Monday, September 14, 2015 was the ninth anniversary of my beginnings as a blogger. When I began writing I named the blog On Beyond Thirty because I had just passed my 30th year as a public school teacher. I began my professional career as a half time kindergarten teacher in January of 1976.
For the last 5 years I have volunteered at local elementary schools, working with students who are having reading difficulties in grades 1 and 3, so while I haven’t been an active, full or part time teacher, I’ve still spent between 15 and 20 hours a week teaching students in a public school. I’ve also worked as a member of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), a public education advocacy group.
This January, 2016, then, will mark my fortieth year in public education — not including my time as a public school student.
PURPOSE OF MY BLOG
When I started this blog I had two main goals. First…
I want to look closely at what’s happening in our schools and try to determine why it’s the politicians who are determining the curriculum and teaching methods. I want to figure out why teachers have become the enemy to so many Americans and what I can do to rectify that misconception. I want to help re-make the public schools in the US into places where children learn and teachers teach and discover the joy of that interaction.
I want to figure out ways to make readers and thinkers out of my students…and I want to find ways to help them let go of the pain of failure and learn to enjoy learning.
By volunteering to help at-risk students in my local schools I hope I have continued to fulfill my second goal.
The first goal, however, is much more difficult.
PUBLIC EDUCATION HELPS EVERYONE
Over the last nine years I have written and reported about “reformers” attempts to privatize public education in Indiana and across the nation. People like Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and Rahm Emanuel, on the national level, and Tony Bennett, Mike Pence, and Robert Behning in Indiana, have done their best to divert public tax money to privately run charter schools as well as to private and religious schools. They have worked to deprofessionalize the teaching profession, claiming schools can be staffed by untrained novices. They have worked to eliminate neighborhood schools and in some places require students to “apply” to go to a particular public high school. They have closed dozens of public schools, mostly in America’s poor neighborhoods, and replaced them with unregulated, profit generating, charter schools. They have done their best to divide students into “winners” and “losers” based on geography, test scores, and economic status.
They have weakened our society by subverting attempts to equalize economic and racial gaps. Instead of abandoning and closing neighborhood public schools, we should support them.
- …K-12 public schools are the only educational institutions in the state and nation which accept all students no matter what their ethnic background, physical condition, first language, and academic ability.
- …public schools don’t counsel students to go somewhere else because they don’t have the staff to teach difficult or expensive to educate students. Public schools are required by law to educate every child who enters.
- …public schools are (or ought to be) controlled by elected school board members who are tasked with the public oversight of the schools academic success and funding and who are answerable to the public. Charter schools and private schools often have no such requirement.
- …public education benefits everyone because it offers all children the opportunity to become informed, well-educated, citizens capable of making informed decisions. People with an understanding of how society and our government works are less likely to need public welfare, or incarceration. Educated individuals make a better, richer, society for everyone.
Does public education need to be improved? Certainly, but we don’t improve a school by closing it and replacing it with an unregulated charter school run for profit and with no public oversight. We don’t help students climb out of poverty by underfunding their schools. We don’t increase student achievement by hiring untrained, poorly trained, or barely trained people to masquerade as teachers. We don’t improve public education by stripping it of resources to fund political campaigns. We don’t strengthen our society by separating children by economic status and race.
We improve public education by working with the school administrations, school boards, teachers, parents, and communities to reach all students, even those who are difficult to educate…even those who are expensive to educate. High-needs schools need higher levels of support…not the same funding as wealthy schools. Equality doesn’t mean equity.
A FINAL PURPOSE
A final purpose of this blog is a selfish one. This is a place for me to vent my frustration over what privatizers are doing to public education. I am not a journalist. I don’t do investigative research. Instead I editorialize about what I think ought to be…and I’ll continue to do that.
The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
Click here to sign the petition.
For over a decade…“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.