You say my school is failing. You label my students as failing. You call me a failure. Then you shake hands with profiteers who wear fancy suits and promote edperialism and a testocracy. These profiteers and elitists you embrace send their kids to expensive private schools, so their children don’t have to endure the policies stuffed full of educational malpractice you collaborated to create. They sit cozy in offices and devise untested business theories for application to the humanity that is education. You let them steal our tax dollars, and you praise them as philanthropists for their astronomical failures in education. It’s time you change your narrative. It’s time you change your proximity.
Do you really want to know what it’s like to be a public school teacher in an economically devastated & segregated neighborhood in one of our nation’s cities? Neither you nor the profiteers and policy makers really want to know. People like you want to keep judging and labeling, but you don’t want to admit that you helped create the suffering and disadvantage. You don’t want to claim the role and responsibility that you bear for the disasters you’ve created for other people’s children. Come take a look at my joyful, sad, sweet, angry, helpless, and hopeful students and tell them they’re failures to their faces. Come see me and my colleagues in our classrooms working 10-12 hour days and look us in the eyes and tell us we’re failures. Tell the families who rely on the existing public neighborhood schools we have left that they’re failures raising failures.
Does that seem harsh? It should.
But you have no problem preaching about “failing schools” full of “failing students” while you’re perched in expensive offices in skyscrapers, or as you muse about education in affluent and gated neighborhoods. Change your proximity and see if your narrative still feels all cozy, warm and righteous. See if you still possess the courage or ignorance to make bold declarations about failure when you’re looking into the eyes of hungry six-year-olds who suffered through childhood traumas and lead-filled homes in one of our nation’s cities. Can you look into those sweet, helpless faces and tell a little girl that she’s a failure?
Yet, that is what you do every time you or your education reformer/deformer friends and contributors suggest competition and privatization or closures, instead of addressing the poverty, historic and systemic racism, and epic failure of our society to care about other people’s children. The real failures among us fill boardrooms, legislatures, executive offices, non-profits, and cabinets all over this country. They aren’t in my classroom. They aren’t in my school. And they aren’t the families in my city. They’re people like you. And I have the courage to state that directly. Now, I challenge you to stand in front of us and tell us we are failures while you are looking straight into the eyes of my children, my students, our school staff, and my colleagues. OR you can finally gain the courage to change your narrative, examine the research, and acknowledge the role that our nation has played in making sure that some people’s children start out with less than others, and to admit that we don’t do enough to change that, or do enough to help our fellow citizens catch up.
Maybe once you have the courage to admit to policy and approach failures, you and those who believe that having money makes them authorities about EVERYTHING, will actually ASK educators, healthcare providers, social workers, mental health providers, safety and security providers, nutritionists, and the people we serve what is really needed to improve our cities and education. I am pretty certain the response won’t be that we need more politicians and reformers threatening us and calling us failures. You won’t know though until you change your proximity, and then change your narrative. Meanwhile, I’ll keep working under your failed policies and egregious labels while making sure that my students, their families, and my colleagues remain reminded that YOU FAIL US then label us. Yet, until you make an initiative for change, it is YOU who should wear the label of failure and shame.
*Changing proximity and changing the narrative were ideas presented by justice advocate and lawyer Bryan Stevenson at a Boston Community Conversation on December 9th, 2015 at Emerson University’s Paramount Theater in partnership with Facing History.
5 thoughts on “Hillary, Politicians, Education Reformers, & Education Profiteers: You Are Cowards & Failures”
good stuff, just keep in mind that profiters as you call them also exist in the public sector, they just have different names for them, such as consultants, contractors who are awarded no bid contracts, superintendents who have had their contracts bought out etc.
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Wow. Eloquent, epic, truth to power. I salute you for this and all that you do.
Richard Leiken is obviously not in the proximal spot.
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Worse then failures, actually. “They have become death, destroyers of [public education].”
Not only should we not blame the teachers, we should not blame anyone. I tell my students that “fault” is a swear word in my classroom, because it focuses on making people feel bad about something that has already happened and draws focus away from trying to solve the problem.
Problems that result from poverty can only be addressed by addressing poverty itself. While the politicians are busy hurling insults at teachers and closing schools in neighborhoods where school is the one bastion of stability in many kids’ lives, teachers are busy addressing the root causes–providing a safe space, someone to listen to their stories, hopes and fears, a shoulder to cry on, food, clothing, and the beginnings of a belief in themselves. After that, teachers provide remediation for skills that the kids hadn’t been able to learn because of the effects of their home lives.
With enough caring and capable teachers, these kids can graduate from high school and become productive members of society. They may never be able to get into ivy league schools or achieve at the levels of their wealthy neighbors from more affluent communities, but most of them will go on to become hard workers who pull their own weight and whose children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able gradually work their way out of their soul-crushing poverty.
Leading families out of poverty takes generations. Politicians need to recognize this, and they need to support the process at every level, which means supporting high-needs schools and the teachers who teach in them. Closing a failing school amounts to giving up, surrendering, admitting defeat in the war on poverty. That is not the America that I fight for every day in the classrooms of my low-income urban school!