Allow someone who is trying to hurt you to define the argument and you will be hurt. Allow the same to someone who is trying to trap you and you will be trapped.
This unwitting allowance, as much as the limitless funding of billionaires and the spinelessness of the corporate media, has been one of the reasons teachers from coast to coast have been backtracking, guilted into silence and paralyzed by their own rhetoric for years now. We have allowed ourselves to be both hurt and trapped.
I speak specifically of the endlessly repeated and utterly cynical declaration of the reformers, “it’s all about the kids.” I have heard or read this or some variation thereof ad nauseum for years now. I have read versions of it in the names of billionaire backed fronts like Students Matter and StudentsFirst, whose very appellations are themselves accusations against teachers.
I have heard it from ( yet another ) sociopathic principal who announced to the staff that conversation in the school be limited to “what’s good for the kids.” Worst of all, I have heard it from the mouths of teachers even as their students are more degraded by the day and their profession is being stolen from them by the hour by ed reformer mandates. This even as the demands on them grow exponentially; this from those who do not seem to realize that if you allow such words to define your profession, you will very soon be stripped of your professional status.
That process is well under way.
In a world full of weasels, no more-weasel worded trope exists in all of the Kingdom of the Reformers . And none is more effective. It is a rhetorical trick of the “when did you stop beating you’re wife” variety.
Once you are in you cannot get out.
Such declarations are designed to silence teachers by making them feel guilty and selfish anytime their concerns turn to feelings of self worth, of professional value, or concern for their non-professional lives such as the well being of their families. In other words, teachers are meant to feel selfish any time they concern themselves with what every other parent in the country deals with on a daily basis and what all must do to protect their own in an increasingly savage world.
In no other profession have I ever heard anything even remotely like the “ all about the kids” meme. Doctors are not repeatedly admonished, “It’s all about the patients”. Firefighters do not have an army of mercenaries screaming at them “It’s all about the people in the burning buildings.” No, the rhetoric is singular to the teaching profession.
The fact is that unless you’re talking about an education system staffed by devotees of a religious order or a cult, such a declaration is way beyond unreasonable. It is cruel and, unless you intend teaching staffs to be composed of childless 23 year olds who span a year or two before moving on to their real jobs, wholly unsustainable. A good school system must, without question, be primarily concerned with properly educating kids. But anyone who actually knows what they are talking about and is not engaged in teacher bashing or union busting, also knows that properly educating kids means insuring that the needs of the teachers who are educating them are respected and their profession honored. It requires balance.
The “all about kids” rhetoric reached its logical conclusion a few days ago in the following astonishing statement by Bronx Assembly person, Carmen Arroyo of the 84th District commenting on Governor’s Andrew Cuomo’s radical and savage new education bill.
“Those teachers that are responsible and are doing their job, those teachers that sacrifice their families and themselves for the children they serve are going to be protected. Those that are not good, better get a job at McDonalds.”
I do not know if Arroyo is dumb, horrifically cynical or just desperately trying to please her masters in the new oligarchy in which we dwell. But I will say this: in no way do I find the kind of viciousness and absurdity bellowed by Arroyo coincidental to the rise and entrenchment of oligarchy. Every member of the New York State Assembly knows very well that they face the wrath of and loss of access to the limitless bank accounts of the super rich if they stray from the latter’s script calling for the privatization of the public school system.
Arroyo, in fact, does not seem to have even a fundamental understanding of the bill she has voted for — and in this, she is far from alone. She does not seem to understand, that is, that even if a teacher moved a cot into his or her classroom and saw their family only on weekends, in the bill she voted for nothing can “protect “ them from being fired because of their students’ test scores or a poor rating from a drive -by “independent evaluator.” Cuomo’s barbaric proposals, essentially a greatest hits of failed or unproven reformer schemes, were designed to insure maximum teacher firing.
Arroyo’s perverse and grossly insulting statement, however, does serve a purpose. It brings the reformer rhetoric to its logical conclusion. If teaching is “all about the kids”, it stands to reason that the teacher is there as a kind of an idiot’s version of a saint: an egoless creature without needs or cares or concerns of this world, willing and able to work endless hours and accept endless abuse for the good of their charges. That such an idiot saint would not be a member of a union goes without saying. It also highlights, to any one who hears it, how sick we have become as a people and a body politic and how urgently we need to unite and change the course of this horrific campaign now.
Any system that demands the sacrifice of a person’s family is deranged and any public official who demands such is unfit for public office. Any people who stand for such deserve what they get.
Thanks to the ever vigilant and excellent Perdido Street School (perdidostreetschool.blogspot.com) for bringing Arroyo’s vulgar statement to light.