kitchen table math, the sequel: Tracy W on the speech

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tracy W on the speech

Tracy W responds to Mike Petrilli's post at Flypaper:

Here’s an African-American president, speaking to the NAACP, and arguing for reform in our schools and responsibility in our homes and community.

Notice the lack of any responsibility for schools. If school staff, the paid professionals, aren’t responsible for learning, why pay them?

And if parents are going to be responsible, then they should have the money, which they can then use to hire teachers if they think it’s worthwhile.

Writing instructors everywhere (I include parents in this category):* save this Comment to show your students.

This is one of the most succinct rebuttals of an argument I have ever read.

It is a fantastically difficult feat to pull off.

As to Tracy's point, I would love to see a system where parents did the hiring, which is what is taking place in the world of homeschooling now.

I imagine that if parents did the hiring some teachers would establish 'private practices' while others might be employed by schools with an organizational structure similar to a community college, perhaps, or to a law firm. The school would employ teachers and provide health insurance, but would not assign students to classrooms. Parents would choose.

I can also imagine that these schools would have school-wide "positive behavior" systems in place, offering parents a happy and safe environment for their kids. For most parents, "happy and safe" is priceless, and such schools would be swamped with customers.

As in a law firm, teachers might have tenure; presumably they would also have a great deal more authority over what they teach and how they teach it.

* Mary Hake says that she helped all of her kids with their school writing assignments, and she advises parents to do the same. I'll get my interview with Mary assembled shortly.


Fer*Cambe said...

Hey Catherine! I love your point - and Tracy's - we really need to put more power and more choice into the hands of parents that can handle and benefit from that choice. Like you say, responsibility without choice is impossible.

I think Obama though, speaking to the NAACP was trying to spread the possibility around, realizing that we need more interested and involved parents and we especially need to be forming partnerships between schools and community resources.

Still I agree with you and Tracy, choice really changes the issue here.

Catherine Johnson said...

I didn't listen to the speech; the excerpted lines probably make more sense in context -- though I have to say that during the campaign I bridled every time he gave parents a little lecture on "taking responsibility!"

As to parents & choice, for quite a while now I've seen that teachers and parents often make natural allies - or natural partners - something along those lines. I tend to think it's the structure & culture of (most) public schools that so often pits teachers against parents & parents against teachers.

Having worked with so many doctors over the years (for our two autistic kids), I just don't see any reason why the doctor-parent-child patient model wouldn't transfer to teacher-parent-student -- certainly not when we're talking about one-on-one teaching, but I suspect the same would be true with whole group instruction.

The teacher would be the professional; the parents would be the 'chooser' of the professional. Also, the parents' observations of their children's progress & learning would be an essential part of the teacher's decisionmaking process just as the parents' report of their children's symptoms and health status is an essential part of a physician's thinking.

In time I think such a system would evolve to parents actually having very little they need or want to say to the teachers they choose, because a real 'science' of teaching would emerge -- either a real science of teaching or a practice of teaching that clearly works.

One last thing: now that C. is at Hogwarts, we have practically no idea what he's doing in school or what he's studying. He goes to school happy in the morning, comes home happy in the afternoon, and does his homework happily at night. His grades are good and he has new friends at his new school and old friends at his old school.

The way to get the vast majority of parents out of teachers' hair isn't to ban them from the classroom and keep district policies, practices, and test data secret but to do a good job teaching and NOT expect parents to "help with homework!"

Independent George said...

My great frustration with Obama is his preternatural ability to say what his audience wants to hear while simultaneously doing the exact opposite. For example, there was his reluctance to bail out the banks, his hesitation to nationalize the auto industry, his belief in post-partisan consensus, his support for an undivided Jerusalem.

His MO is to deliver another half-dozen grandiose speeches on the urgent need for school reform, then hand the entire process over to the AFT.

Barry Garelick said...

his preternatural ability to say what his audience wants to hear while simultaneously doing the exact opposite.

Or, a politician by definition.

Catherine Johnson said...

His MO is to deliver another half-dozen grandiose speeches on the urgent need for school reform, then hand the entire process over to the AFT.

Not even!

More like the NEA!

Tracy W said...

I'm not so sure, I've heard many stories of bullying of kids in private schools in the UK and New Zealand. A student in my class at intermediate school was actually there because after 2 weeks at the private school his mum forfeited a term's fees to pull him out and send him to the public school I was going to. A friend of mine insisted on leaving the fancy private school and going to the relatively fancy state school in fifth form, over his father's opposition.
I can easily believe that Hogwarts is different, just I think that there's a number of public schools that are different as well, and this probably has more to do with the quality of the principal of the school than the funding method.

But if you want to hold people responsible for something, then at least give them the resources to do it.