Old Maids and the One Room School Houses, Proposal 2 and Standing Still in Time

Both sides on Proposal 2 remind us that the US have never developed a healthy respect of its K-12 professionals and we are in, many respects, standing still in time with old arguments

The large poster I received in the mail advocating Proposal 2 – an amendment that would put already legal collective bargaining in the constitution – had one startling omission that tells us much about the history of education in America and its challenges today.

The poster -- “What’s on the Line?” -- was well done, high gloss, and as are all such postcards these days, even those from local self-styled “fiscal conservatives,” very costly. The “What’s on the Line” poster featured professional photos of four different union workers: a nurse, a police officer, an autoworker, and a firefighter. Four of the workers were women; one was a man (the cop).

Strikingly absent from this advertisement was the figure of the school teacher. Contrast this with today’s NYTimes lead photograph on the story, a story that calls Michigan’s Proposal 2 the second most important item on the November 6 national stage.

Why wouldn’t the advocates of Proposal 2 (paid for by “Protect Working Families”) feature a teacher given that the teachers’ union is strongly promoting a yes vote on this amendment and, frankly, many, many people associate the proposal with the teachers’ union in that Proposal 2 originates, in part, as a response to educational “reforms” – both delivered and promised -- by Governor Snyder?

Governor Snyder, in fact, calls Proposal 2 a “back in time” proposal as it threatens his reform agenda tout court.

Quite simply, teachers, their unions, and sympathetic activists know the profession is demonized by huge segments of the population and a number of elected officials. Placing an image of a teacher on an advertisement designed to advocate for their interests, then, might actually damage the teachers’ own cause!

Teachers and their unions have to rely on pubic workers who usually get more sympathy (police, firefighters, etc.). They have to rely, too, on the experienced political muscle of the UAW, weakened perhaps, but still formidable in a way, say, your child’s second grade teacher is not.

How, a parent or a good young energetic teacher might be tempted to ask, did we get to this point where the profession was so vilified that it can’t even be featured on a collective bargaining poster?

My answer: we have been working at it a long time.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to blame just the tea-party folks who seized the bursting of the housing bubble to emerge on the political stage and start identifying scapegoats. 

But the fact of the matter is this nation, historically speaking, has never developed a healthy respect for its K-12 professionals to match the respect accorded the profession in other comparable cultures. And that is in part because in America K-12 teaching always has been primarily a female profession. Attacks are flaring up now because of real financial issues; but also because this historical trend is continuing unabated: something like 80% of K-12 educators are women.

Simply put, the hostility and animosity towards teachers we see today has a long American tradition.

Our public education evolved from the one room stone or wood frame schoolhouse usually staffed by the person the town characterized as the  “spinster” or “old maid” who, the community thought, needed some form of financial support, something to do.

It is, of course, hard for most of us in 2012 to grasp the ugliness of this kind of thinking.

Nonetheless, these “spinsters” and “maids” had something to offer. The system reached its apex, perhaps, when, post war, large city public schools like New York literally produced miracles – as did its city colleges, infused by intellectual immigrants forced out of the disaster that was Europe. Detroit Public Schools was among the best systems in the country. One reason for this success was that, postwar, public schools found themselves with a labor pool most companies now can only fantasize about. In the 1950s and 1960s most women who made it to college or university had two career paths open to them: teaching or nursing.

Try this thought experiment for historical perspective, particularly if you are a small business owner or someone with hiring responsibilities in a corporation pulling your hair out trying to find and keep competent employees. Think of every talented female professional you know today – professor, engineer, attorney, CEO, accountant, physician. In the 50s and 60s their generational analogues were hoping to get jobs teaching elementary school. If you wanted to teach in a good district and make decent money you went to Detroit, not the suburbs. The vetting process was extensive: to teach in an elementary school you had at least five different interviews in front of fully staffed panels before a principal could consider you.

But even during these glory days K-12 teachers  weren’t honored professionals. Quite the opposite. People may have had more respect for institutions, then, not teachers.

The attacks we hear today (overpaid for 9 months work that stops at 3PM, not strict enough, not able to teach the “basics” and so on, not competent in math and science) are the same attacks I heard from neighbors and family members, mostly male, mostly fantastically undereducated but with an extraordinary sense of their own value, against my mother who taught in Detroit for over 35 years.

The attacks we hear today I have been hearing all my life – and so has my mother even back in the 1950s and 1960s when public education supposedly worked so well. In other words, even when the system supposedly “worked” teachers endured constant criticisms and micromanagement from those outside the profession that no other profession (except maybe nursing) would tolerate. Nurses from the same era may recall the perversity of having to stand at military attention when the “Doctor” strode majestically into the charting area on the hospital unit.

Today’s simply crazy demands from the state for constant evaluation and assessment remind me of nothing but the strict 1950s and 1960s dress codes that my mother now laughs about. Female teachers were constantly scrutinized and monitored: no sweaters, no pants, and, get this, no bangs dragging on your forehead.

Improve public education? Absolutely. All hands on deck, especially folks capable of building solid long term financial systems. Please join us. Figure out finally how to fire bad or incompetent teachers? All in, believe me. A year of my daughter’s educational life was utterly wasted by a terrible teacher in a top rated district.

But “reform” education by having those steely eyed businessmen tell the little ladies what life is really like and how it should be done because their math isn’t good enough? I heard that kind of "stuff" playing with hotwheels on the kitchen floor in 1970. That’s not looking forward for change; that’s not even “back in time” pace Governor Snyder.

That is standing still in time.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Parentaxpayer October 28, 2012 at 02:28 AM
This was not team teaching,and it went on on many more classes than just humanities. It was two teachers in a classroom because they had more teachers than classes going on and nothing for the teachers to do. Plain and simple.
Elizabeth 123 October 28, 2012 at 02:56 AM
My kid has never experienced what you are talking about. Plain and simple, what you are talking about is NOT what is being talked about in the Curriculum CPC.
Neal Charness October 28, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Nor will anyone else P'payer if you don't try to back it up. Chris Fellin tries this approach often. Ask him how it's helped him out.
Marcia Robovitsky October 28, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I found the word "co-teaching" in the search section of the new BHSD website. http://www.bloomfield.org/search/index.aspx?q=co%20teaching&cx=015396195302369673362%3A2k8vryphpm4&cof=FORID%3A11 However, the links showed "page not found". This does indicate that co-teaching was a term used...but this does not describe how the teaching was shared. Perhaps we should ask an administrator how co-teaching works. Proposed Deficit Prevention Plan 2011-12 - Bloomfield Hills Schools File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat Mar 23, 2011 ... 11,200. Optimize class size K-8 (2.0 FTE) and reduce HS courses less than 18 ( 1.0 FTE). 234,000. Reduce co-teaching (2.0 FTE). 156,000 ... www.bloomfield.org/download/category/1-p?download...deficit...plan... Pay cuts, savings, program changes proposed for BHS 2011-2012 ... Mar 29, 2011 ... Reducing co-teaching: $156,000. · Combine the orchestra classes at Andover and Lahser: $40,000. · Eliminate the high school foods class: ... www.bloomfield.org/.../804-pay-cuts-savings-program-changes-proposed- for-bhs-2011-2012-budget
S Sera October 28, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Parentaxpayer, Co-teaching and team teaching are two different things. Co-teaching is an instructional delivery approach in which general and special educators share responsibility for planning, delivery and evaluation of instructional techniques for a group of students; general and special educators work in a coactive and coordinated fashion, which involves the joint teaching of academically and behaviorally heterogeneous groups of students in integrated settings. Team teaching is a program in which two or more teachers integrate their subjects, such as literature and history, into one course, which they teach as a team, to create a broader perspective for the student. What you are reporting has nothing to do with seniority since general ed teachers are not certified as special education teachers and the "goals" of team teaching and co-teaching are different. In either situation it is logical to assume that when teacher is delivering instruction one teacher would be "passive" as students can't listen to two people talking at one time. Elizabeth describes both of these situations well through her examples of when each has been used.
Marcia Robovitsky October 28, 2012 at 02:58 PM
For those that have NOT voted yet.... here is a link to an article where the author, Phil Power, founder and chairman of The Center for Michigan wrote: "Reserve constitutional changes for serious matters; reject Props 2-6" http://bridgemi.com/2012/10/reserve-constitutional-changes-for-serious-matters-reject-props-2-6/
Ken Jackson October 28, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Mr. Kowalski, the astute editor of The Birmingham Eccentric, had a very thoughtful take on all proposals in last week's paper. I would refer you to his opinion page both last week and today.
Neal Charness October 28, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Chris: Whether we agree on ideas is one thing. Your (and Jenny Greenwell's) methadology of constant attack of the district and the nonfactual statements you and she have made, along with the lawsuit you had no good reason to file other than to try "to throw a wrench in the works" (which seems the basis for Moigis and Greenwell running for election) makes you (and her) bad actors and you deserve to be called out. Your interest is in being divisive and destructive not positive change. Sorry for the harsh words but "me thinks you doth protest too much."
A concerned citizen October 28, 2012 at 06:19 PM
You seem to be making a career out of vindictively attacking those who, for now, have saved Pine Lake School from being turned into rubble just to salute your ex boss, Steven Gaynor, his real estate speculator buddies, and his blind followers. Real estate speculators, builders and constructors are still drooling and hoping for more profits from that 22 acres by putting up “family friendly housing” and killing a perfect elementary school located in a lovely, sleepy neighborhood. All courts have acknowledged the valid deed restriction, but influenced incumbents like Ingrid Day and rubber stamper Joan Berndt supported efforts to buy off the donor’s heirs at the expense of the community. If it would not have been for residents like Jenny, Gaynor’s overly inflated $145M Mega High would have begun in 2003, and our district would have been tossed into a deep financial hole. Without concerned citizens like Jenny Greenwell, W.F. Moigis and Howard Baron, we’ll head back to where we’d been with Gaynor and his cronies. You and you frequent Patch Pals, who also seem to despise Mr. Fellin and Ms. Greenwell, should not railroad this community and a fine superintendent like Rob Glass with your ill conceived and brain washed rhetoric. It is you who “deserve to be called out” and should “stop throwing a wrench in the works”. Let others enjoy reading Patch and not have to deal with the froth of you and yours. What a waste of time. Get enlightened at www.bhsforum.com
Mac October 28, 2012 at 07:15 PM
www.bhsforum.com is Chris Fellin's website; Chris Fellin is also the treasurer for the committee financing the campaigns of Greenwell and Moigis.
Jenny Greenwell October 28, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I am pleased to be one of many adults in this community who understand that students, education outcomes and academic achievement, are more important than anything else, including compensation to adults, in a high-perfroming, respected public school system. I don't believe that a 12-lane pool is what most educated adults feel is important at this time. Will we broaden our curriculum to include indoor sailing? Are nearby districts closing schools? What are we doing that is so wrong? We are forgetting about the well-being of our students. This can't continue. I hope area voters will understand that the board and their "insiders" need to be challenged. Our students deserve better.
Mac October 28, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Ms. Greenwell, the final BHHS will have less swim space than we have currently. Is your argument that we should not have swimming pools? Should we reduce our swimming and diving programs? Yes, nearby districts are closing schools. High performing schools have good teachers. Good teachers, like everyone else who does their job well, are drawn by good compensation.
Neal Charness October 28, 2012 at 08:46 PM
If you read Ms. Greenwell's blog from 10/25 about why she's running for the two year seat and her other recent blogs lashing out at the district and board members and compare them to her posts during July or August where she was trying to convince the voters she accepted their vote and would work with people you can see there's a lack of consistency and focus. Putting anyone on the Board of Trustees implies a fiduciary relationship to the community. Ms. Greenwell has never displayed any behavior warranting that sort of trust by the community. After all of her childish rants over the past few years she is the last person to be sonsidered an adult. Protect our students and schools from her.
Amy Cardin October 28, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Oh Chris, it is hard to imagine your intentions being pure when you have personally done so much harm to the district. And the "facts" you skew and spew, reforming them into something that has very little resemblance to the truth. The hundreds if thousands of dollars YOU cost the district could and should have been spent in the classroom. Chris, you are one person. What you think is "right" and "best" for our children and community is your opinion only. Thankfully you are not in any sort of leadership position that might foist your negativity and single-minded nastiness on unsuspecting children.
Linda October 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Ms. Berndt, I dont't think I have read any bashing of teachers or their profession......just teacher unions. If I read Mr. judge correctly the other professions you liken to teachers: doctors, lawyers, accountants ....don't have unions demanding ever more compensation and benefits from the tax paying public to service their careers.
Linda October 28, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Yes co teaching it sure does sound like automotive job banks, another way to keep people on the job with a high paid salary that you don't need. Make no mistake it seems to me most teacher union endorsed proposals light to be viewed cautiously for motive.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Hmmm...."the board is a fiduciary duty". Sure is......remember Day et al Herner, Berndt and the rest of the group all tried to steer us down the river with a 4000 student high school, 120 million bond issues, etc etc etc.....all rejected because Jenny led this district to demand better solutions. If anyone has demonstrated fiduciary duty it's Greenwell. VOTE FOR GREENWELL AND MOIGIS
Mac October 29, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Neither Berndt, Herner, nor Day proposed a $120 million bond issue. No proposal for a 4000 student high school was made during Day's tenure, and certainly not during Herner's or Berndt. Berndt has been on the Board for less than a year. This non-fact based thinking is the reason we cannot afford people on the Board who throw bombs without facts.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 12:30 AM
You are right there have been so many proposals, over a short period of time involving somany multi millions of taxpayer dollars and divergent proposals it has your head spinning.
Mac October 29, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Not so much. I can keep them straight.
Elizabeth 123 October 29, 2012 at 12:46 AM
A proposal for a 4000 student high school......pretty hard to do when I don't think this district ever had 4000 high school students.......even in 1975 when I graduated which was close to if not the peak, there were not even close to 4000 high school students.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 01:03 AM
I hope the Non incumbent school board candidates know when elected they will inherit becoming landlords of empty school buildings, employers of a bevy of costly consultants, heads of a proposed medical clinic, making the term "is there a doc in the house" a reality; overseers of major new construction, ....hope they have time and energy left to do their main job of ensuring we are educating our students for the future.
S Sera October 29, 2012 at 01:06 AM
No problem keeping them straight here either.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Oh I forgot because my head is still spinning...They are also farm managers.
Neal Charness October 29, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Chris: What's vile is your actions and disregard for the students of the district. Hence you might be called "reviled." You have brought this on yourself. We all have choices. You chose as you did.
Neal Charness October 29, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Members of the Board have a fiduciary duty (not "is a fiduciary duty'). I sincerely doubt that with her temperment and inconsistency and lack of understanding of basics she is incapable of fulfilling a fiduciary duty.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Give me a break.....a tad over dramatic ....you conveniently accuses Chris of wasting district dollars while turning a blind eye to multi million dollar consultants, expensive advertising to generate support for losing bond proposals, dollars down the drain maintaining empty school buildings, a couple o FOIA's would likely turn up a longer list of questionable spending decisions.
Amy Cardin October 29, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Linda, your previous 2 posts highlight the fact that you have very little idea what the job of a school board member is.
Linda October 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM
Per earlier posts of others, "will the real Amy Cardin, please stand up, please stand up."
Neal Charness October 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Linda is emblematic of the supporters of Ms. Greenwell and Mr. Moigis. If she is representative of you feel free to follow her advice. If not, please stand up and vote and send another message that their methods and destructiveness has been repudiated by the community. It's up to you.


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