Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Exodus of Public Education

Is abandonment the answer?

There I was sitting in my first graduate seminar ready to begin my journey towards becoming a college professor. We went around the room introducing ourselves and expressed our desires/intentions in pursuing graduate studies. Of the 15 people in the class, three or four indicated they were teaching at the high school level. These teachers, however, went on to say the reason they were in grad school was to attain the degrees necessary so they could leave their high school positions and teach at the college level. They continued their harmonious tone of discontent by saying they had lost their patience and desire to teach high school which in their mind had become a broken system with no signs of healing.

I began to wonder, how many other teachers feel this way? More importantly, if all these teachers are leaving, then who is staying? Here I thought I had it all figured out. I'll get my MA in two years and then proceed to get a Phd which will take four years. Once that is done I can teach at some college in NYC and live happily ever after. But I became conflicted after hearing these teachers declare their exodus from public education. I am began to feel this need to throw my plan in garbage and start from scratch.

I want nothing more than to teach at the college level. But that is what I want. I keep asking myself, what do the children of public education want? what do the children of public education need? What they want is for some one, quite frankly, to give a damn. What they need is an alliance of parent and teacher who work together to assist and encourage the educational development of the child. What they want is the feeling that they matter. What they need is for a nation to stop just looking across the ocean for crises to solve and start looking down the street. So do I look the need of the children of public education in face and then walk on to pursue my desire to teach college? Or do I deny myself my desire and try to help the children of public education?

To those teachers still in public education, please don't leave. Yes, you are vastly underpaid. Yes, you are understaffed. Yes, you are taken advantage of. Yes, the grass is greener on the other side. But stop and ask yourself, is abandonment the solution? Are the problems of public education solved by you leaving them behind? The only way to heal the brokenness of public education is to have brave teachers like you to stay and face the problems head on. You are making a difference in the midst of the madness. You are not alone because I feel more and more that i will be joining you in the struggle to give the children of public education what they need.

There is no doubt that these are dark times for public education. But as MLK said, "Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars." MLK did not deny the dark times in which he lived. He referred to such times as "midnight". It was "midnight" in the struggle for civil rights as he saw his people being lynched and attacked by dogs. Though he acknowledged the "midnight" of the hour, MLK knew that "dawn" would come. Well it is "midnight" in the public schools of America, but fear not because the "dawn" is coming. No matter how much the dark night wants to hold on, it can't stop the rising of the sun. So it is with public education. Though there are many children now in public schools who can't read or do math, there will soon come a time when all children in public schools will read Shakespeare or master the Pythagorean Theorem. Though public schools now are the laughing stock of education, they will soon be the envy of all private institutions. So let us join together, you and I, and deny ourselves what we desire and fulfill the needs of the children of public education. In doing so we will not only see the "dawn" we hope for, but we will also end the exodus of public education.


Coming Next Week: Who Speaks For You?


jettybetty 8:20 PM  

Great thoughts!

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