by Chris Reed | May 25, 2013 6:15 am
James Fallows of The Atlantic has written a long and entertaining essay about Gov. Jerry Brown that is miles better than the usual East Coast journo’s take on California politics, probably helped by the fact that he grew up in Southern California.
Fallows praises Brown for his discipline and grasp of state finances. But unlike Paul Krugman, Fallows doesn’t come within shouting distance of offering the bizarre theory that Jerry has fixed what ails the Golden State. Instead, he details the state’s dysfunction and offers up this great zinger:
“The kind of urban-dystopia stories I heard from Manhattanites in the 1970s or about Washington, D.C., in the 1980s come from Californians now.”
But the passage that I most enjoyed was the part where Jerry Brown disguises his political cowardice with, of all things, an ego trip. In commenting on education policy. the governor makes it clear that he simply understands the issues with a clarity that others don’t.
“’I find that a lot of people are more invested in position-taking than they are in the inquiry,’ he continued. ‘Generally speaking, I am in the inquiry. I live in the question. People have so many positions, and usually the evidence is not strong enough for them really to be so confident in those conclusions. There are just a lot of things that are not certain.’ He rattled off a list of decade-by-decade fads and gimmicks for ‘saving’ America’s struggling school system, most recently No Child Left Behind and the ‘teacher accountability’ movement. ‘The question you have to ask yourself is, if teacher accountability is really the whole key, how can it be that from Comenius’—a 17th-century European pioneer in education—’through John Dewey and Horace Mann, and going back to the Greeks, everybody missed this secret, and we figured it out just now? I’m skeptical of that—and of you, and Washington, and myself.’”
Oh, boy, is this groan-worthy on multiple fronts.
No one — NOBODY — says teacher accountability is the sole answer. That’s a pure straw man for Jerry Brown. Reformers just say teachers are really important. They’re absolutely right.
Brown is right that our education reforms haven’t worked as well as we would hope. He’s also right that lots and lots of smart people have offered different theories over the years. But to suggest, as Brown does, that this means we don’t know anything is just goofy.
The obvious example: In 2010, The Los Angeles Times did the best work it has ever done in the 23 years that I have read it regularly. It carried out a massive statistical study of teacher performance in L.A. Unified. Here are the opening paragraphs of its initial story about the study:
“The fifth-graders at Broadous Elementary School come from the same world — the poorest corner of the San Fernando Valley, a Pacoima neighborhood framed by two freeways where some have lost friends to the stray bullets of rival gangs.
“Many are the sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who never finished high school, hard-working parents who keep a respectful distance and trust educators to do what’s best.
“The students study the same lessons. They are often on the same chapter of the same book.
“Yet year after year, one fifth-grade class learns far more than the other down the hall. The difference has almost nothing to do with the size of the class, the students or their parents.
“It’s their teachers.
“With Miguel Aguilar, students consistently have made striking gains on state standardized tests, many of them vaulting from the bottom third of students in Los Angeles schools to well above average, according to a Times analysis. John Smith’s pupils next door have started out slightly ahead of Aguilar’s but by the end of the year have been far behind.
“In Los Angeles and across the country, education officials have long known of the often huge disparities among teachers. They’ve seen the indelible effects, for good and ill, on children. But rather than analyze and address these disparities, they have opted mostly to ignore them.
“Most districts act as though one teacher is about as good as another. As a result, the most effective teachers often go unrecognized, the keys to their success rarely studied. Ineffective teachers often face no consequences and get no extra help.”
Jerry Brown’s talk about Comenius and John Dewey is just a smokescreen to hide the fact he doesn’t want to take on the CTA and the CFT. So he derides the emphasis on teacher accountability.
I wonder when Fallows will realize that he was snowed.
Source URL: https://calwatchdog.com/2013/05/25/not-quite-done-jerry-brown-disguises-fear-of-cta-with-pretentious-babble/
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