Let’s Not “CRT” And “Groomer” SEL. Plus, What’s Old Is New On Sloppy Poll Trends? Fake Vax Cards, Northern Reads…More!

I’m in California for the BARR Center annual conference – first time in-person in a few years. BARR does – shhhhh – SEL work for teachers. Great results from independent evaluations. And they’re a client so all the usual disclosures and disclaimers. But, if you needed a reminder that our culture wars are dumb this is it. 700 teachers here and they are interested in helping kids learn a full panoply of skills to succeed in school and life, not in brainwashing them. This is not controversial stuff with parents or teachers. You hear nothing about any of the culture war stuff that animates the SEL debate on social media and in some communities.

That said, to the extent SEL is being used in some instances as a cover to smuggle political things into curriculum – and in some cases it is – the SEL community should stand up and call BS. Otherwise one more worthwhile thing will be steamrolled by culture war theatrics.

At 2:45PT/5:45ET this afternoon I’m doing a discussion with Kelly Pannek and Nicole Hensley from the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Both women won gold in 2018 and silver in 2022.  We’ll talk about teachers, mentors, coaches, and what they’ve learned on their path to the pinnacle of their sport. It’ll be available after the fact on video, too.

This from an interview I did with The 74 following the 2021 Virginia election:

I’m wondering what you make of the fact that Glenn Youngkin can win a blue state in part due to outrage about school governance even as activists in Idaho Falls can’t get rid of a few board members?

This is an important point. It doesn’t seem like there was a unidirectional wave around the country where it all went one way in board races. Parents are frustrated, people disagree, but in general, people don’t gamble with their schools. There is a real chance the Republicans will misread this and overreach.

From the overreach beat:

Republican lawmakers around the country are pushing an array of bills that limit the discussion of gay rights in schools under the auspices of parental rights, leading some party strategists to worry that the initiatives may backfire with moderate voters by making the party seem anti-gay.

Hateful and politically stupid is no way to go through life son.

You generally have a broad consensus in this country arounds greater inclusion for LGBT individuals. It’s why in relatively short order you had Lawrence, Obergefell, and Bostock (6-3!) at the Supreme Court. The modal voter is now broadly supportive of what used to be called gay rights. From where I sit that’s a very good thing. The issues we fight about, sports, bathrooms, are not trivial issues, but at the same time show how far we’ve come. And we’re talking about kids, and that creates some sympathy, too. So the Republicans are playing with fire if they extend and conflate efforts to restrict sex and gender education in the early grades and parental rights, which enjoys broad support, with things like not allowing gay teachers to acknowledge their families and eroding tolerance and acceptance more generally.

Rick Hess points out that politically the Democrats are struggling on education but the Republicans are not cleaning up. This may be in part why.

Eroding confidence in Democrats has not yet, however, translated into substantial Republican gains. When it comes to education, confidence in the GOP hovered between 32 and 40 percent in all but two years between 2003 and 2019, and it remains firmly planted in that same range now (though it has recovered from Trump-era lows).

When it comes to education, the share of voters rejecting both parties has jumped sharply in the past five years. A substantial chunk of voters (nearly one in five) currently expresses confidence in neither party.

On the other hand, a school could go full realist and adopt this Freddie deBoer passage as its DEI statement. (It would also make a fantastic wedding or graduation card):

I don’t mean to be a bummer here. But it’s important to point out that we’re born in terror, we exist for no reason, we experience confusion and shame as children, we busily prepare ourselves for lives we don’t want or can’t have, we are forced to take on the burdens of adult responsibility, we compromise relentlessly on what life we’ll pursue, we settle and settle and settle, we fear death and ponder our meaninglessness, we experience the horrors of aging, and when we die the only comfort we have is that we aren’t conscious to learn that there was never any heaven or God to give it all meaning. This is the inevitable reality of human life and it can never change. That condition has a way of spilling out into our quotidian day-to-day concerns of being desirable or important.

Here we go again. A few years ago I noticed something weird in the MetLife teacher survey and realized they were cooking the books by conflating two seemingly similar but actually different questions.

When asked about career satisfaction in 2009, 59 percent of teachers said they were “very satisfied.” The next time the satisfaction question was asked, in 2011 —  this time focused on about jobsatisfaction — only 44 percent said so. Perhaps things got bad; you can’t know. But in 1985 and 1986, the question was also changed — again from asking about career to asking about job. What happened? Those saying they were “very satisfied” fell 11 points. It’s reasonable to infer, both as a matter of survey methodology and also common sense, that the wording does matter.

In other words, asking about job satisfaction and career satisfaction are two different things. One is more temporal. You can’t build a trend if you conflate those questions.

The other day Robert Pondiscio wrote excitedly that this survey is being resurrected. But it appears the new survey, now by Education Week and Merrimack College is doing the same thing and conflating the job and career numbers to build a trend line.

On the most current data, what the new survey finds (online survey, usual caveats apply) is that 66% of teachers are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their job. Only 12% said “very satisfied” and only 15% “very unsatisfied.” Look, it’s a tough time for teachers. It’s a challenging job normally. The pandemic was not normally. And now many teachers are unwilling combatants in our stupid culture fights. So maybe 66% is actually pretty remarkable? And compared to some other fields it is. I don’t know, but we rarely talk about these numbers in context.

Now the bad faith reading of what I’m saying is that I’m somehow oblivious to the realities teachers face and the challenges today. That’s obviously not the point I’m making. But we can overstate the problems, God knows this field loves a crisis. So this is merely a plea to play the data straight and put it all in context. Things aren’t great, but also aren’t so bad!

We talked about NCTE’s novel position on reading the other day. Amber Northern does not want to decenter books!

If that weren’t enough, they make a feeble attempt to prove that “research evidence amply shows the need to move beyond the exclusive focus on traditional reading and writing competencies.” Where’s this evidence, you say? Well, they cite two studies—one of which is published in a journal about the “cultural politics of education” and takes place in England and Northern Ireland. It finds that “when students are empowered to critically examine popular culture texts in the classroom, the process can productively disrupt classroom hierarchies.” That hardly qualifies as a bounty of research justifying the “decentering” of traditional reading and writing.

Department of pandemic absurdity: The UFT and fake vax card teachers are squaring off against New York City.

The teachers union is planning to sue the NYC Department of Education after dozens of staffers were placed on unpaid leave for allegedly submitting fake vaccination cards.


One Reply to “Let’s Not “CRT” And “Groomer” SEL. Plus, What’s Old Is New On Sloppy Poll Trends? Fake Vax Cards, Northern Reads…More!”

  1. Andy, we are not cooking the books! As the principal investigator of the Merrimack Teacher Survey, I was very conscious to try and keep an apples-to-apples comparison with the MetLife surveys. You’re a 100% right that they changed (and changed back again) the language about job satisfaction. But if you look at their reports, they’re pretty up front about it. So…without further ado…here are the percentage of teachers who were “very satisfied” with their JOB: 2001: 52%; 2011: 44%; in our survey: 12%. No matter which way you slice it, that’s bad. I’m all for context, all for accuracy, but there’s no denying that it’s a lot uglier than 10 or 20 years ago.

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