I am a veteran high school English teacher with more than two decades in an east coast urban school system. I’ve taught in some of the best schools and some of the worst, and I can tell you unequivocally that education in America is in a terrible state. It is worse than most realize, especially in our urban systems in which regulations stifle the efforts of teachers to teach, where Political Correctness stifles content being taught, and where bad behavior too often impedes the process of learning for students, especially for the many sincere ones who genuinely want to learn. If we do not fix these problems, and fix them fast, maintaining the republic will become almost impossible, because, as Madison said, “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.
Many believe that they have the solutions for fixing our schools. But, Democrats have it wrong; Republicans have it wrong; Pearson Education has it wrong; the average American has it wrong. Education has become a battleground and teachers are in the trenches with no cavalry on the horizon. Teachers have become so vilified in today’s environment that few Americans have thought of reaching out to those on the front line to discover the real problems and the real solutions. Combat Diaries attempts to expose the realities as seen by one teacher, but experienced by many on the front lines of urban education in America.
I will be using many of my articles published on conservativeteachersofamerica.
As intelligent teachers you know that evidence from only one source (in this case me) is not strong, so I need evidence from others to strengthen the arguments. I need anecdotes that can be added to the topics listed below. Additionally, though it is tempting to only provide negative examples, examples of when things work are needed too. For instance, there are many tragic stories of the failure of special education inclusion (see The Tyranny of the Minority), but there are also times when it works. Anecdotes of both instances will make a stronger argument.
I know that teachers are often afraid to speak up and, in spite of the myth that we have an iron shield of tenure around us, administration can easily punish us by making our work lives so miserable that we will be driven out of our professions. There is also a fear of violating privacy policies. I promise complete anonymity to those who want it. I will never mention a school or a school district, but will only mention whether the school is in an urban, suburban, or rural area. I will also maintain privacy by asking teachers to NEVER provide a student’s name. I will create names for anecdotes, so only “Girl 1” or “Boy 2” as example should be used in anecdotes sent to me.
In advance I want to extend my gratitude to anyone willing to share their stories. I will gladly acknowledge any contribution as little or as much as each contributor desires. Hang tough my fellow teachers; life in the trenches can be hard and lonely.
Topic Suggestions (in no particular order):
- Where is the “money” for education really going? Money does not go to the classrooms or for students.
- The Intentional mis-education of students. Revisionist history, removing literature from the English classroom, yearly lowering of standards. Common Core Math
- Special Education Inclusion: Fear of lawsuits has made “special” students rule the classroom. Special education students are not getting the services that they need. The other students in the class suffer. Lowest common denominator becomes the norm.
- No more honors classes. Students with advanced or superior abilities are being under-served or completely ignored. Bored, unmotivated students.
- Rules matter, but too many times students are not expected to follow rules or even basic civil behavior
- How fear is the guiding factor of school policy. Fear of parents and students makes teachers unable to teach and classrooms unmanageable
- Administrators are more concerned with data than students
- The Race Card: Fear of seeming racist has destroyed education for blacks and destroyed most major American cities
- Social justice is misplaced and at times insidious “Compassion” destroying students’ ability to advance
- Learned helplessness
- Fear locked up wood shop, as well as eliminating much of the valuable “vocational training” of the past, that worked so well. NOT EVERYONE IS COLLEGE BOUND. IT ISN’T EVEN A GOOD IDEA!
- Throwing out the baby and other proven paradigms lost educational theory proposed by those with no classroom experience (see Arne Duncan) has gutted educators.
- Hiring consultants while firing teachers
- Teachers get a bad rap from media, but the biggest problem is with unions. Although true representation is not bad — needed sometimes — the unions charged with the responsibility to represent teachers are interested in their own existence and benefits, not in those they supposedly represent. They actually usually fail to support any individual teachers unless that teacher can be used to forward their own agenda. The unions do not care about student learning either.
Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system. She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. You can find out more about Dana over at http://www.candiddiscourse.com/.