Tuesday, November 19, 2013

America's "White Suburban Moms" are upset WHY, now?!?!?

Earlier this week, America's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, made a remark that has touched off a firestorm of commentary: "It’s fascinating to me that some of the pushback is coming from, sort of, white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were."

Not long ago, he was blaming pushback on the Common Core State Standards Initiative- which is IMO in essence a de facto national curriculum, perhaps not in writing but in reality, where the rubber meets the road - on "fringe groups," such as Tea Party Conservatives and conspiracy theorists. To be fair, there is a fair amount of resistance from those groups, but the vast majority of resistance I am seeing is from parents, from teachers, even from administrators - from regular people, in other words, from people who are seeing first-hand the effects of Common Core on their schools, their students, and their own children. This is also hardly defined by race, either; when public schools in Chicago and Philadelphia were closed en masse due to "budget shortfalls" or "underutilization" - and many in Chicago likely to be replaced by corporate charter school chains, negating the "underutilization claim," while certified teachers are being laid off and replaced by Teach For America corps members with a scant 5 weeks of training - it was parents and students and teachers and community members of color, those who taught in and attended those schools, who raised their voices the loudest.

Resistance has been made out to be a race issue, a political Left-vs-Right issue, even a religious issue - but the truth is that it's been coming from everywhere. And many of the "white suburban moms" pushing back have NOT "suddenly" come to any realizations of the sort, but have realized some time ago, with growing certainty, that something is rotten in the arena of American public education. Online Facebook groups such as Dump Duncan have been around for a while, but others with more provocative names like BadAss Teachers Association and Stop Common Core (here is the Maryland group) have spawned their own spinoff groups, whether state BAT groups, a parent group (BadAss Parents), even a Progressive BadAss Teachers group. Arne Duncan's latest aim at white suburban moms, though, really touched a nerve; within hours, Moms Against Duncan was formed on Facebook and has been growing steadily since the remark was first made a couple of days ago, with membership comprised of mothers of ALL colors - and fathers and grandparents too!

This article in the Washington Post education blog The Answer Sheet touched off its firestorm. I've been following the Answer Sheet blog for a couple of years now, and while responses on some posts have been thick and fast, I don't recall EVER seeing just shy of 2000 comments (as of this writing - probably over 2000 by the time I'm done proofreading!) sprout up on a post there in the space of only 2-3 days. Also in response, a petition asking for Arne Duncan's removal from his appointed post has been created; a similar petition that made the rounds this past summer stalled out at about 2600 signatures after its 30-day window; this one already has 2600 signatures in its third day!

I have tried to avoid using this blog for posts of this nature, but today I'm making an exception. Here is what I had to say, modified with links added, a correction in spelling, and a slight change in wording near the end from my response on that post:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Anti-Bullying Lesson - Follow-Up #2

Sent this out today (tried calling between lessons and Sick Monkey but ended up with voicemail):
Hi [Curriculum Office Specialist]! CrunchyProgressiveMusicMama here - I left a voicemail at the curriculum office as well in between other stuff going on here (I teach private lessons out of my home AND I have a sick 3rd-grader home with me today), but I wanted to follow up in writing.

A couple of weeks ago, my younger daughter was working pretty diligently on a self-portrait, as directed by her classroom teacher. She's a pretty detail-oriented kid, so over the week they had to complete the assignment, she put a LOT of herself into this. Had I known that this would be used for the "crumpled paper" anti-bullying lesson, I never would have let her take it to school, not something that she probably invested 3-4 hours in (on top of the hour-plus it already takes her to do her homework nightly - but that's another kettle of smelly fish LOL) over the course of the week she worked on it.

So here is the aftermath: http://crunchyprogressivemusicmama.blogspot.com/2013/11/anti-bullying-lesson-really.html

Friday, November 15, 2013

Anti-Bullying Lesson - Follow-Up

Wow - that last post about the anti-bullying lesson my third-grader's class undertook sure did get a lot of views, and lots of commentary on the Facebook side as well. I have yet to hear from one person who didn't find the lesson "inappropriate" at best and "barbaric" at worst; most expressed anger and outrage, a few suggested phone calls to the principal/teacher. I did email the teacher but got limited joy on that front; I got some more details - which is good, because even with an impeccably honest but still-young child, parents are still going to hear more of that child's perspective of the experience than they are likely to hear an objective account, so I wanted to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. He instead basically confirmed what Monkey had told me, with a few more details I could follow up on.

Another teacher who read my account of the incident and was less than impressed by the lesson kindly located it on the curriculum page and shared with me a cut-and-pasted copy of the anti-bullying lesson described here. To my surprise (and sadness), it is indeed included in the third-grade curriculum (not in a higher grade, as I'd half-hoped). Step-by-step instructions follow:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Anti-Bullying Lesson? Really?

A couple of nights ago as I was tucking in my youngest for bed, her face took on a serious expression. I've been around the block with this expression with both kids now, and when it happens at bedtime it inevitably means that there is something very deep on the mind of the child wearing the expression, and it also usually means that she needs to talk and unload and dialogue about it. And it inevitably happens at bedtime. :-) I used to be irritated at the delay in sleep for them and in "me/us" time for us parents, but I've come to love the close times and the thoughtful discussions that they seem to be most open to at these times, so I usually try to roll with it.

The week before, Monkey Child had been putting in a fair amount of time on a self-portrait that had been assigned by her third-grade teacher; one day the basic drawing, then some details, then some clothing, finally some color. And since Monkey is a very detail-oriented kid when it comes to her artwork, she put in a LOT of time over those few days to make it just so. She took it off to school and I didn't hear about it again until Monday evening at bedtime.

"Mom, we did something with our portraits in class on Friday," she said, quietly and seriously in the mostly-dark room, illuminated only by the rainbow that shines for 10 minutes after the main light goes off.

"Oooh, really?" I replied, curious to know how they'd been used.

"We used them for a lesson about bullying," she continued. "Each person in the class got someone else's picture to hold...." and suddenly my heart sank, hoping that I was NOT about to hear what I did indeed hear next.