Monday, March 15, 2010


Maybe it's that I'm still tired from losing that hour of sleep this weekend. Maybe I'm cranky because it's Monday and I have a 3 hour class tomorrow night that amounts to jumping through a hoop. I don't know.

Regardless of all that, I'm sick of hearing about how our public schools are failing.

I do believe our schools can do better. I do not believe they are failing.

There are areas in which we desperately need to improve. We must do more for children living in poverty. We must help students learn to problem solve and be creative rather than follow directions and conform. We must be willing to question the status quo. I believe schools could work better with significant changes.

However, I'm a product of public schools. Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Feynman, and Katie Couric are all products of public schools. Most of the people crying that our public schools are failing are products of those same public schools. Most people are happy with their local public school. It's 'public schools' they don't like.

We educate everyone (not always perfectly but we take them all). We attempt to offer options to meet the needs of gifted students, students with disabilities (physical, emotional, learning, etc.), and those who just don't fit in.

We're not perfect, but to say we're failing (and to say it from the highest offices in the land and on the covers of magazines and newspapers and on the daily news and on and on) is a slap in the face. So far we're turning the other cheek, but at some point we're likely to give up, give in, and walk away. Then our public schools will fail.


Mamie said...

You SAID (perfectly) exactly what I've been thinking! And you helped me realize that what I have been thinking is "burnout" in terms of my career isn't burnout with regard to being a public educator, it's burnUP with the constant criticism, attacks, denigration, etc. we have to put up with.

bun2bon said...

Hear hear!

organized chaos said...

Well, well said. I go back and forth from being determined to ignore all education politics and just do my job the way I do it best, but then realizing that although it keeps me from getting angry it doesn't help change anything. But it is something to hear over and over again how much we're failing.
Thanks for putting all those thoughts into words.

Teacher Tom said...

Yay Jenny!

I'm sick of it too and I don't even teach in a public school. There is this underlying meme that teachers are lazy, trying to get away with sub par work, and need to be constantly whipped and penalized in order to get them in line.

It really is sickening. Better funding, smaller classes, an less emphasis on standardized testing would be a great start, IMO.

Cheeseboy said...

First Grade teacher here too. Love the blog! Glad I stumbled upon it.

I don't think there is a single parent at our school that would refer to our school as "failing". In fact, quite the contrary. Yet the media and politicians say it is so...

Also, classes in which you have to jump through hoops are the worst kind of class. They would be SO much better if you actually had to physically jump through hoops.

Launa Hall said...

I wish I could remember who to attribute this quote to, but I recently read someone say that the department of education is the only federal department whose leaders say this is a mess, this is a failure! Let's fire them all! Can you imagine the department of defense leaders saying that? The department of agriculture? Hard to imagine. Only the Dept of Ed Heads feel that they are somehow seperate and not in any way responsible for the "mess" they see in their own organization. That's a puzzle to me. Thank you for posting something I've also really been feeling.

Jenny said...

Thank you all for these comments. You've reassured me that I'm not crazy which is helpful! In addition, somehow, your comments give me hope.

Sarah said...

I could not agree more!

And by the way, we went sledding at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Well worth the trip, especially since the amazing and awe-inspiring Carlsbad Caverns are just a few hours away!

mburtis said...

I meant to leave a comment on this post when I first saw it, and totally forgot.

I just wanted to say that I'm sorry for all the unfair attacks that great public school teachers have to endure. I DO have concerns about public education, but it is NOT with the majority of dedicated, amazing teachers who are out there. Rather, I'm frustrated that the systems these people work in so often don't empower them.

It's a hard line to walk -- how do we offer constructive useful commentary on a way forward (in both K-12 and higher education) without unfairly denigrating the individuals who work so hard to give our kids great opportunities.

On a related note, on an article on Edupunk that I read the other day, the comment stream contained a message from one person who suggested Edupunk (and it's corresponding rally to change/teardown/rebuild educational institutions) has really just become fodder for those with a political agenda against public education (K-12 and higher). I'm not sure I agree with that analysis, but I do worry that in our enthusiasm to challenge our institutions and systems we run the risk of alienating and undermining the best people who work in those institutions and systems.