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New York State United Teachers’ Study/Report and Red Flags

Howard Eagle

According to the article at the first reference link below, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) has published a report that advocates "giving children the skills they need to thrive as adults." There's no doubt about the need to do that. However, as it relates to the specifics of NYSUT's proposals, it is so very, very important for parents and community members, especially and particularly those "segments of our population [that] are [so-called] predictably doing worse [apparently, solely] because of their life experiences," (which is a bunch of super-hyper-rhetorical-malarkey,to put it mildly) --- to pay very close attention! See additional elaboration below.

Indeed, the unionists are correct regarding the importance of giving children the skills they need to thrive as adults. However, those skills MUST necessarily begin with literacy (reading, writing, articulation, and computation skills) at levels that make it crystal clear that students are thoroughly competent to function successfully in the information-age. Again, I emphasize that this must be the beginning—because literacy represents the foundation of all learning.

Rochester Teachers Association president, Adam Urbanski's claim (via the associated video) that: "Some segments of our population are predictably doing worse because of their life experiences" --- must be categorically rejected on its face. And speaking of "face," it is vitally important for us to put faces on the so-called "segments of our population" that he's referring to, e.g., mainly poor Black children.

Urbanski's language is the language that the arch conservative, former President George W. Bush referred to via a kow-towing speech at the NAACP Convention in 2000 as, “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” which of course is potentially grounded in individual and institutional racism. Urbanski is all but saying that, due solely to poor Black children's "life experiences" we should not expect them to achieve at or above the levels of their more well-to-do peers. Otherwise, how could he possibly be making statements about so-called "predictability." He's definitely alluding to the fundamentally-flawed, and potentially racist idea that their "life experiences" are deterministic, and of course he makes no mention of other critical, influential factors, such as, for example, quality, culture, commitment, experience, race of educators, especially building-level administrators and teachers in particular, as well as factors such as continuous development of intervention and support-strategies, or the lack thereof.

Of course "education should extend beyond the confines of teaching to the test," but so what? That's not news to any competent, committed educator who is worth his or her weight. So, what's the point? What's new about that ancient assertion?

Again, "refocusing on education that will give children the skills they need to thrive as adults" is a good thing. However, we must clearly identify the specific skills that the unionists are referring to, which (also again), must begin with foundational-literacy-skills. There is no other legitimate, logical starting point.

With regard to the 64 "members of the NYSUT Task Force" I'm going to respectfully request that Dr. Urbanski provide demographics relative to race; gender; specific teaching experience, including locations; age; relationships with the primary-learning-communities, e.g., the communities that the majority of their students come from and return to daily. Relative to the possibility of developing effective solutions, such factors are absolutely critical.

As it relates to what "employers are asking for'', the very first thing they want to know is whether or not prospective employees are able to competently complete a job application, and secondly can they articulate (competently) why they believe they are an appropriate candidate, and/or the best candidate for a particular job or position? Yes, indeed, "show me what you can do". For example, show me that you can fill out a job application, and that you can articulate why I should hire you. If you can't do that, then all the rest doesn't matter, does it?

It is true that: "Evidence of [mastery of] knowledge is the ability to apply knowledge to something pragmatic, and useful in everyday life," which includes, (for example), the ability of professional instructors to effectively impart knowledge regarding their area(s) of expertise, and/or facilitate conditions by which such knowledge is successfully imparted to others. This is the art and science of that which so many refer to rhetorically as effective pedagogy, the art and science of effective instruction (as measured by what students can demonstrate they know and/or can do).

It is important to be clear about the fact that demonstrating what one knows is sometimes embodied solely within articulation, which is not to be confused with what the unionists mentioned as simply "what [one has] memorized." Instead, I am referring to crystal-clear articulation/explanation of useful, and frequently complex information (based on a broad and deep knowledge base), which allows one to help others understand via analytical critique, as opposed to merely repeating information without analysis or full comprehension. For example, as it relates to memorization and regurgitation, we might teach students that there are three basic forms of racism (individual, institutional, and structural), which students are able to retain via long-term memory, and regurgitate at will. However, that would not necessarily, nor automatically mean that they are able to discuss and/or explain the existence, nature, essence, functioning of the three major forms. We would necessarily have to teach them a lot more, in order for them to be able to articulate/ explain (for example), that the three forms are man-made, historical concepts that are thoroughly bound up together, completely intertwined, and totally inseparable from one another, e.g., there can be no continued institutional, and/or structural racism without continued individual racists --- by the millions; and these concepts have been, and are still being strategically utilized in the process of establishing, perpetuating, reinforcing, and maintaining white supremacy within U.S, society. Thus, a major point is, with regard to the idea above about employers asking folks to "show me what you can do" --- that is NOT always about manual-tasks, but many also want people to SHOW THEM WHAT THEY CAN DO WITH THEIR BRAINS. For example, the type of positions that Adam Urbanski and the 64 members of the NYSUT Task Force hold represents an outstanding sample regarding the latter-referenced expectation. Also, why does the emphasis seem to be solely on what employers want? What about those students who do not plan to work for others, but instead are intent on developing their own jobs, as well as perhaps jobs for others? Shouldn't there be mechanisms built into the system that attempts to identify, encourage, and nurture such independent and innovative thinking and plans?

Again, those who are directly responsible, involved and/or associated with the "segments of our population [which, according to Adam Urbanski] are predictably doing worse [apparently, solely] because of their life experiences" --- must carefully and thoroughly interrogate the idea of so-called "allowing students to show graduation readiness in different ways." If such so-called "readiness" does not include development of literacy skills, as outlined above, at the same level or higher as the levels that Adam Urbanski and the 64 members of the NYSUT Task Force would expect and accept for their own children and grandchildren --- then such so-called "readiness"-b.s. must be categorically and vehemently rejected --- period!

I have absolutely no idea; no reference point for understanding what Urbanski and company mean regarding so-called "leveling the playing field." However, again, parents and communities whose children are suffering the most (dropping out; flunking out; dying out, at earlier and earlier ages, more so than any other children), must necessarily interrogate (thoroughly) each and every idea that NYSUT has put forth in their new proposals, some of which reminds me of hocus-pocus "reform" from the 1980's and 90's (see the second reference link below). A main reason for strict, thorough interrogation is spelled out at the third reference link below, which is not unique to Rochester, but exists within each and every predominantly Black, urban school district in New York State, as well as throughout this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation-state (in every direction --- North, East, South, and West), which is why WE KNOW THAT IT IS NOT JUST ONE GREAT BIG COINCIDENCE --- NOR IS IT A FLUKE OF NATURE. Instead, it is the cumulative result of race-based, manipulation and engineering via past and ongoing policies, practices, procedures, rules, regulations, and laws that guide and govern the racist public education system --- period.



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