Thousands of teachers nationwide were invited to participate in Education Nation’s town hall meeting on Sunday, hosted by NBC’s Brian Williams. This was a two hour event aimed at allowing teachers from across America have their voices heard and participate in a live web cast and chat. First, you had to register for this event and you were asked to provide one really “BIG” idea that would transform education in America in 100 words or less. OK…I’ll take the bait! Why not allow parents to choose where their child goes to school? After all, parents pay the hefty taxes that support the public schools in our communities. IF parents could choose and the tax dollars followed the child, eventually failing schools would be forced to either improve or close. If these failing schools were not receiving funding, maybe they would take a hard look at why they are failing instead of playing the blame game. In fact, school choice would “transform” education in America to coin a phrase commonly being thrown around today. While we’re at it, throw in some local control and less intrusion from the government! Those were my “BIG” ideas for MSNBC.
Did I honestly think they would even touch on the subject? Not really, but there is always “Hope” that the folks at NBC could “Change” their way of thinking.
As the web cast began, it became apparent to me that this would be just another “Waiting for Superman” Oprah love fest from the left. In fact, the entire two hour time frame was nothing more than arguing the merits of charter schools and going back and forth with the teacher tenure idea. Teacher tenure dominated the entire two hour block.
Wow, I really had my expectations set high with this educational program. Certainly MSNBC could do better than this. With 40.9% + students in America at or below the poverty level and 50% of Missouri students at that level, arguing for two hours about tenure seamed fruitless. In fact, as I waited patiently for my comment to go through, I monitored what teachers across the country were saying. They were begging for NBC to bring up a slew of other issues such as the new National standards, special education, standardized testing, the loss of art, music, and P.E. time due to testing, No Child Left Behind, and parent accountability. Occasionally NBC host Rehema Ellis would post that all comments were being heard and they would get to our issues. Unfortunately, that never happened.
According to MSNBC, thousands of teachers were logged on and participating in the chat. At one point, they said they had received over 8000 comments and couldn't keep up. I too logged on and my comments never even made it to their system. This was supposed to be representative of teachers across America. It became clear to me that unless you were a charter school teacher from New Jersey or New York City, your voice would not be heard. There were a few other teachers thrown in the mix for good measure, but its intentions were clear.
I kept holding out hope that one audience member would have the courage to bring up some other issue besides charter vs. public or teacher tenure. I was wrong. Maybe this is what MSNBC really wanted to happen. Instead of having a great debate about the real issues and how to fix the problems, it pitted teachers against each other in the audience. Brian Williams kept attempting to steer the conversation back to the “Superman” movie and the teachers kept arguing about tenure.
One of the best comments came from a teacher who at the start of her comment, claimed Brian Williams had bonded with her through a mutual teacher they once had in school. She proceeded to state her case and what she believed would help reform education in America. You could hear him agreeing with everything she was saying. As she was wrapping up, she stated that she would NOT be seeing “Waiting for Superman” as her research brought her to the conclusion that this movie was nothing but a propaganda machine of the left! WOW! Can you say ZINGER? Williams didn’t know how to react. It was a beautiful moment. The left media was speechless for a mere second. This is a rare treat in today’s society.
I have to say the single best comment at the microphone came from a retired inner city teacher who had seen the movie. Here is what she had to say.
"Waiting for Superman depresses students into thinking they will never make it if they don't win the educational lottery."
Again, Williams didn't know how to react to that comment. He quickly thanked her and said they needed to move on. Back to the tenure issue!
MSNBC's intent on this issue was good. I wonder what they had hoped to accomplish, because in my opinion, major issues weren't even discussed. I am certain of this...teachers across America are sick and tired of the media bashing. I have always been proud to be a teacher in this great country and still am. It is disheartening to me when people now find out what I do and simply comment by saying "I'm sorry" or "Sorry to hear that" about the profession I chose and love. There are serious problems in America with regards to education and no amount of bickering and bashing is going to fix them.
If there is any hope for fixing the education system in America, we can no longer continue to do the same thing year after year and expect different results. Many will argue that the key is more funding. History proves this wrong. Since 1970, spending on public education has increased by 180% while test scores in reading and math have flat lined. Parents again were left out of today's debate. If we are to begin to fix the problems with education, it must be a shared responsibility between teachers, parents, students, lawmakers, and the entire community! My hope is that the next time MSNBC decides to give teachers a voice; it will truly put its money where its mouth is and explore other options like giving parents a choice.
You can watch the continuing "debate" on MSNBC this week, or follow it online here. Make up your own mind. Do you hear the word "parent" or "taxpayer" mentioned in a decision making role? Does "choice" ever come up in these discussions? Is this what $4.35 Billion buys?