From politicians confusing a living wage with a handout—
To a white supremacist teacher podcast.
From a tone deaf government flunky using tragedy to do anything to stop gun violence except regulate firearms—
To a Bronx principal barring a black history lesson during Black History Month.
All-in-all, it’s been a crazy news cycle.
If one thing was made clear during the last seven plus days, it’s this:
Many people have no idea what a school should be.
Take West Virginia, the site of a recently resolved statewide teacher strike.
After years of watching the cost of living rise while wages remained stagnant, educators took to the streets to demand enough money that they wouldn’t have to quit their teaching jobs and look for work elsewhere.
It’s a reasonable request.
Imagine if we didn’t pay doctors enough to afford to practice medicine. Imagine if we didn’t pay lawyers enough to afford to practice law.
Teachers just wanted enough money so they could focus on educating the next generation and still get perks like food and shelter.
However, West Virginia is a self-confessed conservative state where self-identifying conservatives unashamedly explain that a full-throated expression of their conservative values includes the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay people a living wage for a hard day’s work.
Or as state Senator Lynne Arvone (R-Raleigh) put it:
“The teachers have to understand that West Virginia is a red state, and the free handouts are over.”
What, Sen. Arvone? Are you high?
A salary is not a “free handout.”
That’s redundant – there is no such thing as a free handout. Handouts are by definition free. That’s something you would have known had you paid more attention to your third grade language arts teacher. But, whatever.
Moreover, a salary is neither free nor a handout.
It is a fixed regular payment – often weekly or biweekly – made by an employer to an employee in exchange for doing a job.
West Virginia teachers are doing their job. State representatives like Arvone aren’t doing theirs.
They aren’t making teaching an attractive career and thus encouraging the best and brightest to become teachers. When you’ve already got a shortage of people willing to become educators, you have to invest. That’s economics 101! Basic supply and demand.
Admittedly, after 8 days of a state-wide strike, the legislature caved and gave teachers a 5% raise, but only moments before introducing a bill to reduce the requirements to become a West Virginia teacher in the future.
It’s like lawmakers are saying: Oh. So you want your raise? Here you go. But the next generation of teachers hired in the state will be more ignorant, less experienced, more unskilled and less professional. In short, they won’t expect to be paid a living wage because we’ve made teaching right up there with being a WalMart greeter!
If passed, the academic quality of education provided by West Virginia will drop.
But so will the cost. And that seems to be the only thing lawmakers like Arvone and her “conservative” colleagues seem to care about.
You know, I don’t think they know what conservative means, either.
It’s certainly not what a public school should be.
Want another example?
Take Dayanna Volitich, a 25-year-old Florida teacher who allegedly ran a white supremacist podcast until non-Aryans heard it, put two-and-two together and removed her from class.
On a recent episode she bragged about spreading racist and prejudiced ideas to her students.
According to an article in the Huffington Post describing her latest podcast:
Volitich also agreed with her guest’s assertion that more white supremacists need to infiltrate public schools and become teachers. “They don’t have to be vocal about their views, but get in there!” her guest said. “Be more covert and just start taking over those places.”
“Right,” Volitich said. “I’m absolutely one of them.”
Great. Just what we need. An army of undercover white supremacists being encouraged to enter the teaching profession – taking those newly minted minimum wage jobs vacated by more expensive but less biased educators.
As a more than 15-year veteran of the public school classroom, I have some advice for white supremacists thinking about becoming teachers: Don’t.
We don’t want you here.
No one has the time for your warmed over master race lullabies.
We don’t need another generation of privileged white people who think the world owes them something just because of the color of their skin.
We need an America made up of people of all colors and creeds who believe in a meritocracy. You get what you work for, what you earn.
And we need lawmakers to actually create a system that supports this ideal.
We need political parties and grassroots movements to push for such an America.
Nazi propaganda belongs in one place only – the history books. It is not part of our future.
And on a personal note, let me just say that becoming a teacher often makes you more progressive than you were when you started.
I know it did me.
Especially if you work at a high poverty, high minority district like I do.
Your job is to serve students’ needs. You push them to think, you don’t tell them what to think.
If that’s not what you’re up for, you’re not up for being an educator.
Indoctrination is not what school should be.
And that brings me to Betsy DeVos, our billionaire Education Secretary who bought her government position with campaign contributions and political connections.
She went to Parkland, Florida, this week to visit with students, teachers and administrators who survived a school shooting a couple weeks ago.
Or at least that’s what it probably said on the press release.
It was really just a publicity stunt to push for arming teachers instead of sensible gun control.
Parkland students have been rocking it holding demonstrations and speaking truth to power demanding that we keep them safe from future violence by banning assault rifles, mandatory background checks on all gun sales and other common sense measures favored by almost 70% of the nation.
DeVos took about five questions before walking out of her own press conference.
She didn’t meet with students – didn’t even try.
She was just there for a photo op.
Well, time’s up, Betsy.
The next generation isn’t putting up with your tone deaf water carrying. With your own family ties to mercenary soldiers for hire, it’s no surprise you’d be against gun control and in favor of firearms to chase away all the Grizzlies attacking our public schools.
It won’t stop the bloodshed but an increase in gun sales will boost your portfolio.
Arming teachers is one of the dumbest things on an agenda full of real whoppers from this absurd Presidential administration.
Teachers touting guns, shooting it out with armed terrorists – no. That’s not what a school should be, either.
So finally we get to the Bronx, where some dimwit who somehow became a principal told an English teacher not to teach a unit on the Harlem Renaissance.
You know, the Harlem Renaissance – Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Louis Armstrong, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington… Nobodies like them.
And if that’s not bad enough, she did it in February during Black History Month.
This number crunching pedant thought it was inappropriate because the teacher wasn’t in the social studies department.
This is what happens when you try to put education in a box with things like Common Core. Don’t teach background information, just look at every text divorced from everything else around it – the author’s personal history, what was happening in the world at the time or even how the reader responds to it.
Administrators like this need to take a seat and get out of teachers ways.
This kind of subtly racist micromanaging isn’t a part of what schools should be either.
Schools should be places where dedicated professionals are prized and valued. They’re given the autonomy to teach what they know is important and they make these decisions informed by the empiricism of what their students need.
Schools should be places without prejudice or racism. They should be cultural melting pots free from segregation and preconceived notions. They should be about academic freedom and the joy of learning.
I wish more people understood it.
Maybe then we could work to make our schools and our country more like the ideals of the overwhelming majority of the people living here.
Instead of continually letting the rich and privileged set the agenda.