Can public school teachers be credible social activists?

Here’s the public Instagram feed of the teacher at a suburban Boston-area school (one of her thankless tasks is molding the 12-year-old mind of a friend’s daughter who previously caused mayhem with a feigned nut allergy). The feed is primarily for communicating with her students and their parents and many of the items are titled “Homework” and contain instructions such as “Just answer the Part 1 Questions! Please DO NOT do the figurative language on the back!”. Some non-homework material has made its way into the feed lately though…

(clumsily redacted in MSFT Paint for some privacy!)

This public servant, whose union has ensured her a total comp of well over $100,000 per year (salary, benefits, and pension), has apparently attended a “Teaching Social Activism Conference”. But with median hourly wage in Massachusetts down around $23 (was $22.81 in May 2017), or $46,000 per year on an annualized basis, can she credibly teach Social Activism? She and her union are directly acting to increase inequality by taking money from people who earn median wages to put it into the pockets of folks who earn above-median wages.

[The other parts of this feed are also interesting. The teacher exhorts her charges to “do something great for your community in honor of Dr. King”. Yet she teaches in a nearly all-white suburb thanks to the miracle of two-acre zoning minimums. African Americans are welcome as long as they can afford $1 million for a vacant lot and $30,000/year in property tax on a completed house.

There is an LGBTQ+ meeting on “Pink Days” in a 7th grade classroom sponsored by the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. Where does that leave 12-year-olds who want to gather around the topics of sexuality and gender but don’t identify as “LGBTQ+”? (maybe the “+” includes cisgender heterosexuals?)

Finally, the Instagram feed reveals that “Google Classroom” is heavily used. Americans will be Google users from cradle to grave? Will Google automatically flag K-12 heresy as a service to the young? An AI on a Google server will read one of the assigned essays on refugees and mark any passages in red that are not appropriately sympathetic and welcoming?]

2 thoughts on “Can public school teachers be credible social activists?

  1. Of course she could credibly teach social activism. Much, much wealthier people than teachers who are making $100k per year already do that. In fact, the more money and fame they have, the better, because they become opinion leaders. They’re not just credible, they’re incredible!

    Three questions at the end –
    Q1A) Yes. We’re already there.
    Q2A) No. It will do it as a service to the parent/parents/caregiver/caregivers and the teacher and administrators so they can discuss appropriate strategies for intervention and remediation.
    Q3A) That’s not far-fetched. I’ll bet a lot of teachers would love it. Gmail already parses and works its AI magic on your emails to provide “smart replies” for you. For example, someone sends an email about a graphic they’re working and asks: “How does this one look?” and Gmail will suggest replies like: “Great! That’s perfect!” I’m pretty sure it also maintains context within the overall discussion. So tweaking it to provide context-sensitive analysis of 7th grade essays on almost any subject, at least at the level of making suggestions, can’t be that far away. It’s probably already being tested. In fact I’ll bet it’s already being done.

    Smart Reply is OLD news by now:
    https://www.wired.com/2016/03/google-inbox-auto-answers-emails/

    For a while apparently, desktop users couldn’t turn it off!
    https://allindiaroundup.com/news/gmail-to-allow-turn-off-smart-reply-feature-for-desktop-users/

  2. Addendum: Furthermore, Generation Z wouldn’t be surprised by Google Classroom assisting their teacher in evaluating their essays. I think they are going to expect it and demand it for their children, not least because of this stat.:

    “Internet vs Education: A staggering 64% of Gen Z would rather have unlimited access to the Internet and no college degree than a college degree and no access to the Internet. This was a tracking question from the 2017 survey and it jumped 23% year over year (52%).”

    Well, if they have unlimited access to the internet and no college degree, someone or something is going to have to analyze and evaluate the work they produce to if they wish to claim any competency or receive any level of meaningful credentials. I think they’re going trust Google Classroom to do just that, in high school and before.

    From the survey just released by WPEngine / Business Wire (a Berkshire Hathaway Company):

    https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190129005920/en/Reality-Bytes-Annual-Generational-Study-Reveals-Gen

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