“If you’re really saying that education has to deal with ‘the whole child,’ then teachers and administrators in a poverty area, for instance, ought to be knowledgeable about the disasters that often take place in the lives of poor people. If a school isn’t involved in the family’s housing and in the quality of health services the family gets, then that school should get a negative accountability rating.”

That sounds like what community schools should be all about. What does UFT head Mulgrew think about that? And Dennis Walcott or his successor as our schools’ chancellor? Teachers and principals’ evaluations should also take these qualifications into account.

One other thing: Looking up Randi Weingarten’s biography, I found that from 1991 to 1997, she taught history at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. And this information really got to me: “With teacher Weingarten’s help and enthusiasm, a number of her students won national and state awards in debates on constitutional issues.”

Wikipedia

When I used to travel a lot and was asked to talk about the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights in schools—from elementary school to graduate classes—I was always lifted by the excitement of students as they heard stories about how we got—and have struggled to keep—the individual rights and liberties that identify us as Americans.

Especially now, as we get closer and closer to living in a country where more of us are under continually growing suspicion-less surveillance by our local, state, and federal governments. Has Mitt Romney shown that he’s going to be any different from Obama in giving a damn about the Constitution? We need actively engaged civics classes if new generations of voters are going to be texting and twittering about how Americans can get free again.

I’d very much like to know which community schools are doing anything about that. Maybe Randi Weingarten can tell us in the next American Federation of Teachers ad. Reporters covering schools aren’t that interested in teaching how to live the Bill or Rights. Nor is most of the rest of the media.

Thomas Jefferson kept saying again and again that only we run-of-the-mill citizens can protect our liberties from our government. Surely that should be a natural learning priority in, of all places, community schools.

A footnote that connects to current arguments about teacher evaluation: When Elliott Shapiro first came up as a possible community superintendent, the Department of Education turned him down because he’d never had a graduate course at a college or university in that level of leadership.

He had just learned to experience how students learn, one at a time, and to let them know he knew. He earned a degree with them.

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Michael Hirsch
Michael Hirsch

Nat, you want to know what Michael Mulgrew thinks about community schools. You're a reporter; why not ask him?

 
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