As a teacher for over 40 years, I always take interest in education-related articles here on Common Dreams. Interestingly, there are seldom more than a handful of replies in the comments section, which signals most CD readers’ interests in the issues.
I lost much of my Hope for Change when Linda Darling Hammond was passed over for Education Secretary. Arne Duncan was one of the good-old-boys in Obama’s pack. This signaled that education was to be put on the back burner, and so it was. Reform started in the early 80’s with A Nation At Risk, and the attacks on teachers have not yet abated. No Child Left Behind and its various offshoots like Common Core continue to cripple our country’s schools.
Classroom teachers are the only ones who are seldom if ever consulted on matters of Education. Why is that? When you see an expert refer to him or herself as an “Educator,” that is code for “I’m not a teacher, I’m higher on the food chain.” Unfortunately more Educators are consulted than real teachers.
During my 36 years as an elementary teacher, I served on many curriculum committees. Much of our work was choosing which texts to use in our curriculum. I served on Reading, Language Arts, Spelling, and Math committees. In the mid to late 1970’s we had texts from six or eight book companies to choose from in Math, Language, or Reading, and as many as thirteen in Spelling! By the late 1980’s we had fewer than four because of consolidation of publishing companies. The range of choice became smaller.
Another factor we always needed to consider was that the book publishers had to cover the cost of writing and publishing their wares. This amounted to a certain looking over each others’ shoulders. Industrial espionage? LOL. A sub-factor, but very real was that many states used statewide adoption of materials. Think of the bulk orders for California, Texas, and Florida. I know the publishing companies did. (Sidebar: do you think that might affect the way slavery was discussed in a Social Studies text?) Our state allowed adoption by school district, but as you can see, our choices were limited.
I just delved into a very small fraction of the minutiae in a complex system like Public Education, and I could go on all day. Complex systems need committed and honest people to affect change. I don’t believe that 2 or 3 word slogans can be effective agents of change. Do you?