On June 18th, The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted Randi Weingarten, the current president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Engaging in a conversation with Frederick Hess, AEI’s director of education policy studies, Weingarten firstly shared with the audience that the need for debate—a dialogue with different people.
As it currently stands, the AFT union is comprised of about 1.5 million members including K-12 educators, administrators, and guidance counselors. According to Weingarten, unions are not monolithic. Members are not shy to share their opinions on what they may like or dislike concerning the education system. They engage in debate, or as Weingarten would say: “conversation.”
During her conversation with Hess at AEI, Weingarten spoke to an issue that has remained at the center of educational debate for more time than it should: Should schools keep or disregard the Common Core?
Although Weingarten did not reply with a resounding “yes,” her anecdote showcases that she is an advocate for the standards. Before Weingarten was a teacher, she served as a lawyer. With that professional backing, she can now confidently say that the Common Core would have helped far more than any tool could to teach students the importance of civics, the Bill of Rights, and things related to the American governmental system.
At Clara Barton High School, Weingarten notes that the majority of students were from African-American and Latino backgrounds; she remembered them hating her for the manner in which she taught. Weingarten then witnessed them engaging in debate and intellectual conversation and she watched their self-esteem grow. In her words, they went from an attitude of “no-no-no!” to a determination that exclaimed, “yes-yes-yes!” Weingarten believes that if we can get the strategies right on how to teach kids intellectually and the best way to overcome resistance, then kids will be able to