In my last post, I took Lily Eskelsen Garcia and the NEA to task for not acting in the best interest of children, teachers, and American public schools.
Today, however, I’d like to thank Lily for her words of support and her understanding of what it actually means to spend a year in a classroom. Here is the story of her flight encounter with a businessman, the “man in the middle seat,” who challenged her to tell him what we really need in public education. Her answer was a simple sentence, and you can click on the link below to hear it, but her deeper answer was something that is important for all teachers to hear and understand.
She said to her audience…
I’m an educator. It’s up to me to educate the “man in the middle seat…”
All public school educators should adopt that attitude. We are the political voice of our students. Without us they are silenced, disenfranchised, and at the mercy of policy makers, most of whom have never taught a day in a public school, who think that privatization is the simple answer to improving our schools.
It’s up to us, America’s educators, to educate our fellow citizens. We can’t make them listen, but they will never hear us if we are silent. American public education is being dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder and it’s our responsibility to shout “STOP!”
Lily listed what public education does for America’s children. Her list is long, but it’s still just a partial list. She didn’t include that we serve some kids two meals a day, provide grief counseling, clothe children who come to school without shoes or coats, help them across the street, give them the opportunity to express themselves through the arts, and provide some with the only safe environment they experience. I’m sure there are more…
She talked very fast, and I think that she stumbled over a few words while she was racing through the list, but to the best of my ability, here is her list..
I’m an educator. It’s up to me to educate the “man in the middle seat” as much as to educate a politician about what happens in any given typical school on any given typical day…
- we serve kids a hot meal,
- we put bandaids on boo boos,
- we diversify our curriculum instruction to meet the personal and individual needs of all our students, the blind, the hearing impaired, the physically challenged, the gifted and talented, the chronically tardy, and the medically annoying,
- we make sure they’ve had their immunizations,
- we make sure they understand disease control,
- we teach them to resist drugs, alcohol, tobacco,
- we give career counseling, pregnancy counseling, mental health counseling,
- we get them on the bus safely. we take them off the bus safely,
- we provide computer instruction, sex education,
- we stop bullying and teach them to say, “I’m sorry” and mean it,
- we instill an understanding of civil rights, the political process, challenge racism, foster social tolerance, and an appreciation of our cultural and religious diversity,
- we teach the principles of free enterprise, how to be a good sport,
- we develop personal responsibility, practice bicycle safety and check for head lice,
- we provide bilingual education, teach metrics, how to be a wise consumer, exercise for weight control, how to drive a car,
- we teach the impact of wars, develop collaborative skills, how to tune a violin, how to use reason and evidence to protect the future,
- we teach them to revere their environment and how to manage their money, how to access information, how to make wise choices, how to balance a checkbook,
- we teach loyalty to the ideals of a democracy,
- we build patriotism, good oral hygiene, a respect for the worth and dignity of every individual,
- we nurture curiosity, encourage a good question, build self esteem,
…and then we teach reading, writing and arithmetic.
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.