The Poky Little Pundit


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“We have a civic obligation to support free public education for all.” – Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch bookAfter four days with no voice and a night spent coughing so hard that tears flew spontaneously from my eyes, I am taking a day off. And right now, it is sunny, and so the world is good. I am staring in utter awe at the hot butter sunshine, knowing that in just minutes, it will pull on its hated Autumn-grey sweater.

It has been a month now since my return to teaching – hence the lack of posting. I’d love to report how happy I am to be back – but working 10 hour days for $3000 a month continues to be somewhat of a drag. I can hear some of you thinking, ‘Well, that’s better than minimum wage, isn’t it? She should be grateful!’ And I am grateful to be employed – we all should be – but my myriad degrees (okay, there’s only three) and 12 years of experience balk at my workload relative to my salary.

Luckily, I am not the only one feeling fired up about education: Last Thursday, I went to hear Diane Ravitch speak at UW about her new book, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. She is a tiny, fiery woman whose commanding rhetoric boomed through Kane Hall. She mentioned many ‘hoaxes’ that our media propagates – one being that American education is failing. She quickly proves how untrue this is with actual evidence – for example, high school graduation rates are at their highest point in history. Several other tidbits popped out at me (oh and by the way, these are called titbits in England, which cracks me up):

  • Test scores measure “who is in the class” – and no amount of merit pay is going to increase these test scores if all other variables stay the same
  • Teachers are not, in fact, “hiding their best lessons” in a bid to earn more money
  • America leads the world in industrialized poverty – which is the probable cause of most of our education woes
  • Standardized tests reflect opportunity – not the ability to learn
  • “Charter schools are skimming off the easiest to educate.” Totally!
  • Providing better pre-natal and early childhood care are critical in fixing our public school system
  • Reducing class size has proven benefits (And here, I want to segue briefly to state that one of my current AP Literature classes has 34 souls. In England, the equivalent class had EIGHT.)

It was lovely to walk through my former campus again, and sit back and learn for a change instead of grading papers and being ever the arbiter. Ravitch was an excellent speaker and is an excellent educator – I encourage you to read her book. Read Jonathan Kozol’s review for the NYT here.

In terms of politics – no, I have nothing to say about the shutdown that hasn’t already been said in eight different ways since last night. I’d like to focus instead on some of the amazing local candidates relying on our support this November. It turns out that part of being a Precinct Committee Officer for the 36th District Democrats involves receiving phone calls on my cell from candidates – I have voice messages from both school board candidate Suzanne Dale Estey and Port Commissioner John Creighton! I’d love to endorse them here, but I am still in the evidence-gathering phase of my voting process – I hope you are too. More on this is still to come as I learn about the candidates.

Now for a hot bath, some soup and some Vick’s VapoRub…stay healthy, dear reader!

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