Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are Our Best Teachers an Endangered Species?

From my wife Liz, who is a principal, to my hair cutter Maryann, who is a nursery school teacher, to my students who have entered the teaching profession, to the scores of teachers in Bronx schools I have worked with when doing community history projects, the teachers I know are the hardest working, most idealistic, and most compassionate people I have the privilege of interacting with. Most of them are women. It is a sad commentary on the times we live in that their profession they have devoted their lives to has been held up to ridicule, and made an object of contempt, by the most powerful people in our society, most of whom are men. It is even sadder that the "reforms" which are being implemented around the country at breakneck speed have the effect of so scripting classroom learning that the room for compassion and personal interaction with individual students has been curtailed. I urge people on this thread to talk to teachers in their families about how their jobs are being transformed by testing and accountability protocols being imposed in their schools and then think long and hard whether education policy in this nation is heading in the right direction. Given the fault lines that have been revealed in our society by the Hurricane Sandy, the last election, and the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, do we really want to make our schools so impersonal and bureaucratic that the best teachers leave, and the ones who decide to join the profession are ones who have to harden their hearts, impose test after test and ignore their students personal lives? Is this the prescription for a healthy, humane society?

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