A PUBLICATION OF THE PLAINVIEW-OLD BETHPAGE CONGRESS OF TEACHERS
Volume XXXV, No. 9 Jan. 7, 1997
By Morty Rosenfeld
There is probably no proposed educational reform in which more blind faith has been invested (to say nothing of money) than the massive infusion of electronic technologies into our nation's schools. Somehow, through some process that never is clearly defined, the instructional use of computers and other technologies is to remedy the ills that beset our schools.
Before going further with this discussion, I need to inform the reader that I am neither a technophobe nor some 20th century Luddite. I love the new electronic technologies and use many of them regularly to make my work easier.
But what are these new electronic tools going to do to improve the knowledge and skills of the students we teach? As importantly, are there unintended consequences to the introduction of these wonder tools?
To be sure there is some marginal utility to having computers available to our students. Word processing has revolutionized the process of writing a paper. Students who have access to this technology are much more likely to revise their papers. But, at the same time, I am troubled by the magical thinking of some who appear to claim that there is something inherently superior to a paper written on a computer. The computer, I insist, adds nothing to the intellectual content of a paper.
For these reformists, students don't write papers anymore. They "do presentations" or create portfolios both in hard copy and electronic form. Little by little, the importance of content recedes and presentation graphics and other pirated project decorations advance in significance. It's not what your work says that is important; it's what it looks like. And, as the libraries of clip art and Internet resources get better and better, as they surely will, I believe we know that our students' work will look "marvelous."
What of the social implications of the drift to the teacher as facilitator rather than instructor. More and more our students are not in classes but in rooms with "learning centers" which will increasingly rely on the computer to make our students into independent learners. One of our administrators recently asked a teacher of very young children, "Why don't you ask your children what they want to learn."
Surely most of us who have been at this work for any time have noticed the palpable decline in the ability of our students to work as a group or class. Attention spans for the spoken and written word have shrunk to a frighteningly low level. Is the antidote to this epidemic classrooms in which students are glued to computer screens? Is this the way we will train them to participate in civil discourse? What sort of public will these young people become?
Perhaps the truly revolutionary idea is that the function of a public school is to train citizens to participate in a democratic society. A classroom in which students are increasingly isolated by technology is hardly the place to do this training.
403B CHANGES DUE
Members are reminded that January 15, 1997 is the deadline for any changes to 403B accounts (tax sheltered annuities).
Any changes a member makes in the amount of money deducted from salary will take effect February 1, 1997.
February 1st is also the date that we receive an additional 1 percent raise. Some may wish to consider placing the amount of this raise in their 403B accounts. In this way they can increase their savings for retirement without experiencing any reduction in take-home pay.
PCT WEB PAGE LAUNCHED
As of January 1st, the PCT now has a site on the World Wide Web. Although major portions of it are still under construction, the beginning of our site can be reached at the following URL:
We are hoping to build a site appealing to both members and the community. If you know of an outstanding link that you think would be of interest to our membership or the public, please let the PCT Office know. Drop us an e-mail from our web page.
TENURE: A PILLAR OF QUALITY EDUCATION
by John Norman
With this column, the PCT is initiating a fairly regular column in defense of tenure rights. It is a column necessitated by the increasingly frequent and powerful attacks on tenure, one of the pillars of good education around the world.
There are numerous hidden agendas behind the attacks on teacher tenure, and there are various groups leading the attacks. Some are tax pac groups who know that without tenure, teachers on the high end of the salary schedule can more easily be replaced by cheaper, inexperienced, and less educated teachers. Some are right-wing groups that want to destroy our unions and our bargaining rights. They know that union leaders without tenure will be among the first targets to be fired. Some are political or religious zealots who want teachers to promote their political or religious ideas, and would find excuses to fire teachers without tenure who did not toe their line.
Some are small groups of disaffected parents who would fire untenured teachers because those teachers were "too strict" with their children or did not give them high enough grades.
Whatever the hidden agenda, the attackers almost always falsely describe tenure in three ways:
- That the purpose of tenure is to give lifetime employment to teachers, even incompetent ones.
NOT TRUE! Tenure laws specifically provide for the firing of such teachers.
- That too powerful teacher unions are protecting incompetent teachers. NOT TRUE! In fact, teacher unions protect all teachers' rights to a fair hearing, but sometimes even help to get rid of patently incompetent teachers.
- That to improve education, tenure must be abolished. Again, NOT TRUE! This turns history on its head, because tenure was created many centuries ago to protect good teaching from those who had agendas other than good education.
In addition, attempts to abolish tenure are also misleading as mere modifications of tenure, as in "five year renewable tenure." That's not tenure at all. It's a contract, renewable at the sole discretion of the boss, who can then fire you at the end of the contract, just like a non-tenured teacher.
Teachers themselves, as well as the general public, need to know what tenure is (and is not,) and why it is the pillar of quality education. We don't think anyone has a complete knowledge of why tenure is so important, because different situations arise daily, in varying circumstances, that would have very negative outcomes if tenure did not exist. For the close to 350 current teachers in Plainview-Old Bethpage, there are probably a thousand stories about how tenure played a significant role in being able to do a good job.
Watch succeeding Pledge articles for some of these stories.
The PCT Office has recently received a number of phone calls from members seeking guidance on the use of Personal Days. These calls suggested to us that a review of our contract in regard to these days is in order.
Our contract provides that members of both the Teacher and Clerical Units receive two (2) Personal Days per year. If these days are not used, they accrue as sick days.
Personal Days are provided for personal business that cannot be transacted before or after regular school hours. Examples are attendance at the funeral of someone who is not a relative, financial transactions that cannot be completed after school or enrolling your child in school.
Normally, Personal Days are applied for in advance using a form available in each building's main office. The form is sent to the Superintendent's Office. No reason need be given for a Personal Day unless it occurs on a Monday or Friday or immediately before or after a holiday. Unexpected events sometimes make it impossible to notify the Superintendent in advance. In such cases, the form should be submitted immediately upon your return.
Nassau TRACT Teachers Center recently awarded twenty-eight mini-grants for the 1996-1997 year. The "big" winners of the maximum amount of $1,000 for a single grant were Plainview Kennedy teachers Donna Jahn and Michael Malkush. Their grant is to produce a half hour video and printed cookbook demonstrating food preparation techniques used in industry. We are looking forward to tasting as well as viewing their finished product.