Rhode Island · School Talk

No Madame Representative, You Are the Bully

One of the most tired and ludicrous talking points in education is that people who aren’t teachers—or have never been teachers—don’t have standing to give opinions about teaching and learning. In the wake of the RICAS tsunami, Rhode Island Representative, Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, grabbed on tight to this absurd line of reasoning and decided to run with it on Twitter so that we could all see how little regard she has for the many non-educators who want to be part of the solution to our chronically underperforming schools.

But it gets worse. When a Republican colleague of hers, Brian Newberry, pushed back in a smart, respectful, and logical way, she took the very low road of accusing him of racism. She is Black. He is white.

Newberry is right. Not a single legislator is an expert on all the issues that come before them and that includes Representative Ranglin-Vassell. Is she seriously making the argument that she shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion or a share a thought on any issue other than K-12 education because of her lack of expertise?

Well, it turns out that she was done with any real conversation and had nothing else to say other than to name call and impugn the character and motive of her colleague.

I do not know either of these legislators personally. I have not ever met or spoken to either one of them. But I am dismayed and yes, appalled, by this exchange. Not only is Ranglin-Vassall defaulting to lazy accusations of bullying and racism that are nowhere to be found in Newberry’s response, but she is showing total and utter disregard for the parents whose children are mandated, by law, to send their children into Rhode Island’s classroom. Based on her words, she does not believe that any parent who is not also an educator, should be offering opinions on teaching and learning. Eric Palmieri, Political Director of the Libertarian Party of Rhode Island, weighed in on Twitter and hit the nail on the head.


So tell me again, who is the bully?

2/3 of Rhode Island children do not read at grade level but Moms and Dads should stay silent. Rhode Island ranks 46th out of 50 states in 8th grade math but any parents with mathematics backgrounds who aren’t teachers need to keep their mouths shut.

Rhode Island has the 3rd highest rate of teacher absenteeism rate in the country—does the Representative really think we parents should be quiet when our kids’ teachers—repeatedly—don’t show up to school? My oldest son’s kindergarten teacher missed 27 days—did the parents of the students in that class have no standing to opine on that?

Children with dyslexia are poorly served in Rhode Island, largely because teachers have not been trained in the science of reading and also because we have a shortage of teachers with the credential required to work with dyslexic students. You want to know who the experts on dyslexia are in Rhode Island and elsewhere? It’s the mothers of dyslexic children who have devoted their lives not only to helping their own children learn to read but who have worked tirelessly to get schools to change so that all children with dyslexia can get what they need and deserve as public school students. And most of them aren’t traditionally trained teachers—they are warriors and mama bears who saw a problem and did whatever it took to fix it. Most of them have logged far more hours than any teacher program in the state requires—but sure, let’s ignore them too.

Representative Ranglin-Vassell is hardly unique in her insulting attitude about non-teachers. But with all due respect to the Representative, we are in an all hands on deck kind of crisis and teachers cannot and should not be expected to turn the tide on their own. I hope that the Representative publicly states that she regrets her tweets on this subject and that she in fact welcomes input from any and all who have something to offer.

We as parents have more skin in the game than anyone and shutting us out—whether we are trained teachers or not—cannot and will not be an option, no matter how many times we are told to sit down and shut up.

We will be standing up and making noise in 2019.

What do you think?

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