THE RESIGNATION OF A SCHOOLTEACHER
It is a privilege to have been asked to serve as a columnist for NewsWithViews.com, and I suppose it is only appropriate that I should begin with a little background on myself and my primary areas of expertise.
I am, and have been for 20 years, a part-time writer as well as a speaker on the lecture circuit concerning education issues. Of necessity, education has taken me into the areas of data-trafficking (a.k.a. "data-mining"), privacy, forced drugging, and testing fraud.
Teaching was always my first love, but in 1974 I found myself utterly disenchanted with the classroom in California and changed professions to technical writer-for a contractor with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. I tried teaching again in 1979, hoping that things had either changed, or that the area where I was then living (Houston), was more friendly to academics and substantive learning. I was wrong, and left the profession for a second time to pursue the life of a speechwriter in Washington, D.C.
I did, in fact, pen speeches for some very high-profile entities (see my bio) and wound up with a post at the Justice Department. But the lure of education continued to beckon-this time from a different perspective.
What, I wondered, went wrong? When did schooling turn into a psychographic surveying tool, an exercise in political re-education, and an experiment in social engineering? More to the point, why were so many children virtually illiterate and unable to do simple arithmetic?
These questions resulted in an avocation, which eventually overtook my vocation, resulting in three books and many published articles. It also forced me to return, mentally, not only to my college years, when I was first preparing for a career as a schoolteacher, but back to my grammar school years at (ironically) an international academy. Only then, did I truly understand what had transpired globally to the profession as a whole.
Over the course of four years of teacher training and nine years actually teaching, I found public schools to be places where bad ideas are legitimized. My role wasn't to transmit "basics," or literacy, or proficiency at anything, but rather to promote "mental health." Accountability, I learned, meant satisfying government mandates and bureaucrats, not answering to parents.
Between 1968-1975, standardized tests started looking more like opinion surveys than cognitive measures. Teachers like me were told essentially not to teach-not to put red marks on pupils' papers, not to say anything that could even be construed as a negative comment about a youngster's work, clothing, or speech.
I didn't get it back then, but eventually I understood why few prospective teachers even pursued an academic major. They majored in education, which means, quite simply: psychology-or, more specifically, social work. Even those few who do specialize in an academic subject, typically wind up "facilitating" some other area once they hit the classroom.
Facilitate: That's what teaching is called now, you know. It entails a whole new curricular experience: "survival and coping skills," "anger management," "conflict resolution," "self-esteem," "sexual diversity," and so on. Little in the curriculum provides insight into our cultural or constitutional underpinnings. Courses like logic, philosophy, and civics, which once helped kids get a handle on modern issues, are gone. Nothing incorporates the values of self-reliance, property rights, limited government (especially in the context of regulatory power), or the role of religion in our society. Physics, chemistry, calculus, and physiology are reserved for the few with very high IQ scores, who are then summarily skimmed off the top for what can best be described as ideological studies in political correctness, or else rounded up to "mentor" slower students.
Four consequences have followed from this shift of emphasis:
So, in effect, children are being "warehoused," not educated.
When I thought back, I found that this approach to education mirrored the childrearing (as opposed to "parenting") advice that started being disseminated in books and magazines beginning in the mid-1950s. Parents who continued to transmit even innocuous virtues like propriety, tact, and modesty had the rug pulled out from under them.
As a young teacher in California, I listened to behavioral experts like William Glasser explain how children needed to be told their every accomplishment was wonderful, even when it wasn't. I was there when child experts told parents and teachers to "take the screws off," to let toddlers express themselves. I was there when psychologists admonished adults to stop "snooping" in kids' belongings and give them some "space." I was there when schools started sponsoring dances and dating for pre-pubescent youngsters-which crushed tender egos and made peer pressure the end-all that it is today.
Moreover, I was there when educational psychologists helped teachers scrap the dress codes, and advised educators and parents not to lead, not to lecture and moralize-because kids wouldn't listen anyway. How ironic to hear ads on the television today, sponsored by government agencies such as the Office of National Drug Control Policy, telling parents that they "have more influence" than they know, and that they are the "anti-drug." It's a little late for that bit of wisdom, which, by the way, school counselors and psychologists still undermine daily.
The self-anointed "experts" of the '60s and '70s claimed the traditional approach to raising children was "creating a thousand neurotics for every one that psychiatrists can hope to help with psychotherapy." By the mid-80s, it was "children have rights"-rights to sexual information and paraphernalia, rights to access porn on the Internet, rights to sue their parents for disciplining them. In fact, children had more rights than you! Today, most education-related legislation is rooted in the presumption of parental incompetence. School staff is given license to circumvent parents.
But when the fire hits the fan at Columbine, or Paducah, or Santana High, it was the parents who got blamed for not doing all those things 35 years of experts have lobbied against.
So, parents are the "amateurs," you see-the well-intentioned dummies of the 21st Century without degrees in the social or behavioral sciences; unfit to make judgments concerning their children's welfare, right down to everyday decisions about health. We are to understand that kids are better off in day care so they'll be socialized and "ready to learn," not at home with a mom and dad who will transmit to them good values-or, indeed, any values.
Someone up there must have been looking over my shoulder when I was revamping my office in preparation for a new chapter in my life as full-time writer and lecturer. I uncovered my letter of resignation to my principal in May of 1981. Mr. Henry Bauerschlagg had thought it hilariously funny then and posted it. All the teachers were likewise in stitches, because it was true -all of it-and was the immediate reason, anyway, for my decision to resign. I thought when I discovered it in an old file: Goodness, there could be any more apt introduction to me or to my columns. So, I hereby resurrect my old letter of resignation for your comic relief-and at the same time unleash a terribly serious commentary on how far we've all come.
ODE TO A SCHOOLTEACHER AT YEAR'S END
(a.k.a. Letter of Resignation to the Clear Creek School District, League City (Houston), Texas, May 1981)
© 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights Reserved
Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking
since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning
of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive
Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com
"So, in effect, children are being "warehoused," not educated."