Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Desertion? Or, Moral Assertion?

Superintendent Ackerman of the School District of Philadelphia had “never seen anything like it.” 100 teachers who signed contracts to teach in the school district were deserters, no-shows who had given no-prior notice of their leaving. (Philadelphia Inquirer of Sept 4, 2009)

Chorusing her esteemed leader, Human Resources Chief for the District, Estelle Matthews, who “comes from the corporate world” claimed that “You don’t run a business like this.”

Stuff and Nonsense. First of all, if Supt Ackerman had never seen “anything like it,” she wasn’t looking hard or long. In many of the twenty-five plus years I spent in the School District of Philadelphia, we often started the year short of teachers; or, lost new teachers by the dozens after the first month of school. Secondly, corporate practice is a strange thing to try to chasten educators with; it normally involves no little abandonment of responsibility as convenience dictates.

Ackerman and Matthews indulge in much huffing and puffing expressing dismay about “desertion” alluding to such notions as the sacredness of contract and the like. Three considerations reveal their hypocrisy:
a. even though the teachers’ union, PFT, negotiates the contract, individual teachers are induced (seduced) to sign up for a school placement on the basis of misinformation spread by principals whose main concern is to capture enough warm bodies to cover their classes;

b. in that “corporate world” that Matthews invokes, a contract is only as strong as the willingness of an injured party to assume the expense of taking it to court.
Administrators’ lies morally vitiate any “sacredness of contract” that might exist.
.
c. Administrators in Philadelphia public schools have long been rewarded for practicing a kind of “leadership” that involves stultifying, undermining, frustrating or disregarding the teachers’ contract when it suits the administrator’s desires. This, too, vitiates, the moral force of the contract.
For practical purposes, each individual teacher must shift for himself or herself, when it comes to deciding whether to stay or go. Stay in a bad situation and you give the school district everything it wants – a warm body in the classroom that satisfies legal necessities.

Ignore that balderdash about providing children with an education! That is all-too-often political hyperbole for public consumption. Anyway, in a bad situation education of any kind is very unlikely to be doable. Or, instead of asserting yourself, you can suffer and make kids suffer with you by going in to work and putting in official complaints which the union, normally swamped with such, will take weeks or months to handle.

Walk out and you save your dignity and your sanity, at least, and very possibily spare the kids the ministrations of a teacher who is unhappy being with them.

To read more about this situation see Cannonfodder: Preparing Teachers for Public Schools

Cordially,

-- EGR