Last summer, after a wonderful day spent walking and shopping on Michigan’s beautiful Mackinac Island, we hurried to catch the next ferry back to the mainland. As we passed the last shop, my son called out, “Mom! Look at the t-shirt in the window. You HAVE to get it. It’s perfect!” I took one quick look before following him into the store to purchase that perfect t-shirt — the one that read, “THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES.”
As we left the store, my son said, almost through clenched teeth, “I hope you wear it on the first day of school!” We both knew the reasoning, as well as the hurt, behind his need for me to buy the shirt, and his wish for me to wear it to school. We know the price that we both have paid, being at the mercy, as we have been, of theCaptain Blighs of public education.
It should come as no surprise when children accurately discern the cruel and destructive forces controlling government education, while most citizens, and virtually all politicians, administrators, and especially school boards, miss it completely. The children, after all, are at the bottom of the pecking order. Every day students experience, first-hand, the plots and ploys that drive public schooling, and know that the change agents, and the regulators, will go to great lengths to force students to smile during the process of having their value diminished and their self-respect destroyed. The children know that the local Petty Officers will demand — despite the fact that hollow smiles prove nothing — that the students pleasantly march to the gallows to be punished with words, insinuations, peer pressure, intellectual deprivation, isolation; with anything and everything needed to bring about acquiescence and compliance.
In a recent article, Dr. Gary North said,
Bureaucrats reproduce themselves in the classroom: obedience counts far more than creativity. Teachers are paid to maintain order. If there is actual teaching going on, no one cares too much, one way or the other, unless the teaching is superb. Then envy takes over on the faculty. Pressures are applied. The creative teachers eventually leave. If you want evidence, go to Google and search for “John Taylor Gatto.”
Yes, teachers are next in the pecking order that controls daily life in government schools. Not every teacher suffers with poor morale, though. As Dr. North astutely points out, the teachers who set standards for scholastic merit in their classrooms; who encourage students to develop true critical thinking skills and independent opinions; who persist, at great risk to themselves and their families, in actually educating their students — those are the teachers the system chooses to harass, condemn and drive from the schools.
In our home, we have had to deal with a doubling of this pain, for my son has had to suffer the brutality at two levels — in his treatment as a student in government education; in mine as a teacher who has been lied about, tormented, pressured to quit, set up to fail, unfairly reprimanded and shamed, ordered shunned — cruelty inflicted by a few small administrators with grandiose ambitions of driving me, and the few left like me, out of the schools.
My child suffered my beatings with me — when I arrived home stressed; too upset to relax and play; preoccupied with hopes of escaping the chains; dreaming of one day leading a mutiny. On too many days it was impossible to hide my despair from my family. My son has had his life diminished by unnecessary suffering, and all because his mother is the kind of teacher who feels a calling to educate students so that some might escape their captors and become whole.
The beatings continue at both levels in education and, as one might guess, morale never improves. The children, the unwanted teachers, some of the children’s families, and many of the teachers’ families, are ever aware of this fact. There is no reason to expect, or hope, that cruel and self-serving Masters will voluntarily put an end to the destructive and anti-scholastic acts and decisions within government schools. Those who carefully consider the t-shirt message will come to that conclusion, just as my son did.
However, the time will come when the mutiny will begin. On that day, the Captain Blighs will be removed from the buildings that turn out shorn sheep instead of enthusiastic scholars. Then, and only then, will the beatings actually end and morale truly improve. Then, and only then, will the terms educate, education, educator; study, scholarship, scholar, again have meaning, be valued, and become the underlying framework for every institution of learning.
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.