Leaving Finland

Lake Jyvasjarvi I have never lived anywhere for 5 months other than Jyvaskyla, Finland. As my Fulbright journey concludes, there is so much to still digest. It will take months, if not years, to truly assimilate all the learning. Before I left Southern California, I wrote about the what I would miss the most from home and what I  looked forward to experiencing in Finland. It is safe to say I met my goals. Top 7 Goals 1. Discussing Education Helsinki Workshop Through professional development programs, Fulbright Finland connected teachers with scholars and researchers, for the purpose of putting inquisitive minds together. The Making Democracies Resilient to Modern Threats seminar provided participants with fascinating research and presentations. 2. Nordic Model Bus station in Espoo What does an efficient and earnest country look like?  It looks like Finland. Yes, people pay higher taxes, but get so much in return. I for one appreciated the well-maintained ro

Arne Duncan's Hurtful, Twisted Reasoning

Can a deadly, wretched hurricane which cost thousands of people their homes, lives, and livelihoods be considered "the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans schools?" NO. For the life of me, I cannot understand the penchant for using inflammatory words and thoughts that seems to have afflicted so called ed-reform leaders in the past week.

First, Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of D.C. Schools paints laid-off teachers in in her district in broad strokes by saying they were a bunch of child molesters and abusers anyway.


Then, on Friday, Arne Duncan, excited to have found a new way to appeal to the conservative right stated that "Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to public schools in New Orleans."

Stupefying and irresponsible.

Last week, here at DFSC, we promised not to let this brave new world propaganda go unchallenged, and to fight lies and exaggerations with the truth. Below are some photos from my mother in law's house in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After witnessing the trials and tribulations of family members losing a home, trying to rebuild, the degradation and humiliation of working with FEMA, I can assuredly tell you that New Orleans folks do not view this catastrophic event in the same light as Arne Duncan. My mother-in-law is a retired educator from New Orleans Public Schools. Many of my nieces and nephews are currently attending both charter schools and public schools in the Recovery District.

Below are some photos of her house in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

This is her kitchen, with an American flag tablecloth, representing her background as a social studies teacher. We used to have lots of conversations on education and politics over chickory coffee and beignets.

This used to be her office and where she kept her sorority memorabilia.

This was her storage room where she still kept her son's encyclopedia that he read from cover to cover as a child.

This was her guest room, where you can clearly see the watermark of where the flood waters reached after the levees broke.

This was her living room media console, and that's my daughter, her grand-daughter, in the photo frame.

Watching the teacher's union be destroyed in what many New Orleans educators perceived to be in the most underhanded way (voting to convert to charter schools was done while the citizens of New Orleans had been evacuated to cities throughout the country and were not there for the vote), was a double-blow to African American educators who have long had to deal with insidious policies meant to disempower them (Jim Crow, poll taxes, etc.)

The state of new charter schools is still in its infancy to be able to say they are worth the devastation of a hurricane. The New Orleans Times-Picayune did a thorough series on how these new schools are supposed to offer choice to families, but in fact, the families who had the most "choice" were those who had flexible work schedules, a car, and the know-how to find out about school openings and admissions policies. Living under these circumstances in New Orleans is the luxury of a very few.

Finally, from the teacher side, I have friends teaching in New Orleans charter schools, and it is mind-boggling what some of them have had to put up with as a unprotected, at-will employees. One of them had to supervise students during lunch and recess and did not have a conference period until after lunch. This meant no bathroom break or meal until 1:00 p.m. Can Arne hold it for that long? My friend had deep concerns about management who had business backgrounds and frequently made education decisions that made little sense to educators with any length of experience. The teacher turnover was sky-high.

When Naomi Klein wrote about the rise of "disaster capitalism" in her book the Shock Doctrine, New Orleans was a case study. People shouldn't have to lose their lives in order to improve education. Arne Duncan and the like want to lambast public schools without acknowledging that this country has forsaken them in terms of funding. Real reform would involve a significant, long-term investment in teachers, students, and schools, not a single "race" that will result in many losers (Arne's words, not mine.) So Arne, this teacher gives you a Fail for lack of clarity and cohesion in your statement, and lack of evidence to support your claims.


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