Tuesday, May 24, 2011

History Lesson

I read some of the education blogs. I belong to a list-serv that allows educators all over the nation to exchange ideas. I have "Liked" on Facebook all manner of pages that support public education, authentic school reform, and various events taken or soon to take place. Now and then I write a letter to my local newspaper editor. Such was the case recently when I responded to an Op-Ed piece written by an insightful 17-year-old high school junior who really seemed to get that the so-called "achievement gap" had more to do with poverty and home environment that with teacher quality.
Yet one thing in all the debates and exchanges I see remains constant. People seem to rely on their perceptions of school to frame and inform their opinions. Nothing wrong with that except those perceptions are often inaccurate or sadly lacking. In time I have come to see that much of the disagreement comes because those who teach feel one way and those who do not fell another. Needless to say it doesn't exactly lend itself to treating teachers as professionals when everyone who ever attended a school truly believes they know what it takes to bring about change.
That's why I always invite people to come over to the other side. Unless you do the job for at least 10 years, your opinions, in my view, will continue to be misinformed no matter how well meant.
So what might be the reasons that so many non-professionals feel they know what's best. Again, these perceptions that they carry, no matter how ancient or inauthentic.

There is always the profit motive too. Public education is a multi-billion dollar business. All those bad textbooks, those supplies and most importantly, those many, many tests are worth billions. The profit motive is what drives pseudo reformers more thn anything else. They may tell you that they "do it for the children" but they fool nobody. Those that "do for the children" are in the classroom. They show up day after day, year after year. They are the career professionals that are privy to much more than "perceptions" of what is and what should be.
So what do they see? They see the child that hasn't eaten, that has more going on at home than many will see in a lifetime. They see the child with no self-esteem hiding in plain sight, the idea spark in someone's eyes and everything that can't be measured or standardized. They assess from moment to moment.
Despite this obvious disconnect, it seems to me we need to find a way to deal with all these perceptions. Not easy. Most educators I know are either so depressed or so angry that right now they are incapable of productive conversation. Hopefully the much needed summer break might allow some of this much needed conversation to begin. Until that happens, keep your eyes on the month of July when a million teachers will come to Washington D.C. A little history can go a long way.

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