Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bah, humbug!

I haven't posted here for a long time and a friend from California wrote to me that she misses reading my posts, but school has been back in session and I've been busy. Not just busy during the school day, which for me runs from 7:15 til 3:45 and sometimes until 5:00, but exhausted and unable to function outside of school. I haven't had the energy to exercise. I haven't been outside. In fact, since I work in an enclosed space with no windows, I don't see the sky for 8 hours. The sun may be shining, the rain pouring down, but I wouldn't know it.

Encased in this prison cell, I have only half an hour's break, if I'm lucky, to swallow my lunch.

No inspiration for art, my only desire when I stumble into our apartment in the evening is for whiskey and pajamas.

I'm not the only unhappy teacher in the school, and although I'm tempted to chalk this discouragement and exhaustion up to our particular school district's ugly, sly politics and poor decisions, I know that  universal factors have damaged public education around the country and we're all feeling the pressure.

1) The so-called recession means that we are understaffed and working longer hours. Teachers are insecure in our jobs. We're fighting to keep our unions and contracts.

2) The collusion of technology developers and big business has created a monolithic power that pushes schools to buy and use vast fleets of expensive equipment, with expensive upkeep costs, that are constantly being outdated by newer machines for us to buy and use.

3) Children are inundated with media messages, and live in a media-saturated, consumerist environment that robs them of fundamental social and academic skills, steals their curiosity about the world, negatively impacts their brain architecture, and limits their ability to listen, pay attention, learn, and remember.

4) Last, but hardly least, is the political imperative to standardize the educational experience, and in so doing, to standardize our children. High stakes testing is only one part of the dominator campaign to control public education. Teachers are all being asked to teach the same things, at the same time, in the same ways, and to test children with the same tests . . . but who decides what the content of this teaching will be? Not the teachers, not parents or communities, but a core of business and political elites, along with a few celebrity "educators."

Any failure to live up to these standardized results is being blamed on teachers and low test scores will be cause to fire teachers and close public schools. The profiteers are licking their chops at the thought of turning our vast public education system, like the once public prison system, into a private money-making enterprise.

No wonder so many teachers are discouraged and depressed.

Now, I don't want my friends to worry about me. I'm not depressed or even in a bad mood. I'm just angry at something worth being angry about. Can I do anything to change the direction of public education? I don't think so. I've come to believe that my efforts are moot and that the world will follow its course no matter what I do. Can I teach one or two children in between my tech-support and administrative tasks? Maybe. If I can get the printers working.

Timothy Leary makes more sense now than ever. Tune in, turn on, and drop out sounds pretty damned good to me.