Friday, April 07, 2006

The Pain and the Glory of Public School

Over on Creek Running North Chris Clark has penned an article about how he is trying to cope with the distress that his wife copes with when every day in her professional life she is pushing Sisyphus’ damn rock to the top of that hill.  

What did she do to earn the ire of the gods of the underworld?  

Becky is a teacher in the public school system, and the stand-ins for Hades are anti-intellectuals who care naught about any but their own spawn and opportunists who don’t have to care about the demise of public schools because their children are in private schools with small class sizes and all their peers are formed with the same cookie-cutter.  

She didn’t do anything to earn that boulder, but her mischoice in agreeing to this task is offense enough to some.

As Chris so correctly puts it:
Public school teachers make up the largest, most accessible sector of the United States’ intellectual class.

They are the cannon fodder in the War on Thinking.

Public school teachers are the largest constituency that represents a government-funded social program.

They are the cannon fodder in the War to Starve Government.
Part of Becky’s frustration is the constant fight for materials for use in the classroom, and the ill-conceived notion that standardized norms are the only way to teach anything, and penalize the schools if the luck of the neighborhood draw means that a higher proportion of  students in one school, over a school in another address, are from families with parents absent because they work two or three jobs, or the children are from homes where there is not the wherewithal to afford a breakfast before school each day, or English is a 2nd or 3rd tongue, or any other of a host of circumstance.

Chris also notes that, the actual result of the flight of educational dollars away from “non-performing schools” is to realize in effect what Edward Stanly, military Governor of N. Carolina during part of the Civil War, tried to achieve when he sought to enforce slave-holder laws against teaching blacks to read and write when he closed the schools that were instructing former slaves towards literacy.

Looking through the comments for that article, I saw a number of supportive writers for Chris’ efforts to support his wife, but then the inevitable flies in the ointment whenever public education is discussed – the voucherist hawking “choice” and the lackwit so ready to repeat Mencken’s absurd saw about “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach.”

What the voucher supporter will do is provide a grant to those who can already afford the choice (and in the next breath those same voucherists will usually decry the money spent on subsidized school lunches as "unneeded welfare")

When the child is pulled from the school it isn't just the voucher amount that is withdrawn, it is the money that is no longer there to teach the children who don't have the choice to be on-offer.

The children whose parents don't have the car to get them to the other school.

Or who don't have the time in the day because of the work schedule to get them to that other school.

Or who don't have the money to make up the tuition at that other school beyond the cost of the voucher.

Or they are the student that the other school doesn't want to take:  the whirl-a-gig all day long without a one-on-one aide; or those so challenged that they cannot deal with schoolwork except at a grade level 3 or 4 behind their age peers; or are simply physically broken and need crutches or wheelchairs; or are trying to cope with the mental, emotional or physical scars of malnutrition, physical or emotional abuse or are so lonely that any attention given is reacted to as "inappropriate."

The fancy school doesn't want these kids because accommodating them will lower their pristine scores, and private schools (so far) don't have to take them.

And as for the moronic comment about "those who can't, teach," one truly wonders if the repeater of the saw ever attempted teaching.

Like the saying about the chicken and the egg, if those who can "do," how did they *learn" the skills to "do?"

Did those skills come full-blown into their existence, imparted by some relative of Narcissus?

No, seeing the effort that the public school teachers take for granted in their professional lives, and the compassion and grace that they bestow on their charges' behalf, I'm just surprised as the Devil that there are any of them who last long enough in the system before fleeing in abject terror.

I know I could never persist at that task for any period of time.  And my prayers go to those, like Becky, who do.

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