Monthly Archives: October 2014

From a Teacher in the Trenches


Thank goodness I live in a country that values individual liberty and freedom of speech. I can now see, however, that some entities believe their opinion is and always will be worth more than others.

I don’t tell doctors how to operate or lawyers how to practice law. I find the Chamber’s activities insulting and demeaning to my profession.

I have watched with growing trepidation how the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce thinks it has all the answers and is willing to use its considerable clout and money to impose their solutions on Lafayette. As such, they have raised thousands of dollars and have scoured the city for candidates to run in this school board election.

I have already written how organizations with little or no expertise in educational matters have tried to influence public policy on education. Such organizations are legion these days. I have also firmly expressed that as an educator in the trenches, I will give such organizations the attention they deserve: very little.

I don’t tell doctors how to operate or lawyers how to practice law. I find the Chamber’s activities insulting and demeaning to my profession.

When has the Chamber asked us, the teachers, for our input into possible solutions to improve Lafayette? What has it done to address the growing number of retirees and resignations plaguing the state and our parish?

Instead, the Chamber has bypassed educators and backed seven candidates, all of whom may be decent individuals who care earnestly about our children, and the Advertiser has joined the bandwagon and endorsed all of the Chamber’s nominees.

The Lafayette Chamber of Commerce reminds me of the Federalist Party during the early days of the United States republic. The Federalists steadfastly believed that since they represented the most educated souls in the fledgling republic, they should be obeyed. The mere fact that they existed should have been reason enough to lead. No wonder they died off as a political party.

There are times I wish these present-day organizations would follow the same path.

I am an educator. I work in a noble profession under attack by charter schools, a State Superintendent who yearly manipulates passing scores on standardized tests, and a BESE Board that until only recently appointed Charter Schools in the same manner some parents dole out candy for Halloween. The opinion of educators should be just as important at the voice of the Chamber.

The Lafayette Parish Association of Educators has endorsed a list of candidates. Since it is the largest organization representing souls like myself, I stand by their recommendations way more than the Chamber.

Those recommendations are Redell Comeaux Miller, Tommy Angelle, Elroy Broussard, Tehmi Chassion, Britt Latiolais, Kathleen Schott Espinoza, Dawn Morris, Hunter Beasley, and Brian West.

I’ll be curious to see if anyone attempts to deny me my constitutional right to freedom of speech.




Filed under Education

Common Core: A Firestorm That Never Ends

Stop Common Core

It is hard to believe that I haven’t written anything about Common Core in almost four months, but the summer months have rejuvenated me for new classes and more battles. It is time to re-enter the fray.

“Common Core won’t solve our problems, but it has the potential to cause irrevocable harm as we experiment with our students’ lives.”

I recently visited the Texas Renaissance Festival where Captain Liam was conducting his regular four o’clock pirate auction, and a visitor had just successfully bid on a sword for $100. The Captain promptly told the winner that the lucky soul would not be paying $100, but that the price would be cut in half.

Liam then said with a mischievous grin, “That’s right! You’ll pay 486 dollars and 35 cents. We use Common Core math!”

The crowd roared with laughter, especially for a state that never even adopted Common Core.

Every so often, it helps to reiterate the substantive objections to the reform-de-jure Common Core. Rarely has such a reform movement polarized so many people, creating a toxic us-versus-them mentality.

Common Core supporters deride opponents as uninformed, bigoted idiots incapable of understanding the program’s vast goodness, despite its never having been tested. Opponents look upon supporters as gullible soothsayers who specialize in polemics but not in reality.

My objection to Common Core is straightforward: I object anytime two dozen people who weren’t teachers and who had little experience writing standards try to create a set of standards for real teachers to use.

I would never presume to tell a doctor how to do his/her job, but apparently anyone is qualified to rewrite educational standards, especially when gifted with Bill Gates’ money.

Common Core authors hailed from ACT, Achieve, the College Board, and Student Achievement Partners, and their creation has ignited a firestorm of criticism from both the left and the right.

Every state can design their own curricula to match the standards. One of the first, Engage New York curricula—often deridingly referred to as Enrage New York—is so poorly designed that St. Tammany Parish, an A-level parish, made headlines with its decision to phase it out by next year.

Reforms imposed from the top down on the souls in the trenches—the teachers—have rarely succeeded, and the oppositional chorus is still swelling. What will become of this chaos is anyone’s guess.

For my part, I will continue to teach my students with care and compassion, something sorely lacking in this test-driven state which cares more about numbers than people, which exalts quantity over quality, and sacrifices human character for a measurable outcome. No other country has such a fanatical focus on data as the panacea for all our woes. Common Core won’t solve our problems, but it has the potential to cause irrevocable harm as we experiment with our students’ lives.

In the meantime, we can at least roar with laughter. It would be so funny if it weren’t so tragic.

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