Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Cat Who Didn't Get Stuck In The Tree

I've been reading The New New Deal. Chris Hayes had the author on his show and said the book was full of things he didn't know,which is weird since he makes a living knowing about such stuff. The book is one long tick toc of the Obama administration with lots about the good, bad and ugly of the stimulus. My criticism of the book is that Grunwald obviously did tons of research and seems to have not wanted to leave anything out. Not. One. Thing. That said, the book is full of things I knew and things I didn't know and lays things out in a way that makes sense of what happened, when and why.
One of the things that I can't stop thinking about is a story in which Biden is visiting a bridge in Pennsylvania to see where some stimulus money will be headed and the bridge really needs the work. It turns out that a school crosses the bridge with bus fulls of students everyday so the work will be delayed until school is over. There are two things the administration wanted. They wanted the money to be spent successfully (as in fix stuff and create jobs) and they wanted it to be spent quickly so they can demonstrate that it worked. Political work is crazy like that. Tom Ammiano used to say that when good political negotiation is successful no one is happy. I'm paraphrasing but I understood him to mean that when you're trying to solve problems in which there are many stake holders compromise is essential and usually feels like nobody wins.
The book also documents the virulent Republican obstructionism but there were some Blue Dogs helping out. Inside the beltway is nasty. And then there's the media and what does and doesn't get covered. Most of his successes have not been covered. Someone, I think Tom Brokaw, said something like, "we don't cover the cats who don't get stuck in the tree."
I've been listening to MSNBC's education nation stuff all day, which isn't wildly different than any other Sunday because it started on MHP and I always watch her. She spent most of her show giving voice to students, which was great. Then there was an hour with teachers and the last hour was about the movie Won't Back Down.
Educational policy is one area of Obama land where I step off. In the book it says he got some of how he feels when working in Chicago and seeing burnt out teachers in the inner city. I'm sure there are burnt out teachers. But I think trying to test them out of a job is mean. I'm not against having a way to assess the job they're doing. All jobs have that. I'm not against them being fired if they're not doing a good job. People who aren't doing their jobs lose their jobs. But first we need to ask if people have what they need to do their jobs. Teachers have been spending their own money on supplies for so long now it's become a norm. Teachers in the inner city may have students who can't see the board because they've never been to an eye doctor and couldn't afford glasses. Students who may come to school hungry. Students who live with violence.
It's a complicated conversation but money is always in the mix. Them what has some and them what doesn't.
It bothers me that so much of the conversation focuses on bad teachers. It bothers me that union is villanized.  The privatize everything crowd has too much too say.
Lot's of stakeholders. Nobody happy. And students pay the price. Politics is nasty.
And yet, there were great moments on the shows today. Students are fierce and teachers are fierce. On MLP one of the Little Rock Nine was in the house. So moving.
Sometime we hear about the cat who didn't get stuck in the tree.            


Cheryl Czekala said...

I listened (& you probably did, too) to a piece about the film on NPR this morning. Sounds slanted in the Hollywoodland style of heroes and villains.

I think the whole educational system needs to be shaken up and turned around. Paying the teachers enough to get good teachers would be a start, but the entire administrative structure seems to be leaning in on itself, and teachers are too often just disciplinarians, with little hope of getting through to even one or two young minds. Don't have the answers, but wish I'd gone into a more useful career, like education, when I started out.

Tish said...

Yeah the movie worries me. For exactly the hero/villain thing you point out.

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