The Fights Teachers Unions SHOULD Have

January 11, 2013

More like this!

The New Jersey Education Association, which doesn’t even represent the teachers of Newark, is worried about the specter of computers replacing teachers. The union has gone to court to shut down Merit Prep and another charter school that is also using a blended learning approach. The union’s lawsuit argues that charter schools can’t emphasize online instruction until the New Jersey state legislature evaluates and approves it.
“Should we be experimenting with students during their academic experience?” asks Steve Wollmer, the union’s communications director. “They only get one trip through the public schools.”
Computer use in education will inevitably grow, but the question is: How much?
Even some technology advocates like Doug Levin of the State Educational Technology Directors Association doubt that this model will ever appeal to middle- and upper-income families whose children are not struggling below grade level.
Levin says that’s because those children don’t need as much extra drilling and can use more of the school day for analysis and inquiry. [emphasis mine]

Ah, I get it! See, the white kids who live in the affluent 'burbs think differently than the poor, urban... uh... what's the word I want... er... oh, yeah, the ethnic kids in the cities.

See, we don't want those kids engaging in "analysis and inquiry"; we need them filling in bubbles correctly like good little proles. So we'll segregate them into two groups: those who are "educable" can go to charters, where they will march and make lines and chant and do janitorial work in school.

The kids who can't deal with this regiment can "choose" to stay in under-funded, crumbling public schools. See, we're giving those... er... urban parents a great thing: "choice"! Aren't we awesome for doing that for them? They'd better damn well be grateful...

Now, we're not going to do this for the 'burbs. No, the kids who have ADHD or learning disabilities or are on the autism spectrum or have parents who just don't want them marching and chanting all day don't have to worry that their children will be segregated. Everyone will be mainstreamed out in the 'burbs - even the kids who are "struggling below grade level" (Here's a dirty secret: there are kids in the 'burbs who aren't at grade level. I blame the unions...).

Those more affluent kids won't be parked in front of a computer three hours a day playing badly designed math facts and vocabulary games. They won't be in "blended" charters that offer their parents the "choice" to be in a cubicle-style school that has high student:teacher ratios. No, they will be in schools where students of all abilities are integrated with their peers and given individualized instruction designed to help them deal with their particular learning challenges.

What the NJEA is doing here is challenging the idea that it's OK for suburban children to go to schools that serve all children as unique individuals, but not... er... urban children. But I'm sure some wing-nut will make the case that this is yet another socialist union plot to increase the membership, and thus increase the union's power. Because all "reformers" agree: it would be truly awful if we didn't allow computers to take the place of teachers.

As long as they do it in other people's schools.

Thurston, those Rocketship people don't think they're going to educate OUR children, do they?

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Jersey Jazzman

Jersey Jazzman is the pseudonym for Mark Weber, a New Jersey public school teacher and parent. Weber is also a doctoral student at Rutgers University in Education Theory, Organization, and Policy.