Kevin Bacon’s new video imploring millennials to raise their 80s awareness did not mention Billy Bragg’s 1986 song “There Is Power in a Union,” but the idea that there is any power in a union probably seems as remote to many millennials as parachute pants or the White Pages. Actually, this is probably true of anyone born after about 1965. It’s been a long time since we have thought that most workers can realistically be something other than lone and lonely individuals forced to accept whatever terms of employment they can find and hope not to get fired.Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity [...]
Earlier this month, Becca Simone’s music appreciation class at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY, sat down to a test. It was four pages long. The test started with:
1. List three characteristics about the Bronx in the 1970s:
2. What type of music was popular during the 1970’s when the hip hop movement was beginning?
And once the students got through those (and the 28 questions following) they were met with the essay question:
Part 2. Write a brief (about 5-8 sentences) response about the hip hop movement. What about it do you find interesting? How has the music changed over the years (i.e., in terms of [...]
Last week Wisconsin legislators voted to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees, including teachers. I spoke with one 20-something Wisconsin teacher about the new public service landscape and what it now means to be a teacher. Given how Governor Walker's uninvited use of teacher Megan Sampson's story made her a chit to be exploited in the public debate, Kathryn has asked her last name not be used. The answers are unedited.
The Awl: What do you teach?
Kathryn: High School English.
The Awl: How long have you been teaching?
Kathryn: 6 years. The Awl: How does the loss of union rights make you feel [...]
When my manager at the test prep company called me to teach a summer school program, I jumped on the opportunity. I was six months out of New York University, and I was determined to stay in New York to become a writer. The only obstacle was New York's price of living, and the impending deluge of student debt.
The summer school gig meant consistent work at a tantalizing $20 an hour. Conveniently, the school was located a five-minute walk from my house, and it got even better: "The hours are eight to one," he said, "so you'll have the rest of the day to yourself." Visions of productivity [...]
Photo of kids in Southwest Philadelphia in the last days of this summer before school, by Paul Sableman.
Last week, as the 2013 school year officially began, Philadelphia's schools faced a $304 million budget shortfall. Also: the teachers’ union contract has expired, 24 schools closed over the summer, and—to boot!—more than 2,100 school employees were laid off. And then it was time for approximately 134,000 students to go back to school.
Students at 115 of the district’s 212 public schools will not have access to a full-time guidance counselor this year. Many won’t have a full-time nurse. Some will have workbooks only if their teachers are [...]
The Times and a host of other publications heralded last week's new study extolling the lifelong money-earning benefits of having a good primary/middle-school teacher. Oh, yay! Let's do what these economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggest, right?
Actually, ugh, no. What economists Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah Rockoff of Columbia want to do, apparently, is to identify and fire "weaker" teachers, for the sake of a barely perceptible increase in students' "lifetime income." Nobody has actually tried this yet; the report doesn't describe an experiment. It's just the conclusion they draw from their analysis of massive amounts [...]
Of the 16 Wisconsin senators eligible for recall elections, half are Republicans and half are Democrats. The difference between them, however, is that, for the Democrats, "the only group trying to recall them so far is Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, a little-known Utah organization," which is actually the American Patriot Recall Coalition, which has no board members in Wisconsin. Also they have no board members with last names. Ha! Who knows who's funding them? There can be no recall challenge to an elected politician in Wisconsin until he's been in office a year; but, with at least 100,000 people demonstrating in Madison on Saturday, there should [...]
I heard about some teachers who supposedly had a habit of groping female students and others who had their eyes on the boys. I heard that Mark Wright, an assistant football coach, had recently left the school under mysterious circumstances. I was warned to avoid Stan Kops, the burly, bearded history teacher known widely as “the Bear,” who had some unusual pedagogical methods. Even Clark came in for some snickering: he had no family of his own, and he had a noticeably closer-than-average relationship to the Bear, another confirmed bachelor.
Marty Skoble sits in his office surrounded by the words of his students. Recently, one of his charges slipped a note under his door that read simply, "Waves look like white horses." That is not the most advanced of similes, but consider the context: The uncertainty of the pensmanship suggests that the anonymous writer was in his or her first decade.
Skoble started teaching poetry at Brooklyn's Saint Ann's in the 1980s. More than 30 years later, the balding, bearded gentleman who speaks with the thoughtful cadence of a lifelong educator is an institution, meeting with every lower school student once a week and 400 children in total. In [...]
The simple rhetoric of the Wisconsin budget battle is that the Democrats are just "thug" unions—and that Republicans are carrying water for wealthy corporate sleaze. It's more complicated than that. For one, several teachers' unions endorsed Wisconsin Republicans last year—unions are hardly the unthinking automatons of the left they're now depicted to be. Why would they do that? Quite simply, those Republicans looked into the face of their constituents… and lied.
As the marquee battle over unions and Walker's bill is happening in Madison, the true fight over changes to the state is happening elsewhere. The ransacking of Wisconsin cannot be done from Madison alone. Governor Scott [...]