Maybe I have worn them out (I hope so) or maybe they have chosen to ignore me (Bad idea. That only encourages me), but opponents of public education — including private school scholarship tax-giveaway advocates and for-profit charter school management shills — were strangely quiet after my recent Open Letter to Georgia’s public schoolteachers.
Maybe in the recesses of their shallow, special interest-driven hearts, they know I am correct. What is wrong with public education is not the fault of those trying to educate the next generation of Georgians. It is the fault of those of us who have let our society sink like a rock and then have decided the best solution is to run away from the problems and blame the schools.
Not surprisingly, the column generated a number of responses from readers and from schoolteachers across the state who shared a variety of thoughts on the subject. The teachers among them shall remain anonymous, lest some Kool-Aid drinking politician or Nervous-Nelly bureaucrat/ school board member seeks to reprimand them.
A sampling of my mail indicates that sometimes the enemy is within. Meddling school boards, politically correct administrators and too many bureaucrats with too little to do seem to frustrate teachers as much or maybe more than political ideologues who couldn’t carry their bookbag.
Said one teacher, “I used to love waking up and being so excited to get to school and be able to use my God-given talents and abilities, with my own creativity, to help positively impact the lives of my students. I had freedom to choose my methods, materials and means to help achieve my goals. By the end of my career, it was such a different story. There were constant demands to teach in a dictated and prescribed way, determined by someone who had little knowledge of children and how they learn. Creativity was lost as we struggled to meet the ‘standards’ and ‘teach the test.’”
A teacher with more than two decades in the classroom said, “I told my daughter if she went to college to become a teacher I would not pay for it and that made me sad. I know why she wants to be a teacher. The same reason most of us do but she would be as miserable and jaded as I have become. I told her to get a degree that allows her to earn a living and use her time to volunteer for organizations that will allow her to have a positive impact on a child’s life without teaching to the test and jumping through hoops created by people who have no real concern for public education.”
A retired school superintendent whose daughter is a teacher opined, “During my years in education I found that almost everyone is an expert when it comes to what’s wrong with education. It’s the only profession that I know of where everyone is an expert on how to fix our children’s education. If I had known how to fix it for every child, I would have fixed it many years ago.”
My favorite response came from a parent who said, “Some folks may think public schools are the last resort, ‘for the dregs.’ Where do most delinquents end up when their antics have resulted in expulsion? Private school, for those who can afford it. Which is one reason I decided to send my kid to public school. Life is not private school. In life, most likely, you’ll have to deal with a wide variety of folks … not an elite group that self-segregates.” Suck on that one, Kool-Aid drinkers.
Still, many echoed this teacher from South Georgia: “It’s refreshing to know that someone who reaches ‘a lot of eyeballs each week’ can be my voice of reason when most of the country seems ready to privatize everything we know about public education. Money is not always the answer and it surely doesn’t solve the societal problems you spoke of. Kids will be back in school tomorrow in (my county) and we’ll be prepared and ready to change lives.” That is what teachers do. God bless them, one and all.
I don’t know how we got in the mess we are in, but this much I do know: Schoolteachers didn’t cause it and shouldn’t be blamed for it. I would suggest we let public schoolteachers do what they do best — teach — and get the hell out of their classroom. As for the rest of us, we would do well to try and clean up the mess.