1) Separating the Sheep from the Goats. In case you're just waking up from a long weekend and haven't seen the news, President Obama introduced his plan for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). It didn't take long for the national teachers' unions to make their feelings known.
"We see too much top-down scapegoating of teachers and not enough collaboration," National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel told the Wall Street Journal.
"Teachers are on the front lines, in the classroom and in the community, working day and night to help children learn. They should be empowered and supported - not scapegoated," said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
If you think you've been hearing that term a lot lately, you're not mistaken. Weingarten used it two weeks ago in response to Obama's remarks about the Central Falls firings, and union officers in Florida used it to describe the legislature's merit pay bill, in Michigan in response to the state's failure to receive Race to the Top funding, and in Milwaukee to defend the union's choice of health care plan.
The word originated in the Bible (Leviticus 16) to describe the ritual of sending a goat out into the wilderness as a sacrifice to atone for a perceived wrong. The goat, of course, is blameless, but pays with its life for the errors of others.
That's what makes the use of the word in these contexts faulty. You can't say on the one hand that "The key to turning out great students is great teachers," while claiming to be blameless when students fail.
In noting the NEA response to President Obama's plan, Rick Hess wrote that it's "amazing how little gratitude $100 billion in stimulus spending can buy you nowadays."
If NEA and AFT are tired of being scapegoats, American taxpayers are more tired of being sheep - sheared annually to support a system that not only fails to produce results, but balks at the notion that there should be results.
2) Just Say No. You don't want to miss the Los Angeles Times interview with United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy. Let's just say he's no Dennis Van Roekel.
Duffy casually dropped this into the conversation: "I was a heroin addict for many years."
The time frame for this raises a few questions, since his bio states he "organized and taught in daycare center for working parents in Philadelphia from 1967-72." He would have been 23 or 24 when he started there, which is also interesting since he told the Times, "Between the ages of 25 and 30, I taught myself how to read."
It's great that Duffy overcame his circumstances and his own self-destructive habits, but I wonder how, even in the Sixties, daycare centers hired as teachers recovering heroin addicts who couldn't read.