“The greatest threat to America is not communist aggression, nuclear warfare nor oil embargo. The greatest threat is a public education system that has abandoned the principles on which America was founded.”
~ Paul Harvey
There must be many old-fashioned principals still working in government schooling, but their numbers appear to be rapidly dwindling. It is predicted that in some states even fifty percent may join their retired peers during the coming year.
Several of these principals are regular readers of LRC and have shared their experiences and explained their reasons for choosing to take early retirement. All too often their reasons revolve around the illegal, unconstitutional federal and state takeover of local schooling decisions with the accompanying mounds of required forms and reports. They resent the destruction of principled curriculum, as well as the unprincipled decisions forced upon them from u2018the-powers-that-be’ — whether from state or federal levels.
Schools have lost their local autonomy, and principals have lost the authority to lead their individual schools with vision, making educational choices that are in the best interests of their unique communities. In today’s government schooling, true curricular and policy choices, once determined and supported by the local citizens who financially support local schools, no longer exist.
Most of these principals, and superintendents, tell of pressures to accept the FedEd curriculum and foist it upon their staff members and students; of expectations, overt and covert, to support the philosophy and assist in the final destruction of academics and true scholarship. They express their resentment of FedEd and its denial of ethics, morals and principles as a guiding framework for schooling.
It appears that old-fashioned, principled principals take early retirement for the same reasons that old-fashioned, riffraff teachers do — to remove themselves from empty, counterproductive, often perverse, curriculum; from intrusive federal involvement in the rights of states and localities to educate their children according to the preferences of the local taxpayers and parents.
Our difficulties in adjusting to u2018progressive’ ways usually stems from the fact that we were educated — not just u2018taught’ — in an era when literacy, critical thinking, and succinct writing were encouraged. Our teachers instructed us in reasoned thought and taught us to express ourselves verbally — orally and with the written word. In our classrooms we, as students, were expected to voice intelligent, supported opinions and participate in mentally stimulating discourse. We were taught to u2018agree to disagree.’ However, as teachers, we are expected to remain silent in the face of the takeover of the schools by those (Morlocks?) with curriculum and agendas for training lock-step state-slaves.
We "oldies" do not consider the alphabet programs (NCLB, G2000…) to be educational programs, for they do not fit our definition and concept of scholarship. Many of us believe that the federal School-to-Work program, and its companion-laws, violate the rights of children and the needs of childhood — just as the mines and factories of the Industrial Revolution did. We sadly nod affirmation to the person who pointed out that, "In one generation, America has gone from teaching Greek and Latin in high schools, to teaching remedial reading in universities."
It will now take different types of people, who have had different kinds of training, to stomach, let alone direct the travesty that schooling has become, to the depths towards which it is headed. The word u2018leadership‘ should no longer be used in connection with government schools since the Feds have usurped the will of the people and now direct the schools from D.C. These warehouses for training future worker-bees will need cold, impersonal directors who can tolerate any type of behavior without becoming offended by the loss of decency, integrity and decorum — as long as the paperwork pretends to reflect compliance with the various benchmarks and standards demanded by the various laws.
Some new principals might be persons who can easily, without any pangs of conscience, disregard the principles upon which this nation was founded, and its schools organized, to blindly follow the Pied Piper, even as he steals the children of this nation. These people should be labeled, "Unprincipled principals," and they will be precisely the kind of u2018leader’ that the feds seek.
A second type of new principal will be one who is a product of the system itself, seeing nothing wrong in the decay and misdirection of the standards — both academic and behavioral — that surround us. They will not to be scholars, themselves, and will lack any concept of true scholarship. They will have no framework of scholarly goals towards which to align their decision as they direct their schools. These individuals have already been trained by the Feds to specifications.
In his book, Dumbth, (Prometheus Books, 1998, p. 145) Steve Allen points out "An often unappreciated but dismaying aspect of the larger problem has been perceived by one of our wiser social critics" and quotes Gene Lees from Jazzletter, June, 1984, with "…We have been hearing for some time the lament that our young are uneducated — so long, indeed, that we have begun to realize that the uneducated young have moved up into positions of authority, not only in government and journalism but in the sacred halls of academe. In other words, a great many of our educators are themselves uneducated."
The third type of person willing to accept a principalship will be principled, with honest plans to save government schooling — to change the goals, outcomes, and the educational methods. However, these individuals will become exasperated, if not nearly destroyed, when they realize that they are fighting a losing battle; a battle with predetermined outcomes now assured because of the new weapons within the FedEd curriculum.
Many will think that this type of person is the one we need, but these principled principals will also fail to save the schools. Some may be successful in the short term, but battles, in the face of such incredible odds and predetermined outcomes, are surely hard won and hardly satisfying. In the end, these brave principled principles will come to see what those of use who have gone before have already learned — that a few won skirmishes only prolong "The End" — as well as delay "The Beginning-The Rebuilding" — of an educational system based, once again, upon the founding principles of the Republic, with a return to local school decisions made by local schooling leadership.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.