US Education Amway style

AFT President Randi Weingarten visited Lincoln Middle School yesterday. I would have been tempted to stop by had I been paying attention. I’m not sure I was notified of the visit because I haven’t been reading all my District related email lately. I did a mass mailing related to mulch about two weeks ago and haven’t been reading much more than the subject headings of new email since.

I’m not much into rubbing shoulders with big shots but there was one American Federation of Teachers President whose visit to Duluth I’ve always regetted missing. His name was Al Shanker and he wasn’t always the apple of my eye. I see I’ve mentioned him three times over the past decade in the blog.

Once a bitter foe of Ronald Reagan’s the two became buds and championed similar efforts to improve public education through something called charter schools which were intended to eliminate bureaucracy and be more child centered. Over the past forty years a lot has happened to that movement and its a very mixed bag.

Ms. Weingarten was visiting Lincoln to find out about its efforts to become a “Community School” like the Myers Wilkin school. Among the most notable thing teachers in such a school are asked to do is make home visits to make connections with their student’s families. Its an idea I thought made a lot of sense twenty years ago or even longer. I think I still have my copy of 36 Children somewhere that I read forty years ago. The Harvard educated teacher spent one year in a Harlem School. Of course, it takes a lifetime to make a difference. The one year is like slumming even if it resulted in a nice little book.

Brenda Vatthaur is one of the great principals we’ve hired into ISD 709 recently. She put on a presentation about Lincoln MS’s work at the MSBA convention a couple weeks ago which I attended. She’s been there more than a single year despite that first year nearly killing her. She recommended a couple books to read for those of us in her audience. I jotted down their names for future reference……if I ever find time.

The AFT President had a couple choice words to share about Trumps nominee to take over the Department of Education. Betsy DeVos is another billionaire having married into Amway royalty. The most troubling story I’ve read about her efforts at reform put her in the same category as the Koch Brothers who are using Citizens United to pummel politicians with their vast wealth. Don’t expect any cordial detente like the one between Reagan and Shanker with Secretary DeVos.

If I was a senator I wouldn’t vote for her to be the next Secretary of Education. I’m afraid she will push public education into another pyramid scheme like Amway. I once was approached to become an Amway slave to help it build its pyramid and make a fortune for its pharaohs.

And to be clear. Its not the charter schools I object to so much. Its vouchers, especially when the life is sucked out of public schools in order to justify replacing them with “for profits.”