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From Dennis Van Roekel’s speech at the opening session of the NEA RA.

July 2, 2012

We all know there are plenty of people who are eager to offer advice — or worse, try to impose their ideas on our profession. Bloggers, columnists, elected officials, and self‑proclaimed reformers, they are constantly weighing in about public education. I mean, they have an opinion on everything — the who, the what, the when, the where, and the how — all of that about public education. Always opinions.

The “who” they love to talk about and blame are teachers. As if this disjointed and underfunded system is somehow the fault of those who teach and the people who work in those schools. But the real problems are the profiteers and mega-rich Wall Street folks who created an economic crisis that has our country and the world reeling.

And the solution isn’t to attack educators, it’s to give respect. That’s what will attract talented young people to become teachers and education support professionals and college professors.

The other part of the “who” in education is the students, and the demographics are rapidly changing. The majority of America’s students will soon be ethnic minorities, and one in five children in our country today lives in poverty.

Instead of focusing on solutions to help these students, too many keep looking for ways to maximize profits.

And, by the way, educators can’t do this all by ourselves. We know we have to partner with parents, with business leaders, with people in the community, to create great public schools. We all have a role to play.

As far as the discussion on “what” we teach, that has changed dramatically. No Child Left Behind with its emphasis on standardized tests has distorted public education by narrowing the curriculum and eliminating programs. We spend endless time getting students ready for and taking standardized tests, all at the expense of literature that inspires students or history that helps them understand, or the arts that allow them to express themselves.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Richard A. Sloan permalink
    July 2, 2012 9:56 pm

    Good words, but is anyone, not a teacher, listening?

  2. Brian permalink
    July 3, 2012 9:32 am

    I watched the video and I read the transcript. Nothing about Arne Duncan, the DOE, RTTT and the NCLB waivers. Nothing about how the NEA will work to thwart VAM or loss of bargaining rights, tenure, pensions, and loss of wages and benefits. Nothing about how the NEA has suffered a staggering loss of members and how teachers are facing the ends of their careers based on test scores, often of children they never taught. A powerful endorsement of Obama and a vow to re-elect him, no strings attached though. And agreeing through implication that both experienced and new teachers are underprepared and lack skills necessary to meet the challenges of teaching and “we” must fix that.

    I fear that it’s going to be business as usual and that makes me very, very sad. I don’t feel that Van Roekel has any idea about what’s happening out here in the trenches because he didn’t say much of anything to give us any hope besides a weak tea call for us to lead with no mention of how we are supposed to do that. What’s the game plan Dennis? If this opening speech was meant to set the tone for how the NEA convention will unfold over the next few days I’m very disappointed. I want to believe that something will ignite the membership and inspire us to action. I’m not seeing any evidence of that yet.

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