Monday, January 21, 2013

Teachers as Collateral Damage: Thoughts on Dr King's Birthday

This was written by a teacher in South Carolina, but it could have been written by a teacher in the Bronx, or anywhere else in the country. *********"We have teachers who have become physically ill due to the stress this year so that their doctors ordered them to take days off from work. Some of us are actually having panic attacks thinking about having to return to our school. I have seen some of the most positive and experienced teachers, who never complain, so frustrated and stressed that they are considering seeking employment elsewhere" **********Teachers have become "collateral damage" of an effort to transform public education from above, financed and implemented by people who regard teachers with contempt. **********I cannot presume to know what Dr King, a leader whose career I have studied in great depth, would say about the policies currently emanating from the US Department of Education and most state capitols, but I find little precedent in his speaking, writing or activism for attacks on unions, demonization of public servants, and the scripting of teaching and learning according to scripted formulae. *********It seems ironic, to say the least, for Educational Reformers to claim the legacy of a person who speeches were masterpieces of improvisation, drawn upon multiple traditions rarely deemed compatible- Greek and German philosophy, African American folklore; the writers of American theologians like Benjamin Mays and Reinhold Neihbuhr; global revolutionary ideologies- who challenged the actions of his own government in Vietnam and whose final act on earth was speaking out in favor of striking sanitation workers . *********Dr King learned at the feet of great teachers- among them Morehouse College President Dr Benjamin Mays- and was a great teacher himself who used the pulpit and the jail house as his classroom *********This made him a threat to the state, and the powers that be of his time. *********Something to think about on a day where we honor his memory.

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