Bob Braun Feels “Betrayed” by NJEA’s Convention Program

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The former Star-Ledger columnist, who has successfully styled himself as New Jersey’s most passionate opponent of school reform efforts in urban areas, is aghast at NJEA’s program for its annual convention in early November.

Of the hundreds of workshops on offer for the convention, not one appeared to be aimed specifically at the special problems of urban and minority, or even poor, children. Yes, one on teaching ELL children–English-language learners. And there were workshops on school violence and “safe routes” home and even two on hip-hop music but, somehow, I don’t think they fit what I was looking for. 

You would think a program that makes room for seminars on yoga, mountain-climbing, playing the ukulele and teaching about the Leni Lenape Native Americans would be a little more sensitive to the urban nature of New Jersey.

The program looks pretty substantive to me (although, of course, NJEA should hold its Convention  during the summer or on a weekend, like almost every other state teacher union so that all N.J. schools aren’t cancelled for two days in November).. The charity of the year is the Lupus Foundation, a great choice. True, there’s a few, well, whimsical sessions (“participants will learn the basics of social dances such as the Charleston, vintage jazz, line dances, and Jersey Club in order to see the relationship of jazz to hip-hop dances”) but conventions are exhausting and everyone needs a break now and then.

Hey, Bob, you can’t have it both ways. One of your primary, if incorrect, talking points is that school choice in poor cities segregates children even more than N.J.’s traditional  intensely segregated school system. And here you are arguing for professional development that segregates urban pedagogy from general pedagogy.

The point of the NJEA Convention is, after all, professional development, not rabble-rousing against Cami Anderson, Gov. Christie, and charter school operators. That’s your job, not NJEA’s.

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