On Teacher Quality: Damn That Fiorillo Fellow

    Will I ever get to write something in depth for this blog ? Every time I sit down to write something brilliant - which 99% of the time doesn't get from my mind to my fingertips - someone like Michael Fiorillo goes ahead and breaks into my brain and steals it. I've often touched on the issue of why teacher quality is so stressed as the key factor in our profession while other jobs like medical, legal, political, police, corporate, etc. are ignored. Now along comes Michael Fiorillo who puts it all into such a neat package in this comment at Gotham Schools, which I would categorize as, "I wish I had written it."

    There is a new comment on:

    More than 500 extra teachers rated "unsatisfactory" this year

    Author: Michael Fiorillo

    As a teacher, I'd be the last one to minimize our (potential) importance in the lives of students, but as others have pointed out, "Why the obsessive focus on incompetent teachers, to the complete exclusion of other professions and fields?"

    The US has a shamefully high infant and maternal death rate: why aren't OB-GYNs being targeted with the same passion?

    The US has lower life expectancy than other developed nations: where are the witchhunts against primary care doctors and other health care professionals (let alone the real "death panels," the insurers)?

    The US incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth, most of them minority, and many of them warehoused in private, for-profit prisons, providing a structural incentive for continuing incarceration: where are the corporate think tanks, foundations and PR firms making noise about this "Civil Rights Issue of Our Time?"

    The reason those debates have so little "juice" is because these fields have already been privatized, with free reign given to those who would count, measure, control and commodify and market everything. Public education, along with Social Security, is the last major universal, public good left to be taken over by the hedge funds, private equity parasites and venture capitalists. Thus, this unending campaign against teachers and their unions, and this absurd debate about teacher quality.

    I'm not proposing witchhunts. My point is that this very discussion proves the success of corporate ed deform in framing the issue of education solely as one of teacher quality. Even the unions have allowed themselves to be suckered into this twisted, unfair discourse, which they can only lose.

    Do you want to improve the lives of poor and minority students? Then improve the lives of poor and minority students: provide their parents with living-wage jobs, adequate housing, medical, dental and mental health care and, yes, adequately funded schools with committed (sorry, TFA) and qualified teachers.

    Until we open up that debate, teachers will be shouted into a corner by arrogant know-nothings with thick wallets, pursuing their own interests in the name of "The Underprivileged."

    As for edu-scientist (now that's a hot one), I'd like to quote Norbert Wiener, a mathematician and early computer scientist, and coiner of the term "cyber:"

    "The success of mathematical physics led the social scientist to be jealous of its power without quite understanding the intellectual attitudes that had contributed to this power. The use of mathematical formulae had accompanied the development of the natural sciences and became the mode in the social sciences... so the economists (MF: and "psychometricians" as well the
    overwhelming majority of ideologically-subsidized "education researchers") have developed the habit of dressing up their rather imprecise ideas in the language of the infinitesimal calculus."

    Norbert Wiener, "God and Golem, Inc."

    I know this dates me, but every time I hear a DOE/Ed Deform mouthpiece say "Research shows that...", while pulling some self-serving nonsense out of their butt, I think of the old Trident gum ad: "Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend Trident to their patients who chew gum."

    Yeah, that's the ticket.

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