This Feels Like a Slap in the Face

John Spencer Current Affairs

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For a second year in a row, the White House has taken Teacher Appreciation Week and added a privatized twist to it. It is, yet again, National Charter School Week. So, while parents are sending cookies and principals are setting up luncheons, the head of education policy nationwide is taking this week to highlight non-public schools. 

As a public school teacher, this feels like a slap in the face. There are fifty-two weeks in a year. The White House could have focussed on public schools this week and charter schools next week. Instead, he will parade around the country at the highest-performing charter schools while at the same time touting many of the reforms that the rest of us have to follow. 

Is it any wonder that the White House is surprised by the backlash against the Common Core? Is it any surprise that the mainstream media seemed caught off guard by Louis CK's rant against Common Core, Race to the Top and the standardized testing culture? People are angry. Really angry. 

This week was a chance for an olive branch. This was a moment when the president could have celebrated the amazing teachers we have in our public schools. Instead, he is grandstanding at charter schools, sending an implied message to parents that their neighborhood schools simply don't cut it and they need corporate reformers to solve the problem. 

Last year when this happened, I assumed it was yet another White House gaffe (not unlike the poor roll-out of Now, I can't help but see this as a deliberate message to the public that the White House does not stand behind teachers or public education. As the voice of Federal education policy, he is sending the message that we, as teachers, don't matter. 

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day from the White House.


John Spencer

Phoenix, Arizona

In my sophomore year of college, I began tutoring a fifth-grader in a Title One, inner city Phoenix school. What began as a weekly endeavor of teaching fractions and editing essays grew into an awareness of the power of education to transform lives. My involvement in a non-profit propelled a passion for learning as an act of empowerment.

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Comments 3

  1. Amethyst

    I have not been really watching the education news this week, and was not aware that this was also charter school week. I agree with you– it feels like a sick joke. What lobby made that happen?

  2. Greg Broberg

    John, I understand completely with your perspective. However, I also see the need for us to move away from “us versus them” mentalities in education. I say this not to diminish from your argument. Instead, I see a need for us to work together in order to realize that school choice is about meeting the needs of students, and that maybe the public school system can learn some things from these types of educational environments. Maybe it is time to challenge some of the long-standing precepts we have had in public education?

  3. John Spencer

    I see your point, Greg. However, the listening is almost always one-sided. We in the public education system are the ones that have to listen. We are the ones that have to hear top-down what is innovative. Our stories are not celebrated. Our voices are not heard. When we do great things, nobody suggests that the KIPP Academies sit up and listen. That’s my issue with it. The policies and the policy-makers use language about cooperation and collaboration, but they have no intent of making it two-way.

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