WHAT COMES FIRST, UNITY OR JUSTICE?

“Upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.”
Alexander the Great

 

I tell you, I could go a long time without another week like last week. Unfortunately, early indicators are that more of the same with increased peril lies ahead.

This morning I scrolled through my Twitter feed with a deepening horror, recoiling from visages of last week and reactions from both sides. What finally stopped me dead in my tracks was the following tweet, “Unity comes after there are accountability and justice.” Words that chilled me to my bone and also filled me with great sadness.

I’m not going to give the Tweet attribution to anyone, because I want the focus to be on the words and not on the author. Suffice it to say, the source ain’t your crazy uncle who lives in your basement. But rather someone I have a deep respect for, which makes it more alarming.

The words serve as a revelation of priorities. Priorities are established based on individual interpretation.  How is accountability defined? When is justice satisfied?

Wikipedia offers this definition for justice,

Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes “deserving” being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspectives, including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness.

It goes on to offer several interpretations,

Consequently, the application of justice differs in every culture. Early theories of justice were set out by the Ancient Greek philosophers Plato in his work The Republic, and Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics. Throughout history various theories have been established. Advocates of divine command theory have said that justice issues from God. In the 1600s, philosophers such as John Locke said that justice derives from natural law. Social contract theory said that justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone. In the 1800s, utilitarian philosophers such as John Stuart Mill said that justice is based on the best outcomes for the greatest number of people. Theories of distributive justice study what is to be distributed, between whom they are to be distributed, and what is the proper distribution. Egalitarians have said that justice can only exist within the coordinates of equality. John Rawls used a social contracttheory to say that justice, and especially distributive justice, is a form of fairness. Robert Nozick and others said that property rights, also within the realm of distributive justice and natural law, maximizes the overall wealth of an economic system. Theories of retributive justice say that wrongdoing should be punished to insure justice. The closely related restorative justice (also sometimes called “reparative justice”) is an approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders.

So which justice is being evoked here, and who gets to decide? What if my definition is different? Am I excluded? In the broadest sense, if I don’t accept society’s interpretation, I am excluded. Whether it’s incarcerated or exiled or such, my membership is revoked. In that sense, we do it regularly with minimal impact. But what about when it’s 70 million people? Or even 50 million people? Then what? Who decides the degree of involvement and the attached level of accountability?

Do you have to actively break a law, or is just the association and thought enough? Is there an actual legal trial, or is it just a trial by public opinion?

Those may seem like ridiculous questions to ask, but between the events of the summer and events from the last couple of months, it’s pretty clear that the United States has two very distinct entities that believe in different definitions of justice. Pretty safe to assume that they also have different views on accountability as well. So how do you rectify the two without tearing the whole apart? That’s the question we should be asking ourselves. That’s the question that should be superseded, what do we do about Donald Trump. But we can’t seem to separate ourselves from our need obliterate our enemies and reaffirm our moral superiority. And in the end, it’s is going to be the downfall of us all.

I find it particularly interesting that many of the proponents of “accountability” and “justice” are the very same people that have been preaching “restorative justice” for years. Presented with a prime opportunity to demonstrate the power of restorative practice, they instead retreat into the familiar Old Testament model of discipline, one that includes the smiting of our enemies.

There is a reason thousands of people made the trip to Washington DC last week. There is a reason why over 7 million people voted for Trump. There is a reason why thousands took to the street over the summer. It’d be convenient if the sole cause was racism, but it’s never that easy or simple. Going deeper only means finding a deeper solution. Isn’t that the root of restorative justice? Discovering the cause for the behavior and addressing it instead of the action?

Growing up we are often told of the benefits of taking the high road, being the better man – or woman. But as adults, we quickly lose sight of that virtue. Quickly reverting to our default position of wanting others to do the hard work.

Last week my children were in one of their many fights. Afterward, I pulled aside my daughter, the eldest, and said, “Cut your brother a break. There’s a reason your brother is acting the way he is, figure it out and work through it together.”

“Dada”, she responded, “Why does it always have to be me? Why can’t he figure me out and work with me? Why do I always have to be the one.”

“Because you can. Because you know what to do and you can. And ultimately so does he. You just have to figure out how to work together.” I then usually throw in a scare tactic along the lines of I’ll soon be dead, and you two need to depend on each other…but that’s for another day.

The point is, somebody needs to be a better person. Somebody else’s poor behavior should not provide us an excuse to give in to our worst angels. What’s that saying about getting in the mud and wrestling with pigs?

What happened last week is horrific and those who engaged in illegal acts need to be punished. Nobody is suggesting otherwise. They just need to be punished through the courts, and not through the kangaroo court of social media. Accountability must be delivered in a manner that does more than sate our need for retribution. It needs to serve as a method of healing as well as one of vengeance.

What has transpired on Twitter over the past weekend is akin to the forming of an Old West posse. Like those led by Wyatt Earp, internet posses are leaping to identify those suspected of committing a crime, doing so in a manner that not only sets them up as sheriff but as judge and jury as well. Convicting not only the accused but also any suspected associates, no matter how tenuous the connection.

Kid Rock is now listed as a primary ring leader of the insurrection solely because he’s intolerable to the Left and he hired the accused “zip tie guy” at some point in the past year. The implications being that Rock only hires domestic terrorists and uses his establishment as a training ground for them. Hmmm…he doesn’t own a pizza place, does he? Seems I’ve heard something about pizzerias.

Anyways, making these leaps of logic doesn’t exactly facilitate finding solutions. If this tone persists, I’d be hesitant to have a cup of coffee with a stranger, lest a photo of us together emerge in the aftermath of them doing something stupid.

Twitter and Facebook have taken away the President’s access, something I did on a personal level over a year ago. Other tech companies have collaborated to remove Parler from their platforms. These actions were widely applauded, though there have been some raised objections in the name of free speech. And yes, a private company has the right to exclude any customer it chooses.

But consider this for a moment, what if telecommunication companies start removing access to people who they feel act inappropriately? What if cable companies do the same? What would be the impact on society? In the wake of Amazon dumping Parler, would it now be acceptable for Comcast to dump Fox, or another carrier to dump CNN? These are questions we need to be asking ourselves before we rush off to take actions that satisfy our current blood lust, but could prove detrimental in the future.

You can stand for “truth” and “facts” all you want, the reality is we all view the world through a preferred narrative. I learned that lesson the hard way during the tenure of MNPS’s recently departed director Shawn Joseph. Being not so young, but still naive, I thought if you collected facts and presented them in a clear cut manner, people would act on them. Didn’t quite go down like that.

Even today, despite overwhelming evidence of performance shortcomings, there are those who believe his failure can be solely attributed to his race. People I have a great deal of affection and respect for, still cling to that narrative. To effectively work with them, I have to try and understand why they feel that way. Simply dismissing their views is not an option, doing so dooms us to continued dissonance.

I would argue that without unity, accountability, and justice translate to punishment and vengeance. Neither of which leads to unity. And the lack of unity is a far greater threat than any of the actions of one Donald J Trump. If we alter our behavior in a manner that negatively impacts our unity, we let the terrorists win.

One of my favorite journalists, Matt Tiabbi has a new piece out now about the role of the media in the events of last week. Even though his piece is directed at the media, it provides warning for all of us. Especially his closing lines,

What we’ve been watching for four years, and what we saw explode last week, is a paradox: a political and informational system that profits from division and conflict, and uses a factory-style process to stimulate it, but professes shock and horror when real conflict happens. It’s time to admit this is a failed system. You can’t sell hatred and seriously expect it to end.

We can not forget that, you can not sell hatred and seriously expect it to end.

MAP TESTING

Hopefully, all you parents are out there sharpening your pencils in anticipation of the MAP testing window opening this week. MAP is an intuitive test designed to measure student growth administered 3 times a year.

The district likes to say that it’s not a high stakes test, but don’t be fooled. The district uses it for admission to magnet schools – though not this year – and as a screener. Furthermore don’t believe for a second that teachers are not being informally evaluated based on their MAP scores. Let your students underperform on a MAP test and see how fast you get a counseling session. Teachers can also choose MAP as 15% of their TEAMs evaluation. Sounds pretty high stakes to me.

Back in August, despite warnings by parents and teachers, MNPS attempted to administer MAP despite students being remote. The results proved to be predictable.

First off, despite the best efforts of MNPS, many students refused to take the test. The window was widened, and principals were reduced to everything but hiding in the bushes and leaping out at students, in order to increase participation. The efforts were for naught, and participation rates were decidedly less than desired.

In the younger grades, parents often provided assistance – if not outright completion of the test – to their children. This led to a skewering of results, and district administrators admission that the most reliable indicators of student knowledge available were those delivered by classroom teachers. The whole process was an exercise in futility.

Well, here we go again. Over the next several weeks, MNPS will once again try to administer the MAP test. In doing so, it appears that all the same elements that led to August’s failure will again be in place – students are remote, parental participation, lack of recognized importance. In all likely hood, the results will also be similar – frustrated teachers and students, lack of participation, and unreliable results. Once again we will disrupt classrooms in order to administer a test with limited validity. But hey, at least we tested right? Gotta have some accountability.

DOES ANYBODY EVEN WANT THE JOB

ChalkbeatTN reports that the Tennessee Department of Education has once again delayed the hiring of the first statewide school turn around superintendent.

“While we had a strong candidate pool, we will not be filling this position at this time due to budget and other uncertainties,” said Victoria Robinson, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education.

Despite being enrolled in so-called “priority schools”, teachers, students, and families will have to wait around until August for the department to relaunch its search for a leader, for the third time. Maybe they should change the name to “whenever-we-get-around-to-it” schools, or “don’t call us we’ll call you schools”.

Apparently, the TDOE wants a little more clarity from legislators before proceeding forward. The cornerstone of the state’s approach to priority schools – the Achievement School District – has been under fire for years. With many calling for it to be dissolved. TDOE want’s to see if this year is the year the death blow comes, and then it’s summertime and who wants to conduct interviews between trips to the beach?

“We are entering new budget and legislative sessions, and we need to have a clearer understanding of the budgetary or legislative impacts,” Robinson said. “This is a big decision. We want to get this right.”

All the current members of the Achievement School District are scheduled to exit come 2025 – 2025. How that happens is still a work in progress. So I guess there is no need for a sense of urgency.

The turnaround superintendent job is not the only one the department is having a hard time filling. They’ve had to list the senior director of early childhood literacy several times as well.

QUICK HITS

The Tennessee General Assembly will gavel in tomorrow. While most of this week will be spent on the procedural process, education will take the center stage come the 19th. That’s when the Governor’s called special session will take place. The focus for the special session will be on accountability and countering supposed learning loss. The governor is also supposed to pursue a new literacy bill, one that nobody has seen as of yet. It is a bill that is reportedly independent of the DOE’s recently announced Reading360 initiative. Keep in mind though that an RFP associated with the aforementioned initiative list the following elements as being a reason for ineligibility for the $8.9 million contract.

All course materials shall be grounded in scientific research and adult learning theory, use multiple modes of learning, meet ADA compliance requirements, and provide clear connections to the cognitive science that grounds sounds-first approaches to developing Foundational Reading Skills. No materials and Instructional Approaches shall incorporate MSV (Cueing), Leveled Literacy practices, or workshop approaches.

Pretty safe bet that the proposed literacy bill won’t be in support of a balanced literacy approach. You’ll see it as soon as we see it.

MNPS’s COVID -19 tracker is beginning it’s a predictable uptick. Today it is at 8.7 out of 10. Due to being over 7, MNPS students are scheduled to remain virtual until at least MLK Day – Monday of next week. The hope is that students. teachers and families will get some indication of when school buildings will reopen at tomorrow’s scheduled board meeting. A look at the agenda fails to offer any clues as to what to expect, though there is an executive meeting scheduled for 2:30. So we shall see. Hopefully, at some point, a discussion around the Director’s evaluation will emerge. Board policy only calls for an evaluation at a time agreed to by the board and the director, but since in 2 years, none has been done…

Its relationship with the Tennessee Department of Education continues to be a financially rewarding one for PBS. This morning it was announced that $1 million will be awarded to Tennessee’s six PBS stations- WNPT Nashville, East Tennessee PBS, WCTE Upper Cumberland, WKNO Memphis, West TN PBS, and Chattanooga WTCI- for their partnership to engage families and support quality education for students across the state.

MNEA is circulating a petition to ban teacher evaluations for the 2020/2021 school year. Seeing as teachers are providing instruction in an unprecedented manner, it seems like a no-brainer. I encourage you to sign.

POLL RESULTS

The time now to look at results from the weekend polls. Question number 1 asked your opinion of the recently announced state literacy initiative Reading360. 32% said, “here we go again”, while 28% of you saw it as a boon for preferred vendors. Only 3% of you saw the value in it. Here are the write-in answers,

  • Doesn’t 360 just mean going in circles?
  • Wait and see
  • What exactly is it?
  • But we don’t have money to pay actual teachers.

Question 2 asked, if you would sign up for Ready4K. in a dead heat at 32% was, “No, I get enough text messages and, “I don’t see the point”. 12% were confused about why a California company was needed to provide parental guidance to Tennessee families. Here are the write-ins,

  • Free laptops and now an HDTV?
  • NO

The last question asked if you support 3rd-grade retention policies. This one surprised me as results were split down the middle between yes and no. I didn’t see that one coming. Here are the write-in results,

  • This is just so they can get bigger for football.
  • Depends on student need
  • I support retention in k and 1st.
  • change the standards. they’re arbitrary

If you’ve got time and are looking for a smile, check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we work to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do and without you, I would have been forced to quit long ago. It is truly appreciated and keeps the bill collectors happy. Now more than ever your continued support is vital.

If you are interested, I’m now sharing posts via email through Substack. This is a new foray for me and an effort to increase coverage. ‘ll be offering free and paid subscriptions. Paid subscriptions will receive additional materials as they become available. We’ll see how it goes.

If you wish to join the rank of donors, you can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated, especially this time of year when my contracted work is a little slow. Not begging, just saying.

 

 



Categories: Education

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