Sunday, April 16, 2006

Wal-Mart, the root of all evil? No, the evil lives and breaths at The Teacher's College

Response to Professor David Berliner's Presidential Invited Speech to the American Educational Research Association in May of 2005 (read some of his remarks below).

Berliner is a professor of education at Arizona State University who obviously believes that the free market is the cause of the current malaise. I contend that the problems are due to all forms of government interventionism.

Berliner, on the other hand, believes that government bureaucrats should act upon the good professor's commands and structure the future according to his goals and plans. See, the Berliner's of this world believe that they know better than the consumer when it comes to establishing and acting upon personal preferences. These statist do-gooders truly believe that they are omniscient and infallible. In addition, they hate success and financial rewards; accept when those two terms are relative to their own activities.

So, if anyone knows Berliner's email address, please forward it so that I may share in his spoils to my heart's content. By the way, I'm stopping at Wal-Mart on the way home, does anyone want me to pick up a gallon of milk or dozen eggs?

Jim Fedako

So when we push for higher qualifications for the teachers of the poor, as we should, we also may need to push ourselves and others to stop shopping at companies like Wal-Mart. The logic of this is simple: if we want to primarily hold our teachers responsible for increasing their students? educational attainment, then we need at a minimum to provide those teachers with children who enter their classrooms healthy and ready to learn. Twenty years ago this was one of our national goals, to be reached by the year 2000. But one of the impediments to reaching that goal was Wal-Mart, now the largest employer in the USA. Wal-Mart and companies like them do not provide the great majority of their employees the income, medical insurance or retirement plans needed to promote healthy families or raise healthy children. Wal-Mart and companies like it have a terrible record in its treatment of woman with children, a group who make up a big share of the poor households in this country (Shulman, 2003). Thus Wal-Mart is an impediment to school reform and although it is not usually noted, Wal-Mart is one reason we did not reach our national goal.

There are so many other problems we need to address, as well. When we push for more rigorous standards in our schools we should also push for a raise in the minimum wage, or better yet, for livable wages. If we do not do this then we will ensure that the vast majority of those meeting the increasingly rigorous requirements for high school graduation will be those students fortunate enough to be born into the right families. If we really want a more egalitarian set of educational outcomes requires, our nation needs a more equalitarian wage structure.

For these same reasons when we push for more professional development for teachers and mentoring programs for new teachers, we need also to demand that woman?s wages be set equal to those of men doing comparable work, since it is working woman and their children who make up a large percentage of America?s poor.

When we push for advanced placement courses, or college preparatory curricula for all our nation?s students, we must simultaneously demand universal medical coverage for all our children. Only then will all our children have the health that allows them to attend school regularly and learn effectively, instead of missing opportunities to learn due to a lack of medical treatment.

When we push for all day kindergarten, or quality early childhood care, or de-tracked schools we need also to argue for affordable housing throughout our communities, so neighborhoods have the possibility of exerting more positive influences on children and people can move from lead and mercury polluted areas to those that are less toxic, and thus less likely to cause birth defects. This goal requires educators, parents and other concerned citizens to be in the forefront of the environmental fight. To fight for clean air and water, and for less untested chemicals in all our food products, is a fight to have more healthy children for our schools to educate. The psychological and financial costs on families and the broader society because of students needing special education can be markedly reduced by our demands for a healthier environment.

In my estimation we will get better public schools by requiring of each other participation in building a more economically equitable society. This is of equal or greater value to our nation?s future well-being then a fight over whether phonics is scientifically based, whether standards are rigorous enough, or whether teachers have enough content knowledge.

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