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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Is Leo Casey Mad as a Hatter?

I try to pay close attention to the arguments my own UFT makes to defend the Core, especially since the Core seems universally unpopular with those who aren't financed by it, including so many teachers and parents.  What does the UFT see in it?  I listened to some of the 2014 AFT Convention streamed live from L.A. last July and now I am reliving its "best" moments, thanks to ednotesonline.  There was the Mulgrew, now infamous, "punch-in-the-face-and-push-in-the-dirt" speech and now Leo Casey's Tea-Party speech.

UFT VP, Leo Casey, looking way too relaxed in his panama hat, surely doesn't have to deal with all the fallout from "reform" on a daily basis in the classroom.  In his short speech, he initially rants against the "top-down corporate mentality" smitten with  business models, standardized tests and misguided methods of accountability.  I'm on the same page.  He says we must replace standardized tests with rich performance assessments.  But how can you have "rich performance assessments " with the pull of Pearson?  In this climate, who would trust teachers to judge students based on their work performed in the classroom?  Teachers aren't even trusted to grade exams of other students in their school.  If Casey could take down the profiteering Pearson Goliath and simultaneously restore faith in teachers, I would take my panama hat off to him.  

It's a pipe dream.  Common standards beg for common tests.  Pearson and the like will not dispense with their profits so easily.  If Casey is under the impression that there is a perfect test and teachers will somehow create it, he is also sadly mistaken.  Uniform tests detract from real learning, no matter who makes it, to the extent that teachers must wear the hat of Stanley Kaplan to save their own pants.  

Casey concludes with this quote, "Don't be seduced by the siren call of the Tea Party with its appeal to segregationist notions of states' rights and its fables about what are in the Common Core standards.  Keep your eyes on the prize.  Support this resolution."   If Casey thinks the parents and teachers who oppose the Core are primarily Tea Party members, he's mad as a panama hatter!  And, hasn't the AFT been seduced by something else, the more-than-generous grant money of Bill Gates? 

 Moreover, Casey disgraces the civil-rights movement by misapplying its language.  The Common Core is brutalizing minorities to an even greater extent than the general population.  Pia Payne-Shannon of Minneapolis makes some of the strongest arguments I've heard in favor of her students.  She is a real, honest-to-God teacher and she sees firsthand the damage caused by the Core in Minneapolis.  States' rights arguments, in this case, are far from segregationist.  They are democratic.  Education must be local, as the Constitution intended it, to meet the needs of communities.  One size does not fit all. 

Next time the AFT debates, I would like to know which speakers are currently employed as teachers, how much money each speaker receives for union jobs, whether the speaker has taken a loyalty oath or is beholden to "brown nose" and how much money his or her organization has taken for supporting the Core.  They could just conveniently flash all this information in the foreground of the screen.  Like baseball stats, it would give us a lot of background information about who is up at bat.  And it might tell us more about why some people cling so tenaciously to what will without a doubt be the wrong side of history.  News from Mudville:  Mighty Casey has struck out--this time.

Casey looked fine in his panama hat, but it could not shade the meaning of his words.  An elite union leadership has been "seduced" to support the Core to the bitter end.  Like Whitman, I, too, "wear my hat as I please indoors or out."  And, so, too, do the vast multitudes of Americans.  It is for this reason we will fail the Core before it fails us.  

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