Friday, October 11, 2013

Why van Roekel Should Go.

I've written before about how NEA President Dennis van Roekel has sold us out, but the passage of time does not make me feel any better about that betrayal.

Much of the worst of it is captured in his now-repeated admonition that anybody who opposes the CCSS needs to say what they would rather do instead. This is dead wrong for several reasons.

First, it implicitly accepts the oft-repeated canard that American public schools are in the midst of some kind of crisis, that they've never been worse, that US education is circling the toilet and OMGs! we must do something something SOMETHINNNNGGGGG now!!

Well, that's just not true. We know it's not true in every way from our own anecdotal experience right up through responsible examination of the almighty data. We know that the collective teaching staff of public education is not perfect, but are on the whole doing a fine job.

And you know who should be the first to say that? The president of the NEA. You know what the president of the NEA should NOT say? "Yes, our schools, staffed by millions of the teachers that I represent, are in such a mess that we absolutely must pursue some remedy immediately!"

Second, the "well, if not CCSS, then what" line is wrong because it puts the burden of proof on the anti-CCSS crowd, which is exactly backwards. You want to me to change what I do, how I work, what I'm guided by in my professional life? Then the burden is on YOU to explain why your proposal makes sense.

This is extra true when the program you're proposing is a proprietary copyrighted income generator for a private firm. Because, on top of everything else, we should remember that the CCSS are not some public trust. The standards are copyrighted and owned by a private corporation [this is a correction from an earlier version].We are talking about awarding the contract for national curriculum development (no-no-no-- don't even start with the technically-correct-but-practically-bullshit assertion that CCSS is not a national curriculum) to a private corporation, without bid or discussion.

This is tantamount to suggesting, "Hey, we are going to have to convert the US to a monarchy. If you don't agree, you'll just have to prove there's something else we should do instead."

This is a student telling me, "Hey, I don't like my grade, so you're just going to have to change it to an A. If you don't like it, you need to tell me what grade you'd rather give me."

Here's a wild and crazy idea, DVR-- if you think I should be excited about CCSS, then try convincing me with actual reasons instead of telling me I have to do it unless I can come up with a good alternative.

"Well, if not CCSS, then what?" is not an invitation to dialogue. It's not even an opening to try to seduce us to the dark side. It is a barely polite invitation to shut up and do as we're told.

I expect, at a bare minimum, the president of my union to treat me like a fellow professional. I do not expect to be dismissed with the same disdain and condescension employed by other "reform" artists.

DVR is also wrong when he asserts that the CCSS are swell, we just have to get a grip on the whole testing thing. It's not that parts of the CCSS are not swell. Some are. I like to refer to those parts as "Things Good Teachers Already Do" (and wouldn't it have been great if my union president had made the same observation). Some parts are extremely not swell. And it is true that we have to get a grip on the testing thing. A grip, a stranglehold,  a stake through its heart-- something.

But being in favor of the CCSS and opposed to testing is like being in favor of knives but opposed to cutting things. And my union's national president should understand that as well as anyone.

Maybe, as one friend suggests, DVR hasn't sold out. He's simply trying to take a stance that he thinks will work best in the face of an oncoming juggernaught that can't be stopped or slowed down. I understand the realities of political realities. I don't expect my union chiefs to sing me songs of unicorns pooping rainbows and free ice cream every Sunday. But I do expect them to stand up for me and my follow teachers, and if they haven't got the nerve to stand up in the toughest storm when we need them most, then what good are they.

And at this point, if DVR were to announce he'd had a come-to-Jesus moment and changed his tune, I'm not sure I'd trust him.

If Dennis van Roekel is simply trying to be politically expedient, he should go. If Dennis van Roekel doesn't understand any of this, he should go. And if he understands it, but he chooses to act otherwise, he should go. You can see what the common thread is here.


  1. I strongly agree. I am an AR rep. I have teachers in my building leaving the union over this

  2. I AM about to leave the union over this. Soliloquy posses when I got an nea email saying most teachers are supporting common core. What a lie! Its got to be! Any Badass teacher or follower of ravitch knows the minds of thousands ot teachers. I really want a union prez that believes in us as competent teachers, not just another admin who wants to save their job.

  3. Van Roekel is schlepping for someone...and it's not the teachers who have the capacity to know what is going on. Gates Foundation money, thousands and thousands of dollars found it's way into NEA coffers...and I am not happy van Roekel is carrying water for CCSS and the corporate establishment.