I’m busy. We don’t want somebody sitting back saying you’re not holding the mop the right way.
Why don’t you grab a mop? Why don’t you help clean up?
“You’re not mopping fast enough.”
“That’s a socialist mop.”
Grab a mop! Let’s get to work. ~~President Barak Obama
The American people by a popular majority of more than eight million votes selected as their President a candidate who had been attacked by his Republican foe as a radical who “began his campaign in the liberal left lane of politics and has never left it.”
If only. In truth, Barack Obama was never the Mao in pinstripes that the rightwing attack machine conjured up. His record on Capitol Hill was never “more liberal than a Senator who calls himself a socialist [Vermont’s Bernie Sanders],” as John McCain wheezed at the last stops of a dying campaign. And he has never even been in competition for the title bestowed upon him by former Senator Fred Thompson during last summer’s Republican National Convention: “the most liberal . . . nominee to ever run for President.”
Thompson had apparently forgotten not just George McGovern but Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, all of whom sought the Presidency as more left-leaning contenders than did Obama in 2008. And, as McGovern, an able historian, himself reminds us: Franklin Roosevelt put contemporary Democrats to shame when it came to embracing and advancing radical notions.
For we Liberals and Progressives, who find ourselves moving from the easy opposition stance of the Bush-Cheney horror to the more challenging position of dealing with the first Democratic President elected with something akin to a mandate since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it is important to see Barack Obama for who he is and his administration for what it can be. The best way to do this is by hearing the President in his own words.
After he secured the delegates required to claim the Democratic nomination, Obama found himself at a town hall meeting in suburban Atlanta, where he was grilled about whether having run as a primary season Progressive he was now shifting to the center.
The Senator was clearly offended by the suggestion.
“Let me talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center or that I’m flip-flopping or this or that or the other,” he began. “You know, the people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me.”
“I am somebody who is no doubt Progressive. I believe in a tax code that we need to make more fair. I believe in universal health care. I believe in making college affordable. I believe in paying our teachers more money. I believe in early childhood education. I believe in a whole lot of things that make me progressive.”
I believe him. Those were not casually chosen words. Barack Obama knows exactly what it means to say he is a “Progressive,” and he actually understands the subtle nuances of the American left. This is a man who moved to Chicago to be part of the political moment that began with the 1983 election of leftie Congressman Harold Washington as the city’s first African American mayor, who studied the organizing techniques of Saul “Rules for Radicals” Alinsky, who worked with proudly radical labor leaders to defend basic industries and avert layoffs, who used his Harvard-educated legal skills to fight for expanded voting rights, who was mentored by civil libertarian legislator and federal judge Abner Mikva, who discussed the intricacies of Middle East policy with Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, and who learned about single-payer health care from his old friend and neighbor Dr. Quentin Young, the longtime coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. And, famously, Obama did not just make anti-war sounds before Iraq was invaded, he appeared at an anti-war rally in downtown Chicago with a “War Is Not an Option” sign waving at his side.
Barack Obama ran for the Illinois state senate as a candidate endorsed by the New Party, the labor-left movement of the mid-1990s that declared “the social, economic, and political progress of the United States requires a democratic revolution in America-the return of power to the people.” In those days, he was blunt about his desire to move the Democratic Party off the cautious center where Bill Clinton had wedged it. When he positioned himself for a 2004 U.S. Senate run, Obama said that he saw Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold-the lone dissenter against the Patriot Act-as the best role model in the chamber.
I celebrated Obama’s election as a victory for what the late Paul Wellstone described as “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” But knowing the ideals and values of the left is not the same as practicing them. As a Senator, Obama did not take Feingold as a role model. In fact, they differed on essential constitutional, trade, and Presidential accountability issues, with Obama consistently taking more cautiously Centrist positions. One of Obama’s first votes in the Senate was to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. Dr. Young wrote to his friend. “I told him I was disappointed in him,” the veteran campaigner for peace and social and economic justice recalled. “Rice was the embodiment of everything that was wrong with this Administration. So, he called me back and he said: ‘Why didn’t you pick up the phone and call me? Do you think Bush would ever send to the Senate a nominee for Secretary of State who I could vote for? I said: ‘You are the constitutional lawyer. It’s about advice and consent, right? You should have denied him your consent.’ ”
The lesson that should be taken away from the Rice vote, and from the disappointments that have followed it, ought not be that Obama is a hopeless case. In fact, quite the opposite. In that conversation with Young, Senator Obama outlined the relationship that the left ought to develop with President Obama.
Obama was nominated and elected in 2008 by Independents and by Progressives, both younger tech-savvy activists who made his candidacy an early favorite of the blogosphere and old-school liberal precinct walkers like me. The Senator won the Democratic nomination because he was the only first-tier contender who could say that he had opposed authorizing Bush to take the country to war with Iraq. In the Iowa caucuses that would define the 2008 race, those anti-war credentials, above all other factors, made the young Senator from Illinois a contender.
Similarly, as he campaigned in key states such as Wisconsin, Obama’s call for a new approach to free trade agreements and for massive infrastructure investments allowed him to secure backing from labor and liberal farm activists at critical stages in the process. The Progressives who committed to Obama early on were the essential foot soldiers of his long march through the caucuses, the primaries, and the fall campaign. These activists formed a base within the campaign and the Democratic Party, centered on –but not limited to –the Obama team’s open website and blog, www.MyBarackObama.com, which did not always cheerlead for the candidate. In June, when Obama broke with Feingold and other Senate Progressives to support Bush’s rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Senator felt enough heat from his own and independent netroots sites that he was compelled to explain himself, making what Obama described as a “firm pledge” that he would revisit the issue as President to shore up privacy protections.
What Internet activists such as OpenLeft.com’s Matt Stoller did during the FISA fight was roughly equivalent to what Obama told Dr. Young to do back in 2005: “Pick up the phone and call me.” Netroots activists made themselves heard and earned a response from then-candidate Obama. And they can do much more with respect to President Obama. The netroots can get the public engaged, but instead, they have made the public demoralized. Instead of providing suggestions, they have only complained. They have been reactive and not proactive.
One way to influence Obama and his Administration is to speak– not so much to him– as to America. Progressives need to get out ahead of the President. Highlight the right appointees and the right responses to deal with the challenges that matter most. Advance big ideas and organize on their behalf; identify allies in federal agencies, especially in Congress, and work with them to dial up the pressure for progress. I am not seeing much of that at all—but I am seeing a daily barrage of criticism. I am not seeing any discussion of what has been accomplished or what we specifically want accomplished. Indeed, we could take a lesson from rightwing pressure groups in their dealings with Republican administrations and recognize that it is always better to build the bandwagon than to jump on board one that is crafted with the tools of compromise. Don’t just critique, but rather propose.
Sixty activists from The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Progressive Democrats of America and allied groups met one week after Election Day at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington with Michigan Congressman John Conyers, an early Obama backer and the chief House proponent of real reform, to forge a Single-Payer Healthcare Alliance and plot specific strategies for influencing the new Administration and Congress.
The point wasn’t to teach Obama about single-payer. Seven years ago, he told the Illinois AFLCIO: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody . . . a singlepayer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”
Since then, Democrats have taken back the House, the Senate, and the White House, but perhaps in name only. We have learned since the election that too many who call themselves Democrats are only Democrats on some issues. Single-payer was never on the table, and in retrospect, I can see why not. The President’s statements, his strategies, and his appointments evidence a caution born of the political and structural pressures faced by every President. Whether the previous, more progressive Obama still exists remains to be seen. I still believe it does. But the only way to determine if Obama really is the Progressive he claimed in 2008 to be is to push not just Obama, but the public and the media. I am frustrated every day when I watch the political pundits –and not only those on the Right—claim that the public is opposed to Health Care Reform. Why do they think Obama won? It was the central item of his agenda!
The often quoted example of Franklin Roosevelt is still good to remember. After his election in 1932, FDR met with Sidney Hillman and other labor leaders, many of them active Socialists with whom he had worked over the past decade or more. Hillman and his allies arrived with plans they wanted the new President to implement. Roosevelt told them: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”
It is reasonable for Progressives to assume that Barack Obama agrees with them on many fundamental issues. He has said as much. It is equally reasonable for Progressives to assume that Barack Obama wants to do the right thing. But it is necessary for Progressives to understand that, as with Roosevelt, they will have to make Obama do it.
I have never worked so hard as a citizen to get what I voted for. That’s fine; this is the new reality. I can’t say how much difference the involvement of Progressive activists has made, because it is impossible to prove a negative. Where would we be if we’d never emailed and called our representatives? I believe HCR would have died last August. I believe there might not be a second stimulus. I think financial reforms would be forgotten–as well as a host of other mopping chores we still need to accomplish. Congress is cowardly and lazy, and if Progressives don’t push, be certain the Right will win. To paraphrase Roy Scheider’s character in the movie Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger mop.”
Grabamop! That’s me!
Commissioner Gordon turned on the Grabamop signal on the roof and it worked!
Nice to see you!
Hey great to see your moniker again. I hope you are doing well. 😀
We all need to get our backs into it.
How did this thread get flipped upside down?
How’d you do that???
There’s some web site where you can download that. People do it on HP all the time, but the mods have told me they’re banning people who do it.
Thanks, Pepe. Not that I give a good godamm about using it on Puff Ho. But I do like to play with text!
Word press didn’t publish it as written, but it is a generator that flips the text upside down or reverses it…
Just do a search for :upside down text”… 😀
I think I was the first to read this yesterday. I never said great piece, although I gave it a thumb’s up. I was caught up in our exchange about Snow, Bo, San Diego, and OH-IO… it’s all about me! 😳
Boomer, you are a peach!
Excellent article, Cher. You write so well.
That scene included gratuitous smoking, IMO.
Hey, Pepe–thanks for the video! I was hoping I got the quote right. And actually, as I replayed it, I didn’t! He says, You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Thanks for your kind words too!
That reminds me. I want to do a piece about the unholy alliance between the tobacco companies and Hollywood studios. Fascinating stuff.
You mean when they have a character who smokes, it’s like product placement? I’d really like to read about that!
Yeah. Product placement. Incredible story. People should have gone to prison for it.
Will Obama ever get the recognition ??
When was it ever set up right? or right enough
Obama is not only here to fix what went wrong
but Obama is here to fix what was never set up right in the first place.
Cher, what I like best about this article is the point you make about citizens leading the agenda. Obama told us again and again that his election was not the change — it was the CHANCE for change. He told us that real change would be our responsibility. And as soon as he was inaugurated, many people forgot that part of his message.
We are all too satisfied to go to the polls every two to four years and then sit back and let things happen, rather than driving the agenda. I especially like this:
I’ve seen the change in some too. Frankly Markos’ response about Kucinich shocked me a bit by how tough he was on his promise not to vote for HCR.
There still are plenty of holdouts though. I knew quite a while back Obama does not respond well to people shouting at him. He just tunes them out even if they are taking the right position. There’s a difference between passion and raw emotion.
I have to admit I respond very negatively to raw emotion because sometimes I just write people’s message off because they are being emotional even though sometimes they are correct.
The only good part I can see is he’s not like Bush who loved making his opposition shout more loudly.
I’ve definitely noticed the change in tone from the MSNBC hosts–at least the ones at night. I wonder what made them shift. Maybe some emails? Or maybe they woke up and realized they were playing into the hands of the Right.
I’ve been sending emails everywhere — tv, radio, print — including that long list of accomplishments, and telling people that the constant bashing only discourages everyone, drives them away from the polls, and keeps them from getting engaged. Not the way to get the agenda passed. I think a lot of people have been doing the same thing.
I think that’s a big part of it as well. I’ve seen many bloggers like us who have left places like Huffy. I think some have started new blogs and some have written letters or done both like you. I focus my mailing on Congress and the White House but I should probably starting hitting the media too.
I have to admit I just stopped watching pundit news months ago. I’ll probably start watching before the midterms but I needed the mental health break badly.
Nellie, as I remarked to KQ below, I see a big change in tone too.
About getting ahead of the curve, I really hope some of the wonkier bloggers and opinion-makers are up to the job. It’s difficult work, it takes thought! This is really an opportunity for the best and the brightest to show their chops.
And I am very pleased you found it inspiring! Before I send it elsewhere– which I hadn’t considered before– I need to really pare it down though! It’s too long for most places and as you know, that is something I am still struggling with. But I think I am getting there.
imo, it’s not too long, it’s just perfect.
Getting out ahead of the curve in terms of issues is not so hard. We know what the agenda is — we just have to start supporting it — explaining the benefits and advocating for the vote — before the media can get its hands on it.
The tough part, it seems to me, is how to do that. How do we get a soundbite like “death panels” into the public discourse when it’s not corporation-friendly?
This may sound silly, but you mentioned “death panels.”
One of the things we need to pay more attention to is our language. I first noticed how important that was when the Right coined the term ‘pro life.’
The Right seems good at that newspeak: “death tax” instead of estate tax (and let’s face it, who has an ‘estate?’, for example.
And many people think the term single payer would have made for an easier sell if it had been termed “medicare for all.”
But your main point is well-taken– we should be out there articulating the positive reasons– as ad people call the benefits– to people of Obama’s agenda– before the Right and the MSM misinterpret them to their advantage. I think the the media is above all, lazy, even more than they are corporatist. If we give them the talking points, thy will likely use those memes. Maybe.
It’s not silly at all. It’s one of the most important things progressive think tanks should be doing — framing the discussion. Language is so important, and the corporate folks are experts. They have the marketing experience, the money, the research. They know what they’re doing. And they’ve left We the People in the dust as far as messaging is concerned.
That was another potential project I thought PPOV could think about — sound bite development.
What an excellent post, Cher. Not only do you provide a really well-presented history of Obama’s rise to the presidency, but your critique is both shrewd and matter-of-fact. Your sentences are elegant too. Wow.
Obama has turned out to be less liberal than I anticipated. I think that because he is such a cool guy (as in hip-cool, not cool customer), I assumed he was more radical than he is. I wouldn’t mind him being more radical, but I don’t think the country could sustain it. I don’t like the voice of the rightwing, but I acknowledge their right to have a voice.
I am a believer in checks and balances and that concept as it used to exist is currently broken because of the right’s visceral fear of Obama. However, I believe Obama believes in checks and balances as well, and drums them up on his own. If he doesn’t get it from his advisers, he gets it from himself.
And you are right about the mop. I’m sure congress thinks that most Americans don’t give a damn. I happen to think so too. We really don’t even deserve our democracy. But those of us who are following must make sure our reps know that we are. They must know they are being watched and that we care or they will naturally tend to act in their own interests instead of ours. It’s human nature.
E’cat– those are outstanding comments! I agree with them and I sometimes feel that Americans take Democracy for granted. We have to learn how to be more involved without being belligerent.
I read a comment from one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers and his response.
I think it is apropos to your excellent post.
I have to agree the last thing this country needed was another ideologue to make things even worse. Even though Obama has not acted like an ideologue at all the right and left side have both ratcheted up the nonsense. If he contributed it would be total mayhem.
The fact is if he can still pull out HCR, Obama will be far ahead of Lincoln. Many times I’ve described this period in our history as the Cold Civil War and above all is doing more harm to the country than anyone else. The difference this time around is this time while I think progressives have the moral high ground the results are far more in doubt.
KQ– Thank you! And “Cold Civil War” nails it. I am also really thinking hard about your assertion that this country, at this time, cannot handle radical–although, IMO, much needed change. I think you really may be correct, given that the first AA President is enough to scare the hell out of a good portion of Americans! I am leaning a bit more towards your view.
Great job Cher! I think this delineated Obama’s private views and pragmatic realities.
I’m with WTS, read the whole thing, but what is there to add?
Except, that I didn’t know about Obama and the late Edward Said or with Khalidi. I still find it interesting how a president such as Obama can be simultaneously decried as just like Bush on Israel/Palestine and an anti-Zionist… I think the peace process is much like HCR in that respect.
Khirad, I mentioned Said and Khialidi because I think the fact that he discussed the ME with them speaks to his intellectual honesty. I don’t know if other US Presidents speak to out-of-the-beltway thinkers and ME experts–I would bet anything Bush (neither of them)did. I am not sure what you mean about the ME being like HCR, unless you mean emotional and highly politicized. 🙂
Great post and maybe that is what we all need to do, “make him do it”. Not by critizing policy but by offering solutions, by making our voices heard. Get out in front of CBS, NBC, Rassmussen, CNN polls and prove that a cross-section of 1000 peope do not speak for the whole of America. Polls are good for pundits to debate their merits, but I fail to see how polling 1000 people can determine the mood and wants of the entire nation. No one ever reviews the questions asked, were they skewed to get a certain result? I think most are. Polls are good for elections because how many ways can you ask who a person will vote for but in the case of legislation as sweeping as this, polls do not mean alot to me unless I know what and how the questions were asked.
The call/fax promotion was a good thing. Calling your reps and letting them know how you feel is always a good thing. Look what happened with TARP. They ultimately voted for the banks, but the American public let them know what is is like to have their servers crash. That can be more effective than protests here and there where alot of people cannot participate.
Sue, great point about polls- how they are fine for elections (yes/no)and binary thinking, but definitely suspect with complex issues!
Spot on analysis Cher. I always sum it up this way President Obama has the vision of a progressive but is pragmatic in practice. By nature he will not demonize the other side like many progressives wanted. No he’s not George Bush with progressive policies but I knew he wasn’t and probably would not have voted for him in the primaries if that’s the man I saw. I think a president needs to represent most of Americans interests but sometimes it’s a heavy lift because reading America is more complex because of our hyperpartisan nature lately. HCR is a great example most people want it in principle but when the people see the messy process of building legislation and coalitions to pass that legislation they hesitate.
Great article, Cher!
Thanks, What’s! Appreciate you reading it. 🙂
I wish I had an insightful comment to offer, but sadly I don’t. Every point you make I agree with, particularly the sentiment that we need to get out in front of the president, create the momentum that pretty much forces his administration to act on behalf of the people and not the entrenched and selfish interests and groups.
What’s, sincerely, I say there is no reason to feel badly! You bring up something, though, that I too have felt. Many times I read an article and have no substantive comment to make, and feel negligent. But that’s really not the case. And you know, you actually helped me to see that just now. I can’t speak for all posters, but as for me, the very fact that you read it, and took the time to tell me you like it is all I could ask.
I usually give a top ten star even if I can’t think of an appropriate response since you’ve said it all and said it very well.
Thanks, Javaz. I sometimes forget to do that and give myself a head-slap and go back to give it a thumbs-up!
Yeah, with blogging there is the feeling that it’s not enough to just say, “great stuff”; we feel a subtle obligation to keep the conversation going, which we can’t do when we read a book or newspaper article, or watch tv. So simple words of praise seem like a dud, somehow, at least to me (and you, it seems).
But, as posters, we do appreciate the praise. It’s gratifying to see our work inspire a lot of comments that take it further, but it’s also nice just to get the ol’ thumbs up.
(and the stars are nice too!)
Rainbows. I think I’d like some rainbows too. 😉
Nellie, I was hoping you would like this piece and I thought of you as I wrote it, remembering our several discussions. In truth I have moved closer to your position about Obama. I haven’t read my older posts since I wrote them, but I think I have evolved somewhat about Obama. I am truly gratified that you really liked it!
Cher, this is probably my favorite of the articles you’ve written.
As you know, we disagree as to where Mr. Obama is on the political scale. After working w the Greens in Los Angeles, it’s really hard for me to see him as a progressive based on his political stance. He may call himself progressive, but to me he is squarely in the center — not the center that America has moved so far to the right, but the real center of the political spectrum as measured by the full range of political ideology.
And I think that’s fine. I wish he were more of an environmentalist, stronger on renewable energy, stronger on the kind of education reform that I support rather than another accountability nut. But his heart is in the right place. He wants to make people’s lives better. And that’s all I really ask from any politician. That and a willingness to hear people express what THEY know is right for them.
And this is where your article is most powerful. We have not come out strongly enough in expressing what WE think is right for us. We’ve left everything up to congress — a group of know-it-alls who are only too happy to tell everyone what’s best for them. We can take a lesson from the Tea Party in that regard. Letters, postcards, emails, phone calls… AND public appearances.
I have more to say about this piece, which I will add later.
What people call progressive is very dependent on their background and interpretation. Being progressive to me is moving forward. The three main pillars of the president’s agenda are quite progressive HCR, energy independence and education reform which are all huge efforts to move forward. Other policies like national security and matters of law and order fall in the right and left categories to me. I’m left leaning but was never a huge liberal even though I have always been for progress. Some people think you need to be liberal and progressive to be called progressive but I just disagree the two are the same. Frankly based on this country’s history we will never be very liberal but I think you can convince people to always want to strive for progress.
Whether a policy is progressive or not also has to do with the way it is implemented. It’s not enough to say “energy independence” if that means “clean coal” and nuclear. It’s not enough to say health care reform and leave us with the senate bill as the final answer.
Progressive is as much the How as the What.
That’s your definition of progress not mine and you have a right to define it the way you want.
You know what I think of the ideological pass or fail definition of progress and it’s rigidity. The reality is, the Senate bill is some progress, the reconciliation bill is a little more, the house bill is a little more than that and virtual single payer is the most. I look it as how much in the end and the what is highly subjective.
I agree with your definition more with energy but there is a technological barrier to energy independence as well. Everyone wants completely green energy even many Republicans. But the technology is not there yet by a long shot. From the stimulus on there has been huge increases energy in renewable technology funding under Obama. Now the perfect from the left is killing the push for more spending with the climate and energy bill because all of a sudden a once progressive concept like cap and trade is not perfect enough. So now we have to deal with the technology we have.
It’s hardly like we are building off of previous progress especially off of HC and energy independence, we are far far behind. You’ve got to take those first steps no matter how far from perfect they would be now or you just continue to fall behind.
K, I’m sorry but there is such a thing as the Progressive Movement. It’s a historical movement with principles and an agenda. This isn’t my made up definition. This is based on political history.
And whether you think I’m being too purist or not frankly doesn’t relate to the basic founding principles of the movement.
Disagreeing with this president is not a crime. You will be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter than I am. But where he’s centrist, he’s centrist. That’s just the political fact of it.
OK I am obviously not part of your movement. I never said I was part of the progressive movement. I defined what I see as progress. I think labels are silly anyway because people should be individuals. It’s not about you disagreeing with the president at all. It’s about us disagreeing with what progress is and I already know we disagree on some issues like energy and education. I just don’t see where your definition of progressive has a chance of spreading in this country if it’s so rigid.
You’re reading a lot into my comments that just isn’t there. You said I was using my own definition. I wasn’t. So I responded to that point.
And where did you get the notion that I was saying my definition of progressive is going to spread in this country? I never brought up such a thing. Although I have to say, most of the tenets of the Progressive Movement are popular and many are taken for granted now where they were not when originally proposed.
What in my comments merits the term “rigid?” What’s rigid about anything I’ve said — other than you disagree with something that I’m saying. How are you any less rigid than I am in that case?
I’m sensing anger with anyone who questions the health care bill in any way, so I’m going to leave this exchange with this — I’ve always supported passing the senate bill, but I don’t say that to mollify in any way. Only to clarify. I really don’t know where this response is coming from. I cannot seem to have any kind of discussion on this board lately.
nellie you are defining the progressive movement. I’m defining what I believe progress is. I’m sorry if it sounds rigid and more ideological to my liking but it just does. Obviously I don’t qualify as being progressive because of some of my stances on issues and willingness to accept small progress. No big deal to me at all.
I wrote in a post a while ago that the only definable thing I could be called is a blue collar Democrat because Dems accept you even if you disagree on some issues.
Believe me I only support what in my heart I think will make people’s live’s better too even if it’s not enough progress for you in some ways.
Why did this conversation become personal? That’s what I don’t understand. “Not enough change for you.” “I’m not a part of your movement.” “My definition of progressive..” I don’t know where this comes from.
But I would suggest taking a look at this link:
Ideas and Movements, 19th century
The hostility is what I don’t understand. And what i’m trying to avoid here. Without much success, apparently.
I also don’t understand what’s nutty about holding teachers accountable like we do in other professions. Just because it’s more difficult to measure teacher performance doesn’t mean we should not want better teachers.
I think the point is that the accountability nuts I’ve heard (and you may correct me), know the least about education; or, are Bill Bennetts and others who would just as soon privatize the whole education system.
I would agree. And bad teachers should find other work, but it is really hard and can be really capricious in determining who is a bad teacher (minus having sex with your students, and such, of course).
Nothing wrong with accountability, but the nuts are like Tort reform nuts. Whole different agenda often, with little intention to actually improve education. However; yes, there are others interested in real reform.
Well nellie said “another accountability nut” in a post about Obama so if she was talking about the Bennett I would agree but it’s not.
The point is it takes money to make teachers more accountable and strive to be better. Obama gives teachers incentive to perform better with his new program while people like Bennett don’t want to pay teachers and then wants them to be accountable. To put them in the same boat is the criticism I have.
I do believe in accountability — but having worked in the field of education and evaluation for many years, I’m skeptical about the current wave of accountability strategies.
We only fix what we can measure — and we don’t measure the right things. What I’ve seen from Obama doesn’t convince me that he’s measuring things any differently from those who have come before him.
I use the phrase “accountability nut” because testing is the first thing on the agenda for these people. For me, the first thing on the agenda should be breakfast at all schools
Exactly, there’s more important things. That’s why I made the reference to the Tort Reform fetishists.
I only know about this stuff growing up with educators, but they would consistently come home rolling their eyes at “specialists” and administrators high up, who had their own pet theories, but little experience.
While I think it’s a nice idea, the ‘accountability’ measures I often see unintentionally punish those who don’t deserve it, or don’t account for things such as neighborhood or, let’s say, English as a first language ratio.
Yes yes yes. Schools that don’t perform are punished rather than supported. Like the school in RI where all the teachers have been fired. Perhaps they deserve to be fired, but I’m guessing the situation is more complicated.
Measurement is a tricky field. Few people do it well. We’re just now getting reasonable measures of poverty, thanks to some “groundbreaking” (I would call it common sense) work being done by economists.
People get an “accountability” jones and begin to omit a lot of important information because it’s too inconvenient to measure.
I was thinking of that, nellie.
I heard there was a French teacher, who only failed like two students at the RI school. But, they said, too bad! The people want blood!
nellie I have to agree, the school system here is built and scheduled around “testing for dollars”… It drives parents crazy!!! The kids really don’t seem to learn much unless you can get them into advanced studies…
There seems to be little concern for the kids as much as there is for getting Govt. Bucks…
Thank God for GATE.
Obviously the word “accountability” is a sticking point and I realize people use it like a weapon. I have no problem rewarding success because it works. I have no problem punishing the worst cases because schools that can’t educate students does a huge damage to society.
But the point is how to correct failing schools. And testing doesn’t help us do that. Yet testing is what the accountability movement relies on.
It’s not enough to say failing schools do damage. We need to determine why schools fail and address those problems.
Oh my lord, and the tests are then sometimes faked at admin because the costs of testing bad have become that high.
In Washington, the WASL was quite controversial.
See that’s the problem you think when I say accountability I just mean testing and far from it. I would like to see more in class evaluations of teachers not just based on test results. A big problem evaluating teachers compared to other professions is there results are literally second hand and they don’t have anyone to actually see how they themselves are performing.
The other part is there are schools and districts so bad that they are not salvageable with the people they have. We have one district near the Atlanta area like that.
Well, teacher evaluations are often just a show. If a teacher has a bad day or unless they are completely incompetent or unless video cameras are monitored to study performance, I dunno.
If there is a solution, I’m all for it. Forgive my natural skepticism towards such measures. I can be kneejerk about these things seeing them from the standpoint of a teacher’s perspective. It’s bred into me. I’m not trying to caricature anything here. I just bristle easy, knowing that good teachers often come under fire unfairly too. 🙂
By and large one of the most unappreciated and criticized professions.