By July 20, 2016 Uncategorized 6 Comments

You know the scene in Animal House where Kevin Bacon bends over to grab his ankles while a cloaked, paddle-wielding Doug Niedermeyer smacks him on the butt for a fraternity initiation?

With each stroke of the paddle, Bacon exclaims: “Thank you, sir, may I have another?”

The difference between Kevin Bacon’s movie character and public school teachers is that we have lost our collective enthusiasm for the daily floggings.

We have had enough, thank you very much, and really do not care to have another.

Our initiation to the practice of constant ridicule and disparagement began decades ago with the release of The Nation at Risk report during the Reagan administration.

And the public flogging of teachers and schools has continued unabated since that time.

It seems some politicians are waiting for our morale to improve before they decide to end the beatings.

That may take a while.

In case you missed it, the person wielding the paddle for yesterday’s beating was the son of the GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump Jr.

Maybe it’s just me, but listening to a son of a billionaire lecture, demean, and disparage my profession doesn’t do much for my motivation.

In his 17-minute, primetime speech to the Republican convention, Trump Jr. blasted schools for failing American students and serving other interests.

“Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now they’re stalled on the ground floor,” he said of schools. “They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers.”

Okay, let me get this right.

Donald Jr. is claiming that public schools are the reason for poverty and lack of opportunity in our nation. Oh, yeah, we’re also communist institutions selfishly operating for personal gain and to hell with kids.

Thank you, sir, may I have another? 

To be fair, Trump Jr. didn’t actually write these words himself. His primary speechwriter and conservative columnist Frank H. Buckley did.

Ostensibly, Trump Jr.’s $55,000 a year private high school education and Ivy League degree did not include instruction on how to formulate his own thoughts and words on paper.

However, Trump Jr. did read them eloquently from the teleprompter. He speaks really nice.

According to several reports this morning, Buckley “borrowed” these sentences from himself – from an article he had written himself for The American Conservative just two months ago.

One interesting change Buckley made to his original comment in crafting Trump’s speech was which group he stalled on the ground floor. Apparently, the elevator no longer travels all the way to the upper class, just the middle.

I’m sure that is our fault too.

Trump Jr. continued to read even more of Buckley’s words. Again, he is an excellent reader and spoke this part really well, as evidenced by the loud applause from the Republicans still in attendance.

It is not at all surprising that Trump’s remarks were greeted with applause since flogging teachers has become a favorite form of entertainment in this country.

“You know what other countries do better K-12. They let parents choose where to send their children to school. It’s called competition. It’s called the free market and it’s what the other party fears. They fear it because they are more concerned about protecting the jobs of tenured teachers than serving the students in desperate need of a good education.”

Man, this guy is on to us. Trump Jr. has figured out that most of us got into education for the extraordinary pay and benefits and really don’t care all that much about educating children. Damn, has it become that obvious?

Thank you, sir, may I have another. 

“The other party gave us public schools that far too often fail our students, as actually those with no options. My siblings and I growing up were truly fortunate to have choices and options that others don’t. We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.”

Why, of course he does. That’s why his daddy offered full scholarships of $55,660/year to poor minority students to attend Junior’s private family boarding school, The Hill, in the bucolic community of Pottstown, Pennsylvania.

Oh, wait. That didn’t happen.  It would have been a nice gesture though.

Trump Jr. did acknowledge he and his siblings had many advantages that others did not have. They attended elite private schools for their entire lives. No one can blame Donald Trump for providing his children with the best possible education.

Yet, peddling the notion that our nation can duplicate this type of education by following the shortsighted (though highly lucrative) solutions (school choice, vouchers, charters, etc.) being promoted by so-called “reformers” is disingenuous at best.

I suppose what bothered me the most was the way Trump Jr. attempted to paint a portrait of his father as a friend of the middle class. He referred to him as a down-to-earth businessman who “spent his career with regular Americans.”

The elder Donald Trump didn’t “hide out behind some desk in an executive suite,” Trump Jr.  said. “He hung out with the guys on construction sites…pouring concrete and hanging sheet rock.”

He continued to share that some of those laborers ended up as Trump’s closest advisers: “He listened to them and he valued their opinions as much and often more than the guys from Harvard and Wharton, locked away in offices, away from the real work,” he said.

That comment makes me wonder.

Who does Donald Trump and his oldest son believe are the laborers in our public schools today?

And why do they choose to listen to self-serving bureaucrats, locked away in their think tanks, away from the real world of education, instead of real classroom teachers?

Many of these politicians who disparage our schools and flog our teachers have never attended a public school. Wouldn’t it be nice if people like Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. took the time to meet and talk with some real school teachers, instead of blindly insulting them?

In an attempt to connect with blue-collar construction workers, Trump Jr. bragged that he knew how to drive a D10 bulldozer. I wonder if he would be willing to substitute in an urban middle school for a week or two to connect with the experiences of teachers.

I bet he has some vacation days he could use.

I submit that if any of these politicians took the time to really learn and understand the challenges faced by public school educators today, maybe the floggings would diminish.

For anyone to claim that schools are focused on serving teachers first and students as an after thought is being reckless and dishonest.

Most children spend more time at school than they do at home, and, with few exceptions, they are able to count on their teachers for quality instruction, professionalism, dedication and genuine care and concern.

If Donald Trump Jr. came to any of the schools in my district (or yours), he would likely observe teachers and administrators welcoming students by name and interacting in a positive manner. He would see teachers passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects and meaningfully engaged with their students. He would see children actively learning, working with others, and developing character and positive behaviors.

Does that sound like a Soviet-era department store to you?

The GOP has spent much of this week extolling the virtues of our military men and women, our police officers, and now our blue-collar workers. I agree that people in each these groups are worthy of our respect.

Yet, at the same time, doesn’t some credit belong to the schools and classroom teachers who worked tirelessly to educate and mentor these individuals throughout their young lives?

Or, does Trump Jr. believe these folks become educated and productive adults by accident, seemingly in spite of the selfish motives of their teachers?

No thank you, Donald Trump Jr. –  I am not going to ask for another.

I’m done grabbing my ankles for people like you.

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