NEA Early Endorsement: No


For reasons that are not making sense to me, and a lot of other union members, NEA President Lilly Ekelsen Garcia has decided that NOW is the time and we must endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary. This has led to a lot of head scratching, and “what the hecks?” from members who are up on the doings at NEA because at the last Representative Assembly (NEA RA) a measure was passed saying that there would be no early endorsement from the RA. I won’t go into the justification that NEA leadership is offering to defend this move. It does not matter if they can do it under the by-laws. This is a member organization, they need to have the members along with this. Here (hopefully briefly) is why I think this is a bad idea:

  1. It’s too soon. This is over one year out from the presidential vote. If Hillary’s campaign is about to implode from lack of funding, she needs to learn how to run a campaign more frugally, since she got herself in the pickle last time too. She’s got the money, she’s got name recognition and standing, and primary season, although getting pushed back, isn’t until next year.
  2. In addition, there may be another viable candidate entering the race, Vice President Joe Biden. SEIU is holding off endorsements for just this reason. We should too.
  3. Speaking of viable, given the rapidly changing dynamics of national presidential races, and this one in particular, it’s too soon to call that one. One super-well-financed candidate has dropped out on the GOP side so all the Super-PAC money in the world doesn’t seem to be buying love, or votes, this time around.
  4. NEA leadership is out ahead of the members and has not done enough to bring them along on this. That is POOR leadership. CTA has been talking about being member driven, and going to an organizing model. This isn’t that. This will hurt that effort.
  5. Bringing me to the upcoming Friedrichs suit, in which CTA may have to convince members to actively sign up, and depending on how it’s done, pay due to us. This will not help that effort. At all. It will also hurt if we lose agency fee altogether (although none of that goes for campaigns like this). We will need to be in an aggressive posture on developing membership. Having NEA leadership do something that many perceive is a back-door work around to stay in with the pols in Washington (I, by the way, do not see it in such crass terms) will make the job those of us working at the local level have to do.

I have not thrown my support to either candidate at this point, so I don’t have a fish to fry about that. I’m concerned about process, I’m concerned about the institution. If you are a member and you are too, drop a note to CTA leadership, and your NEA Board member.

by posted under politics/policy, union | tagged under ,  |  No Comments »    

When something universal really isn’t


Sorry for the lack of posting. My family issues continue, but I’ve been doing a lot of planning (don’t worry, I got unit credit for it ;) and felt the need to share this observation. I’m working with a Pearson text that’s part of a supplemental adoption for English and Language Arts. This text has some good points, and bad.

An example of good: based on research by Allington, they focus on providing students with text at their lexile level for independent reading, while providing the controversial “text at grade level complexity” (better known as Reading Standard 10) through the text shared at class level. But there is something that while seemingly small, got me thinking. Bear with my nit-picking.

The first lessons are about Reading Standard 2 to determine the theme of a story. When teaching what a theme is, the teacher is instructed to direct students that “a theme applies to universal ideas about people…” to which I say, whose universe is this? The themes being explored in the unit given are about the changes that happen as human children grow up. That’s not an area of glaring discrepancies, since although concepts of childhood and how one goes from childhood to adulthood has huge variety among the cultures found on Earth, whatever the timeline, people go from some form of childhood to adulthood. Childhood may end at 4 or 14, but we all pretty much “grow up” and our lives change. Let’s look at a couple common themes in literature and see how some of the really big themes are not really “universal”.

Family is paramount and one often has to subvert their own needs to fulfill these obligations

Variants of this theme can be found in western literature, but those are mostly in prior centuries, and this theme would be very dated as to be laughable and would need to be about a specific sub-culture for a modern piece of work. On the other hand, this is a very normal idea and theme in some non-western cultures. Let’s look at the opposite case with this theme.

Pursuit of personal fulfillment is good thing
THAT is a theme that would be abhorrent in many cultures but it’s quite common in western writing and literature. I can recall many years ago when I developed the habit of reading travel books, and came across some pretty obscure tomes at my local library system and in the Friends of the Library used book store. One book was about a man from Benin who made it his goal to go to the Arctic Circle. He transgressed local custom by saving his earnings from working in another country (Nigeria) rather than remitting it to his family to make the trip. He went on his own to Greenland. This is a good example of this particular theme, but that book was clearly aimed at a western audience, and not for his relatives (who never understood him) or other inhabitants of West Africa.
Why is this an issue? Some of those cultures that are sending kids to your classroom would not recognize these themes as desirable, so they really aren’t “universal”. You’ll teach these themes to them, and it’s probably fine to call them common or themes in Western culture. Saying they’re universal, when they aren’t, could cause some disconnects for your students who could well think, “I don’t understand why the universe believes this this because that’s not something I believe or my family believes”.
Now, part of this is a problem because you can see there is a difference between the level of detail in my “theme” and what my text publisher is calling a theme. They’re using a very truncated version of themes that don’t exceed three words. They would say a better theme descriptor is “family” and “individual” which at a certain point, sort of makes it just meaningless mush.
Part of the problems is that we’ve gotten here because the standards do not give direction on what they mean by theme. I’ll share this nice nugget from Tom Hoffman, who blogs at TuttleSVC:
I’ve been worried from the beginning about the implied notion that “Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development” in fiction (or poetry, etc.) was a relatively straightforward, foundational sort of process or skill. It just isn’t how literature works. Also, “theme” is just left hanging relatively undefined. Is Pearson’s definition correct? Who knows? It isn’t in the CC glossary. The Common Core ELA is simply underspecified. It is unfinished. It is rushed hackwork.
I will also note that at a district training using the materials today, some teachers complained of not being able to discern the theme in some materials. When it’s not clear to the teachers, how can it be clear to the students.



You will notice that my posting has stretched out quite a bit this year. This has been due in part to some family issues that have worsened of late. Because of that, I will not be posting about my classroom, likely for the rest of the year. I may put up occasional policy opinion posts. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope to be able to resume writing about my classroom experiences next year.

Vaccination and the Commons


The following was a speech I planned to deliver at last month’s CTA State Council in regards to State Senator Dr. Richard Pan’s SB 277 . Due to personal difficulties, I was unable to attend, but I wanted to share it as CTA has not yet taken a position on this issue:

I have a personal stake in this, but what I’m going to say is informed by what medical professionals and public health experts have to say. It is my assertion that the PBE for immunizations needs to be eliminated. While I’m loathe to impose on parents, this is a larger issue than individual beliefs and has now become a public safety issue. I wish that talking and reasoning would make a difference, as this would be a preferable way to go, but based on what we already seeing, and what human behavior studies tell us, this will not resolve this issue.

Read the rest of this entry »

by posted under politics/policy, union | tagged under , , ,  |  2 Comments »    

First Amendment and Teaching


Some folks reading Diane Ravitch are appalled that New Mexico has written into law a new “gag” rule forbidding criticizing state tests or talking to parents about opting out. Calls are being made for the ACLU to involve itself, etc., etc. I abhor laws like this, but they are not new. We’ve had prohibitions on “soliciting” opting out of testing by teachers to parent in the Ed Code of California since before I started teaching. The case law limiting the free expression of public employees including teachers is not a new thing. The direction has been getting better in the courts, especially in the area of whistle-blowing.

Read the rest of this entry »

by posted under union | tagged under ,  |  No Comments »    
« Older Entries


Links of Interest

Visitors come from...


Creative Commons License
All of Ms. Mercer's work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.