I hit somewhat of a breaking point (again) this year teaching. It happened over mid-winter break in February while I was visiting my family in Las Vegas. I found myself screaming at Diane Sawyer for peddling this country's overly simplistic and dangerously naive corporate education reform agenda. It spilled over into an argument with my mother about my irrational behavior, and it ended up canceling our dinner plans.
I went upstairs, took a deep breath, and tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I think the website critical exposure captures it pretty perfectly.
My perspective on the public education debate is surely limited. I've only taught in urban schools. I don't know what schools are like in the suburbs (aside from my own experience as a student), and I have no experience in a rural environment.
It is that perspective that makes it so difficult for me to remain calm when people talk about their proposed solutions to public education.
"You don't need to improve a students home life, socio-economic background, or community. You only need to improve the quality of the teacher you put in front of them."
When people who've never worked in schools say this to me in person, I try to talk to them about why I disagree.
When people in the media who should know better make such claims, my apparent response (as my mother now knows) is:
"THAT'S THE MOST IRRESPONSIBLE THING I'VE EVER HEARD ANYONE SAY - AND ON TELEVISION!!!! THAT REALLY MAKES ME ANGRY!!!!! PLEASE, DO US ALL A FAVOR AND STOP TALKING!!!!!"
I should be more calm........right?
There's a part of me that thinks WE ALL need to be more angry about this. Not so angry that it clouds our ability to have a civil conversation, but at least angry enough to do something about this.
But before you can get angry, you have to understand the conditions in which students are being asked to learn. Most of us comfort ourselves with the belief that simply providing a public education ensures the equality of opportunity we think is important for our democracy, and look the other way, our hands clean of the catastrophe left in the wake of our ignorance and apathy.
If you think we're providing equal opportunity in the country, go here. Go here. Go here. Go here. And go here. Read a Kozol book, or five.
Tell me where we'll draw the phenomenal group of new teachers we need to improve education in this country when they're asked to work in these environments at pay 12-15% less than their similarly education counterparts. More importantly, tell me how students asked to learn in buildings that strip search them before they enter, disrespect them by imposing district rules that may or may not apply to their particular school or community, and send a very clear message in their upkeep: society does not care about your education. The kids may be poorly educated, but they're not stupid. Anyone can read that message loud and clear.
So maybe I would be a little happier if more people were yelling at Diane Sawyer. Just don't let it ruin a dinner date with your mom.