Sunday, September 12, 2010

More on the MoCo BoE Races

I've spent an awful lot of time and energy on politics of late, and frankly, it's making me pretty tired. And yet, I've still got more to say. I spent many vertical pixels yesterday on one BoE candidate, and it sucked my day away. I'm going to keep this post more brief. I hope.

In the District BoE 5 race, I endorsed Mike Durso, an incumbent Board member and a former teacher and principal. Mr. Durso also won a spot on the Apple Ballot and an impassioned endorsement from Laura Berthiaume, another Board incumbent (who represents my district). I have likewise endorsed incumbents in the BoE races in Districts 1 (Judy Docca) and 3 (Patricia O'Neill), and in the at-large race (Shirley Brandman).

I spent a lot of thought on what to write about today. I thought about working on the two candidates in District 5 that I haven't discussed, but as I started to research another issue I found that I was in serious danger of breaching my promise of brevity (I won't bullshit you; I'm going to breach it, though I'll try to limit the damage). So today I'm going to talk about the Parents Coalition.

Then, I'm absolutely done with politics in this blog for a while. Unless I see a shiny butterfly. The primaries are Tuesday, and that's going to settle everything but the BoE races, because the Democratic candidates will win in the general election, Robin Ficker's rich and no-doubt detailed fantasy life aside, and the BoE races are nonpartisan, at least in a party sense. I may re-engage on the BoE races later in the process, but that'll be easy, because the choices are pretty stark and unambiguous. So I'm about done with this.

Also: I want to get back to irresponsible, foul-mouthed comedy.

The Parents Coalition is an advocacy organization here in the County that has advanced a candidates' slate. A quick word about the Parents Coalition candidates in general: I'm opposed to them. That's partly because I'm a teacher's spouse. It's true that parents are a pain in the ass. That doesn't give MCPS license to ignore them; it also doesn't mean that activist parents know best. They certainly know best for their own children, whether or not they do, and that's right and proper. Their pretense that they know best for mine, for anyone elses', or for everyone's, is nonsense. It's well-known that, when your child doesn't fit a mold, you sometimes have to fight MCPS for your child. You don't do that by getting elected to the BoE. Caring about a narrow spectrum of issues doesn't make you any smarter, and the experience of fighting MCPS for your kids doesn't qualify you to administer the school system for the rest of us.

There's another thing to say here; there's a very close link between parental involvement and childrens' success. That means understanding what's going on in your child's daily school life, helping with challenges (including homework and social challenges), and simply knowing what your child is supposed to be doing. That's parental involvement. Yeah, sometimes you have to go fight the power for the benefit of your kid. But parental involvement does not require turning over MCPS to parents. That's what the Coalition wants, and the tenor of their rhetoric makes clear that they're not going to settle for anything less.

Transparency is a complex issue; of course, citizens have the right to visibility into government proceedings and processes. What citizens do with that information has a tendency to slow down necessary government actions. You can't debate every decision endlessly, and that's exactly what happens in a place like Montgomery County. No one here thinks there's any such thing as losing, no one thinks they have to take "no" for an answer. And that renders government pretty dysfunctional. There is a balance between transparency and responsiveness, and striking it requires understanding that there's an inverse relationship between the two. The Coalition's mission statement articulates this group's utter lack of understanding of that relationship.

The Coalition's blather about Promethean Boards sort of epitomizes how far their heads are buried in an unfortunate place. I've talked about this before, including yesterday; these devices are the greatest thing since sliced bread. They're not just interactive whiteboards; they're a revolution in teachers' ability to engage students in classroom activities. The Coalition has repeatedly suggested that an equivalent product can be fashioned with less than $100 in readily available parts. This is utter bullshit. It doesn't include the tools required for each student in the room to interact, and the Coalition's feeble nonsense doesn't say anything about who should install this product. Teachers? Yeah, right. That's the way to ensure a comparable experience for each and every student. The Mimio product that the Coalition touts doesn't match the Prometheans' functionality. These people simply don't have any idea what they're talking about. They claim to want to improve education, and they haven't the slightest clue how a modern classroom can or should work.

The Coalition approvingly cites a story that claims that Prometheans "add to excessive screen time." Let's fisk this a bit. The story comes from Churchill High School's student newspaper. OMFG, these people are actually justifying their bullshit position on this with an opinion piece by a high school student? Let's look at that byline: the student in question is named Spencer Easterbrook. Why, oh why, does that name sound familiar?

Really? The Coalition is evidencing its position on Promethean Boards with a high school newspaper editorial, from one of the richest and best-off schools in the county, written by the son of one of the most notoriously batshit crazy writers in America? A global warming denialist and creationist? A man who has written exactly the same plug-in-the-blanks football column every week of the NFL season for the last 12 or 14 years?

Y'know, I'm just about done with this, because these people are over the top. First off, the suggestion that Promethean screen time is somehow equivalent to other screen time (home computers, video games, television, etc.) is utterly fucking insane, irresponsibly so. Next, let's look at a statement by Wackaloon, Jr. in his editorial that the Coalition seems to especially approve of (they highlighted in their block quote):

"A good teacher, however, can keep their students interested and engaged without technology. The excitement of a teacher who is passionate about their subject will never be replaced by a piece of new technology."

You jest. A good teacher doesn't need technology? A teacher who can't keep every student interested and engaged is a bad teacher, because there's nothing wrong with the fucking precious little darlings who inhabit MoCo's classrooms? A Promethean Board "stands between the students and the teacher as a third party in the room"? Holy shit, this is nuts.

Honestly, I don't even know why I'm writing about this. These people are insane. The throwback reactionary approach to education (they seriously want the MCPS to be less focused on college prep and more on vocational education), their incessant carping about audit reports and an accompanying focus on pennies, their complete failure to recognize that the county isn't homogenous, their bitching about every single thing the BoE and Superintendent and school administrators do, coupled with the expectation that parents could or would do better...these are the people you walk away from at PTSA meetings, friends. And they hate teachers. 

Yes, they do. Lookee here: a link from the Coalition's blog to this screed in YFWP over MCEA endorsements. Coalition candidates didn't earn places on the Apple Ballot for a reason, and as candidates, they have to do what they can to campaign; on the other hand, it's clear that Coalition electees would bring a substantial anti-MCEA element to the BoE. Several Coalition candidates try to pay lip service to their support for teachers; their other answers show the lip service for what it is. Teachers make this county's school system. Screw them over at your peril.

This isn't going to get any nicer. I'm done. Don't vote for these people. Vote for the incumbents, listed and linked below:

At-Large: Shirley Brandman

District 1: Judy Docca

District 5: Mike Durso

1 comment:

Sasha said...

Sounds to me like young Master Easterbrook needs a hug from his teacher. And when I think about it I'm not surprised.

Seriously, if these people don't want teachers, why don't they just home-school their little darlings?