8/21/06

Stop Blaming Teachers and Schools!

So it goes like this: everyone seems to believe that teachers/schools are the problem with education. It is not true. If it were just the teachers or schools then we could just fire all of them and things would improve dramatically. We all know deep down that this is not the case. In fact we all know that the problem is with society. I’m not blaming the children. But I am also not blaming the teachers. Nor am I blaming the schools. If we as a society want children to succeed we need to give them the opportunities to succeed. School is not an opportunity in and of itself. School is mandatory. The opportunity comes when parents provide it, and/or when students seize it. Schools require that parents prepare their children for school. If parents don’t work at preparing their children for school by reading to them, talking to them, and enriching them then they will not be competent readers or speakers, skills required for success.

Since when did schools become the place where children receive all their enrichment? When I was a child, in the 60’s and 70’s, my parents provided music lessons, extra enrichment classes at the local junior college, and summer camp, just to mention a few (of course my parents read for pleasure, we had a bookcase filled with a wide variety of books, my parents read to me, and so-on). Students come to school today without ever having been read to, without ever seeing a book, with apathetic parents, or parents too busy trying to make ends meet, and jacked up on soda and candy—IN THE MORNING! My mother also packed me a lunch. She did not fill my lunch with crap. My mother did not let me watch TV all day either.

In my classroom, which is a second grade classroom, I have students reading at a first grade level and students reading at a fourth grade level. I am expected to differentiate instruction for all these children. I also have students who do not speak English. I do not speak their language. This is a difficult situation isn’t it? Do you honestly expect me to be able to reach all children and give them what they need in this kind of situation, especially when their parents can’t or won’t give them what they need? Am I to be teacher, health care advocate, therapist, parent, pencil buyer, clothes washer, backpack opener, and homework helper? I submit that it is neither possible nor practicable to expect a single teacher to save 25 children a year instead of the parents of these children trying to save them. In fact I submit that the expectation of “saved-by-teacher” is a damaging and stifling wish, and impossible to achieve.

We need to figure this thing out. We are not going to fix education (education being the filling of society’s collective mind with good and correct information) by blaming schools and teachers. And since it is society that needs fixing we should be focusing on that. Let me list some of the problems that have no genesis in school:

Poverty

Poverty

Poor nutrition

Too much television (which is filled with dehumanizing images)

No supervision

Poverty

Television

Movies

Poverty

TV

Video games

Uneducated parents

No vested interest in society

These are just a few of the problems our society suffers (yes, repetition as literary device can be annoying). We also need to blame advertisers. We also need to blame corporations who only care about the bottom line. Advertisers, corporations, the media, they all participate in the ruination of our society. They do not care about us; they only care about their bottom line. You know what I say to their bottom line? I say forget their bottom line. Their bottom line is causing society to bottom out. Society needs to wake up. Wake up! Read a book! Talk to your children! Eat real food. Stop blaming everybody else for your problems. Quit buying spinners, and new clothes, and new cars, and plasma screens, and bling. Stand up to your repression. Much of your repression is self-induced and self-perpetuated. Try to dig yourself out of your hole. Don’t expect a handout--attempt to deserve one. You don’t deserve one just because you are feeling, or in fact are repressed. The only thing you deserve is respect. I do have respect for everyone. You need to respect yourself however if you expect genuine, unfettered respect in return. Your lack of self respect causes me to respect you less.

Wake up America. Take responsibility for yourself America. Remember there is no difference between the United States of America and the people of the United States of America. The government is "we, the people". We can change it if we don’t like it. We need to change it if we don’t like it. But before we can change it or even determine whether or not we like it we need to be informed of it. The only way to be informed is to inform yourself. Nobody is going to open up your skull and drop in information. Besides, who will interpret it for you? You need to open your skull and suck in information. Students (or probably more accurately, parents of students) at school seem to expect teachers to learn for them. Teachers do the teaching; children need to do the learning. Teachers don’t make students learn. Just as the evening news doesn’t make you know what’s going on in the world. You need to diversify. Watch the evening news, read a newspaper, read a news magazine, listen to N. P. R., talk to someone smarter than you, get off your fat ass and inform yourself.


I have a child in public school, in the same district where I teach. I would be ashamed to send him to school without having checked his homework for completeness (not correctness). I would feel derelict and negligent if I was unaware of a filed trip, or a school function in which my child were participating. I would feel terrible if I let my child eat the nasty food provided by the school for lunch, and I would not send donuts for breakfast! My pride is involved here as much as my hope (not to mention my responsibility) for my child’s success in life. I know that as his parent I need to do all I can, and maybe more, to insure that my child will be able to support himself and make wise, informed decisions as he becomes more independent. Parents who do not share these feelings are either lazy, stupid, selfish, or all 3!

Oh, and one more thing. Stop accusing us teachers of racism, especially us Jewish teachers, who get it more frequently than our gentile colleagues do. It is not racist when a white (or Jewish) teacher suspends or punishes a black child for wrongdoing. Parents, some of whose initial reaction to a negative report about their child is to blame the teacher, or claim racism, are perpetuating the problems I am discussing in this blog. I do not know of a single incident of disciplinary action taken by a teacher out of their need to show their racist bent. But I can recall many parent-initiated conferences with upset (upset with the teacher, not their child) parents of the disciplined child; conferences are for helping a student, not for yelling at a teacher who is doing his/her job. Teachers are required to discipline students who do not allow other students to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning.

Basically, what this whole tirade boils down to is a plea; take responsibility for yourself and your family and your children. Don’t expect schools, teachers, or the government to be responsible for you or your family or your children; because the schools and the government are you. So if you want schools and government to take care of you, by definition, you need to take care of you. Blaming the schools and the teachers is not going to help you. You’re the only one that can help you. Wake up. Wake up! Make your children proud!

Update: More here.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher with 25 years experience. I believe it is time that schools become places of learning. Social, health, psychological, and other problems should be handled by parents and non-school agencies. As a classroom teacher, I am required to spend most of my time dealing with issues that do not involve instructing children and facilitating their academic learning. It is critical that teachers be allowed to teach and that health care providers, social workers, mental health care workers, counsellors and others begin to take care of other needs. Parents must also learn that schools are not day care centres or restaurants. When parents take their child to a dentist, they do not expect their child to receive anything other than dental care. Teachers must not be asked to spend precious learning and preparation time on fund-raising and activities that community agencies should be providing. Schools need to become places of academic learning and parents and others need to provide for all of the other needs of the children.

Korbett Mosesly said...

I'm from Tacoma, WA. Home to the 4th highest drop out rate in the country (WA) and recently labeled a drop out factory. I own a community magazine called message magazine. www.piercecountymessage.com January is a big education focus and I would like to publish this article.

Anonymous said...

please let me know if it is O.K. to print your article- korbett mosesly
korbett@piercecountymessage.com

Anonymous said...

I am a teacher in New Jersey. I totally support the content in this article. It is a shame that politicians and some administrators try to blame teachers. Most American teachers are excellent; however, in all this confusion, we are being blamed bombarded with unnecessary paper work; in fact, we are treated very unprofessionally. We have to fight for our rights as we continue to the best we can for our students who, unfortunately, are the victims of dysfunctional families and society.
There is a huge number of teachers becoming administrators because they do not want to be in the classroom anymore; what a shame, but once they they get an administrative position, they feel they can tell real teachers how how to teach. What a disgrace! This is the only profession in which professionals tell other professionals how to proceed; it seems an attempt to justify positions and salaries...We should stand for our rights!

TFT said...

Wow, I wrote this post a looooong time ago! It was my first post, and it still is relevant!

Anonymous said...

"We are not going to fix education (education being the filling of society’s collective mind with good and correct information) by blaming schools and teachers."

Is as fine a definition for education as I believe I have ever read.

Robert said...

I would also add "Lack of sleep" to your list. Whatever happened to going to bed early on a school night?

Marc Meinzer said...

I taught for seven years in a variety of institutions ranging from suburban parochial to job corps to a canoe camp which recruited mainly Episcopal boarding school preppies. And although the teachers aren't necessarily bad the schools most definitely are. The reason the schools are bad is because they allow failures to persist in their failure without reassigning them to private tutoring or some more therapeutic regimen more appropriate to the culturally deprived or the just plain ornery. Toleration of ongoing failure is tantamount to being "asleep at the switch". Yours, Marc Meinzer

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