Day 50 Thursday May 13, 2010: Changes

 

Today is Thursday, May 13, 2010, and Day 50 of my time left at the Mont. It is also my last Parent Conference Night, which my students and I call “The Impressive Child-Beating Ceremony” as an homage to “Catch-22.” I’m taking a few breaks from grading and watching them work collaboratively on their projects for what I feel is the most important unit of the year: the two World Wars, Totalitarian Ideologies and the Holocaust. Odd how the subject of inhumanity brings out humanity in many. Even the laziest kid reacts during this unit. Even the laziest kid begins to understand the evils of an a totalitarian regime. To quote a David Bowie song, “Changes,” (quoted in the opening of “The Breakfast Club”):

“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through.”


 

We’re all going through changes here. Even the District.  After all, the District plans for the New Fremont (even though we’re not supposed to use that phrase blah blah .. Hasn’t stopped them, though, eh?) which were the Powerpoint on-line at http://teachinla.com/makeadifference/fremont/new_fremont_sh.pps#347,1,Slide 1, have been sent out, with a letter from the principal, Mr. Rafael Balderas, and at last have been translated into Spanish, something which the District had failed to do when they were advertising for our jobs and a teacher just happened to stumble across it on line. I believe it is also the same Powerpoint Dr. George McKenna III told reporter Connie Llamas of the Daily News (I was there at the February press conference when the conversation took place), “I never made such a Powerpoint.” So there are changes.

 

Another change is that the Small Learning Communities or SLCs are not being destroyed, according to the mini-superintendent (that is what you call the superintendent of a mini-district, isn’t it?); rather, the New Fremont (again, mea culpa) is merely focusing upon the five SLCs that worked. Like cutting and pasting the Pathways mission statement verbatim? Like using the Humanitas name? Weren’t documents with this mission statement and that name filed at the District? As I recall, they can also be found on-line. Now, maybe the proposed Academy of Environmental and Social Justice will teach something on what plagiarism is. Or just good old-fashioned stealing, eh? Isn’t that what it is called when something is taken that doesn’t belong to you? “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”—unidentified US Army major…

 

How about lying? The letter which serves as the cover of the booklet mailed out to students is dated April 1, 2010. Is that just a bit of silliness or what? Why do I hear Nelson from “The Simpsons” going “Ha ha”? The silliness stems from the New Fremont’s own timeline, which stated the “student compacts, New Fremont HS academy description (trifolds)” would be mailed out the week of April 19th, with preferences due by May 15 (which is a Saturday—does anyone writing this dreck own a freakin’ calendar down there?) to the counseling offices, and programming of 10-12 grade students into selected academies occurring from May 15-30.

 

I guess the problem lies in that, aside from being told by at least one counselor that if you (meaning the student) are in Humanitas A, you will be in the Humanitas academy, administrated by Ms. Barker and counseled by Ms. Palomo, and if you are in P3, you will be in the Academy of Environmental and Social Justice, overseen by Mr. Balderas and Ms. Lua. If you are in other SLCs, that is probably where the choice comes from. I am curious why students are not allowed to choose from the SLCs on other tracks. Also, what happens to any 9Rs (and there doubtless will be some this year because of our lack of expertise in our chosen profession)? Will they be retained in the 9th Grade centers? What if they still don’t complete enough work to get their credits? Will they get promoted—or wished into the academic cornfield?

 

What is really sad about this—aside from the almost Biblical level of injustice and cynicism—is that the booklets, which have the District’s vague Powerpoint now translated but do not give further explanation, were received by student’s families LAST WEEK and that B-track’s deadline for choice—based upon descriptions so lacking in detail that if you received them from a student, you’d given a low grade—is Monday. So that month of choice that B-Track would have received is really a week. Why am I thinking about the “sense of urgency” here, the “sense of urgency” so necessary to get people to react blindly, like a mob looking for any leadership? Think about the lyrics to Mr. Bowie’s song.

 

So there are really big holes in this plan. And the Committee to Save Fremont did present some valid points and scored some hits at the Board meeting—even if the Chain of Command pretended to mess with papers and fiddle with cellphones as they sat near the front. If they truly are meeting with parents and the community, why are we able to collect 700 SIGNATURES? Why is their plan no different, even though we’ve been shooting holes in it for a couple of months—save that someone finally had the foresight to translate it? WHY HAVE THE PARENTS NOT BEEN ALLOWED TO HELP DECIDE HOW THEIR CHILDREN WILL BE EDUCATED?

 

I guess the next step will be for the District (meaning the folk in charge of this fiasco being born) will be to forge an alliance of “pet parents, pet students, and pet teachers” who will be told to cheer everything about the plan. (I think of a teacher who told Joel Vaca a couple of months ago, "I'm not saying anything now. I'll bet I'm going to be like you in five years." I doubt it.) That would make sense. If you attempt to deprive people of rights and information, you will have to substitute misinformation. As Benito Mussolini said, “The truth is that men are tired of liberty.” Those in charge of this seem to agree, which is why so little choice is offered. Why not? After all, there will be plenty of money available to hire consulting firms, to offer as incentive pay—if one really thought that way.

 

The problem with liars is they expect everybody else to be lying, too. To quote the episode “Free Willie,” in “Due South”: "You know, Ray, when I was a young man, my father told me one thing to always remember about thieves. Well, actually he told me two things, but I've forgotten the other one. Anyway, the important one is that despite the adage, you will rarely find honour among thieves."

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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