In yesterday’s Wall StreetJournal on the front page I spied the article headline, TEACHER RATINGS AIRED IN NEW YORK. A Stephanie Banchero was its ‘journalist’. It began:
“The release of a trove of date evaluating New York City teachers on their ability to boost student test scores represents a potentially powerful new tool for parents to assess their children’s public schools.
Nationally, teachers unions have staunchly opposed releasing such information, and even some supporters of linking teacher evaluations to student-test scores worry the data could be misunderstood or misused.
If school districts across the U.S. were to begin taking similar actions, it could add to pressure on school administrators to improve or to remove their weakest teachers.
In New York, the nation’s largest school system, the teachers’ union opposed release of the date on 18,000 public school teachers. A state court ordered the release in response to a public records request by The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations It comes 18 months after the Los Angeles Times published a database, calculated by the newspaper, of teacher rankings in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school district.”
Backers say, “If we truly want parents to be taking a seminal interest in their kids’ eduation and understand fully what type of education they are getting, then we need to be ready to give them all the information we have.” These well meaners tout organizations named “Students First”.
I read these articles regularly about parents demanding this and than. Teachers accused of this and that incompetence or bedding down with the boys. Over paid dministrators, we are told, have to come up with the right pieces to put the education puzzle back in order……such as firing teachers whom they believe or tests “prove” don’t measure up.
American schools are a mess, because America itself is a mess. Its parents, what’s left of them are frantic. Politicians want to be re-elected.
I was a public high school teacher for thirteen years in Minneapolis. I never was interested in parents of students in my classes taking their issues to the School Board, the School Administration, or even the School Principal, unless they had seen me first. Administrators didn’t like that idea. They preferred to bully teachers with “One of your student’s parents called a while back”….it would start and then they would cover themselves with a shroud of the savior who made excuses for the teacher…..and so the teacher owed him as if a slave.
My answer was “Bull…..they didn’t call me! I don’t respond to gossip.”
I wanted complaining parents to come to me, the priest in charge of students intellectual growth assigned to my classrooms. Special favor people, parents, administrators, superintendents, the vast majority of my fellow teachers, I noticed, didn’t like that idea. All preferred the spreading of fear festering in the right amounts to keep bad administrators, pompous and arrogant superintendents, and incompetent teacher unders control to do their imcompetence unobserved. Administrator were added year in and year out and pretended to be devotees to improving ‘education’. Most meant well, however.
I don’t think I ever met an intellectual public school principal or system administrator or supervisor, or anyone who was interested in anyway to advance knowledge, or teaching knowledge. They wanted a job and its security. Many preferred extended summer vacations. When the federal government began to foot some bills, new perks became extra enticing. One of them sent me to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1966 for which I am eternally grateful.
Most teachers seemed to like teenagers. A few liked to bully them. Administrators seemed to like teachers, More than a few liked to bully them. Teachers endured, for despite the good and the bad, the bullied and unbullied, they still had their summers off.
A Nation becomes what its Children are taught. As I am reading the Wall Street Journal and other reports about America’s “education’ crisis and listen to Dennis Prager on radio or follow school horrors on news television, I am imagining the PRODUCT of today’s American educational industry…… the personalities, the competence, the understandings, the sensitivities, the knowledge, the morality, the stability, the intellect, the talent, the mental and religious fortitude, the conscience, the brotherhood, the whatever is decent in humanity today and tomorrow, and I find the United States of American is killing itself.
Our Nation has become what it is today from well meaning, do goody administrators, unlearned educators, shallow minded politicians of a generation ago when the druggie, sex sick, antiAmerican racists, feminists, atheists, anarchists and terrorists took to the streets and schools, to rape pillage and burn. And they really have never stopped. On the contrary, the America of yesterday, the Liberty, E Pluribus Unum, and In God We Trust America and its neighborhoods have essentially been destroyed by the Left, graduates of the street revolution, now dominating nearly every avenue of “The American Way”.
I was fired twice by my ‘superiors’ in the Minneapolis Public School system, the first from a peaceful middle class blue collar worker community in 1971 and the second a year later while teaching at a predominantly black warfront school in its early years as a “Magnet” senior high school offering a new curriculum in an attempt to entice white students to enrol in order to meet court-established statistics to keep schools from becoming entirely ‘minority black’. Forced busing became an ‘educational’ tool.
I was fired from the quiet neighborhood school . I had not filled out a form ‘properly’, they said. The administrations School Board wasn’t pleased with the firing, and allowed me to continue in the system but without tenure. The Administration did not allow me to return to the quiet, working class neighborhood. So, I chose the Magnet School alternative for its community and the curriculum it offered despite its well known violence.
I often relive and rethink my days as a teacher in these two schools. I am proud of my efforts, my work, my devotions, and my memories of those troubled times. I always felt that I would have loved to have had me as a highschool teacher. It was often my guide for teaching. I never forgot those talented and inspiring, determined, well educated old maid school teachers who loved their work, their knowledge, and their product who produced me.
Today’s troubles in American education at the university level and high school level, and probably all the way down to kindergarten, are far worse than those in my day. The American public school since its founding has been the brick and mortar which made E Pluribus Unum work and America great. The country’s future is being guaranteed by the disuniting and self-interested politics of Diversity Training, fattening sharks to eat the eduation bodyk flesh for political purposes.
On March 14, 1972 a parent of a 14 year old student of mine, deeply concerned about the quality of public education, not only for her own children but for the city community as well, gave the following speech on my behalf….as I have often said, the greatest moment in my public school teaching>
Harriet Lykken appeared before Minneapolis’ publicly-elected Board of Education , to clarify what is truly important in any child’s learnings at any age of any era of any truly civilized country interested in its future. I found it then as now, beautifully , and as classically thought out. I don’t think there are any Harriet Lykkens around America these days. Our schools and universities and the people they produce don’t seem to be speaking her language, neither style nor content.
March 12, 1972.
“Chairman Allen and Members of the Board: I speak to you tonight as a parent of a boy at Central, one of Mr. Ray’s students. We live in the Ramsey-Washburn district – my oldest son is now a senior at Washburn – and I have been active on PTA boards for some years. It became obvious to us – and to our sons – that Ramsey and Washburn have rested on their laurels for too long, that except for a few outstanding teachers, they do not provide the challenge and the stimulation that their students have a right to expect. So my second son, Joe, welcomed the chance last Fall to leave Ramsey and enter tne “Magnet” program at Central where one of his first teachers was Glenn Ray, for American History.
It soon became apparent that Mr. Ray was exactly what we had expected of the Magnet program, a knowledgeable, enthusiastic, dedicated teacher, interested in teaching not just facts but the principles that lie behind the facts, and especially concerned with teaching his students how to think, how to form their own opinions and defend them when challenged. When Joe signed up for another course from Mr. Ray, we all looked forward to more family discussions about what had been covered in class today.
We were therefore as shocked and distressed as Joe was to learn that Mr. Ray had been suddenly fired – told to clean out his desk and leave at once. Like reasonable citizens, taxpayers and parents, we began to try to learn all we could about the reasons behind this – on the face of it – extraordinary action. We talked to Mr. Ober and the principal Mr. Trammel, without much illumination. We read the charges alleged against Mr. Ray and, later, his detailed answers to these charges. We cross-questioned our son about these allegations and we talked to other of Ray’s students and their parents. We talked to Mr. Ray himself.
My husband, who is a Professor of Psychology, frankly wanted to find out if the real reason behind this business might be that Mr. Ray was some sort of strange character. His conclusion was that Ray was emminently sane and unusual only in being unusually high principled, unusually well trained, and unusually interested in teaching.
We even read the record of the hearing last year at which Ray was deprived of tenure and his job at Edison because he refused to answer certain questions on a meaningless form, because he had the courage to insist that the Administration had no right to FORCE him to answer questions about his private life and summer activities on pain of losing his job. These were questions he would have gladly answered voluntarily but which he felt the Administration had no right to MAKE him answer. I must say we were shocked to discover that this Administration was capable of such a petty and punative action and that several members of this present Board condoned it.
Finally, at Mr. Ray’s invitation, I was present last week at a private hearing before Mr. Ober at which Mr. Trammel reviewed his charges and Mr. Ray rebutted them, one, by one. I think, therefore, that I can fairly claim to know as much about this matter as many member of the Board. Nor do I have any personal ax to grind; I never met Mr. Ray until he had been fired for the second time and, before this incident, I have always been a supporter of the School Administration and the so-called “liberal” members of this Board. But JUSTICE is more important to me than politics, and the education of my children far outweighs old friendships and loyalties. Having considered all the evidence I have come to two inescapable conclusions:
First: THE OFFICIAL CHARGES ARE RIDICULOUS AND HAVE BEEN TOTALLY REFUTED. Mr. Ray is accused of not making written lesson plans and of leaving his class unattended. Experienced teachers laugh at the idea of written lesson plans and Ray leaves his class no more often than any teacher must from time to time. With such charges you could fire half the teachers in the system, including all of the best ones. Mr. Ray asked some students not to wear their hats in class, thinking this might help maintain a minimum of discipline. This reasonable request is now suggested as a basis for dismisssal. I won’t review the whole list; some of these charges are absurd on their face and others are downright false or misleading. The Board has seen Mr. Ray’s detailed and reasonable responses to every charge and what he says accords completely with reports we have from a number of his students.
Second: THERE ARE NO OTHER COMPLAINTS OR ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MR. RAY THAN THOSE CONTAINED IN MR. TRAMMEL’S LIST OF ‘CHARGES’. We’ve looked for them, we’ve asked for them, they don’t exist. Ray has repeatedly asked for a public hearing and never behaved like a man with something to hide. This is important, because the official charges are either trivial or vacuous or false and already we have heard ugly rumors of the sort that arise whenever the official reasons don’t make sense.
Since the Administration has persisted to its vendetta against Mr. Ray in spite of the lack of any case against him, we have been forced to certain further conclusions.
First. we assume that Superintendent Davis has managed to line up his four obedient Board members to support him, willy-nilly.
Secondly, we conclude that this Administration, for from being as progressive and student-oriented as we had previously thought, has become a hidebound bureaucracy more concerned with purging independent spirits, protecting itself from criticism and maintaining its absolute, despotic authority than it is with the fate of the school system, the quality and morale of its faculty, or the education of our children.
Thirdly, we must conclude that this action is not only a flagrant violation of academic freedom, a callous injustice to a blameless and remarkable man, and that it will cost this system one of its most talented career teachers, but also that the firing of Mr. Ray cannot help but have a chilling effect upon every other decent teacher in Minneapolis. We have already heard of several who are afraid to support Mr. Ray or even to talk with him in public for fear that THEY may be next on Mr. Ober’s list. Finally, we have concluded that we can no longer uncritically support this Administration nor rubber-stamp the outrageous action recommended here tonight.”