Those of us who find Teacher Work Days a relatively recent phenomenon, if not an oxymoronic one, can get a bird’s eye view of what they sometimes consist of from an inside account of an educational conference held late last year. Mary Grabar, who teaches at two colleges in Atlanta, delivered her report on the National Council of Social Studies conference on the website of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
“There, 3200 teachers were continuing their studies in pedagogy, gaining continuing and graduate credit to bump them into higher salaries,” Grabar wrote. “Most worked for public schools, so taxpayers footed the bill: the $267 registration fee, plus membership dues, travel and lodging, and the hiring of substitute teachers.”
The sessions Grabar attended included:
- “Hooray for Heroes, in which famed educator Dennis Denenberg demonstrated how to use puppets in the high school classroom to promote certain ‘heroes,’ most notably Eleanor Roosevelt;
- “Teaching Like a Native, where teachers were enjoined to shed their ‘Eurocentric’ ways of thinking for the more associative (and apparently illogical) modes that Native American children favor;
- “Muslim Perspectives Through Film and Dialogue: Understanding, Empathy, Civic Discourse, where Barbara Petzen, who is employed by the Middle East Policy Council, showed and offered teachers the film Allah Made Me Funny, which disparages Christianity and offers Islam as a hip and tolerant alternative;
- “Count Me IN! Census and Economic Sustainability, in which, as the title suggests, one needs to be counted in order to get funding from the federal government. A Census Bureau employee and former teacher encouraged teachers to stress to students, especially those who have non-English-speaking (and perhaps undocumented) parents, that all information on the forms is confidential;
- “Fulfilling Democracy for All Americans’ featured District of Columbia Senator Michael Brown’s pitch to teachers to recruit children to advocate on behalf of DC statehood as a civil rights issue;
- “Yes We Can! Students Making a Difference Through Service Learning’ offered insufferable children lecturing adult teachers on what is wrong with the world and how they would change it in the future. Their ‘service learning’ projects were preludes for their plans to end war, hunger, planetary ecological destruction, injustice, etc.
- “Exploring the Human Rights of Illegal Immigrant Students and Communities, involved the use of the adult-themed polemic Enrique’s Journey in a middle school. The workshop presenter, Los Angeles teacher Martha Infante, shared hand-outs and student projects that revealed the emotional manipulation of children and discussion of adult topics like illegal drug use and domestic violence.”
Grabar has taught at Clayton State University, Emory and Georgia Perimeter College. Brown is a “shadow” U. S. senator who collects no salary and casts no vote in the upper chamber because he represents the nation’s capital which does not have the status of a state.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.