It always burns my ass when I hear politicians decry teachers - demanding more training and stricter regulation for the teaching profession. It is ludicrous when you realize that teachers are required to have a specialized college education and pass a battery of test to receive certification; and they are constantly under the supervision of a principal and require continuing education and evaluation for recertification. On the other hand, any fool can become a Congress or Senator person – there is no test for competency. In Congress we have elected high school graduates, beauty queens, laborers of all stripes, preachers and even a blues singer. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some day we may have a Congressman Joe the Plumber. And, adding insult to injury, these people legislate policies that define our educational system.
When a Congress person is elected his (or her) immediate concern becomes re-election. He will attend strategy meetings with his party, show up and vote party lines, get on as many committees as possible (you receive extra pay of each committee you are assigned) and always seek to keep a low profile – be one of the pack – not stand out – because if you make waves and take a public stand you may anger some constitutes.
The majority of a Congressman’s time is spent meeting with special interest: businessmen and lobbyist that might be willing to help finance his run in the next election. Months prior to the reelection he starts his appeal to the electorate via public forum: he believes in God, he is for the family, he is concerned about the economy, he is a red, white and blue American and he has a plan to overhaul our failing educational system through comprehensive testing and tougher teacher scrutiny.
He can’t take a public stand on gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, gun regulations, universal health care or the separation of church and state, because these are too controversial. But, he can safely stand for education improvement – comprehensive testing of kids and getting rid of bad teachers, which is obviously the problem.
as a principal I found
myself dealing with NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.
I had taken the position of principal of two elementary and one high
school in two Native villages in the Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska. When I arrived on site I found, that at the
high school, the prior senior class of twelve had graduated only four
students. The Native children in this
schools were not equipped to pass the culturally bias – one size fits all –
test. So actually, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND
had left eight children behind that year.
A few came back for another shot, but eventually dropped out. After attending
twelve years of school, eight students ended up without a high school
Working with the teachers we revamped the curriculum – not to teach the test – but - to teach to the test. That year we graduated eight of twelve, the second year we graduated eight of ten and the third year twelve of thirteen students. I am still devastated that during my three year tenure I failed to graduate seven students – students that spent twelve years attending school but were unable to pass the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND prescribed test.
There are those that would criticize me for revamping a curriculum to focus on testing, but my concern was for the students and not to justify some flawed political education policy.
Very early in my teaching career I learned that Native children live in a different world. Their parents speak ‘village English.’ They are raised in a hunting and gathering society. They have their own history and their own values. They stand with one foot in the present and one foot in the past. They live, often, with disdain of white cultural norms.
Our government, from the very beginning, has strived to change their culture by producing acceptable white clones of their children. To a large extent, government has succeeded in decimating their culture, their language and their religions.
It is not just the native culture that struggles to meet a legislated idea of conformity, but all minority cultures. They must speak proper English, they must meet education standards, they must forsake their culture and adopt American cultural norms…and the list goes on.
This one-size-fits-all shoe box has destroyed our educational system. We do not strive to educate children to be productive members of society, but to pass some arbitrary test required by legislated standards enacted by politicians campaigning for reelection.
Our society is diverse. The differences in cultures, religion and language have made our country the great melting pot. And, it is this diversity that must be considered when educating our children.
Politicians only know ‘one-size-fits- all’ to produce ‘people-like-us.’
We need to get politics out of Education. We need to place ‘certified educators’ in charge of education. We need to do away with culturally restrictive standards and celebrate cultural diversity in our classrooms.
The federal government’s job should be to generously fund state public education. A State Board Of Education composed of one teacher from each school district and appointed by the district on a rotating basis, should oversee all schools and determine school efficiency in that state on a case by case basis. The standard for graduation should be flexible and determined by a team of teachers and principals from that district.
Would this produce a standard of education? No.
Would some schools be more technical and advanced? Yes
Would some schools graduates students more prepared for secondary education? Yes.
Would more children be left behind? No.
Would children receive a more thorough education? Yes.
Teachers would be able to teach math, literature, science, social studies and integrate technology without the constant concern of meeting an arbitrary testing standard that could destroy a student’s future and cost them their jobs. Students would emerge from twelve years of school with a more thorough education and better critical thinking skills.
On the next blog I will take a shot at local school boards.