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Monday, Dec. 11
The Indiana Daily Student

Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz should honor Tony Bennett’s vision but not his practices

Wisely, Indiana law prohibits teachers from striking.

Had it not, the state might have seen large protests in the face of the most revolutionary school reformer in the country, Tony Bennett.

Unlike the barbarians in Chicago’s public school system, Indiana’s schoolteachers peacefully used the political system to get their way, for which they should be applauded.

Their grassroots campaign, which effectively used social media and word of mouth, saw Glenda Ritz unseat Bennett.

Because she must work with Governor-elect Mike Pence, a vocal supporter of Bennett’s, and the new GOP super majority in both houses, Ritz will likely have trouble enacting many of her policy initiatives.

The trouble that Ritz could face is good for Indiana’s students.

Ritz campaigned as a hardline education traditionalist.

She rejects the expanding voucher system, Bennett’s harsh school grading scale, takeover of failing schools by a for-profit company, national Common Core standards Indiana adopted and lower standards for teacher licensing, among other things.

Essentially, Ritz won on the promise of helping entrenched public school teachers and administrators maintain power.

She capitalized on the feeling among public school teachers of being suffocated by Bennett.

They feel that Bennett and other market-driven reformers unfairly blame them for educational failures within the education system, and that they are being unfairly held accountable for factors outside of their control.

A strong educational system, they understand, depends on strong communities and, especially, strong families.

The best students have the best upbringings.

It is widely noted that children who grow up in the poorest neighborhoods receive the worst education.

Teachers are only one component of the educational system.

Why, then, does it seem reformers like Bennett blame teachers for the failure of parents and communities?

I would suggest that it is because the public school system is the only thing they can immediately control.

A legislature cannot simply transform a culture that outsources parental responsibility to the government or one that has accepted the destruction of the family unit.

Bennett cannot change a culture that melts down when a presidential candidate vows to cut funding to PBS, as if “Sesame Street” is the only way their children will learn manners and the alphabet.

He cannot change a culture that does not encourage young mothers to marry their child’s father despite the fact that fatherless students are twice as likely to drop out of high school, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

He cannot change a culture that views excessive welfare as charitable despite the fact that it discourages responsibility.

The realities that have led to the malaise within the educational system have been decades in the making and will take decades to undo.

We should applaud Bennett for tackling educational reform rather than resigning himself to the futility of it.

Bennett’s heart was in the right place, and that is something Ritz should keep in mind.
Perhaps some details of his plan were flawed, but that surely doesn’t call for a rejection of his vision, one in which every parent has the opportunity to send his child to the school of his choice, where effective teachers are rewarded and failing schools are flipped by educational experts who provide excellent services in response to the profit motive.

It surely doesn’t call for an educational plan that makes disadvantaged students secondary to the desires of teachers.

Hopefully, Ritz will advocate to eliminate faulty details like the excessive testing and Common Core standards rather than annihilate a revolutionary market-based education that seeks to control only what it can — the teachers.


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