Laura Clawson posted the following diary this evening for Daily Kos Labor:
When I first read it, I was stunned. I was seething, frankly. I come from a family of teachers-including my parents-and I see the sacrifices they make every day. The idea that their hard work would not be recognized by the administration is an outrage-or it would be, if it were true. But it isn't.
For starters, the diary begins with this statement:
May 7 to 11 is generally recognized as Teacher Appreciation Week, with May 8 specifically being Teacher Appreciation Day. Google it if you don't believe me. Shoot, even Michelle Rhee's anti-teacher organization StudentsFirst is recognizing that, albeit only to get people's contact information in a list-building exercise. So what does President Obama do? He declares it National Charter Schools Week.This seems to imply that Obama deliberately chose this week, and on his own volition designated it as National Charter Schools week. This is how I read it, at least, and judging from the comments I was not alone in that.
In fact, National Charter Schools week has been observed the first week of May for at least a decade-It was first designated by congress in 2001, and formally proclaimed for the first time by George W. Bush in 2002.
The diary goes on to raise some very legitimate points about the problems with charter schools-but then closes by saying this:
Asking America to celebrate this troubled experiment instead of the traditional celebration of teachers in all types of schools is an insult not only to all teachers but to students and parents at the vast majority of schools in the country.Implying, as does the title, that he is choosing to observe one over the other.
When you Google "Obama National Teacher Appreciation Week"-the first results are reposts of this story, but then immediately after you see this:
Then there is the official website for the U.S. Department of Education:
On a day set aside for National Teacher Appreciation Day, President Obama hosted 2011's National and State Teachers of the Year for a reception in the White House Rose Garden. The President thanked them for their service to America's youth, and shared the story of one of his favorite teachers.
But even after all this time, I still remember the special teachers that touched my life. And we all do. We remember the way they challenged us, the way they made us feel, how they pushed us, the encouragement that they gave us, the values that they taught us, the way they helped us to understand the world and analyze it and ask questions. They helped us become the people that we are today.In addition to honoring the teachers who had come to Washington, President Obama spoke of the need to continue recruiting the very best students and professionals to become teachers if we want to keep America competitive in the 21st century economy.
For me, one of those people was my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Hefty. When I walked into Ms. Hefty’s classroom for the first time, I was a new kid who had been living overseas for a few years, had a funny name nobody could pronounce. But she didn’t let me withdraw into myself. She helped me believe that I had something special to say. She made me feel special. She reinforced the sense of empathy and thoughtfulness that my mother and my grandparents had tried hard to instill in me -- and that’s a lesson that I still carry with me as President.
Ms. Hefty is no longer with us, but I often think about her and how much of a difference she made in my life. And everybody has got a story like that, about that teacher who made the extra effort to shape our lives in important ways.
And that’s why we’ve set a goal of preparing 100,000 new teachers in the field of science, technology, engineering, and math over the next decade -- fields that will give students the skills they need to compete with their peers anywhere in the world. And to help those teachers succeed, I’ve called on Congress to move quickly to fix No Child Left Behind in a way that makes it less punitive, more focused, more flexible. That means doing a better job of preparing teachers, doing a better job of measuring their success in the classroom, helping them improve in providing professional development, and then holding them accountable. Because if we truly believe in the importance of teachers, then we’ve got to help teachers become more effective.President Obama wasn't the only one in his Administration to give teachers their due recognition today. Dr. Jill Biden posted here on WhiteHouse.gov about her favorite teacher in high school, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent out a video message encouraging folks to participate in National Teacher Appreciation Day. You can tweet a message using the hashtag #thankateacher.
In the words of one of my favorite poets, William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Teachers here today, and thousands like them, are surrounded every day by young people who will shape our future. But it takes a special person to recognize that. It takes a special person to light that fire, to raise our children’s expectations for themselves, and never give up on them no matter how challenging it might be.
All of us are here because at some point somebody did that for us. And so today, we are honored to recognize these outstanding men and women and all the teachers like them who have always had –- and will continue to have -– such an important impact on our lives.
No less than 6 stories on the front page about National Teacher Appreciation Week. Stories about National Charter School Week? None. Zilch. Nada.
There is the Op-Ed Arnie Duncan wrote in the Huffington Post-honoring National Teacher Appreciation Week and calling for higher salaries.
There is the corny but sweet YouTube video: "My Favorite Teacher"
On that feed, I noticed there are Tweets about National Nurses Week, which is also observed the first week of May. Notice that there is no Presidential Proclamation made about that either. In fact, there are no Presidential Proclamations for any of the following National Observances:
National Drug & Alcohol Related Birth Defects WeekSo, why would a president choose to make a proclamation for National Charter Schools Week and not National Hug Week, National Raisin Week, or National Teacher Appreciation Week? It may have something to do with the fact that Congress Requires him to. (Correction-Formally requests for him to-at least as recently as 2010. Please see update)
National Anxiety & Depression Awareness Week
National Family Week
National Hospital Week
National Hug Holiday Week
National Pet Week
National Raisin Week
National Wildflower Week
And the significance of any of this? Nominal, at best. These are ceremonial window dressings-not policy. And certainly there is a debate to be had about how the Obama Administration has approached education policy. Debates like this are important for our party.
But to suggest that the Administration has snubbed teachers in favor of charter schools this week is simply wrong.
4:42 AM PT: It's been pointed out in the comments that the resolution I linked to only applied to 2002. I was able to find similar resolutions from 2009 and 2010 here:
I don't have the time to scour the internet to find a more recent version of this obscure resolution, but if anyone here is able to find one please leave it in the comments and I'll update.
It was also pointed out that the bill does not literally require him to make the proclamation, just requests that he do so. Noted. Original point still stands-it's procedural window dressing, and National Teachers Week has not been ignored by anyone in this administration.
UPDATE-Laura Clawson has responded in the comments and also updated her diary to reflect the history of the Proclamation. H/T to her for doing so. She also pointed out a mistake I made-the article I linked to initially was from 2011. Here is Obama honoring the Teacher of the Year for 2012:
Obama honors Burbank's Rebecca Mieliwocki as teacher of the year
This is the front page of the White House Website as of today:
As you can see there is an article on the front page about National Teacher Appreciation Week.
I am also stating again, for the record, that I respect Laura as a diarist and think she provides great coverage of labor issues-I just happened to disagree with her story. Please keep the comments civil and do not personally attack her.
My daughter is also home sick today so my apologies if I don't respond to comments immediately.
Just ran across this interesting article in Slate Magazine and thought it might clear up some of the confusion here:
How do official awareness months, weeks, or days come to be? Many of them date back decades, such as National Diabetes Month or Law Day, which President Eisenhower established as "a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law." To get your own, you simply have to ask. Requests usually go through the Office of the Public Liaison, and the proclamations themselves are written by the office of the staff secretary.