Well, I wasn’t planning on writing anything else today, but several people have shared with me an open letter to America written by some hard-right wing group of citizens who call themselves Purple for Parents. I’ve been sort of recruited to write my response to the predictable, Fox News playbook rhetoric they are sharing to warn everyone about the “evils” of the Red for Ed movement. Honestly, I’d prefer to ignore them, but it turns out that I do requests, who knew? So, against my better judgment, I’m going to crawl down into the muck with this group and address their concerns. I’m going to need a hot shower after I finish this, I feel icky already.
The Purple Parents (that’s what I’m calling them now) claim all sorts of nefarious origins of the Red for Ed moment, starting with the founder out in Arizona. They say he’s an outspoken Socialist who, along with the dastardly NEA, wants to turn all your children into card carrying Socialists. This is nothing new. This is the kind of drivel we’ve been hearing from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for many years. The “indoctrination of our youth” trope. It’s all just baseless and silly, but it plays well in conservative America and they ride it for all it’s worth.
First of all, let me just say that I know nothing about the origins of the Red for Ed movement or its founder. I don’t care about them, either. Whatever it started out as, it now has a very specific purpose that has united teachers all over the state of Indiana. If it was something different in Arizona, or anywhere else, I could not say, nor do I care. I know what it is here and I fully support it.
As for the indoctrination of Socialism nonsense; that I can speak to. Most of the time, when hard-right conservatives use the word Socialism, it is meant to scare the uneducated masses who have no real idea what it even means. They remember learning something about Socialism when they studied World War II and they associate the word with evil dictators and poverty. They know nothing of what Socialism really is and they are completely unaware of the fact that the United States could not possibly survive without Socialism. The really sweet irony in all of this business with the Purple Parents is the fact that they seem not to understand that public education IS Socialism and so are school choice vouchers. The military that hard-right conservatives value so much (rightfully so)–also Socialism. The police they defend so steadfastly (often rightly so)–also Socialism. The Firemen and all the other first responders we all owe our gratitude and respect–Socialism. The health insurance we debate so fiercely, Socialism, whether it’s private or public. The roads, bridges, public utilities, etc., on and on down the line–Socialism makes this nation run. It’s not a big scary word if you understand what it actually is.
If I teach my students what I just wrote in the last paragraph, I guess some would accuse me of indoctrinating them with my leftist, Socialist bias. If I teach my kids U.S. history from all perspectives, giving them the whole story and letting them make up their own minds what to make of it, that’s now called revisionist indoctrination. Encouraging students to question things and think critically is seen as anti-American. Anything short of outright Nationalism is now seen as indoctrination by the hard-right conservatives like these Purple Parents.
The Purple Parents suggest that if the teachers “want more money” they should be protesting to their school district superintendents and school boards because that’s who decides how much to pay us. That is just not a very informed opinion. School boards do have final approval of contracts, but there is a lot that is out of their hands. The state of Indiana has done more to hurt teacher pay than any school board could ever do. Rather than retype the same thing over and over, I’m going to quote my own article from a few days ago to fill out the details I’m referring to in the case of the state of Indiana:
“Veteran teachers, such as myself, began teaching in an era when teachers were paid under a graduated pay scale. Each year, from year one to year 20 or 25, a teacher knew exactly how much their pay would increase for each year of experience. These scales were set raises and were readjusted for each new contract. As a new teacher, I remember being encouraged to look up that graduated pay scale chart and see what I could expect to make in the years to come. Then, Indiana eliminated the graduated pay scales for teachers and created a system by which, in order to receive any rise in pay, a teacher had to be labeled as “qualified” or “highly qualified.” These specious labels have to be earned by meeting the minimum qualifications as laid out in a convoluted and complex formula tied to inequitable standardized tests. Teachers who’d been in the game for a while also felt the effects of this system, but not nearly as much as newer teachers. Older teachers’ pay rates were grandfathered in from the old graduated pay scale days, so our base salaries at the beginning of this new system were $20,000-$30,000 dollars per year higher than a starting teachers’. Frankly, our newer teachers have been completely screwed. That’s why so many are leaving and so few are taking their places.”
So, don’t let the Purple Parents scare you, folks. They are just puppets of the hard-right, anti-public education machine using economic terminology they don’t even understand to scare you. Nothing to see here. Wear your red proudly.
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