Saturday, February 09, 2008

When Adults Ruin Everything (A running series)

Outside of Seattle's liberal city limits in the Snoqualmie Valley School District, a political correctness battle is heating up. The Seattle Times has an article that does little to really get to the heart of the matter.
The Setup
Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations often include a speaker who is supposed to celebrate the life of Dr. King, reflect on the painful past of our country, and in my opinion, point us towards the dream that Dr. King envisioned.
Mount Si High School invited the Rev. Ken Hutcherson (read this article if you want to know what the Seattle Times thinks of him.) He is an outspoken pastor who has been villainized by many for his anti-homosexual comments. The tolerant people of society do not tolerate his desire to share with people his religious views.

The Problem Begins
According to the article, English teacher George Potratz "booed Hutcherson," and another English teacher, after the speech, "stood up and asked Hutcherson whether he believed in equal rights for gays and lesbians."
The article makes states that at no point in the assembly did the Rev. Hutcherson discuss or mention his personal beliefs on gays and lesbians.

The Problem Grows
The Rev. Hutcherson did not feel welcomed at Mount Si High School and the district apologized to him for the treatment he received.

The Problem Divides
The more tolerant and civilized people in the argument believe that the district should not show tolerance towards the Rev. Hutcherson by inviting him to speak about Dr. King's legacy knowing that he owns intolerant beliefs about gays and lesbians.
The less tolerant and uncivilized people (the article leads us to believe that these insensitive people are Christians) in the argument believe that the problem is that two teachers voiced their political and personal beliefs in the public school setting.

The Daily Grind's Commentary
First, I must admit that I attended Northwest University. My religious views, though personal, shape the way that I approach the world in which I live, move, and have my being.
The Daily Grind believes that tolerance is important and essential to the society that Dr. King, Ghandi, or even Jesus envisioned. If the Rev. Hutcherson, who is known to have a certain measure of charisma as a public speaker, can deliver a powerful and moving speech on the life of Dr. King, his religious views should not prevent him from speaking on such an important matter. I can't imagine that a homosexual in need of medical attention to save his life would refuse help from a paramedic known for her religious views against homosexuality. The Daily Grind believes that in the matter of celebrating Dr. King's life, we should view it as necessary to the health of our nation.
And yet, the Daily Grind believes that the Rev. Hutcherson, if he is truly known for his anti-homosexual stance, ought to focus his attentions more on carrying out the two greatest commandments that Jesus taught--Love God and Love Neighbor. If the Rev. Hutcherson wants to follow Jesus (the true meaning of Christian), then he should be known for his compassion and not his condemnation.
But the issue at hand still remains complicated. Should the teachers have been corrected for their actions? Yes. I think that we teachers have a responsibility to demonstrate that same tolerance so many of us preach at our students. It seems that when we stand in front of our class and reprimand a student for calling the test "gay," we shouldn't then stand and boo a person for his religious views. That defies tolerance.
Can we engage our students in thought provoking discussion? Should we? Without question. But booing is not discussion and challenging an invited speaker's beliefs at a school wide assembly is neither the time nor the appropriate place. The Daily Grind believes the teachers were in the wrong.
This issue, and issues like it, continue to demonstrate that adults have a way of ruining everything. We preach life skills that we ourselves do not employ; but then we tense in disgust when our students don't practice what we preach.


At 12:06 PM , Blogger the mama piece said...

Your YouTube clip...are you supporting the message, the messanger or both?

At 1:27 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

the mama piece--
First, I support the message. When he notes that there is nothing false about hope, I was moved. Obama's message of change is more believable than any other candidate of my generation (I was born three years before Reagan took office.)
Second, as and educator, I like Obama's stance on merit pay. That is certainly not the typical teacher line.
Third, off all the candidates with a viable chance, I am starting to believe that Obama has the most appeal to the majority of Americans. Whether he can deliver on his message cannot be known; just as we don't know if any candidate can deliver.
I believed George Bush in 2000, and again in 2004. I don't know that he has delivered on his promises to unify America.
So, I am supporting both Obama's message and his candidacy.

At 5:24 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. McNamar,
I recently heard from a former student who tracked me down to tell me how I wakened in her a life-long love of writing that she has passed on to her three children. Looking up her grades, I see that she got a 75% in my class and didn't do too well on her standardized English exam. How would you measure my teacher merit? Obama talks vaguely about teachers being held accountable for results and ties the achievement gap to unmeritorious teachers--that's a ridiculous stand. What do you merit when Jimmy walks to the door before class has ended? You're in an achievement gap school,; is it your fault your students don't measure up? For all your hard work and energy and concern, sorry, you don't merit merit pay! Actually, Obama and others are talking about "Carrot" pay--the opposite of the stick. Here's a carrot, come and get it by raising Jimmy's scores. Good teachers like you will work until their hearts fall out and make little progress. The lousy teachers will teach to test, or change two answers on Jimmy's exam and pocket the carrot for their "merit." The name of the game becomes "Compete to Cheat," I've seen it already.

If a politician wants to provide teachers with incentives, provide them with incentives to take more PD courses, pay for them to become National Board Certified, work to create ladders of referral within schools that assure students, too, are held accountable for their actions in classrooms, invlove teachers in the decision making apparatus in the school, improve the economic outlook for families--in this country, mostly non-white--whose children are on the bottom line in the Gap Graphs. By the way, to close the gap, those at the top have to stop improving, the only way people on top would stand for that would be if all of their children got 100%, but since standardized tests are normed, that is statistically impossible.

At 5:05 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Thanks for the comments, anonymous. At the moment, no merit pay plan is perfect, and I doubt one will ever satisfy us all. But with a move towards Standardized tests that are criteria-referenced tests, I become okay with merit pay but not soley based on the outcomes of tests.
It is true that the we cannot tie merit pay singularly to the test scores. But I believe we can tie it to our ability to perform our duties well.
Johnny may walk to the door in my class because I might not be effective. I just can't believe that all teachers are equally effective at our jobs. I am not the best teacher, but I know I am better than a lot of teachers who get paid twice what I make.
I at least applaud Obama for wanting to reward teachers who do a great job.

At 8:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, you know what I think! Good teachers, like good schools, should be rewarded with more students. If someone is a crappy teacher, then the demand for their 'product' will wain and their job will be unnecessary. Too many teachers are given classrooms full of kids to educate regardless of their natural talents, dedication or ability to communicate clearly. As long as education continues to be free - meaning that local and federal tax money foots the bill - there will be no way to incent teachers for their real ability to teach. Merit can only be measured by the impact you are able to have on your students. If you can successfully impact and teach your students, demand for your services will rise and you will (or should be able to) make more money. Entry level teachers should be employed to teach basic academic skills - reading, writing and math. As students complete core course requirements and move on to higher grade levels, the teachers that attract the most students should be paid accordingly. This would work more like an amusement park, than a system of education in the current educational format. Schools must operate as profit centers that are able to generate income from the number of students that attend the school. Only when that occurs can teachers be paid based on real merit. I would guess that many teachers in our current system aren't interested in merit pay. There certainly hasn't been a groundswell for change from the teachers. As always, in America, we are looking for a politician to affect real change - as Obama preaches - without affecting it ourselves.

At 7:45 AM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

What if I am actually quite accomplished at providing a quality education, but because I am demanding in order to accomplish that quality, students take the easier teachers? Do those teachers merit higher pay?


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