Submitted by Barbara who has a comment below the December 5th post.

His website is

“Fortunate Son”

Today is Sunday, December 05, 2010 and Day 160 PF. While doing laundry in the
laundry mat, I’d set my basket on the counter across from the driers I was
using, then sat in the SUV to watch the rain and the laundry spin (usually I’d
start pecking away at these missives—not today). I watched a woman and her five
kids come in, grab their laundry, move my basket aside and begin the folding
ceremony. I said nothing because I figured they’d be through in twenty minutes.
After all, they were using three times the area I would have.

Twenty minutes passed and I had to clear my throat and said, “That’s my basket.”
The woman smiled, handed it to me and said, “There’s an open spot over there.”
It was at the other end of the counter. She then looked shocked when I wasn’t
returning the smile, but she made a point of telling her kids to mind their
manners. But, instead of being able to fold my laundry in an area I’d staked out
right by the driers and interfere the least with other people, I was
inconvenienced, loading my now-dry laundry into a basket to wheel it to the
other end of the laundry mat, having to watch out for the puppy which relieved
itself on the floor.

And that is where we are in education today. No, Arne Duncan is not the puppy
(although he pretty much urinated on public education… or was that marking
territory?), nor is he one of the unruly children.

Secretary Arne Duncan would have us ”adjust to the “new normal,” to do with
less, but to accomplish more, to fix public education. Clearly, in his mind,
what is wrong with public education is that “we” are not doing enough. It is his
mission that “we” will stop slacking and put this country’s education in its
rightful place as first in the world.

“Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
Ooh, they’re red, white and blue.
And when the band plays “Hail To The Chief”,
Oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no senator’s son,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no fortunate one, no…”

We’re being asked to compete with private operators (charters), teacher-groups,
pseudo-teacher groups and the like, all these groups bidding like a bunch of
Ferengi on “Star Trek.” We are watching comprehensive high schools be smashed
apart and stripped for parts and students and watching the proliferation of the
educational version of strip malls. After all, strip malls are the epitome of
American business and the American Dream. Anybody can open a store someplace; of
course 75% of businesses fail within their first year. And in August we’ve
witnessed dozens of inexperienced companies with little or no experience
portraying themselves as school turnaround experts; one of those who had formed
such a consulting company, former New York schools chancellor Rudy Crew likened
this to the post Civil War era, when the South was flooded with “carpetbaggers
and charlatans.”

We learned in the aside in “Waiting For Superman” that only 17% of charters
schools perform better than similar public schools (of course we are told that
charter schools ARE public schools, but public schools deal with children with
special needs and English Language Learners and charters do not—they just use
public money); what would be truly interesting to learn would be, now that we
know that 17% perform better, how many of those schools fail in general, and
fail in their first year of operation. I’d like to also know why they fail?

”Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don’t they help themselves? Oh.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no fortunate one, no…”

Just recently, Secretary Arne Duncan played the role of the woman in the laundry
mat who told me to give up what I’d had and do more with less. He has told
teachers that they should embrace the changes in education, to get used to them.
What changes? Get used to the fact that we will have larger class sizes in
public schools. But aren’t we trying to improve the education our students are
receiving? How does increasing the class size help us to achieve that lofty

This is akin to the talk about lengthening the school year. Before, being in
California, what we regularly heard is how California is ranked 49th in the
nation in per capita spending on students, but our state’s economy ranks us as a
major nation. Now, with the media war on education, there is a constant drumbeat
of how the country is lagging behind, that we must remain competitive; as I
teach history, it sounds an awful lot like the excuses—pardon me, reasons—to
justify the race for colonies—pardon me, “We’re all Americans here” (to quote
from “The Wind and the Lion”) territories. I’ve heard comparisons with how many
days are in a school year in Germany and Japan and other countries, and that
they have “More! More! More!”

So while we talk about “More! More! More!” we shorten the school year, giving
our students fewer days. Yet we are expected to raise test scores. While the
Secretary speaks to reassure us that we should not be teaching to a test, we are
told about the joys of value added assessment and merit pay.

And kiss seniority goodbye. Newer is better? Maybe, but my sister, the M.D.,
says that operating a school like this is like operating a hospital with interns
and residents; you need the veterans. Newer is cheaper. Bottom line. The new
kids on the block will either put up with anything because they are thankful to
have a job—or will abandon the teaching profession.

”Yeah, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Oh, they only answer, More! More! More! yoh,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no military son, SON, NO
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no fortunate one, NO NO
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me,
I ain’t no fortunate son, son son son”

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One Response to Submitted by Barbara who has a comment below the December 5th post.

  1. Barbara says:

    Hi I just wanted to make it clear that this great post is not mine but my former colleague’s Chuck Olynyk who has been writing spot on blog posts for about a year now about Fremont and the reconstitution we went through. He has expanded his critique to include many other issues relating to education but especially the attacks on teachers. You can see his regular postings at
    and choose NEWS and scroll down a bit. He was the voice and the heart and soul for many teachers during reconstitution – as we were being degraded and dehumanized, he lifted us up- and still does. I feel so fortunate to have worked with this extraordinary colleague. I wish every teacher had a colleague like Chuck and like so many of the fabulous Fremont teachers I worked with. We were like a family, sometimes dysfunctional, ok, maybe always dysfunctional. Although we are scattered throughout the district our affection for each other and our students has never faltered.

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