Wednesday, September 05, 2007
First Day of School
I am a product of public education. I went to public elementary, middle, and high school. I am a proud graduate of a public university (Go Bruins!). I am the child of a (now retired) public school teacher; my sister teaches at a public high school and my nephews go to school in that district. I am a good liberal who happily pays her property taxes and always votes in favor of public education. I believe that good education for all children is the foundation of a successful democratic society.
I am a teacher and the parent of a school-age child. I teach at an independent school and my son goes to school there. When people first learn this about me, they make all sorts of assumptions about what it means. Foremost among these is the conclusion that I am a snob, a person who doesn't believe in public education.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm a proud public school graduate. I believe that there are some amazing public schools in this nation. But I also believe that public education in America is failing the children who need it the most. When America's upper middle class moves to the towns and neighborhoods with the "good schools" they are admitting the fact that the system is unequal and not serving the needs of all of America's children. Like me, they don't want to subject their child to a poor education.
The No Child Left Behind system, which forces children to take tests to prove that they are learning, is not the answer. All over the nation, schools are cutting back on gym, art, music, social science, and science so that they can spend more time on the reading and math that will be measured by standardized tests. I understand why the public is demanding "proof" of our schools' success. But I question just what that proof is. One snapshot score for a child who is nervous about taking a test will not measure our success or our failure. Nothing is that simple. Add to that the fact that many of these children are poor, hungry, and without healthcare and it's no wonder that many of our public schools are straining to fulfill their obligations.
Educational success is a magical combination of knowledge, imagination, a thirst to know more and a belief that ideas can change the world. I know it when I see it. And I see it in my school; the school to which I entrust my son and where other parents have given me the opportunity to teach and grow with their child. Tomorrow as I greet my classes, I will tell them that they are lucky to be in this school and that I am lucky to be able to teach them. I truly believe that and my students will know it every day that we are together.
I wish that every child and every teacher in America could feel that way.