Monday, February 16, 2004

And the teacher says 'hi' 

I received an email answer from Lonni Skrentner to the questions I posted in relation to the Chalberg letter. I am posting the answer in full, but I will make a few editorial comments.
I'm not sure you deserve a response, and yes I'm busy - I work full time! "Shouted"? Give me a break - and I said Catholic once! And remember, I am one! By the way, thanks for correcting the spelling of my name!
I think exclamation points are over-represented in your letter. This punctuational apartheid is an insult to semi-colons everywhere.

The word "shouted" was to paraphrase the metaphor "shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater". More of my deadpan humor, I guess. Sorry. I know you didn't shout.

And you're welcome for the name spelling. You should see my mail; I'm still getting Bananas Gorilla's fan mail.
1. "At the DFL forum at NCC, did you identify Dr. Flanders as Catholic? If so, why?" After 12 years of Catholic education, it was actually out of respect! Or, it's simply a label.
Respect? OK, I'll try that. "Hiya, Muslim! How's it going, Lutheran?" Umm, you know what, Lonni? I don't think that works. "It's simply a label" doesn't work either, because we use labels to identify, and you've only begged the question, why did you want a label?
"2. How many members of the academic standards committee were there? Of that, how many were classroom teachers, and how many were K-12 administrators?" I think there were 32. To the best of my knowledge there were 0 K-12 administrators. The number of teachers is moot, because it depends who is counting. The commissioner was willing to label just about anyone as a teacher. I would only count licensed people, active or retired - not people who taught two years twenty years ago. Sorry, but teaching has changed enormously in the 36 years I've been in the profession and someone without recent experience - pretty worthless!
Ms. Skrentner revised that in an email a little later to 44 members of the committee, which is correct. Interestingly, the list of members is public, and from that list I see 18 K-12 teachers. There's only one that I can see that has spent most of his/her time out of K-12 education. There are a couple of K-12 administrators -- more of the school administration people were school board types.
3. "What proportion of the classroom teachers on the committee signed the minority report?" Again I'm not sure - but the six who signed are well respected in their local communities, and statewide for both their content knowledge and their teaching.
The answer would be 6 of 18. That is, not even a majority of your teaching peers supported the minority report. I suppose you should start looking to strike down the credentials of seven.
4. "In your view, what would be the correct proportions? Should someone whose
children are grown and out of school be denied a seat on the committee? Should someone with only preschoolers? By the logic you seem to use, would a childless gay couple ever get to help write the standards?"
This is a stupid question - I've already answered it. If the gay couple has experience and position, they can get appointed. I hope no one would let me write standards for the medical or law professions. Why should we let every Tom, Dick and Susie write school standards? Just because someone has attended school does not make them an expert!
If it's a stupid question, why did you answer it?

We wouldn't let you write the standards alone, Ms. Skrentner, because that really would be silly. But if you were a nurse, I might invite you to help with the medical exam, yes? If you were a paralegal of high quality, wouldn't we benefit with having you on a committee helping to write the bar exam? Maybe.

You are in charge of children, "Tom, Dick and Susie's" children. They may not be experts on constructivism, but they are experts on their children and they should be treated as such. Parents are on that committee because they are the principals in a principal-agent problem that is in no small part of your own making. Because enough parents are concerned that their children are not prepared for life in America because they don't know enough facts for all those critical thinking skills to operate on, they elect people to office who are charged with re-doing the standards which is why the bill to repeal the Profiles was HF 2.

Your answer shows an elitism of breathtaking scope, unfortunately on a par with fellow teacher Mr. Seeba's letter from a week ago. Such statements make calls for accountability all the more urgent. I won't generalize from this to an attitude about teachers, because there were 12 of 18 who supported these standards, to whom your answer is the back of your hand.