Back in the day (pre-NCLB days), the verbal portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test contained a section known as analogies. The questions posed two words that were related somehow and asked the exam-taker to look at a third word and supply a word according to the same logic as the first pair.
In these days of Florida education, it seems the lawyers are playing the same game. Last year, the General Counsel for the City of Jacksonville issued an infamous legal opinion in which he asserted that the meaning of the word “shall” sometimes is “may.”
In the issue at hand, the Duval County School Board passed a resolution to place a referendum on a November 2019 ballot asking the voters to approve a one-half cent sales tax for the purpose of repairing and rebuilding schools.
Accordingly, they asked the City Council as the legal authority over elections to place the referendum on a ballot. It should have been routine as Florida law says that the Council ‘shall’ do so once asked.
Not so fast, said Jason Gabriel (GC for the city). Sometimes, ‘shall’ means ‘may.’ The Council is not obligated to do so.
SHALL : MAY :: APPROVED LEAVE : ?
Now comes the warning from the Florida Department of Education legal counsel, Matthew Mears, sent to the teachers of Polk County, that they are conducting an illegal work stoppage a/k/a strike by taking personal leave that was approved by their district and going to Tallahassee to participate in the teachers’ rally Monday, January 13.
Shall means may and approved leave means a strike. 1984 and doublespeak have reached the world of education and the authorities are proclaiming that words do not mean what we know them to mean, what the dictionary says that they mean.
Why is this happening?
It is an instance of the new American feudalism, where democracy and the will of the people are swept aside for an oligarchy of the rich and powerful. In the aftermath, the servants of the government, scurrying for favor, drop their obligations to the public and their profession (!) to do the will of their lord.
There is no other way to interpret this move other than as an attempt to intimidate teachers. Yet Mears overreached with this one and had to issue a clarification that the Department of Education does not employ teachers and therefore does not have the ability to fire them.
But with that clarification he issued the usual whine that if schools have to close due to teacher action, the children suffer. Bad, bad teachers!
It makes one wonder how he passed his Bar exam. Who is harming children exactly?
Those who provide care for them everyday or those who deny them the means to do so?
Those who buy school supplies from their personal wealth or those who refuse to fund schools as they reward themselves with tax cuts to enhance their personal wealth?
Those who want an equitable education for all children or those who see education as a means of plundering the public treasury for private profits?
Those who understand the developmental needs of children, not only intellectual, but physically, spiritually, morally, and emotionally, or those who think that four-year olds should take reading and math tests?
(Not making that one up, there is a proposed bill this year …)
Teachers are coming to Tallahassee. They are not evil, they are not self-serving, nor do they take action to protect their self-interests. They are coming because they have had enough. It takes a lot to get them to leave their classrooms.
As Pop-Eye would say: I’ve had enough and I can’t stand no more.
Teachers have had enough of the disrespect, the impoverishment, the callous dismissal of their professionalism, the abuse inflicted via standardized testing, and the lies Tallahassee politicians tell to support the same. We are coming.