Unfortunately teachers need the same sense of consistency, rooted in safety, security, and support—and additionally the freedom to inquire—in order to create those environments. As misguided attempts to reform the pillars of education in this country from a great public program of the republic—one that empowers, transforms, and instills greatness—into a business of private gains built into the shell of education, teachers are losing their consistency and thereby so are their charges. As the No Child Left Behind Act continues to reverse every progressive educational development that has occurred in the past 100 years with its call for standardization and march to assembly line education masquerading as differentiation and understanding, more and more educators are becoming uncomfortable in a way that is discouraging pedagogically and mobilizing politically. Teachers aren’t feeling uncomfortable in their professions solely for their own sake, but because of the nature of the profession they are also uncomfortable in how they have to educate your children.
If teachers don’t feel that they are safe in teaching—because teaching is inherently a political act—then they cannot properly assist students in acquiring, grappling with, and integrating knowledge into their everyday lives. The recent tone has been to take teachers and politically throw them under the bus. The system runs out of gas and they blame the motor. Someone needs to be blamed for the failure of the education and system and the powers that be refuse to look squarely in the mirror when their index finger is extended. From the politicians that have never stood on the other side of the teacher’s desk, to the educrats who haven’t been in a classroom in more years than they spent in it nobody is willing to say that we have collectively failed our children.
There was a time when the public institutions of the United States, whether they were state mandated schools, or Federally organized work programs, were designed to see their function through to the fullest success—seemingly—and attained results, measurably. The United States had the highest performing economy, military, and population because of a great and solid public education system—one of the first of its kind. It was a system designed to create upward mobility. Though it was far from perfect—it was discriminating in a variety of ways, and could be harsh and cold—it served our country well, and its cogs (teachers) were treated as respected members of our society.
Somewhere along the way our American royalty and nobility—celebrities and socialites—ousted educators and the educated as our societal pinnacle and whether it is a symptom or the disease we now stand in a country that, realistically, cares very little about education. Certainly we pay a hell of a lot of lip service to the idea of fixing schools but when we try to seal the levies with scotch tape instead of revisiting our approach to education we feel that it must be somebody else’s fault and somebody else’s problem.
The government response has been to hand the reigns over to private interests in the form of charter schools and corporations because—like the banking industry—private industry has always proven to be the steward of humane and fair decision making. In Philadelphia the teachers and the public schools were blamed so thoroughly that there no longer is a public school mechanism anymore—the entire city is served by a network of chartered districts. Schools run by private entities are not bound to the same agreements as public schools and therefore teachers unions are broken under the charter system. Without union protection teachers are naked on a tightrope: vulnerable, unprotected, and exposed to a deadly fall and victims of the next foul wind. In that scenario, there is no possible way that teachers—scared for their own employment—can possibly succeed in creating safe spaces for children.