Wit & Wisdom

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Bill Maher: Fire The Parents, Not The Teachers

SMW, March 14, 2010 5:15 PM


Did The Newsweek Cover Stories Put Maher, A Teacher Union Critic,
Over The Edge To Come To Teachers' Defense?

Who woulda thunk?  Bill Maher coming to teachers' defense after previous rants against teacher unions?  But then again, it does make sense.   Is this his "touche" challenge to Newsweek?

Okay, he rails into many parents as basically another group to blame:  in-denial, clueless and passing down yet another dumb-gene or parent-in-absentia generation.  While myopic in agenda as the Newsweek issue appeared, why not, bring it on? 

Parents are responsible and too often leave everything up to the schools and teachers.   Even private school parents, as Maher suggests (oh my!). . . a bigger price tag doesn't mean any better or  guarantee of anything.   Maher concludes too many parents view school as babysitting and/or the ONLY means of education  . . . when actually, he was talking as much about parents' role in preventing their kids from being exposed/spending endless time being influenced by popular culture and media, of the mindless variety.

Maher featured the Newsweek cover here prominently in his intro and seemed to be a catalyst for his vitriol about teacher bashing.    The title says, "The Key To Saving American Education" with a blackboard image written with the same phrase over and over, "We Must Fire Bad Teachers".    While the gist of the articles were about the power of the teacher unions as reported by The Daily Riff here, think of the what the cover shouts to the world.  What does someone take-away at first glance?  Teachers are bad . . . bad teachers are the whole problem . . .or just the whole association of bad and teachers together?
No, wrong message.  Some teachers are bad.  Yes, it is hard to fire them (which is crazy) but that is not the "answer key." 

Even The Central Falls firing (now being negotiated) of all teachers was a story that had more to do with union negotiations as reported by The Daily Riff here, here and here.

In any event, Maher is always provocative - whether you agree or disagree. . . 

Video below from HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher" show:


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On Friday, March 12, 2010 Bill Maher did one of his signature New Rules bits in the Huffington Post as well as on his weekly show Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. The title of the piece was New Rule: Let's Not Fire the Teachers When Students Don't Learn -- Let's Fire the Parents which in my mind really nails the essence of the Public School Debate. Mr. Maher said, “According to all the studies, it doesn't matter what teachers do. …. What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.”

So my question: why isn’t anyone pushing Parent/Family/Community involvement or engagement in public education?

Politicians, left and right are all about “charter Schools, failing schools and blaming teachers”. They say that charter schools are part of the solution, yet according to most studies of charter schools they are on average no more effective overall than traditional public schools. You would not know it by what is being said by the education reform advocates. Why would we want to set up a separate charter system that is no better than what we have when there is something else that has proven conclusively to work…parent engagement?

Failing schools is the other big lie, yes we have failing schools both charter and public and we have successful schools both charter and public but once again what works in all schools, failing or successful, charter, public or private…it is parent engagement. Why aren’t the reformers telling us this?. Why do we only hear about the failing public schools?

And then there is “blame the teachers’. Could this be “a little union busting”? If you have a child in our public schools you know that your child’s classroom teacher is your partner and that partnership is the key to your child’s success. Yet the reformers are saying your child’s teacher is bad. I say as a parent if you are engaged in your child’s education there are no bad teachers, your child will learn more from some than others. If you get involved your child will do better no matter the skill of the teacher.

So what does it mean to engage parents, families and the community?

Recognize that all parents, regardless of income, education or cultural background, are involved in their children's learning and want their children to do well.

Design programs that will support families to guide their children's learning, from preschool through high school.

Develop the capacity of school staff and families to work together.

Link activities and programs for families to improving student learning.

Focus on developing trusting and respectful relationships among staff and families.

Build families' social and political connections.

Embrace a philosophy of partnership and be willing to share power.

Make sure that parents, school staff, and community members understand that the responsibility for children's educational development is a collaborative enterprise.

Build strong connections between schools and community organizations.
Include families in all strategies to reduce the achievement gap between white, middle-class students and low-income students and students of color.

So why aren’t more parents involved? In one survey of parents, over 1/3 of the parents said no one asked them. So consider yourself asked. Get involved. It is time to quit all the posturing about charter school, failed schools and blaming teachers.

Once more “What matters is what parents do. The number one predictor of a child's academic success is parental involvement. It doesn't even matter if your kid goes to private or public school. So save the twenty grand a year and treat yourself to a nice vacation away from the little bastards.”

published in the Sacramento Press

Think the study you mentioned about 1/3 of the parents say "no one asked them" about being involved- would be great to see the study or link if you have available. That very well be true and never thought that there may be a void in the "asking". (We hear too often that it is always 10-20% of the same parents volunteering or showing up at the meetings . . .)

I can't find the original survey that I referred to in the article. I believe it was on the Oregon site for parents http://www.chalkboardproject.org/index.php. A more recent survey by Great Schools and Harris give a more comprehensive view of parents interacting with schools.
http://blogs.greatschools.org/greatschoolsblog/2009/08/parents-a-silver-lining-for-schools-as-great-recession-persists.html . I will continue to search of my original survey. If I find it I will publish it on my blog. http://bigeducationape.blogspot.com/

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We spend the first twelve months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up.
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