The "Celebration of Teaching and Learning" was such a miserable experience that I refused to return for the second day. Instead, I'm spending my Saturday recovering my equilibrium & trying to find words to describe the scene.
"Aggrieved and angry" come to mind.
The teachers are aggrieved and angry; the union leadership is aggrieved and angry; the poo-bahs and the toadies are aggrieved and angry. The lady from Scholastic was downright offensive (see below) in a you-had-to-be-there kind of way. I will not be making purchases from Scholastic book fairs in the near future.
The worst of the lot was Gene Wilhoit, who is angry at all of America. "Americans don't value education," he said, his face hard. "Americans are complacent."
He went on at length, but iPad ate my notes, and I didn't think to get out my cell phone to film him. I hope someone did because the country needs to see what these people say (and how they say it) when they think parents are out of earshot. "Americans don't understand that education is important to the future," he said.
Yes, indeed. That's why we have 21-year olds graduating college with a lifetime of student loan payments to look forward to. Because we don't value education. (Speaking of college loans, the unions want taxpayers to fund college tuition for teachers and are clearly mobilizing opinion among the rank and file. So that's on the horizon.)
Wilhoit and the others had just come from a two-day meeting with leaders from countries that have good schools, and their experience at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession seemed to be the source of their anger. Each panelist offered up his take-away (e.g. free college for teachers), and all of them speechified about "systems" and "support for teachers" and "respect" and the like.* None of it made much sense. They all agreed that although our schools are terrible, our teachers are great, or as great as they can be, considering.
It was Wilhoit who came closest to voicing the thought they were all managing to convey without speaking the words: We would have better schools if we had a better country.
*Obligingly, Arne Duncan's person told the gathering that the White House is launching a new initiative with the acronym RESPECT. She looked miserable, sitting there amongst the RttT haters.