“What do elementary teachers think will happen to students who, lacking basic reading and functional math skills, are passed on to higher grades?”… “Do they even consider the implications, as well of the effects, of unwarranted promotions?”… “Do elementary teachers just assume that another teacher will pick up the ‘dropped ball’ and remediate a child’s problems at a later date?” These questions are fair and on the lips of parents, taxpayers, even students.
As with any group, there is variety and range in how elementary teachers think and react. If a fifth category is included, this old proverb provides assistance in understanding some of the reasons why schooling problems persist, and worsen.
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child. Teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep. Wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man. Follow him.
He who knows not and cares not that he knows not is dangerous. Remove him.
THE FOOLS — (Who know not and know not that they know not)
Increasing numbers of such teachers ‘graduate’ from those foolish places that pretend to be ‘schools of education.’ Too many would-be teachers arrive at schools of ‘miseducation’ holding ACT/SAT scores from the bottom rungs, and thus lack the intelligence and background to even become teachers. Later, these compromised individuals, still uneducated, head towards classrooms. They will have learned NOTHING about the process of learning and intent of education; yet will have become defined — personally and educationally — by leftist agendas. They swallow — hook, line, and sinker — the empty rhetoric pushed by professors who, themselves, have no idea how to teach reading, spelling, writing or knowledge; how to do diagnostic instruction and remediation; how to be introspective and evaluate how well or how poorly one is performing; how to wonder what will happen to children who leave their classrooms without even the most basic skill necessary for meeting success in school — Reading!
The extent to which most of these teachers will consider the lost opportunities for the unfortunate students who passed through their classrooms, is probably too miniscule to be measured. If they do think, they will conclude that the child, rather than the teacher, is at fault. For this reason, I label these damaged children as “Teacher Disabled” rather than “Learning Disabled.” The label “LD” unfairly suggests that the child is the one with the problem.
Consider this quote from Rita Kramer’s 1991 book, Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America’s Teachers —
“Most teachers agree, for example, that their job is not to hand on to their students any specific body of knowledge or even to hone any special academic skills. What they look forward to doing is preparing the children for life in a new multi-cultural America through methods and curricula designed to enhance self-esteem, racial sensitivity, and social awareness. They wish to promote social justice — not by raising the educational level of underprivileged youngsters but by making sure that everybody passes.”
THE CHILDREN (Who know not and know that they know not) —
These teachers number far fewer than those in the ‘Fools’ category. These teachers do think, and do worry, about the future of the children who have passed from them without having gained necessary skills and knowledge. These teachers were never taught the methods for successful teaching, but they realize that academic development is not occurring as it should be. Many work for administrators who also lack training; for those determined to undermine academic focus; for those who demand that all teachers unquestioningly use techniques and methods of failure.
Unless these honorable, but unknowing, teachers meet someone who will teach them better ideas, they will continue using counterproductive methods. Many of these teachers are nearing the end of frustrating careers; have already quit teaching; or have retired. Upon learning of the importance for teaching the phonetic Code for the English language, they feel regret and deep sadness. They mourn for all the children they failed, through all the years that they taught. With discouragement they admit, “Now I understand why I was not successful with all the children. If only I had known then what I know now.” Many are still employed in schools and must continue using ineffective methods of instruction, chosen by administrators for whom they work — even as the teachers, themselves, now know better.
THE SLEEPING (Who know but know not that they know) —
One can awaken these individuals to the methods for effective education, and they will begin to think about; to worry about; the children who are passing through their classrooms untouched by the instruction. However, these teachers find themselves in the same predicament as those above, for they, too, work for administrators who insist upon ineffective methods and non-academic goals.
THE WISE (Who know and know that they know) —
These teachers are leaving public education in ever-growing numbers. They are tormented by what will happen to the children who pass on without skills and know that there is no magic cure-all waiting in the next grade. These teachers grow frustrated working for inept, ill-trained principals. With no power to bring about change, they close their classroom doors against the craziness while they attempt to teach, remediate and save children. The task is too enormous; the frustrations too great. Unable to resign themselves to accepting mediocrity in order to stay in good standing with administration and peers, they exit the educational coliseum. Consider following them as they go.
THE DANGEROUS (Who know not and care not that they know not) —
This group presents a great danger to schoolchildren and to the future of this country. All they know about education is the spoon-fed agenda from the schools of miseducation. But worse, these teachers do not care to know anything different. While “Wise” ones research and attempt to introduce better methods, the “Dangerous” ones refuse to consider anything that might lift them out of their predetermined ruts. They even refuse to order good materials that happen to be sold by any group against which they have solidified their mindset. Our seventh-grade teacher would challenge those afraid of new things with: “You put me in mind of the man who wouldn’t try peas for fear that he would like them — and he didn’t like peas.” One student, hearing mention of such a teacher’s name, spoke with sadness, “Ah, HER room. Now THAT is the place to be held back.” Even students recognize these teachers for what they are not; for their persistence in maintaining anti-instruction philosophies; anti-educational stances and procedures. The students know, that to be assigned to those teachers, means the death of hope.
“What do elementary teachers think will happen to those children who are passed on, even though they lack the ability to read?” In all likelihood, most teachers just do not allow themselves to think that far into the future. Many are incapable of such thought. Many blame the children and the parents. Many teachers believe that — since they followed the mandates of the principal, used the provided materials and the suggested methods — they did all that should be expected of them, and thus they are ‘blameless.’ To them, the fault lies with the children — who are seen as coming from bad homes where parents failed to meet their responsibilities by having children “ready for school.”
As sad as it is, THE BLAME GAME supersedes introspective thought, analysis, and concern for the futures of the children. Dare the public hope that government education is reform-able? Probably not. The Fools, the Children, the Asleep and the Dangerous, are in lock step with the dumbing-down philosophies. The Wise, in frustration, are leaving at the soonest possible moment. The blind are being led by the blind, so any chance for finding the light at the end of the tunnel is dismal, at best. Do not count on a return to solid, meaningful, academic foundations in government schools — not now; probably not ever.
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.