NewBlackMan: Education in Era of the McTeacher

Education in Era of the McTeacher

by Theresa Runstedtler and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach.” – Alabama state Senator Shadrack McGill (R)

Speaking at a prayer breakfast last month, state Senator Shadrack McGill (R) argued that increasing school teachers’ salaries would not only destroy the quality of public education in Alabama but it would be tantamount to blasphemy. (Of course, this position did not prevent him from advocating for a 67-percent pay increase for Alabama legislators.)

To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. And there are also some teachers, it wouldn’t matter how much you would pay them, they would still perform to the same capacity. If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children. So, everything has a balance.

Even though McGill’s theological grounding of the issue of teacher pay is laughable at best, his assertion exposes an underlying tension in current debates over education reform. Ironically, those who demonize teachers frequently deploy this tired mantra of selfless public service to rationalize low teacher salaries, even as they expect the same teachers to operate in an increasingly corporatized, “results-based” environment – without corporate-sized wages.

In other words, they want to have their cake and eat it too, and all on the backs of those who spend their days working in the classroom, often with paltry resources, little support, and the constant threat of punitive measures and public derision. And this pressure to push the rubric of privatization into public education is not just coming from the Right. The “progressive” movement for education reform has also jumped on the corporate bandwagon.

Indeed, the logic of consumerism now dominates the “enterprise” of American education from kindergarten to college. We have entered a phase defined by a client relationship, with teachers becoming akin to academic concierges or service representatives, rather than intellectual leaders and mentors. Schoolteachers and professors must provide information, guidance, and whatever else their student-customers’ desire. More and more we are told that we are in the business of content delivery and job training, rather than social analysis and critique. In “Putting the Customer First in College,” Louis Soares, the Director of the Postsecondary Education program at the Center for American Progress, even argues for the establishment of an “Office of Consumer Protection in Higher Education”:

Students make customer choices based on available information, interests, abilities and life circumstances that will mostly determine whether they succeed in obtaining an education with a meaningful credential. The problem is our higher education marketplace today does not account for this customer focus that is so important to success. In large measure, this is because education policies that guide this marketplace are largely crafted by the dominant voices in higher education—colleges and universities with the resources to sway elected officials. Students as customers have no voice in this policy conversation. (emphasis added)

Writing about the phenomenon of helicopter parents, Afshan Jafar links the rise of hovering moms and dads to the heightened consumerism in U.S. education. “This trend is clearly the manifestation of a consumerist mentality: I’m paying for this, so even though I am a sophomore, I should be able to take the course that is open to juniors and seniors,” writes the assistant professor of Sociology at Connecticut College. “Or: I’m paying for this, so this better be good (and “good” really means a good grade here). This consumerist mentality explains the sense of entitlement that we perceive in some of our students and their parents.” While often attributed to the increasing costs of higher education and the recent string of consumer-fraud class actions brought by students, this “retail” ethic runs much deeper. It reflects a substantive paradigm shift in the language, practice, and structure of American education.

With this emphasis on benchmarks, quantifiable results, and customer reviews, it is no surprise that attacks on teachers, whether at the university or public school level, have escalated in the past few years. Whether measured by standardized tests or student evaluations, teachers are now expected to produce immediately recognizable “results,” even as the funds dedicated to the classroom (as opposed to testing companies and college administrations) continue to shrink.

continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Education in Era of the McTeacher.

NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes



Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes

A Questionable Victory?

by Theresa Runstedtler and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

The ongoing efforts to control, manage, and demonize black athletes, especially black boxers, once again came to a head a few weeks ago when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. beat Victor Ortiz with a “controversial” knockout punch to win the world welterweight title.

The fight promised to be a battle of two diametrical opposites. The self-assured 34-year-old black tactician with a defensive strategy was set to take on an earnest, up-and-coming 24-year-old Latino with an iron chin and aggressive style. Mayweather’s scenes in the pre-fight HBO production of 24/7 – talking into a stack of money as if it were a phone, buying a new luxury car on a whim, and fighting with his father in front of a crowd of fans – were wildly colorful, sometimes surreal, sometimes stomach-turning, and entirely bombastic. But all the while, Mayweather kept training; he kept honing his craft and conditioning his body, even pulling his entourage out of bed (and out of the club) for 2:00 am workout sessions.

In the meantime, 24/7 fashioned Ortiz into a paragon of ascetic virtue. His scenes revolved around a triumphant and righteous tale of social uplift – the quintessential good immigrant story. He came from nothing. His parents abandoned him and he still managed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps to become a successful, but humble fighter. Unlike Mayweather with his large entourage and celebrity friends, Ortiz mostly kept to himself with his truck-driving trainer and loyal brother.

The first few rounds were tight with Mayweather grabbing the early lead. In the fourth round, in what was probably Ortiz’s most effective moments in the fight, the wheels came off his attempt to defeat Mayweather. Launching at Mayweather, Ortiz landed a vicious head butt, leading Referee Joe Cortez to step in to penalize Ortiz. After several apologies from Ortiz, a few hugs, a kiss or two, and the tapping of the gloves, the fight resumed; although it appears that Ortiz didn’t get the memo leaving him vulnerable to a classic Mayweather combo that ended as many have before: with his opponent on the ground. Replays clearly illustrate that Ortiz was not paying attention and not following the creed “to protect oneself at all time,” ending the fight in what was both one of the more climatic and anti-climatic moments in boxing history.

Before the fighters even exited the ring, commentators had already denied Mayweather the victory. Described as a “questionable” win, a “marginally legal” knockout, and as one that resulted from a “cheap shot” and a “sucker punch” the victory was not simply hallow but purportedly a window into Mayweather’s dubious character. “Like the Tyson ear biting incident of yesteryear, Floyd Mayweather proved to be dirty fighter this evening who hit a man when the action had not officially commenced by the referee,” noted Jet Fan on The Bleacher Report. “To a chorus of boos, Mayweather then imploded in a post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant as he questioned Merchant’s boxing resume and then proceeded to terminate the dialogue in a profanity laced tirade. To Merchant’s credit, he stood toe-to-toe with an obvious bully who seems to relish in antagonizing men twice his age, including his own father!” A commentary on The Statesmen encapsulates the demonization directed at Mayweather that used the fight to lament Floyd’s character, pathologies and otherwise undesirable traits:

Congratulations, Floyd Mayweather. You are now the most despised athlete on the planet, non-O.J. division. Mayweather is sullying his legacy as one of the greatest fighters of our generation. His latest classless missteps came last Saturday night with a one-two punch. First, he cold-cocked Victor Ortiz in the closing seconds of the fourth round of their welterweight championship fight while Ortiz was apologizing for an intentional head butt. Yes, what Ortiz did was idiotic — first the head butt and then letting his guard down while referee Joe Cortez had his back turned toward the fighters. But what Mayweather did — perfectly legit under strict interpretation of the rules — was a punk move. But he was just getting started. Mayweather then went after HBO analyst Larry Merchant in a post-fight interview, spewing profanities before Merchant grew tired of it and yelled, “I wish I was 50 years younger and I would kick your (butt).

Apparent from the media response was both a lack of respect and a dismissal of the specifics of what happened in the ring. Rather than simply comment on the fight, the media reasserted “common sense” understandings of black athletes, reiterating the narrative of Mayweather as an immature, greedy, and petulant child who represents everything that is wrong with modern professional sports culture. The media response in this regard reflects the longstanding project of constructing black athletes as “bad boys,” which in the end “works to reinforce efforts to tame their ‘out of control’ nature” (Ferber 2007, p. 20).

Continue reading at NewBlackMan: Floyd Mayweather and the Demonization of Black Athletes.