Dintersmith's take on what's going on in American schools seems to evolve throughout his narrative, built on daily experience through the lens of a non-educator-- going into school after school, meeting teachers, 'thought leaders' and honchos, then filtering their pitches, schticks and Big Ideas through his own Midwestern sensibilities. Is this real? he asks. Could this work everywhere? Should it?
I thought about what I had done during the 82 days since the Parkland shooting. Was it helping? Was it enough?
Teachers today are fearful of deviating from the textbook and state standards and opening discussions in secondary classrooms around bits of information (say, for example, the U.S. turning away ships full of Jewish refugees during WW II) that might portray America as less than enlightened.
There are differences in use of offensive language--centered around the content of the point the speaker is trying to make. Still, I am appalled (as a teacher, especially) by the degradation of language in public discourse. Before we start selectively shaming folks, I think we should look at root causes.
I think I was experiencing the sacred last night, watching the 90-something Navy man sing 'Anchors Aweigh' in the front row--and the grandfathers who served in Vietnam shyly nod to each other across the crowd. I also thought about where and how those men and women were educated. Where did they absorb the idea that citizenship is both blessing and duty? Who taught them to read and calculate, who nurtured their talents and their dreams?
It is a point of pride, really, having these core democratic values as an anchor in the Mitten State Social Studies standards. Here's a list of those identified values: Life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, justice, the common good, equality, truth, diversity, popular sovereignty and patriotism. Things we all agree on, right?
Nobody's more pragmatic than a would-be teacher leader who knows that taking on leadership roles means expanding the workload. More to the point, teacher leaders understand that the only definition of leadership that matters in education world is keeping one's promises. Getting stuff--the right stuff--done. Gender is irrelevant, they'll tell you.
It's time we asked ourselves just who gets 'appreciated' once a year--and whose work is considered vital, essential and fully professional year-round, with no need for annual symbolic gestures. There's something about Teacher Appreciation Week that smacks of a pat on the head for being willing to go the distance without adequate compensation or support.
I certainly hope there's never a rigid, unchanging agreement on the One Best Way to teach people of any age to read. All scholarly disciplines should undergo regular re-assessment, as research reshapes knowledge. There are still classrooms in the United States, after all, where evolution is not settled science.
I'm not naïve enough to think that schools could turn hearts and minds in a K-12 generation. But could they do significant good, given the right tools and incentives?