Saturday, April 28, 2012
Sunday, April 22, 2012
The Assailed Teacher Blog
I grew up in a poor, single mother household. My mother stressed to me from a very early age the fact that I would be going to college. It was more than an expectation. It was a fait accompli. The prophecy ending up fulfilling itself and I am grateful to my mother until this day.
Now that I am a teacher, I find myself doing the same thing with my students. I speak to them as if college is a fait accompli. There is no talk about if they go to college, onlywhen they go to college. The high school in which I work has a good track record of getting the vast majority of its graduates into pretty decent universities.
By exhorting my students to go to college, I felt as if I was acting as society’s balance wheel, as Horace Mann might say. It is understood that the children of the wealthy will go to very good universities no matter their intellectual capacity. Why should my students not be held to the same, or even better, expectations?
Many years ago, I had a student that entered my class hating history. By the end of the year, she had told me that I had made her love the subject. She was not lying, since she ended up declaring it as her college major. I used to be heartened when I discovered former students decided to major in the humanities whether it be history, English or philosophy. My goal as a history teacher has always been to cultivate engaged and thoughtful citizens. No area of study does better at accomplishing this than the humanities.
But my feelings about college have undergone a change in recent years. At the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests, its critics sneered that the protestors were just a bunch of lazy do-nothings who majored in Liberal Arts only to find that they could not make a living with their degrees. Indeed, one of the first thoughts that ran through my head when I heard about my former student majoring in history was “what is she going to do with that degree?”
Reading David Brooks’ piece in yesterday’s New York Times only reinforced my pessimism about college. Without intending to, Brooks put his finger on everything that is wrong with college today.
And then he goes on to say
Brooks is a Neocon who speaks in the cold language of economics. To him, colleges “produce” knowledge and critical thinking skills are something that can be quantified in percentiles. Parents and students are consumers entitled to get the most in return for the big bucks they shell out for higher learning.
Unfortunately, Brooks reflects the way we have come to view college and, indeed, all types of schooling in the United States.
There was a time when America’s institutions of higher learning were the envy of the world. People were able to major in the liberal arts and have assurance that there would be some sort of livelihood to be made from it: teaching, writing, museum work, public leadership, etc.
But one of the impacts of the Neocon coup of the past 35 years is a massive disinvestment of government and private funding for the arts. Fewer opportunities exist to make a living with one’s mind. This has been coupled with massive cutbacks in government support for universities. There was a time when university presidents were eminent scholars with a solid intellectual track record. Now, they are more likely to be business people who can balance the books. One of the ways they do this is through raising tuition rates which, by 2012, have become astronomical.
This also has led university presidents to trim the fat, so to speak. Undergraduate professors are more likely to be underpaid adjuncts. Most importantly, universities market their vocational programs and networking opportunities over of their intellectual rigor. The most popular majors are the ones that guarantee some sort of pipeline to a future career: business, education, public policy, non-profit management, etc. History, English and philosophy are withering on the vine in favor programs that promise credentials and contacts. Indeed, it is considered irresponsible, lazy and unambitious to major in a purely intellectual subject.
How can it be otherwise? If you are going to force incoming freshmen to go into six-figured debt upon enrollment, then it is only fair to try to guarantee them some sort of livelihood that would enable them to repay those debts after graduation.
This is what education reformers talk about when they say they want education to prepare students for the 21st century. We are living in a knowledge economy, an information age, where students need a college education to make them into the types of workers the economy demands.
And David Brooks the Neocon has a perfect way to get the colleges to do the bidding of this brave new economy.
That is correct, Brooks wants the type of education reform that has destroyed the K-12 system to metastasize to the college level.
In this proposal is the assumption that learning is the responsibility of the teacher. No learning means bad teachers. Value-added data will weed out the bad professors and, hopefully, “punish” them.
Even when students reach the ages of 18-22, reformers do not expect them to take any initiative at all for their learning. It is all on the teachers. Students are just passive vessels. The professors must open up their students’ brains and pour knowledge in.
This is exactly the type of view Brooks has because this is the type of worker of tomorrow corporations want. They do not want workers who are curious enough to seek knowledge or wise enough to know what they do not know. Instead, Brooks wants a college system where students sit there and receive. He wants a system where the professors have to dumb down the curriculum because their students have been trained to tune out anything that is boring or not immediately relevant to them.
David Brooks wants a college system where students are vegetables. These vegetables will go on to be the non-questioning, uncurious workers and consumers of tomorrow.
This is why I used to be encouraged when former students decided to major in the liberal arts. We live in a nation of Fox News, MSNBC and Jersey Shore veg-heads. To speak economically, there is a demand for critical thinkers and engaged citizens. Liberal arts degrees go a long way towards providing our country with the types of citizens we need. As a history teacher, I used to think I had done my duty if I could help inspire even one student to pursue a life of the mind.
Now I am not so sure. Some of my former students might become active citizens who care about the direction of the country and the world. At the same time, they have dug themselves into horrific debt in order to get there. Our society does not value people who live by their minds enough to reward them with high-paying jobs. In short, I fear that I may have been encouraging my students to make themselves into debt slaves.
Our universities are quickly being sacrificed to a regime that seeks to organize every aspect of our lives for us. It is a regime that tells us what to value, who to vote for, what to buy and where to work. The only hope we ever had to fight against this are the millions of people capable of independent thought and action. These are the people who seek knowledge on their own, are able to read books from cover to cover, are able to express themselves clearly and are able to question the assumptions of the age. I had always seen a college education as a big step towards developing the skills to be an independent thinker.
Yet, our universities are becoming little more than vocational training centers whose value is measured in the jobs for which they can credential their students and the networking opportunities they provide. They still cultivate the life of the mind, but it is the closed and passive mind. It is the mind that blames teachers for its own stupidity. It is the mind trained on little more than a steady diet of overly specific, overly technical jargon that has no relevance outside of the vocation one chooses. It is a mind so compartmentalized and boxed in that it is incapable of critical thinking or questioning.
Sure, there will still be liberal arts programs, but these are becoming luxuries that only the very wealthy can afford. Everyone else is forced into a college major that promises to help them repay the obscene debt that must be incurred upon entering.
David Brooks seeks to complete this ominous trend. Through value-added testing, he hopes to compartmentalize knowledge into factoids like in public schools. Its aim is not to measure learning. Its aim is to make college students see themselves as passive vessels. Its aim is to give college students all the excuse they need to stay vegged out. "Oh well, if I don't do well on this test, the teacher gets blamed. It must be their fault."
This is because they are not students at all, but consumers. And what are consumers? They are people presented with a choice. They have no right to question those choices or come up with choices of their own. Instead, they must choose from what the corporate masters decide to present to them. Do you want a business, education or public policy degree? Do you want to work with computers or numbers?
And what if someone wants to be a thoughtful and engaged citizen?
Sorry, that is not a choice.
Welcome to corporate college, where you pay through the nose for the privilege of ignorance.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Queens high school teacher Eric Chasanoff bashes Ed Dept. for trying to fire him over 'innocent remark'
Chasanoff fined for $2,000 for telling student he 'could kiss her' for passing testMonahan and Durkin are just trying to fill space in the newspapers with this article.
The issue is touching and "verbal abuse". At 3020-a, depending upon who the arbitrator is and what he or she has been "told" about the Respondent employee brought up on charges (there is communication outside of the hearing room with some arbitrators), the record may or may not include a motive as to why the alleged "crime" occurred, and whether or not the "crime" needs a severe penalty.
|Dennis Walcott hugs a student|
As we can see from the pictures above and to the right, Dennis Walcott is a huggy guy. The first picture shows him obviously touching the girl beside him. Was he reprimanded for this? How did the girl in the pink sweater feel? what about the little boy in the second picture? Was he scared? Did Mr. Walcott hold him there longer than he wanted? Did anyone ask? What about the picture at right, did the 18-yr-old want Walcott to put his arm around his waist? For how long? What happened when people saw the picture - was the boy punished? Is this extreme zero tolerance appropriate, or are we creating volcanoes out of sand dunes?
These are the questions that are asked at 3020-a, and it is up to the arbitrator to decide what happened. It doesnt really matter what Walcott does, he will get off, because he is not a tenured teacher over the age of 50 and making a teacher salary of more than $80,000. He is also the CEO of the New York public school system and has immunity from prosecution.
Below are pictures which Eric brought to his 3020-a of Joel Klein hugging children. What's fair, Eric asked, when he tapped a student briefly on the shoulder to praise her for doing well on a test, yet Mr. Klein touches children in many ways. And Eric spent more than 4 years in the Queens rubber room to pay him back for his alleged 'crime'.
I would like to know why the Daily News and the New York Times picked the teachers that they did. Why not choose the teacher who "lost" a child at dismissal, supposedly, but no one asked the child what happened, the child was never without an adult nearby, and the child never attended the 3020-a to testify about what happened. Yet the teacher spent more than 2 years in the rubber room, and ended up with a decision to give a $1000 fine. I attended all the hearing dates. Whereas the teacher should have been completely exonerated, the arbitrator told all of us that she simply could not exonerate, because she had to give the DOE something. She had to "split the baby", but did not hand in her decision until more than 9 months after the closing arguments by both sides.
Josh Javits, an arbitrator who was hired to fire - in my opinion - did not fire a teacher who was accused of pinching a student's ear, after the investigator substantiated the charge because he looked at the ear a week later and it was "pink". Javits ignored a statement of the student saying that he was dragged on the floor the day of the incident by another student, (he possibly cut his face or ear, went home, and did not want to implicate his friend, so his parent accused the teacher). Javits fined the teacher $10,000. The DOE was furious that Javits did not terminate in this case. When the teacher appealed to the Supreme Court, Corporate Counsel Gail Mulligan told me that she took the file and had it in her office after I went to the records room at 60 Centre Street and found the file missing. Suddenly Judge Doris Ling-Cohen issued a judgment that "termination" was the appropriate penalty in this case, but termination was rejected by Javits. The teacher wrote the judge saying that termination was never considered, and then Ling-Cohen wrote Mulligan and said, "What happened?" meaning, why did you write a judgment that was not correct? Mulligan wrote the judge and told her that indeed, the mention of termination in this case was never requested, and the judge changed her ruling to upholding the fine. The missing file in this case appeared in the records room in a month later with a new jacket, which I made copies of for my records. However, the Corporation Counsel continues to send out the incorrect judgment, with the termination ruling in it, to teachers appealing their arbitration decisions pursuant to Article 7511.
What about another teacher whose hearings I attended,who was brought to 3020-a but effectively exonerated, yet the articles do not write anything about his arbitrator, Randi Lowitt. Is she, and other arbitrators not mentioned, "protected" for some reason? Randi Lowitt terminated Christine Rubino for a one-time Facebook comment, therefore does that give Randi a "protected" spot in the media? Paul Zonderman is a terrific arbitrator who never drank the NYC DOE mind-altering punch, and often told me he would not bow to them. He did not deserve to be singled out for ridicule and abuse, most certainly.
The newspapers clearly have an agenda, and as a reporter/advocate, I am not in favor of using a newspaper to push policy, or using so-called "reporters" to validate policy decisions.
Anyway, Eric wrote his story, and I have the link, below, and his story is very similar to the story told by Michael Dalton, as you can see below. All of the newspaper articles currently out in the public realm beg the reader to suspend rational judgment and look at everything happening in the teacher trials as arbitrary and capricious. Ask yourself "how do they know?" Did the reporter read the transcripts of all the 16 cases, and look at all of Paul Zonderman's decisions? I dont think so.
Friday, April 06, 2012
My Story On What Really Happened And Why The Independent Arbitrator Gave Me Only A $2,000 Fine In The 3020-a Hearing.
I woke up and went out to get the paper and found to my dismay that I was one of only sixteen teachers that SCI recommended for termination due to alleged "sexual misconduct" but were not terminated. The reason why we were not terminated by the"Independent Arbitrators" was real simple, that "we were not guilty of any sexual misconduct" that is why! While I do not know the full story of the other fifteen teachers I do know my own and here is my story.
And go to Eric's June 13, 2009 post, where we can see clearly that former DOE Chief Joal Klein was out of control as far as touching children:
Go To Eric's blog http://chaz11.blogspot.com/ and his posting of his story:
Friday, April 06, 2012
My Story On What Really Happened And Why The Independent Arbitrator Gave Me Only A $2,000 Fine In The 3020-a Hearing.
And go to Eric's June 13, 2009 post, re-posted here in its entirety, where we can see clearly that former DOE Chief Joel Klein was out of control as far as touching children:
Saturday, June 13, 2009
In the bizarro world of the DOE any physical contact between students and teachers is presumed to be corporal and/or sexual in nature. In fact the Principals tell the teachers "do not touch the students" because of the fear schools have of the DOE's perverted obsession with sexual misconduct and the biased & flawed SCI investigation that willsubstantiate it. However, there appears to be one person exempt from this presumption. Its our wonderful Chancellor, Joel Klein. Time and again he puts his hands on students and never is SCI called to investigate his actions. Whether it is a full frontal hug with reluctant female students at PS 123 in Harlem or the DOE defined inappropriate touching that teachers are subject to. He is of course the Chancellor and the rules apparently do not apply to him.
In Chancellor Joel Klein's witch hunt to go after teachers, many teachers (especially males) have been removed from the classroom for alleged inappropriate touching of a student's clothed shoulder, an elbow, and a lower arm above the wrist. In fact, Joel Klein's obsession with sexual issues is summarized in his famous statement about reassigned teachers found in Betsy Combier's blog was as follows:
"We did not vote to terminate you. We did vote to terminate a teacher in executive Session...in fact, we voted to terminate two teachers. It's perfectly consistent with the law.Many teachers have been charged with sexual activities and some are charged with corporal punishment..
It seems, as the three pictures obviously show, that our Chancellor is exempt from his own DOE regulations. In the first picture, the Chancellor's face is pressed into the girl's head as he hugs her. In the second picture Joel Klein is uncomfortably close to the girl and is shown starring at the girl (what is he starring at, the face?, chest?, or breast?) and ignoring the boy. In the third picture the Chancellor has his arm around the girl and his hand appears to be touching the girl's bear skin on the back and certainly the upper arm near the shoulder. Further, his body is pressed into the girl's body. While normal society may not see the Chancellor's actions as being sexual. I must point out it is under the Chancellor's own rules that when a teacher is accused of doing the very things the Chancellor is pictured doing, or even less, a SCI investigation is conducted of the alleged"sexual activities" and the teacher finds himself removed to the"rubber room".
Under the despotic regime of Chancellor Joel Klein (known as the kissing Chancellor by me) not only is the teacher presumed to be"guilty unless proven innocent" but everyday ordinary physical contact between the student and teacher can land the teacher in the "rubber room" and face a termination hearing for sexual misconduct. However, as I said previously, for Chancellor Joel Klein these rules do not apply. Its good to be the king!
In Successful Fight to Keep Job, Music Teacher Cited Double Standard by City
The New York City Education Department wanted to fire Michael Dalton, a music teacher in Washington Heights, after its investigators said that he had placed three third-grade boys on his lap in what they considered an inappropriate manner.
He had tickled them in their midsection, the city’s investigative report said. He even cradled one boy, and cooed a lullaby, before kissing him on the forehead, the report said.
But wait, said Mr. Dalton, when he finally had a chance to defend himself.
He presented a photo of Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor at the time, surrounded by three beaming students. It was hard to tell whether one of those students is in Mr. Klein’s lap, or just standing in front of him, but it is clear, an arbitrator concluded, that Mr. Klein’s “arm is either wrapped around the child or resting in front of the child.”
“The facts regarding Mr. Dalton demonstrate a clear case of disparate treatment,” the arbitrator, Bonnie Siber Weinstock, wrote in July 2010. She ruled that the tickling and kissing were inappropriate, but not sexual. Ruing the lack of clear standards on what school employees could and could not do, she rejected the city’s attempt to fire Mr. Dalton and instead fined him $2,000.
Mr. Dalton, who is 48, was one of 16 teachers the city sought to fire in recent years, saying they had behaved inappropriately with children, but who were allowed to return to the classroom after an arbitrator chose to give them a lesser penalty like a fine, a suspension or a reprimand. Two of those 16, one of them Mr. Dalton, have been removed from the classroom again because of new accusations against them.
The handling of teachers accused of behaving improperly with students has become an uncomfortable issue for City Hall in the past few months. At least seven school employees have been arrested this year, accused of sexual offenses involving pupils. Two of them had been found to have acted inappropriately around students, but were allowed to keep working.
Asked about the 16 cases on his radio show on Friday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that some of the rulings “don’t make any sense,” perhaps because arbitrators, who must be approved by both the Education Department and the teachers’ union, were loath to impose the stiffest penalties.
“Maybe if you were a serial ax murderer you might get a slap on the wrist," he said.
But Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers, scoffed at criticism of the 3020-a hearings, named after the section of the state law that guarantees tenured teachers a chance to defend themselves before an arbitrator before they can be fired.
“If their position now is that the 3020-a process didn’t work, they haven’t even used their tools,” he said. “If they felt something went wrong, they should’ve appealed it.”
Mr. Dalton said that the new complaint against him was neither sexual nor criminal, and that it was being looked at by the department’s Office of Special Investigation, not the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation, which handles more serious cases. Neither Mr. Dalton nor the department would elaborate.
But his previous case provides a window into the complicated, sometimes uncomfortable world of teacher discipline. “The notion of inappropriate physical contact can be the type of charge that ends a pedagogue’s career,” Ms. Weinstock wrote. “However, before termination is the penalty selected, the record evidence must be quite clear.”
The case involved a class Mr. Dalton was teaching in the 2007-8 school year at Washington Heights Academy. He “scooped” up one student, for instance, and rocked him as if he were a baby, sang a lullaby, then kissed him on the forehead, according to the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation report.
One student, when asked by city investigators whether the tickling was fun, said, “Kind of in the middle.”
During his arbitration hearing, Mr. Dalton, sounding contrite, said, “I confused my role as an uncle and a neighbor with my role as teacher, and that in those cases, tickling is not a big deal.” But tickling in the classroom, he agreed, “leaves lots of questions open as to what’s going on.”
But Mr. Dalton also challenged the effort to fire him. In addition to the photo of Mr. Klein, he provided a photo of a female colleague on a trip with kindergarten students. She was seated on the floor, legs crossed, with a female student’s “buttocks touching the inner portion of the teacher’s thighs,” according to the arbitrator’s ruling.
The arbitrator, Ms. Weinstock, concluded that Mr. Dalton’s contact was not sexual, and found his “remorse to be sincere.”
In an interview on Friday, Mr. Dalton, who most recently taught at Intermediate School 143 in Washington Heights, defended the arbitration process as fair. He suggested that his difficulties in 2008 were rooted in his poor relationship with his principal at the time.
“The reason this is important is because principals are not necessarily principled, and they can use the system to remove teachers they’re at odds with,” he said.
Daniel Krieger and Patrick McGeehan contributed reporting.