By Tim Wolcott
“Help us stomp out domestic violence – join Waverly Cares.”
The President of STANYS (Science Teachers Association of New York State), my professional association, rallies us to implement Common Cores (national teaching standards) and SLO’s (Student Learning Objectives), address STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teaching objectives), adhere to RTTT (Race To The Top) standardized testing priorities and prepare for APPR (50+ page teacher evaluations) and the adoption of NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards).
What is wrong with this picture? Answer - nothing on the surface – a lot below.
Recently my district has been in the national news for our homecoming football game pep rally. The event garnered damning comments which resulted in an admirable community response. School staff and students are being counseled as to the perceived domestic violence and racism depicted in some of the student skits. Moreover, community members and school staff are organizing an event in our football stadium that, hopefully, will show the world that Waverly, NY has a heart and has been unduly maligned. The cooperation created between the community and school is encouraging.
Meanwhile, a poster in the hall reads “Help us stomp out domestic violence – join Waverly Cares.” Why in the current situation would someone use language like “stomp out” to encourage people to attend a rally that celebrates empathy and non-violence? I posit that an adult wasn’t in charge here. I believe that there is a cultural vacuum in our society created by sensible, caring people who aren’t asserting themselves. Left without check, insensitive and/or uninformed forces prevail.
New York’s STANYS’s President is a very hard-working, talented guy. He sympathizes with the overwhelming demands on his colleagues as he recounts our mission “to provide opportunities for all students to participate in and learn science.” However, I contend that he, our association, our union and community leadership do not sympathize enough. They are in a position of responsibility and that sometimes entails principled resistance to corporate and political stakeholders that aren’t prioritizing our students’ education. The alphabet soup of too numerous educational “reforms” is both short-sighted and too poorly integrated to be helpful. Professionals need to stand up, articulate practical solutions that propel leadership to act responsibly.
The adoption of national “Common Core” standards is a start in that direction. Educational and community leaders have prioritized what needs to learned (and what doesn’t) in order to develop critical thinking in students while preparing them for college or a career. Educators should strive to implement those reforms while we lobby to eliminate RTTP and SLO as well as trim APPR down to a practical evaluation system. Otherwise, a system in crisis will only get worse. Meanwhile, community leaders and other responsible adults are needed to support education and the creation of a truly compassionate, caring society. That support should involve active involvement.
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