Three Cheers for Lily Garcia
If anyone had asked me which union had more backbone, NEA (National Education Association) or AFT (American Federation of Teachers), I would have replied, “AFT, hands down.”
I’ve long felt that NEA leaders and members tended to be mealy-mouthed clones who meekly follow the latest directives handed down by theorists and bureaucrats who know more about statistics than about teaching.
I can’t speak for what kind of nonsense has been accepted by teachers of math, history, and other subjects through the years, but I’ve seen English teachers abandon effective methods of teaching because of the Reform-of-the-Day. Decade after decade the nonsense has been accepted: away with systematic phonics for beginning reading, away with handwriting instruction, away with formal grammar, away with the literary classics.
The specter of the Common Core already looms over the English classroom, prompting school superintendents and principals to command English teachers to replace literature lessons with “real-world informational texts.”
The new NEA president offers a breath of fresh air, telling teachers:
Don’t you dare let someone tell you not to do that Shakespeare play because it’s not on the achievement tests. Whether they [reformers] have sinister motives or misguided honest motives, you should say, ‘We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.
What’s right for teachers is to teach, not to a standardized test created by anonymous theorists sitting somewhere in New Jersey, but to the minds and spirits of the students sitting in front of them in their own classrooms.
Garcia seems to recognize the disconnect that exists between test scores and education:
I will go down to my last breath telling people that the most corrupting influence in public influence today is a high-stakes consequence for not hitting the cut score on a standardized test. Imposing this toxic testing regime makes no sense.
Time will tell if Garcia’s words will have an effect on the NEA membership. I hope that the new president will succeed in encouraging classroom teachers to balk at blind acceptance of directives that may or may not be in the best interest of school children. Common Core may not be the work of the devil, but it is a bureaucratic creation that does not deserve uncritical acceptance by every school and teacher in the land.