-old acting out in class, the cops are brought in to arrest the child.
And all this because we are afraid of the unjust principal — and the accompanying lawsuits. Surely there is a better alternative?
A culture of Mindless Compliance
If there’s one clear symptom of the disease of growing school bureaucracy, it’s the culture of rote compliance — and it has taken over classrooms, principals’ offices, and government agencies.
• Robots in the classroom. In schools across America, bureaucratic compliance dictates basic choices in the classroom. Teachers are required to write out and follow — like robots — scripted lesson plans to demonstrate compliance with mandated curriculum. A teacher is pulled aside for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird rather than preparing her students for state tests. On the first day of school, one Chicago teacher was required to read aloud a list of disciplinary rules: “You may be expelled for homicide.” Teachers have been turned into compliance machines, leaving little room for personality and judgment. No wonder good teachers are unhappy with their jobs, and are leaving the profession in droves every year.
• The powerless principal. The bureaucratic stranglehold on principals extends to most areas of school management. Tenure laws and seniority policies, for example, keep them from doing one of their most basic jobs: removing bad teachers from classrooms. The legal process of building a case and firing a tenured teacher can drag on for years, costing millions of dollars. Tasks as simple as purchasing school supplies also require a rigid bidding process that doesn’t allow judgments about convenience or quality. In many schools, principals have real spending power over a minuscule portion — say, $50,000 — of annual school budgets amounting to several million dollars.
• Statisticians over teachers. Huge central bureaucracies have grown like kudzu at the municipal, state, and federal levels. For what purpose? To force teachers, principals, and other bureaucrats to wallow in thousands of pages of checklists, procedures, and data collection requirements. School districts are literally having to choose between hiring educators to teach their students, or statisticians to satisfy central bureaucracy reporting requirements.
Education bureaucracy has now become so large that 21 states employ more administrators and non-teaching staff than teachers. How does this help students?
No Running at Recess
Fear of lawsuits is like MiracleGro for school bureaucracy. What better way to avoid lawsuits than to have lots of rules? Among the areas transformed by the threat of lawsuits are discipline, recess, and games, physical contact, and even grading:
• Recess. School administrators across the country have banned running and age-old games of tag and dodgeball from recess, and swings and see-saws are disappearing from school playgrounds. Some schools have gone as far as hiring recess consultants to help replace free play with “more structured and inclusive play time” that eliminates competition, risk-taking, or hurt feelings. Instead of exploring their physical limits and learning to resolve conflict, children are left to constantly look over their shoulder in case they are breaking a rule — don’t say “You’re out!” — or playing a now forbidden game.
• Physical contact. Many good teachers have had their lives ruined due to mere allegations of inappropriate touching. This is all too familiar to Sean Lanigan, a former gym teacher who spent four days in an adult detention center after being falsely accused of molesting a female student.
In response, teachers are told to back away from an affectionate first-grader seeking a hug and are forbidden from putting their arm around an autistic student in need of comfort, let alone restraining a violent child. Parent volunteers, too, aren’t allowed to touch students other than their own children.
• Grading. Lawsuits even affect student evaluations; teachers are now threatened with lawsuits for giving bad grades. While judges generally have the common sense to rule against the parents, no one will refund the legal fees schools have paid to defend such cases. So, many school districts will cave rather than fight. Just ask Elizabeth Joice, an English teacher in Peoria, AZ, who was threatened with a lawsuit after giving an F to a high school senior.
Students have picked up on this legal fear. According to a Public Agenda survey, 78% of middle and high school teachers are threatened with lawsuits by their students. It’s a miracle that more teachers have not left the profession.
By all accounts, Stephanie Johnson, who teaches special education students in Lindon, UT, is a great teacher. But her enthusiasm in the classroom masks her deep frustration about her job: “It’s all the other compliance and laws and paperwork.” In fact, she thinks about quitting every day. How did we get here?
Special education laws are an even denser bureaucratic tangle than other areas. The law dwells on legal rights instead of outcomes. And by making parents its enforcer, the law pits parents against teachers and encourages legal action: “It’s getting to the point where every disagreement turns into a bad divorce case.”
This puts schools on the defensive. As a result, educators have become obsessed with documenting compliance, spending more time on paperwork and administrative duties than teaching, and providing unnecessary accommodations and services rather than risk litigation.
Special education consumes over 25% of school budgets. Programs for gifted children get less than 1% that amount — one dollar for every $143 spent on special education, according to one estimate. Inclusion of special education students in general education classes has also become a virtue in itself even if, sometimes, it benefits neither the student with special needs nor the other students in the classroom. In one Houston elementary school, a third grade class practiced evacuation drills every time an autistic student became disruptive.
Mechanical compliance with legal mandates also leads to absurd, even cruel, results: A legally blind student with cerebral palsy in Florida was required to undergo state-mandated test prep, even being asked to describe a peach, which he had never tasted because he was tube-fed. After receiving approval from multiple state and local officials, including the secretary of education, the student was finally granted a waiver — a day before he died.
Special education in America is neither fair nor effective. It’s time to restore the authority of educators to balance the needs of all students, with or without disabilities, not to give disproportionate dollars to one group over all others.
As the School Year Begins
by Denis Ian
Reprinted with permission.
Defeat by distraction. That’s the Common Core game plan.
Every new school year renews the resistance to the Common Core reform. And parents new to this experience find themselves slathered in information and fear. Once upon a time we were the tenderfoot class; now we should act as sweet sages.
Every day brings another avalanche of studies, statistics, findings, and stuff. More babble. More white noise. More jargon. More junk-speak. All on purpose.
The strategy is simple. Complicate the reform issue with fleshy gibberish and endless jabberwocky. Scare ordinary folks. Make the issues seem too, too deep and too, too heavy for folks already busy enough with all that parenthood demands.
The greatest fear of the reform mob is parents.
Parents own infinite passion when it comes to their children. And if lots and lots of parents glue themselves together, well, this reform morphs into mighty. That’s not the sort of muscle educrats, politicians, and local board members want to confront. Remember that — they fear you.
And parents new to this resistance should remember this: Don’t be seduced by every morsel of information that gets dressed in glitter-words. Don’t be As the School Year Begins intimidated by edu-blather or fat-words.
Stay simple and stay on the issues that matter: Resist federal control. Protect childhood. Refuse the testing trap. Reclaim your schools. Remember: No children, no reform. Your cooperation is your trump-card. If you don’t play, the game ends.
A caveat to the old-timers in this resistance: Embrace newcomers as you were once embraced. Soothe new and nervous parents with warm reassurances that they have saddled-up with a child-centric confederacy of warriors who protect children . . . theirs included. And then tutor them slowly . . .and warn them of nonsense-overload.
The reformists are deceivers. Their strategy is to dazzle us with nonsense-junk. To unbalance us and to blur the simple truths.
They want our schools. They want our children. They want to politicize and profitize education . . . and have you foot the bill . . . and have your children pay the price.
Avoid the information overload and listen to your heart. That drum in your chest always speaks the truth. Follow that beat.
Denis Ian is a retired New York secondary teacher. He taught social studies for nearly 34 years in a well-respected public school district. He was involved in numerous reforms and educational innovations during his career and is now devoted to the anti-Common Core movement.