I feel like my head is going to explode.
As a Dem-leaning, Urban League board member; fiscally cautious, small business-owning product of both private and public education; and a native Madisonian proud of our city’s progressive past, why do I feel caught in a remake of the Temptations’ old-school classic “Ball of Confusion”?
Maybe it began December 19, 2011. That’s when I heard Madison School Board member Marj Passman painfully explain why she was going to vote against Madison Prep, the initiative designed to get more of Madison’s black students college ready.
In artfully prepared notes, an emotional Passman, who is a former teacher and proud Madison Teachers Inc. member, echoed her earlier op-ed for the The Capital Times defining her view of public schools, including the important and noble benefits of equal opportunity and the responsibilities of preparing students to be economically self-sufficient and improving social conditions.
Yet Passman voted against the sentiment of black parents that night who eloquently described an experience in Madison’s schools that ran counter to the very goals she listed.
Passman was caught in a progressive conundrum of the first order. Vote for current educational models and justice for teachers unions, or listen to the voices of a community asking for new ideas and justice for their struggling kids? A tough call for any progressive.
The head spun more during a conversation with MTI leader John Matthews. He offered his view on teacher accountability. A champion of union rights, Matthews maintained teachers shouldn’t compete against each other for pay, but rather work together collaboratively to create better schools. Yet, at a later meeting, Matthews was put on his heels when Urban League president and native Madisonian Kaleem Caire asked why, in 2010 with less than fifty percent of young black males in Madison graduating from high school, not one of Madison’s 2,700 teachers was dismissed for any reason, including substandard performance.
Our kids compete for grades and are held accountable for performance. Yet teachers shouldn’t compete, and accountability for them is a word rife with conflict? So a champion of Madison’s black poor challenges the champion of teachers. The head spins.
Related: And so it continues……