Saturday, October 24, 2020

On Critical Race Theory

Conservative British MP, Kemi Badenoch, insisted that Critical Race Theory is somehow illegal, so I'm just going to save this rebuttal here: 

This is a Twitter thread from Kojo Koram - @KojoKoram - professor of law Birkbeck: 

"A thread on the new bogeyman of “critical race theory”: Kemi Badenoch. Watching dim-witted Tory junior ministers try to get their heads around the works of Derrick Bell, Patricia Williams and some of the most-decorated legal scholars of the last 50 years would be funny if this wasn’t so serious. Clearly, Google has told them that critical race theory is just people shouting about “white privilege” etc so here is an idiot’s guide to CRT to help: CRT emerged out of Harvard law in the 80’s in an attempt to explain the contradictions between the legal equality achieved through the civil rights struggle and the ongoing visible difference in the impact of the law across racial groups. This is the heart of CRT. Pretty simple isn’t it. There are certainly critiques that can be made of the tradition (I see it as having become too detached from political economy, for one) but to pretend it is a dangerous, illegitimate sphere of academic inquiry is just pathetic. 
CRT started with the material reality. Look at your cities. Look at your prisons. If law is blind, why does property law, criminal law etc seem to punish some groups more than others? You don’t care about this, fine, good for you. But you also want to stop others from caring? The same people who would defend the right of Charles Murray to talk about how Black people have lower IQ’s on the grounds of free speech are now cheering a government banning teachers trying to explain the difference between legal equality and material inequality. In the UK, Black people are stopped + searched nearly 10x white people. 40% of young people in custody are BME. If your explanation for this is anything other than ‘Blacks are just naturally/culturally more criminal’… then congratulations, you have just started doing CRT!"

Michael Sandel's Tyranny of Merit

I haven't yet read his newest book, but Michael Sandel is everywhere these days promoting his new book. An excerpt from a Guardian interview:

Sandel charts the rise of what he sees as a corrosive leftwing individualism: “The solution to problems of globalisation and inequality – and we heard this on both sides of the Atlantic – was that those who work hard and play by the rules should be able to rise as far as their effort and talents will take them. This is what I call in the book the ‘rhetoric of rising’. It became an article of faith, a seemingly uncontroversial trope. We will make a truly level playing field, it was said by the centre-left, so that everyone has an equal chance. And if we do, and so far as we do, then those who rise by dint of effort, talent, hard work will deserve their place, will have earned it.” The recommended way to “rise” has been to get a higher education. . . . 
Sandel has two fundamental objections to this approach. First, and most obvious, the fabled “level playing field” remains a chimera. Although he says more and more of his own Harvard students are now convinced that their success is a result of their own effort, two-thirds of them come from the top fifth of the income scale. . . . "Americans born to poor parents tend to stay poor as adults.” . . . [Secondy,] even a perfect meritocracy would be a bad thing. “The book tries to show that there is a dark side, a demoralising side to that,” he says. “The implication is that those who do not rise will have no one to blame but themselves.” Centre-left elites abandoned old class loyalties and took on a new role as moralising life-coaches, dedicated to helping working-class individuals shape up to a world in which they were on their own. “On globalisation,” says Sandel, “these parties said the choice was no longer between left and right, but between ‘open’ and ‘closed’. Open meant free flow of capital, goods and people across borders.” Not only was this state of affairs seen as irreversible, it was also presented as laudable. “To object in any way to that was to be closed-minded, prejudiced and hostile to cosmopolitan identities.” . . . 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Imagine If Teachers Made the Decisions that Impact Teachers

So now the government has overruled regulation 274. I wrote about it ages ago, again firmly planted on the government side!! I'm really very, very pro-union, honestly, but some things just don't make sense to me. At the time, I was watching several LTO teachers in my building who knew the kids well, had developed strong relationships with students and staff, and had shown their excellence in spades, and they were passed over in favour of an unknown that happened to be in that top five in seniority. The LTOs passed over weren't brand new, as is often characterized, but had been supplying for years. It's not always that case that the longest serving are the most qualified or the best choice. And I haven't seen the regulation do anything to dampen nepotism. However, some people have seen the complete opposite effect. BUT that's not my focus here.

Some people think this entire issue is a distraction and are wary that the unions will go to town on it instead of focusing where we need them, on reducing class sizes by fighting to add more teachers or by allowing teachers to work from home. To what extent is all the reg. 274 talk a red herring to get us sidetracked? Lecce suggested that it will make hiring easier, but who's getting hired? Classes are being collapsed in this mess!

And then someone suggested to me that the entire reason we all have to teach online from inside the building isn't because of the board at all, but because of the union: it creates more supply teaching jobs. If teachers are allowed to teach from home, then they'll call in sick far less often, and there will be fewer opportunities for other teachers. I have NO idea if this is fact or fiction. It's pure conjecture at this point. But it does make sense that the union might support that (and therefore not fight it). And, while I completely understand that need for more job opportunities for OTs, having them show up to watch students log in while the teacher teaches from home, using up all their sick days, isn't necessarily giving them the best usable experience. A far better solution would be to split elementary school classes in half and have them "supply" using the teacher's lessons with the other half of the class and let the online teachers teach from home. But that's crazy talk, I know.  

However, my real focus is this: Wouldn't it be absolutely AMAZING if teachers had a say in all these decisions??

Maybe we could!

For the sake of my mental health, instead of marking this afternoon, I watched a talk from the Hannah Arendt Center: Revitalizing Democracy: Sortition, Citizen Power, and Spaces of Freedom. It was well worth it! I think it will show up here eventually (with suggested readings here). 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Does Teaching Effectively Under this System Legitimize Ford's Plan?

What Doug Ford's team is doing right now reminds me of Bojack Horseman, from the end of the first season on, when absolutely everybody just starts saying "Hollywoo" after the 'D' in the big sign goes missing. It becomes the accepted reality. So many are openly just accepting that kids and staff in schools will get sick, but it's not enough of them that we should actually act on the concern. According to their press conference on Friday, kids don't transmit the virus, and they only bring it in to the schools from elsewhere - they don't get it from the school. That was said shortly after the BBC's "Science in Action" reported on a study that concluded, "children more than any other group are transmitting the virus both to other children and adults" and another that pointed to rapid testing as a means to dramatically reduce transmission rates. But we'll just keep acting like it's not happening. 

Williams & Lecce from an early September bit of propaganda h/t @parentaction4ed

Anyway... 

For obvious reason, I'm hyper-focused on schools and the ridiculously ineffective plans being implemented. But, funny story, after a couple of boards suddenly shifted to a hybrid model of teaching (teaching both in class and at home at once) due to the number of parents pulling their kids from physical classes, I ended up on the other side of the argument. My attempts to commiserate and then offer support to affected teachers on Twitter failed dramatically, and I have incurred the wrath of several for, essentially, sleeping with the enemy.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Putting Your Own Mask on First

Teachers are a hardy bunch. We have self-trained ourselves to remain polite and calm in the face of abuse. On my first day of teaching, ever, I wrote Miss Snyder on the board, and a faceless voice from the back of the room said, "Oh good, she's not married. No sloppy seconds." I immediately erased the Miss and shifted to Ms, and went on with the lesson, refusing to give the comment further attention. At 9 months pregnant, I cleared a room of kids after a fight broke out in a pottery classroom and got the two boys in line. Just one boy, really, as the other was bleeding on the floor. Both had a good foot of height on me, but I had the grizzly bear attitude of a mom to be. And I was pretty sure they wouldn't dare hit me.  

But this is ridiculous.

Admin keeps reminding us to take time for self-care and sending us links to mental health professional sites. They want teachers taking care of themselves so we can better care for our students. And I think these messages are all coming more and more because they must know we're all starting to lose it. In person and online, teachers are talking openly about randomly bursting into tears at the smallest thing because WE'RE ABOUT TO BREAK! But we keep forging ahead, making it work, because it's in our DNA to do that with a smile and a gentle voice, compassionate to everyone but ourselves. At no other time have so many teachers felt like they're not measuring up to expectations, felt like they're failing at their job. As much as we're trying to do the best for the kids, the kids are going to notice the stress and exhaustion taking its toll.