Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I See You

I love this little illustration of a classroom through a teacher's eyes (eyeglasses). This drawing accompanied a NY Times article on educational issues a few weeks ago, but it seems appropriate for so many related things. On first glance, many of the kids look bored or sleepy. To be sure they are. Sleep depravation continues to explain much that the pundits and critics and bashers of the current condition of schools and schooling often miss or dismiss altogether. But kids, especially in a classroom arranged like the one pictured, get fidgety, they yawn, they daydream, they take their time. Some of the kids are reading, some appear unconscious, and some are thinking. By most standards, this is a normal size class. These kids don't look hostile; they don't look angry or "at risk" in too many ways.
What's fascinating to me is not what you see, but what you can't see. Even if all the kids were sitting in neat rows perfectly engaged, it would still be an illusion. You can't see their lives after school, their families, their wishes, fears, hopes, anxieties and dreams.
The picture presents the appearance of a "public school" and a diverse student population as well. As such, it just might be an endangered species. I know a number of public school teachers who send their own kids to private schools and a few other folks, not credentialed teachers who are considering home schooling. In a democracy, this certainly gives me pause. While I worry about these trends I know that I may not be around to see how they will all play out. But what I do see is a definite movement away from the public school and all it's challenges and shortcomings. Those that can, move. They go to other schools, other communities, other methods. The public school implodes. The very people who are most committed to being the change, being the support system, being the backbone, take off. And what remains?
What remains is the reality of democracy in America today. What remains are those who do not have the luxury of going anywhere. But know this: there are many teachers that remain too. Many professionals who know that if this country is to come anywhere near its promise, anywhere near its perfectability, it must maintain strong public schools at all cost.
With the encroachment of "virtual culture" this will not be easy to do. If we fail, we all fail.

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