I asked, as a teacher, what German schoolchildren were taught about Germany's role in World War II. We do not avoid our history, he said. So what do you do in America?
I think a case could be made that the last two administrations have so morphed the originating aims of a federal department in charge of educating all students--whether intentionally or not--we might not find the loss of a department of education and burning down 16 years of questionable policy such a loss. But then--I think of equity. We are responsible for all children. Aren't we?
When the election is over, schools will still be expected to exemplify neutral public spaces, accepting all students and honoring all family beliefs. Media and money, helped by attractive electronic technologies, have reshaped our values, and we will not be able to acknowledge that, as public institutions.
Teacher leaders are everywhere. Often, they're doing precisely what the established system wants them to do--accepting leadership roles and tasks pre-defined by that same system, for the distinction of being named a leader in a flat profession. Sometimes, they even get compensation or perks. But are they acting as professionals?
It is undeniable that character matters greatly in public leadership. Women who recognize and call out sexism and the sometimes-subtle aspects of rape culture are correct. And it isn't until the moral rot is laid bare and understood that we have any chance of living in a better, safer, more equitable world. We're not there yet, as this election illustrates.
I have been to hundreds of school board meetings in my life, mostly in the district where I taught for 30 years, and neighboring districts. I have attended Board meetings in Detroit, Lansing and Denver. Recently--I decided to check out the board meeting of a local charter school. I did this because the charter in question had been co-opted by an unreliable and ethically challenged operator. Who was guarding the citizens' interest and tax monies?
While the ESSA unquestionably requires the states to administer yearly assessments in mathematics and reading, it does not actually require 95% student participation on those tests. Instead, as currently written, it requires 95% student participation on some other, completely different set of nonexistent assessments. Congress might want to consider hiring a few more proofreaders.
It seems that the promoters of "kids who fail have to be smacked upside the head with their shortcomings" have hit on a recycled tactical meme every educator is familiar with: using "social promotion" as a boogeyman to drive home the point that some kids just don't deserve to move ahead to a new grade. With their peers and friends.
I can't help wondering what would happen if the question were phrased as a constructed response. What if we asked parents, childless millennials or retirees: What's the purpose of public education? Why do we collect taxes and build buildings and elect school boards and argue about phonics vs. whole language? What's the end game?
We've got information and images a-plenty, if we want to look at states which might have some educational moxie. Teachers are now talking to each other across district and state boundaries, sharing information about how education policy is impacting their daily practice, where market-based reforms have the deepest roots and where teachers' judgment and experience is most devalued. Where would YOU go, if you could go anywhere, as an educator?