Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going to Bat for Poetry and Real Education Earns Me My First Twitter Block: I'm so proud

Dear Internet,

I love you.

Up until this morning I was a social media block virgin.

Well, at least this was the first time I cared whether I had access to a fellow Tweeter's timeline. I follow plenty of people, and am followed back, by many people and organizations whose politics and positions differ from mine, from Karl Rove to Dick Armey's Freedom Works.

A few days ago I fell over an astro-turf, supposedly pro-teacher association that says its primary goal is to increase pay for the superstars of teaching. The hedge fund manager founder of this group chose a sports allusion, as its URL and has minions posting emo education palliatives about the importance of great teachers.

Several things about the group's website, patter, and facebook page raised red flags. First, the logo bears a striking resemblance to the NBA and MLB.


Who is the audience for this look, who are they trying to sell on their ideas? What research are they using that says these images mean anything to teachers? I still have no idea, though I'm certain they mean nothing to this teacher. The perverse use of President Obama amongst the celebrities in the top post, a banal, meaningless bit of PR, on the group's website, raised my eyebrows. Is it designed to convince those of us who voted for President Obama that he somehow endorses this campaign? Though he may, there is no official sign that this group is aligned with any part of a White House plan for education.


 Then I watched a video of LPE founder Stephen Duneier.


Anyone who has followed the Crash of 2008 for more than 90 minutes can understand Duneier's coded language. It emanates from ALEC, Freedom Works, some branches of the Libertarian corner of the political labyrinth, and the Tea Party.

After a 10 minute google, I saw that Duneier is a hedge fund manager who worked for the London Diversified, then Peloton Partners, until the Crash, then jumped on the for-profit education wagon. His career path gives special meaning to LPE's subhead: Changing the Face of Education, One Million at a Time. Guessing that's his million, not teachers'.

So, then I decided to engage whomever was at the helm at LPE's Twitter page while asking other teachers for their takes.

Notice, the LPE tweep immediately suggests I am against "alternative" methods for improving education. I wrote that the profit motive fails the test of "alternative" method and this Twitter spox makes up a word in response, causing me and another teacher to engage in some mild ridicule.

Then last night, coincidentally, I see Chris Hayes on C-SPAN's BookTV discuss his new book, "Twilight of the Elites: America After the Meritocracy." Chris Hayes discussing his book on C-SPAN, where he discusses the etymology of the word "meritocracy" and the effect of our wrongheaded love affair with the concept and suggest the LPE Twitter spox read it.

Happy with the universe for providing me with such beautifully timed arguments, I headed over to Facebook, where I discovered the LPE geniuses had co-opted one of my favorite poets, Taylor Mali, and excerpted his famous poem "What Teachers Make" on their website. This clinched it.

That whomever is choosing material for this site failed to comprehend the profound irony of using Mali's poem supporting rigor in democratic education and the sacrifices teachers of all pay grade as reflecting LPE's "meritocratic" blather, demonstrated straight-up ignorance and avarice. I posted a comment under Mali's image and poem excerpt on LPE's FB page, and tweeted Mali about this use.

Mali thanked me within hours and the LPE minion scrubbed my thoroughly civil comment and blocked me from both FB and Twitter.

Guess I touched a nerve.

Postscript: Guess they need some people who know how Twitter works. I followed LPE with my teacher-y account, rather than my personal one and saw a Tweet go by addressed to me. I responded--thinking they had lifted my block.  Oy.