The sniping has begun, apparently, to which I must personally respond.
Unschooling/homeschooling advocate, and employee of the NYDOE (could that be argued as the belly of the beast?), is going after us here At the Chalk Face because I had the temerity to suggest that folks who have taught might have more to say about their profession than someone observing from the outside. Here’s the post right here. I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to assume that a teacher educator should be trusted to correct misconceptions about teacher education. Or, that a teacher can correct misconceptions about work in the classroom. I hold policymakers and all education commentators to the same standard.
[Seriously, I'd like to know when a student ever becomes less infallible. Can someone please tell me that? When the clock strikes midnight on graduation, are they then allowed to receive criticism for their views? Is it when they turn 18, when they're technically adults? Are students, and perhaps parents, infinitely infallible? According to some, they are. If we are then lifelong learners, perhaps we are all infallible indefinitely.]
Really, anything I could possibly write at this point will be picked apart nonstop. So, why even bother giving folks more ammunition? I must admit, the link provided in this recent screed was not a video of teaching. You see, I gave what was called a Spark presentation. It was recorded in a restaurant near campus, actually. We were asked to create, I think 15 or 20 slides on Powerpoint, and the slides would roll automatically, perhaps a few seconds each slide. And that’s the presentation. Several faculty members participated and I think it was a rather interesting way to “Spark” a conversation about a new idea. Actually, it was kind of cool, a faculty member in Film and Media Studies created a short animation during his time. He created it while talking, then played it for us all at the end. He carved images into actual film. But I had notes because, well, I needed to make sure I didn’t talk too long and stayed with the slides. In fact, most everyone had notes. It was kind of a challenge to stay on point. In any event, I think there were three of these events total. The videos are all up there.
And I suppose I need to be clear about this whole “banning” thing because the author cannot apparently get over it. What was this, almost two years ago now? In any case, I’m only going to explain this one more time and then be done with it. Here we go. In the very early days of a humble opt out group on Facebook, conversations began very passionately. At the time, this little group had only a few dozen members, growing at a rather rapid rate. This little group made it very, very, very clear that its mission and vision was meant to preserve and maintain a free and equitable system of public education. This is not a system meant to replace any others, but the protection and resuscitation of a vibrant public system for those who needed it. If parents have a choice, and students as well, then they should be able to choose a public school system. We must improve this system in order for it to be a viable option for those who need it.
I continue. In the very early and confusing days of this group, organized by members that had all not met in person yet, we wanted to make sure the conversation did not stray too far from its original intentions. Over the course of some emails, we shared our collective concern that some individuals were not only dominating the conversation with very frequent postings, but they were steering the conversation away from public schools in favor of home education and unschooling. Regardless of how you feel about these methods, this was not and never was and never will be the intention of this group. There are numerous forums already available to discuss such options. We were very intentional that our mission was to support and advocate for public education, not as a zero sum alternative, but a rich and viable option for parents, teachers, students, and community members. As public school educators and parents, we all felt very strongly about preserving such a system. So, I say again, and I want to be very clear about this: public schooling is not meant to supplant any option. Our intention is to support, protect, and enable public education. We do so through many different venues and make many arguments in that regard. But we and other kindred spirits are adamant that nothing should come at the expense of a public education system. We can all exist in relative peace and harmony. But we do feel that public education, for those that want to preserve it, is being actively undermined. We seek to put an end to that.
Let me continue. We as a fledgling group felt that certain individuals, the number of which can be counted on ONE hand, were directing the conversation away from preserving a system of public education in favor of home education and unschooling being BETTER THAN and ultimately REPLACING public schools. Not everyone I’m sure felt this way. But some did, and they persisted as much despite the repetition that this was not our mission. So, without other options at our disposal, we simply dismissed, what was it, two or three persons, from the group. And that’s that.
What I find so offensive is that this must constantly be addressed. Perhaps it is my folly for indulging it. Who knows. And I’m sure my friends in the group are rolling their eyes at my writing again another account of ancient history. But I don’t know why certain individuals cannot get over this, why they cannot let this go? I have no idea. It is not as if other forums are available. And, this is the most interesting part: every one of us, especially me, have been perfectly willing and able to respond to this. Look at this blog post. When was the last time a Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, or others responded to you? When was the last time they addressed your individual concerns as a parent, student, teacher, or otherwise? Don’t hold your breath.
So I will continue to respond, to comment, and to write back because I feel that it is my responsibility and something that I actually enjoy doing. If I did not, well, I would not be here, I can assure you. This website would not be here, I can assure you. Are we or I or you better off as a result? I have no idea. The jury is still out as far as I’m concerned. So, that is certainly that.
If I am guilty of anything, it is making my case that an educator, a public school teacher and teacher educator, must be allowed to have prominence in the debate on our craft. We have completely lost control of our profession in the last few decades or more. We have lost so much control that anyone can trump our own experiences. Perhaps this is happening in medicine as well, where anyone who has looked up WebMD or watched a Jenny McCarthy interview can offer medical advice.
But as you can see, I’m accessible. I’m honest and open. We all are here At the Chalk Face. Come by and chat sometime.