As some of you know I’m working on research and I can’t move forward without a strong introduction. I was given the green light but after additional review I was given a “solid yellow light with a tint of red” so I had to go back and start over. So, here is the second attempt to launch the journey of exploring the “forgotten” problems in public ed.
The current state of public education in the United States of America is a state in which we have two different outlooks on the horizon. On one end, we are doing great, we still have a union strong nation of teachers (Alan Maass, 2012), homophobic driven bullying is seeing a reduction (GLSEN, 2012), we still have truly public schooling options for children, and we are actively funneling more money than ever before into the public school infrastructure (New American Foundation, 2012). However, on the other end, we have some inhibitions to talk about, inhibitions that are serious enough to be the civil rights issue of our time. On the other end of the horizon, we have educators under attack (Khadaroo, 2011), public officials turning their backs on the public education infrastructure (Saltman, 2007), schools that increasingly resemble super-max prisons (Giroux, 2009), children in classrooms with 45-50 students, an ongoing campaign against individuality that’s been perpetuated against students, and unrelenting influence from corporatist influences.
These problems however are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the growing mountain of issues within the public education infrastructure. While some problems are more serious than others they all unjustly prohibit students from receiving the free appropriate public education they are entitled to. However, in our move to “reform” public education we have abandoned finding solutions for these problems, pushed them under a rug for another day, and put blame everywhere beside where it really belonged. The problem with this though is that the rug has no more space under it to cover up the problems our educational system is facing; we are running out of places to misplace blame and we are fast approaching the day when we will have no more time to ignore the problems we are too cowardly to address. Our solution of blaming educators first, shuttering schools second, and identifying kids who are capable of learning as “unreachable” based on a hyper-standardized curriculum third is everything but a solution and can no longer remain the plan of action.
Today, in the 98,706 public schools across the United States of America it is time to address some very serious problems with some very serious solutions. Solutions that are not heavy on the blame, bashing, and demoralizing. At a time when schools are too segregated, children are feeling too afraid of not just their own classmates but of irresponsible adults, and we are too rapidly failing children before the even enter kindergarten, blaming educators and bashing unions is simply not the best path to take. The buck does not just stop there though; we must address the reason behind why too many teenage girls are counseled out of schools once they become mothers and the reason behind why the LGBTQ bullying rate for students is 8-10. We must also address why we are sending so many young Black and Latino men to prisons and detention centers as a first resort. Moreover, we are placing too much emphasis on testing and standardization, drugging children, and culture washing when we can redirect so much of the money and time we spend on our addiction to testing and the additional problems it presents on recess, gym, eyeglasses, and auditory testing, the arts, and support services.
In order to take the initial steps in the right direction, a direction in which we treat students, parents, and educators with respect and dignity, we must embark on change and acceptance. No longer can we allow for a system that silences teachers and students who voice their professional and candid opinion. We can no longer allow for a system that declares war on creativity and individualism and that allow for the existence of academic environments in which competition is the driving force for learning. The steps in the right direction means a system that allows children to come to school and learn without having to be forcefully drugged with mind altering chemicals. We must take steps in a direction that allows all children to learn, regardless of how different they maybe in a public school that answers to the public and not to special interest or politicians. Nonetheless, we must take these steps soon because the functional problems that exist within the public education infrastructure are locking students out of schools, discouraging great and qualified educators from educating, and is setting future generations of students up for failure.