Enabling is a term often used in the context of a relationship with an addict. It might be a drug addict or alcoholic, a gambler, or a compulsive overeater. Enablers, rather than addicts, suffer the effects of the addict’s behavior.
Enabling is “removing the natural consequences to the addict of his or her behavior.” Professionals warn against enabling because evidence has shown that an addict experiencing the damaging consequences of his addiction on his life has the most powerful incentive to change. Often this is when the addict “hits bottom” – a term commonly referred to in Alcoholics Anonymous.Recently, Randi Weingarten swore off the Gates Foundation juice that has been keeping her attitude adjusted and the AFT Innovation Fund soaring for the past few years. Well, almost swore off, anyway:
The Innovation Fund isn’t the only AFT initiative funded by the Gates Foundation. Since 2010, the union has received more than $10 million. The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,’” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”
In a piece earlier this year critiquing high-stakes testing, [American Federation of Teachers President] Randi Weingarten maintained her support for the Common Core standards themselves, on the grounds that they are “a set of standards designed to help make the transition from just knowing and memorizing information to having the skills and habits to apply knowledge, which is critically important in today’s world.” Why do you disagree?
Well, we don’t know that. The fact is, we have no evidence that the Common Core standards are what we say they are until we’ve tried them. They haven’t been tried anywhere, they’ve been tested — and we know that where they’re tested, they cause massive failure. So I would say we need to have more time before we can reach any judgment that they have some miracle cure embedded in them.
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But I think Randi also said — and she’s been evolving in her position — that the Common Core standards should be decoupled from the testing. And we’re on the same page. She also agrees — we’ve talked about this — that the standards need to be reviewed by expert teachers, and wherever a fix is needed, fix them. That’s my position. I’m not opposed to them, I’m opposed to them in their current form, and I’m opposed to the standardized testing that’s linked to them.
More broadly, how do you assess the roles of the national AFT, and the [ National Education Association], in the fight over education reform? Are there transformations that you want to see within those unions?
The teachers across America are being crushed… Experienced teachers, veteran teachers, excellent teachers, are feeling that it’s not a profession anymore — it’s just become a testing technician. It’s not the job they signed on for.
I was in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago — they’re having a massive brain drain of teachers. Florida just released the results of their teacher evaluations, and almost half of their Teachers of the Year were called “ineffective teachers.” I mean, there comes a point where, who would want to be a teacher in this country?
So I’d like to see the NEA in particular become more outspoken. I think Randi’s quite outspoken. But what’s happening at the state level is a nightmare for teachers, and for the teaching profession. What’s happening with federal policy is part of what’s encouraging an assault on the teaching profession.
The idea that you can judge teachers by the test scores of their students is not supported by evidence or experience. It is encouraging “teaching to the test.” It’s encouraging a narrowing of the curriculum. It’s encouraging massive outlays for standardized testing. And it just has no evidence behind it.
In 2012, when the Newark Teachers Union announced a deal to institute peer evaluation of teachers, but also [Mark] Zuckerberg-funded, testing-influenced performance bonuses, you told me that there was “a very good possibility that the Newark Teachers Union, and Randi Weingarten, is taking Chris Christie to the cleaners” in terms of the amount of money in the deal –
– but that paying teachers based on test scores is “treating them like donkeys rather than professionals,” and that teachers elsewhere were saying “How are we going to be able to fight this off if they agreed to it in Newark?” How do you assess what’s happened there since then?
What’s happening now is the superintendent of schools, appointed by Chris Christie, has said she has plans to lay off as many as one thousand teachers, and that she wants to convert about a third of the schools over from public schools to charter schools. And the privatization of public education is going rapidly apace in Newark, and she’s not backing down. In fact she announced that she wouldn’t go to any more meetings of the board of education — [which legally is] an elected advisory board.
Newark has not had local control of its schools for almost 20 years. They’ve been under state control…
And the teacher’s contract is null and void when it comes to all these school closings. So as they close schools they’re going to shed union teachers, crush the teachers, lay off people and replace them with Teach for America.
Here Ravitch simply chooses to change the subject, rather than answering a very good question that deserves an answer by Weingarten, who helped craft the fetid contract in Newark. Any reader should note, too, that AFT continues to be a supporter of Teach for America: "the AFT supports the recruitment efforts of Teach for America and Troops to Teachers but recognizes that their candidates need to participate in high-quality alternative preparation programs. . . ."