The Attacks on Public Education Need to Stop | 123Read&Write

I know that much of this educational blog article may come off as more of an opinion piece, but dig within and you’ll certainly find some truth to my musings. In my 20 years of teaching, I have never seen nor felt the amount of negative feelings and press being placed upon public education, as I do now. Believe me, I understand the education of our children is the greatest gift we can provide to our world. The problem is that there are way too many cooks in the kitchen that believe they know what is best. Or, quite possibly, the education detractors are simply putting up a front, pretending to care, while they are figuring out ways to line capitalist’s pockets, by turning public education into a business model. Some of these education deformers include:

  • Michelle Rhee
  • Campbell Brown
  • Arnie Duncan
  • The Koch Brothers
  • Eli Broad
  • The Walton Family

Trust me, there’s more . . . but, you get the idea. Geez, even Whoopi Golberg threw herself into the fray on her show, The View. However, in the age of social media, a counter firestorm erupted letting the show know that they really have no place in this discussion. Again, is she or any of The View’s hosts educational doctorates, teachers, professors . . . anything? In the end, she didn’t take too kindly to the criticism as shown below:

Thankfully, some people are waking up as shown here when Stephen Colbert asked Campbell Brown “Why are we blaming the teachers?” Or, the over 50,000 member Facebook BATS, who just conducted their first March on Washington, in July.

The issue is that while the folks mentioned I’m sure have tremendous talents in other fields (i.e. business, technology, entertainment, etc.); none of them are experts or in some cases, even novices in education. Yet, they’re pouring money into campaigns to attack our educational system; claiming to have all the answers to heal its supposed woes. However, in each of these cases, if you look deeply enough, there are major benefactors to their schemes and those beneficiaries are not children. However, since they have very deep pockets, they have the ability to infiltrate the media and spout whatever negativity and fear inducing tactics they see fit. 

As with anything in life, there is good and bad in any setting. Are there poor teachers? Sure. Are there lousy doctors? Yep. Are there crappy actors? Absolutely. Are there useless politicians? More than we can count. Are any of them or any other industry under the scrutiny and level of attacks as educators? Nope. One may ask “why is that?” Well, in my simple and humble opinion, big business has found out that education is a largely untapped money making machine. How so . . . well, it’s pretty simple. Their game plan seems to be:

  • Raise a firestorm of inadequate and poor performing schools and teachers
  • Starve these disticts of funding 
  • Take away collective bargaining rights
  • Close schools 
  • Get tax breaks to open up a charter school in the empty buildings that were starved of funding
  • Watch the cash flow in with little or no oversight

It isn’t difficult to find these situations today. Examples include Philadelphia, Detroit, New Jersey, and New Orleans. Take the EAA in Detroit, for example. This is a unprecedented mess. In fact, many stories have run in Detroit’s local papers about just what a mess it is. Yet, this hasn’t slowed some legislators from continuing to push it forward. One of their newest grand schemes is to shove 100 Kindergarten students into a hollowed out library along with three teachers. Where is the educational expertise in this? Any body of validated research will show that there is no way  proper learning can take place in such an arrangement. Nobody bothers asking the experts (i.e. teachers who have been in the trenches for years); big business knows how to make money, and that is what they are continually trying to do. This isn’t about the kids. It’s about the greenbacks. 

Moving on, even our Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan would like folks to think that he has the answers.

  • longer school days and years
  • more testing, testing, testing
  • supposedly valid teaching rating scores
  • and testing, testing, testing
  • rigor, rigor, rigor

I love the last bullet. I’m not sure if Duncan or his cohorts have even looked up the word rigor in the dictionary. I’ll help everyone out a bit. According to Merriam-Webster, rigor is defined as . . .

  • harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment
  • severity
  • a tremor caused by a chill
  • a condition that makes life difficult

Wow . . . sign me up! This sounds exactly how I’d love my children to be taught (insert sarcasm here). Our society has gotten so wrapped up in this “created fire” of educational failure that many are missing the point that America has phenomenal schools. Are there some that need some help? Absolutely. However, if our country put their money where their mouth is, even greater accomplishments could arise. However, where our country spends its money does not correlate with the goals they say we must “attain” with regards to education. The root causes of academic failure are simple to state, but harder to manage. I believe the two greatest factors that prohibit a child from learning are:

  • poverty
  • the family unit

It’s pretty simple; if a child is starving at home, worried about being jumped or shot to and from school, etc., do you really think learning algebra is going to be at the top of their priority list? Furthermore, if education is not supported and demanded in the household, it’s going to be a difficult task to encourage that child to learn. It’s that simple.

In the end, I wish I had some easy answers, but I don’t. I have a few simple suggestions, though.

  • Make the Arts and Physical Education a requirement each and every school year
  • Eliminate punitive testing
  • Put education in the hands of the experts . . . the teachers
  • Put money into a “family” campaign showing the positive outcomes for a strong family unit
  • Offer productive professional development opportunities for teachers who need assistance
  • Remember that our children all have different gifts; nurture their sense of wonderment.

There’s always going to be critics and supposed experts that will tout that they know best. I’m here to tell you that they do not. I believe Teddy Roosevelt said it best and I’ll leave you with that.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Ask yourself, can any of the individuals mentioned in this article say they’ve been in the classroom (the educational arena) facing its trials and tribulations for any length of time?