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A concerned member of the human race

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Message From a Principal Forty Years Ago...

We periodically get pep talks at our 
school.  Uniform midterms are approaching.  We need to churn out high test scores and further standardize students for success given our current climate of high-stakes, common-core-aligned, testing-based accountability.  In the past such pep talks regarding "scholarship" might have been given more frequently to students.  Today, they are given to teachers.  It's not so much that my students need to study as that I need to properly prep them.  If they fail, it must be my fault.

I wouldn't mind so much if I hadn't entered the teaching profession with a deeper understanding of the underlying goals of education.  I was educated by a different generation with different values.  It is the reason I entered the profession.  Here is an excerpt from one "Principal's Message" in the pre-high-stakes-testing era:

"While the problems of war and racial inequality have been the most widely publicized, there are many indications that other issues are coming to the fore among the younger citizens.  The poisoning of the atmosphere and the waters of our planet is rapidly becoming the prime problem.  While we are striving to achieve universal peace, we are in danger of succumbing to the polluted air, rivers and oceans.  Have we created a great technology which has given us unprecedented material comforts and ever-increasing leisure and which simultaneously is destroying life on earth?

"The positive strength of youth becomes apparent because youth is not accepting doom.  It is frequently optimistic.  It does not yield to dire predictions with fatalism.  It has undertaken to correct the evils.  It understands the problems and proceeds to attack them.

"Your readiness to combat the destroyers of life bodes well for your future.  I am confident in you because you are neither frightened nor intimidated by these problems.  You have demonstrated your ability to understand these forces and your eagerness to undertake a search for solutions."

I don't think education is working to encourage civic awareness and solutions to the problems pressing our planet anymore.  As I see it, we are teaching students primarily how to struggle through test prep, tests and more tests.  We are teaching students that they are mostly failures.  So, our schools can be closed.  Teachers can be stripped of their rights and dignity while others who lurk in the shadows can profit.  This, in my opinion, reflects a dire problem for which we must "undertake a search for solutions."  Too bad a certain breed of "reformer" would try to educate us otherwise.

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