Where was the debate? Did we miss it? Why was the AFT rapid endorsement of Hillary Clinton such a rash mistake?
Hillary Clinton has two sides when it comes to education, and the AFT should have taken more time to haggle with her—nudge her into showing her good side. But they didn’t do due diligence and now they have no bargaining chips. Not that they are in the business of bargaining these days.
Now, like past elections, we will vote Republican or Democrat based on other issues. Education will be nothing more than corporate soundbites fed to candidates for transmission to the public by the incredibly rich.
What do I mean by Hillary Clinton’s two sides?
One side is Hillary Clinton the author of It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us.
Anyone who says there’s no difference between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush is mistaken and It Takes a Village is proof. She gets much too involved in discussing standards by the end of the book, but the beginning shows the warm side of Hillary Clinton. There’s much hope there, jumping out at us fom those pages.
If you read this book it is easy to capture the sincerity in her words as a reflection of understanding children and individualism. It is poignant. You are with her as she is growing up herself, and you can understand easily that she has always had a deep, abiding love for children.
This is the Hillary Clinton I want for President. This is what a good union should have pushed her towards.
But then there’s the other side.
Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt, has bought into harmful school reform. No sooner had she announced she was running for President than she proclaimed her support for Common Core. There is no proof CC is good for schools. Much of it is rehashing old teaching practices at poorly determined developmental levels. She exhibits disconnect. One wonders if, like Jeb Bush, she never turns to authentic research concerning schools.
If she’d even spend any time on social media she’d know why there is serious concern about these all-encompassing standards that were never field-tested the way they should have been.
It is also troubling that both the AFT and National Education Association (NEA) have bought into CCSS always insulting teachers by saying the problem is they have trouble implementing the standards. But the standards themselves are problematic and there is no proof they will fix anything in education.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation figures prominently in the Clinton’s Global Initiative, so Hillary Clinton obviously has to tread carefully with Common Core. It’s awkward. But the union could have been there to support her questioning. She should have been pushed to see the other side surrounding Common Core and, if nothing else, at least raised questions.
Now, there’s little to distinguish her from Jeb Bush! Common Core concerns are shared by both parties. I think this was a missed opportunity for Hillary Clinton.
And then there is her claim that she will listen to teachers. I don’t doubt she is sincere.
The trouble is, Hillary Clinton, like so many other education reformers, consider Teach for America to be teachers! They are cheerleaders for this group and both union presidents should have none of that.
This is from a recent rundown about Hillary Clinton from Education Week: As a U.S. senator, introduced bills to improve principal recruitment and development, including in struggling schools, and to authorize federal appropriations for the Teach For America program.
Hillary Clinton should stand for a real teaching profession. Anything less diminishes teaching and sets up a dueling educational system that will continue to spiral downwards. Creating a cheap teaching workforce made up of Peace Corps-like young, albeit enthusiastic, college students is not what this country should want leading its education system. They are not scholars or experts on the needs of children.
Here again, a good union president would have sat Hillary Clinton down for a cup of tea, inviting Sen. Bernie Sanders and any others too, and steered them in the right direction.
We need professionals as teachers. Period. Find something else for TFA to do.
Hillary Clinton, the AFT and the NEA, seem to be stuck back in the early 90s when charters were supposed to be for teachers to show off their mettle. There are only a few of these charters out there. The others have been taken over by charter chains gobbling up real public schools in an eating frenzy!
Tax dollars are being wasted, and few charters are like that old prototype they see in their dreams.
If charter school teachers, many from Teach for America, join the union, they will still be charter schools—a secondary system designed to dismantle the democratic ownership of schools!
Hillary Clinton should discuss her connections to Eli Broad and Marc Tucker and how they, along with Bill Gates and the Waltons (Walmart), will influence her Presidency when it comes to public schools if she is elected. Many parents and educators still remember Tucker’s “Dear Hillary Letter.” She should discuss all of this openly. And she should answer questions as to whether she will follow a business agenda when it comes to education policy. Will she call school leaders CEOs or superintendents?
The AFT should have bargained and argued for the things that matter in education—namely supporting teachers in their public schools who are struggling against insurmountable odds to maintain their professionalism.
They should have made Hillary Clinton, at the very least, reread her own book.
From It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton:
I remember a six-year-old girl I tutored in reading at an elementary school in Little Rock. I’ll call her Mary. She lived in a tiny house with six siblings, her parents, and an assortment of other relatives, who came and went unpredictably. There was so much commotion in the evenings that she was rarely able to sleep for longer than a few hours, and she always looked tired. She seemed uncomfortable talking, but she didn’t want to read, either. Sometimes her eyelids would droop and she would lay her head on the desk.
Mary was obviously intelligent but her intelligence was expressed in the pictures she drew and not by trying to read from a printed page. Yet her artistic interest and talent were not being praised at home or in schools. It wasn’t surprising that she often seemed withdrawn or unhappy. How could she not notice that her talents were ignored, even penalized? It does not take long for children like Mary, whose intelligence is expressed in a way that is not customarily recognized or appreciated, to lose a sense of how valuable their particular gifts are, and, along with it, their confidence and sense of self.
Clinton, Hillary Rodham. It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us. (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1996), 239-240.
John Mountford says
Nancy, congratulations on creating such a balanced perspective in relation to your comments on political leadership and education. Whereas, your prime focus is on the future of education in the US, and on Hilary Clinton’s credentials in the run-up to the Presidential election, there is much to reflect on in the wider context.
Mary’s story, from ‘It takes a Village’, should be required reading for all leaders, not just aspiring presidents, prime ministers and those who seek to shape education. Our own government in the UK is sorely lacking any concerns for the human condition that Hilary’s account reveals with such brevity and clarity, and without such insight the bankruptcy of their flawed ideologies screams out to be challenged. We take strength in sharing your experiences in the struggle to establish free public education as one of the pillars of modern democratic life.
In the context of her possible future, it is to be hoped that Hilary Clinton’s powerful depiction of ‘real’ life for so many young people, still too often found, even today, draws out the best in her or in whoever becomes the next President of the United States.
Education has to be about the whole person, not about some distorted politically motivated ideology that passes like some transient fashion. It has also to be about a broad acceptance of the many diverse talents and abilities that celebrate our individuality and set us apart from all other species.
Let’s hope the lady in waiting does re-read her earlier words and takes them to heart – “It does not take long for children like Mary, whose intelligence is expressed in a way that is not customarily recognized or appreciated, to lose a sense of how valuable their particular gifts are, and, along with it, their confidence and sense of self.”
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, John. I’m afraid there are many Mary’s lost in school today. Too much high-stakes testing and not enough individualizing. Oh and I might add, many schools, especially the poorer ones, have decreased or eliminated their art programs. One hopes whoever becomes President will make some positive changes to our public schools! Take care.
Trisha Connolly says
I appreciate your willingness to remind us of the softer side of Hillary, however at the end of the day there are policies she supports directly outside of education, that will not serve our students or their families.
Let us not forget that, either.
Nancy Bailey says
Hi Trisha. I tried to also cover some of the areas that concern me about Hillary Clinton in regard to schools–students and teachers. I am not sure what policies you are speaking of.
Ken Derstine says
Many people are not aware of Eli Broad connections with the Clintons.
“Eli Broad and the Clintons”