A few days ago, when commenting on the many moods of Maxfield Elementary Principal Zelma Wiley, I mentioned that not even a serial fabricator like Nick Coleman could reconcile her public statements about the failing/successful status of her school. Well, I was right, Nick Coleman hasn't yet tried to make it all fit together. (Though, I suspect he's isolated enough from the real world that he doesn't even realize a contradiction exists.)
I am amused to see someone else has given it a try. Flash, the blogger from a site called Centristy, jumps into the breach, attempting to clean up Coleman's work, as well as make excuses for Zelma Wiley's apparent confusion. Be aware, Flash is not only a blogger, he's also a public school teacher. Keep that in mind as you read his work. Excerpt:
Which brings us to the questions St. Paul asks over at Fraters:
So which is it? Either "we don't have enough books" or "all of our classrooms have the textbooks they need."Well, St. Paul, it's both, and yes it can be both. The innovative and dedicated staffs of the public school districts are doing the best they can with the limited resources that are available. Maxfield clearly had a shortage of adequate reading materials 'a couple of years ago', but due to a resourceful staff and compassionate neighbors, the stock on the shelves are growing. Is that good enough, I don't think so, but it is enough that they can get by. And is that what we want for our future, enough for them to 'get by'
If I'm reading Flash correctly, he's claiming that Nick Coleman's columns on Maxfield from the past few weeks are actually historical pieces. Coleman was detailing the decrepit state of that school from a 'couple of years ago,' conditions that don't exist any more. By Flash's own admission, resources are now "enough to get by." Remember, he's a public school teacher, so he's presumably an expert in these matters.
Let's recall, Coleman's quotes from those columns included such statements as: "This is how nuts we have become" and "YOUR SCHOOLS ARE BURNING." And Coleman includes a desperate call to raise taxes, here and now, in the present, to solve this problem. Maybe Flash will claim that those increased taxes will go to a museum exhibit showing how bad Maxfield used to be, before that "innovative and dedicated staff" at the school district finally kicked into gear. But I can't see how any intellectually honest person could read Coleman's columns, supported with Zelma Wiley's quotes, as anything other than his attempt to portray current conditions.
Perhaps we can all agree that Coleman's rhetoric was wildly hyperbolic, deceptive, and irresponsible. If Flash will stipulate to that, I'll let Wiley off the hook (for now) for her contradictory statements. It's entirely possible that Coleman manipulated her comments and positioned them grossly out of context.
Why would Coleman do such a thing? Because you generally can't motivate people to increase their own taxes, and return to double digit increases in education funding, without creating the impression of an EMERGENCY. And saying the truth, (the one stated by Flash - they're getting "enough to get by"), probably isn't sufficiently persuasive for that purpose. So Coleman did what he had to do, with Wiley providing all the tacit support she could.
I'm curious why Wiley (or Flash, for that matter, or any teachers at Maxfield) didn't write the Star Tribune attempting to correct Coleman's characterizations about the public school system.
Wiley did write the Pioneer Press, correcting Craig Westover. Yet Coleman and Westover start from an identical premise - Maxfield school doesn't have enough books and the students are suffering because of it. The only difference in their columns is identifying the cause of this problem. Coleman says blame the taxpayers. Westover says the school administrators need to be held accountable. And guess which one made Wiley squawk?
Notice, Wiley's corrections only concern the original characterization, that Maxfield doesn't have enough books and that it's a problem. A topic Coleman has devoted two columns to, including taking direct quotes from Wiley to support this exact contention. Where's the outrage from Zelma Wiley about that?
I think we all know the answer to that. There isn't any outrage from her about Coleman. As long as someone else is being blamed, the perception of a failing school system is just fine by her and the education system elite. But when someone expects those in charge to answer for their end product, we suddenly get a whole new attitude. Everything is fine, at least good enough to get by. And, according to Flash (a public school teacher), that new attitude is also the truth.
Truth, what a refreshing development from a government agency. And an object lesson in why accountability is a good thing.
My guess is that Zelma Wiley and teachers like Flash don't agree with that. They have a vested interest in the status quo. The system is their priority, not the performance of the students. Nick Coleman's dream of increased taxes for education spending will benefit the system and them personally. Therefore, they see no harm in letting Nick Coleman spread some lies, if it's all for the greater good (of their paychecks).
UPDATE: More on this from Mitch Berg.
UPDATE II The Elder Adds: I'm not a guy who knows "stuff" or a teacher, but I do believe that when you say, "We don't have enough books" you are speaking in what is commonly known as the present tense. She did not say, "We didn't have enough books", which would have been an accurate way of representing the shortage of books that occurred two years ago.